Fruit Bearing Season

As disciples of Christ we are to commit to bearing fruit (Matthew 3:7-12). Did you know that when we sow the seeds of repentance in our lives we bear fruit? Matthew 3:8~Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (ESV) This is why you hear me remind you to have a fruit stand that is full and ready for those God places along our path of life. John sees many Pharisees, which is to say that many conservative Jews. They attempt to live right ritually and be good by simply abstaining. Abstinence is a good thing but it will not make us righteous. 

John was sharing how repentance makes us right with God. He also saw a good many Sadducees, these were liberal Jews who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or in angels. But John was such a spectacle that people would come to hear him speak. They wanted the freedom John had, the love for God John shared and the forgiveness that John taught. It doesn’t matter what generation we are apart of, we all want to be loved by God, to be used of God, and to have our sins forgiven by God. 

I have been mulling over a change in our welcome time after our first song. John has to be on to something. Listen to how John welcomes some of his congregates who have come for service. Matthew 3:7~ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (ESV) Yeah after hearing that out loud maybe what we do is more congenial. When John says (γέννημα gennēma) or brood, it means offspring, generation, or children of the earth. That’s right he called them a generation of venomous snakes, cunning and crafty individuals who were dangerous to true believers. They were called children of earth, but God has called us to be His children. 1 John 3:1~The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God…(NCV). 

When we repent and turn to God in faith we are no longer children of this world, rather God has adopted us to be His children. No longer slithering around on our belly, lying in wait or poisoning people. We are to live like Christ, who offered the fruit of the spirit to those in need. I bet many of us have been snakebite, perhaps it was even at church or in a religious setting. This has turned many off and they don’t want any part of God. They were offered fruit from this world, by children of this world and it was rotten. God says to us be who I created you to be. Be is the beginning of believing, of beautiful, of being. God has a plan for each of us to do good things and produce good fruit. Ephesians 2:10~For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV) 

And all of this begins in our life with repentance, therefore, John warns us how dangerous these religious leaders are. Life in Christ is about relationship through the Redeemer Jesus Christ to a God with unfailing love towards us. So, John asks who warned you to flee from God’s wrath to come. In other words, Who said you’re going to escape God’s wrath (3:7). The religious leaders think God’s wrath is only for Gentiles, but it is for anyone who does not know the Lord and walks with Him daily. John is using a very familiar process to describe God separating those who truly repent from those who do not. 

If our desire is to prepare the way for God’s kingdom then we must admit our need to repent and do so regularly, to commit to the fruit of repentance, allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through our whole lives. Who might you share the fruit growing in your life with today.

All Things New

Much like his the prophet Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8~They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” (NIV) John’s unusual attire emphasizes the striking difference between him and Jerusalem’s religious leaders, who donned themselves in expensive, flowing robes. Rather John lived simply and his diet was quite reflective of this, consisting of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4) For those who are not as well versed in lifestyles of the rich and famous, a locust is a grasshopper, not robed in chocolate, rather a migrating insect who swarms, stripping vegetation from large areas. It’s considered by Jews to be clean or kosher (fit to be eaten according to the Jewish dietary laws of Leviticus 11:22~Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. (NIV) For the foodie, these delectable beauties come in a wide assortment for varied palates. And the wild honey was common in the desert, often found in a rock cleft or tree.

John’s lifestyle was like a brandished flag high atop its wilderness outpost in an open field, it beckoned to all that He lived dramatically divergent with the culture of his day, for the cause of Christ. The people who were drawn in, came from Jerusalem, all over Judea and farther to witness the spectacle, to hear the words of life and to be submerged in the hope of redemption. A message of repentance as they confess their sins, and were baptized in the Jordan River (3:5-6). The word confess (ἐξομολογέω exomologeō) means to agree fully to acknowledge openly and joyful. Yes, Lord, I agree, the You and the Bible were right about sin.

So in this scene, we witness people coming as James said, then they confess their sins, and are baptized, an outward sign of their new inward condition. (βαπτίζω baptizō) to dip or immerse as a sign of our willingness to turn to God and live raised to walk in the newness of life. Paul explains that in baptism we are buried with Christ into death Romans 6:4~We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (NIV) Like a wedding ring, baptism is a symbol of love and commitment. It means we love Jesus Christ and have committed our lives to Him. You don’t have to be baptized to go to heaven, but who would not want to be baptized since it is the clear command of Scripture? To prepare the way we all need to admit our need for repentance. Is there an area in your life which you need to surrender or refocus today? Why not take time to listen to the Holy Spirit and allow the Lord to have His way in your life.

One Way

Admit the Need, it is hard for us to do (Matthew 3:2-6). I don’t know about you but I lose my cool on rare occasions and fly off the handle, my quick-witted self might say something I should not. One of my mentors used to say that poor pitiful piece of trash. If we aren’t careful we’ll adopt the expressions of others, and nothing God makes is trash. Though you and I have made some really good attempts at trashing our lives with sin. Thank God that He sent people to share the simplicity of faith, of learning how to talk right and to live in a way that pleases God with our whole lives. When the Lord sent John ahead of Jesus, Isaiah 40:3 records him as a voice crying in the wilderness his message was simple. Matthew 3:2~Repent (μετανοέω metanoeō), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (ESV) 

(μετανοέω metanoeō) the word translated repent to turn, to change one’s mind, turn around. It denotes turning from sin and towards God. This word is much more than regret or remorse. Repentance involves sorrow, but it is a sorrow that leads to a changed life. A synonym for the word repent is convert. We were one thing living one way, and we are remade in the image of God’s son. The reason for repentance Matt records is that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (3:2). Matt uses the phrase kingdom of heaven 33 times. The phrase is synonymous with the kingdom of God. Therefore, the thrust of John’s mission is to herald the Way, Jesus Christ. Matthew 3:3~This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one calling in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. (ESV) If you were sharing the Lord with a friend or co-worker and they asked, How do we prepare for God’s kingdom? What would you say? You would take them to James 4:8~Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NIV) Notice James says come, draw near, then clean your lives, hearts, mind.

The way to prepare for God’s kingdom has always been to repent—to turn from sin to righteousness. 2 Chronicles 7:14~If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NKJ) Now John wasn’t the stylish man before you, there was no beard wax, quaffed hair, skinny jeans, and boots. He held no penchant for haberdashery or personal property. No, he was a more rugged man in a style devoid of flannel and fleece. He wore a garment of camel’s hair, not the faux-finish fashion fit of double knit as you wore as a young child bearing the twins of poly and ester. This was the real deal, I rather picture the Boer goat with its Jack Russell-esk styling of white bodies and reddish-brown heads. Tying this ensemble to gather a leather belt wrapping his waist (Matthew 3:4). Probably wide and so out of fashion, it was a revival of the prophets of yesteryear. 

That’s right, John was a perfectly primed candidate for what not to wear. Sometimes as a believer we think we want to fit in, but that is not what we were called to do. We were called to tell people about Jesus. I hope that you will take ownership of your faith and begin sharing all that Jesus Christ has done in your life.