(The Message) – Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there–children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”
When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded:
(The Amplified Version) – Bear fruits that are deserving and consistent with (your) repentance (that is, conduct worthy of a heart changed, a heart abhorring sin).
The message that John was preaching to the people is the same message still being preached today. You call yourselves Christian, then behave like a Christian, act like a Christian, conduct your affairs each day like a Christian should. Live like a Christian should live, talk like a Christian should talk.
The message that John was preaching to the people has the same reaction from people today. Some genuinely repent of their past sins and change their way of living. Some repent of their past sins and go on unchanged. There is more to repentance or salvation, or the born again experience than kneeling down at an altar and repenting of sins. Genuine repentance means turning and forsaking those things that are contrary to the Word of God. Genuine repentance means changing your way of living. Genuine repentance means following after Christ. Genuine repentance means giving up old dead, sinful habits that will bring you back into bondage again. Genuine repentance might mean that you have to change your dress style, your reading habits, your television viewing habits, your music listening habits, possibly even changing your old friends or acquaintances.
Remember the story of the prodigal son…he left the pig pen…he was given a new place to live, new clothes, new habits, and new friends. The scriptures tell us that “he had spent all that he had on riotous living.” The word riotous living means wasteful, wantonness, recklessness, reveling, dissension, insurrection, sedition, uproar. Now, was this guy in bad shape or was he in bad shape? And some of us here today were in the same shape. But, now we have been saved, changed, been renewed in the spirit of our mind. Our heart’s passions are different. We don’t want the old lifestyle, the old living habits, the things that once held us in bondage. We are a new creation in Christ.
Remember the story of the rich, young ruler. He approached Jesus and wanted to follow Jesus but something got in the way of his following Jesus. We could debate all day and never come to a sound decision of what it really was that kept him from following Jesus. Oh, we know it was money or was it the love of money, or was it the life-style or prestige that money could buy? Was it pride or was it selfishness? What was his was his and he was going to keep it as his.
There is no written evidence that this young ruler ever changed his mind or his lifestyle. Although we know he was obedient to all the commandments, one thing kept him from following Jesus. That one thing was simply this: total surrender
A story of two friends is told where one man was converted to God. He went to tell his friend who was surprised and made fun of him. The new Christian stated he had something that was bothering him and he had to tell it. Six years previous, the new Christian had stolen four sheep from his friend’s flock and had branded them with his own brand. They and their offspring were in his field and he was now having trouble sleeping and had to talk to him. He stated that he would go to prison, pay for the sheep or restore the property. The non-believer stated he did not want the sheep as he trembled in fear. He went on to say he did not want anything from the Christian, that something strange had got ahold of him and he did not understand it. The Christian insisted that he had to settle the theft issue. He counted out the value of the four sheep, plus interest, and then gave his friend double the amount. True repentance will cause one to make things right.
The Fruits of Repentance
Change of habits, change of life style, change of attitude, change of living, change in the way one talks, change in the places we frequent, changes in the way we dress, change of friends and many more changes that confront us every day are fruits of repentance that must not be ignored. Whatever it might be in our life that separates us from complete surrender to Jesus Christ, it must be discarded, given up, and surrendered. Some of these changes may cost us dearly but if not made they will cost us eternal life with Christ.
Bearing fruits worthy of repentance indicates that we might have something to carry, a cross perhaps. Jesus spoke several places about carrying a cross. In fact there is a logical step-by-step progression to cross carrying.
Matthew 16:24 – If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Luke 14:27 – Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Matthew 10:38 – He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
(The next passage goes on to say that whoever loses his life shall find it.)
Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador, and three other missionary friends lost their earthly lives but gained eternal life. He said “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to obtain that which he cannot lose.“
John 15:13-14 – No greater love has any man than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
What change must you make following repentance? Do it. Your eternal destiny depends upon it.