Chapter three of the book of Matthew in the Bible ushers in another character into the Jesus story, although he is one that had been around since the very beginning… literally. He is the one who leaps in his mother’s womb when a pregnant Mary walked into the room. He is the cousin of Jesus and eccentric who is well known for two things.
His fashion sense… “Camel Hair” must have been pretty chic around this time.
His cuisine… He created the appetizer “sticky bugs”, which was simply locusts with a honey glaze.
But, there was something else that made him pretty interesting… his message. It was a simple message: “Repent!”
Yes, like the guy on the street corner with a bullhorn and a wearable placard:
“Turn away from sin and turn towards God.” It’s a message that more need to hear today. It’s a message that some churches have forgotten about in an effort to become more appealing. Here’s the funny thing though. John preached the message loud and clear and people traveled from all over to respond to the message of repentance.
Did you hear those words? “Respond to the message of repentance.”
I didn’t say that they traveled out to be shamed or ridiculed. I didn’t say that they enjoyed being told that they were a “very, very bad, bad boy”. I said that they responded to the message of repentance.
“Turn around from the direction that you are going and look to God!”
“You are going in the wrong way. Your current direction leads to destruction. Make a U-turn!”
It’s a message that needs to be heard today also. However, we need to learn how to say it. Consistently. Emphatically. Gracefully. Repent.
John couldn’t have done this any better than what he said in verse 8 of chapter 3 in Matthew:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Imagine your life as a tree. The health of the tree is producing the fruit that other people are partaking in. They consume the fruit. You produce the fruit. This fruit is either produced from a life of repentance or from a life of continuing on in disobedience.
We all can clearly see the fruit of what happens when we DON’T walk in repentance. Just watch an episode of “Cops”. (What’cha gonna do when He comes for you?) Sure, that’s obvious, but what about the NOT so obvious fruit. The fruit that we have to live in. The fruit of anger and sadness and fear. The fruit of jealousy and pain and hate. What about that insidious fruit that destroys us from the inside out?
There’s another choice. There’s a better choice.
Paul described what “producing fruit in keeping with repentance” looked like. In fact, he gave it a cool name: the fruit of the spirit. We can read about it in the book of Galatians. Here is what we read:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
When we learn how to walk in repentance, we begin to produce fruit in keeping with this repentance. It is good fruit that not only nourishes us, but nourishes those all around us. Our lives begin to produce joy and love, peace and goodness, gentleness and self control. But, you need to see that this comes AFTER the turning away.
When I was young I used to think that I had to DO things to make God happy. In other words, I’d have to earn His love and admiration by the actions that I would make. When I would mess up, I would be punished. When I did good, I would be blessed. I would try to MAKE myself love… but I couldn’t produce that fruit. I would try to control my actions… but failed miserably every time. I couldn’t do any of these things because I can’t produce this fruit. It is not the fruit of my flesh, but my spirit. My flesh is all about ME, ME, ME and that’s a different kind of fruit, for a different kind of discussion.
Today, just know this. The first step towards producing the fruit that we long for in our lives is simply to turn away from “my will” to “God’s will”. It is a little thing called “surrender” and one that we need to learn to practice every day. Then, as you surrender your life to God, begin to pray Galatians 5:22-23 over your life.
“God, teach me to love like you. Let your joy rise up in my soul. Let your peace guide my days. Let me learn patience through You. Let my life exude your gentleness and kindness and goodness. Teach me to be faithful in all that I do. And, Holy Spirit, I thank you for your self-control. Let me bear fruit in keeping with repentance. As I put you first, let my life reflect Your light to this world. Amen.”
Start there and see what happens. You can also eat some insects… but that is for the REALLY spiritually advanced!