Bible Reference: Matthew 3:8, 10
Translation: Amplified Bible (AMP)
Bible Text: 8 So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]; ……. 10 And already the axe [of God’s judgment] is [gswinging toward the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
OBSERVATION: I was reminded of a television show – ‘Deal, No Deal’ as I meditated on these verses today. I know, don’t mix television with the precious Word of God, right? But Paul was so infuriated by the boldness of the Pharisees and Sadducees to show up at the river for baptism, that he took time to warn them of what a saved life looks like, vs one that is not. We should never have to tell anyone that we’re saved – it should be evident in our lives.
APPLICATION: In our Scripture today, Matthew relates that John the Baptist had been baptizing a lot of people. So one could only imagine that if they had not been baptized, then something must really be wrong with them. In the case of the religious leaders, John could tell that, to the crowd, they could easily have passed as ‘worthy of baptism’ because of their kinship to Abraham. However friends, is this not a good reminder for us? Some church attendees might tell you that their father was a pastor back in some church many years ago, so they are sure that they have a reserved place in heaven. Some might point to their regular attendance at your church for several decades, and all of the money that they gave for certain projects, so surely they are right ‘up there’ with the best of saints in your church. But the interesting thing that John points out to the religious leaders is that a repentant heart is what really matters. Some of you might wonder what exactly that would consist of, but I believe that this particular version of the Bible spells that out for you, for a repentant heart demonstrates a new behavior – meaning that it’s different to the behavior you once demonstrated in your life. Now your new behavior clearly comes from a heart that has been impacted and changed by its original designer and maker, Jesus Christ! Further, this changed heart will also show evidence of a conscious decision to stay away from sin. This includes your efforts to stay away from the people and places that once caused you to sin. Persistent study of God’s Word is critical, so that you could have a clear message from Him about what He consider ‘sin’, even though it might look like holiness to others. These changed attitudes, actions, thoughts and words are called ‘fruit’ by John, because He wanted us to understand that a tree, or a heart, built on the good things of Christ, will produce fruit/actions/words/attitudes that resemble the One who is feeding your tree/heart. Therefore, when there is no evidence that you are allowing God to ‘feed’ you, John declared that you will not survive, or reach eternity with Christ. Friends, as we live out everything that God has buried deep into our hearts, He will receive glory from those blessed by those ‘fruit’ that we produce. When we are merely following the crowd, or living a life of traditional church attendance, or imitating what other Christians do, and we have not sought personal forgiveness from God, and received a repentant, or changed heart – one just like His, then like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we are living on a slippery slope – one that can only lead all the way down to Hell. A New Year is a perfect time to seek a new heart – a repentant and changed heart that reflects the Master who you’ve invited to be your Lord. Please consider reading on to the Footnote for more information on how you might go about this transformation. Perhaps 2019 might be the year that you might seek baptism – a genuine one that celebrates a truly repentant heart!
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You for salvation, and thank You for the message expressed through baptism. Please touch the hearts of all those that will read this devotional, especially those who imitate a Christian life, but have not accepted the One who gives a repentant heart so that we might take on His attributes and bear His fruit. True Christianity comes from a repentant heart, one filled with Jesus Christ. Bearing ‘fruit’, can only happen if the True Vine (Jesus) has taken up residence inside of us. Lord, for each reader today, I pray that it may be so. AMEN!