“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Repentance is not simply coming to the realization that one has made some bad decisions, or gotten themselves lost, or sorry for getting into a predicament. No…Repentance also means “turning around,” getting on a different road, getting things right with God.
When the people asked John for practical guidance when they wondered aloud, “What must we do? John responds:
Generosity — One with two coats should share with one who has none.
Compassion — seeing another’s need and doing something about it.
Contentment — don’t greedily take more from others than is right.
Don’t Bully; Don’t Falsely accuse; Don’t Intimidate.
These are practical ways to live a new and different kind of life. Remember John was telling the people to live lives that gave evidence of inner-repentance. These things are changes in attitudes and relationships in dealing with people. They stem from a repentant heart. Repentance is a change in the direction of one’s life. It is these things that certainly indicate a change.
One Christmas tradition that nearly everyone participates in is gift giving. Soon you will be seeing wrapped gifts appearing beneath Christmas trees. The gifts we give to each other are tangible reminders of the Gift that got it all started: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
Jesus himself is a Gift; but, it’s through Him that God offers the gift of grace, the gift of forgiveness to each of us. For it is “by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2.5)
Forgiveness is a gift that we receive through repentance. But, John reminds us that we can’t stop with the gift. We have to respond. We have to produce fruit that gives evidence of the repentant heart, that shows that the direction of our life has changed. The fruit that God wants to see in our lives is this wonderful and challenging list of practical suggestions that John gives to the people who ask:
Be generous with what you have.
Be compassionate toward those in need.
Be content with your pay.
Don’t cheat and steal to get more.
Don’t falsely accuse someone.
Don’t bully those who are weaker than you.
Don’t intimidate others into doing what you want them to do.
These are not just “fruit in keeping with repentance,” but these are evidence of a life dedicated to serving God in holiness and righteousness. Salvation is the beginning of a relationship and the beginning of a journey. The journey is filled with transformation, where our heart, our character, our motives and dreams, our actions and attitudes become the “fruit” that show we’re on a much different path than we were on before.
Repentance and salvation are the beginning point. We cannot sit down and say, “This is as far as I’m going!” That’s not what Christ came for. That’s not what God wants. That’s not what our lives are designed for! We are called to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
During this advent season let our lives produce fruit in keeping with repentance, different and altered by the burning desire to let God shape our hearts, attitudes and actions, so that people may see His heart beating in us.