Do You Have The Fruit Of Repentance In Your Life?
by John Lowe
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,
9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Verse 8 of our passage gives us the command to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” The obvious and immediate question that comes to mind is, “What are the fruits of repentance?” Fortunately for us, our passage points us to four of the fruits of repentance. Repentance, of course, is an essential starting point of the Christian journey.
We begin our walk with God by admitting that we need Jesus’ sacrifice and expressing our sorrow for the sin in our life. If we’ve had a genuine moment of repentance, we should necessarily see the fruits of repentance in our lives. As we study these fruits, keep in mind the harsh words of John the Baptist in v. 7, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” He is talking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were very religious but also very distant from God. Many of us here this morning could easily claim to be very religious, but if we are not bearing the fruits of repentance, we too are very distant from God.
There Are Four Fruits Of Repentance This Passage Points Us Toward:
1. Verse 9 says, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
Here we are reminded not to rely on our family history. The Pharisees and Sadducees were quick to point out their Jewish family history as a proof of their closeness to God. They were very proud of the fact that Abraham was their ancestor. Today we see similar displays as you ask people if they’re a Christian and they respond: “Oh, my family is all Methodists” or “Sure, my parents were Baptists.” Our parents or our family cannot believe for us; we each must choose to believe for ourselves.
This leads us to the first fruit of repentance, which is humility. When we rely on our family history, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we may claim a relationship with God, without the need to personally come to a moment of repentance. This creates a feeling of pride, rather than the humility that should characterize our relationship with God. That feeling of pride leads to statements like this:
“My family has been in this church since 1964.”
“My father helped to build that education wing.”
“My mother led the women’s circle for probably twenty years.”
We see a similar phenomenon when people try to claim closeness to God that is not based in grace. The person, who believes their work for the church, or their Sunday morning attendance, or their large financial contribution is what is maintaining their link to God, will be led to a pride in their works.
When we begin at the point of repentance - bowing and admitting that we cannot earn our way into heaven, acknowledging our sin and questionable motives, speaking out for our need for Jesus’ blood, asking for God to forgive us - there is a humility that comes into our hearts that cannot come in any other way. We are sinners and yet God has forgiven us anyway - that is a humbling place to be, because you have received what you did not deserve.
Is your relationship with God characterized by humility, or are you lacking the fruit of repentance?
2. The second fruit of repentance is found in the first part of Verse 10, which says, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.”
Often in our lives, we feel that the sins we commit are individually small enough for us to excuse them. We haven’t committed an ax-murder or gone on a shooting spree. Our sins are nothing major - we can get around to them on another day. But this verse points us to a second fruit of repentance: urgency.
When we come to a point of repentance, we realize our sins are not excusable. We recognize that though we might be able to argue that our individual sins are small, the accumulated weight of even small sins puts us in a very dangerous situation. Hopefully, we consider the truth of the situation and figure out: I’m in much worse shape than I thought I was. With repentance comes the awareness of the seriousness of our sins and the desire that flows from that makes us want to get this horrible problem taken care of right now.
The way this fruit should continue to show up in our life is:
* We have come to the point of repentance and a realization of the seriousness of our sin.
*We experience the joy and relief of God’s forgiveness as we come to Him.
*We recognize that the cost of our forgiveness was Jesus’ death on the cross.
*Understanding that our sin cost Jesus’ His life, we walk the journey of faith with the constant desire to become more like Him, and to rid ourselves of the remaining sin in our lives.
*Not someday, but as soon as possible - because we recognize the urgency of the matter.
The first two fruits of repentance were humility and urgency.
3. The second part of Verse 10 gives us the third fruit - “Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
We as Christians claim that finding God is not all about “religion,” but rather it’s about “relationship.” We claim that we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That means that every Christian claims to have had a personal encounter with the most powerful being in the universe. You would tend to think if we have had an encounter with the most powerful being in the universe that we would walk away different people, but, sadly, folks often claim to know God and yet live unchanged lives.
We are reminded in the last part of verse 10 of a third fruit of repentance, which is change. The church in America has for too long presumed that you can be a “Christian” even with absolutely no evidence of that in your life.
Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, recently noted, “There are just as many abortions inside the churches as outside the churches. There’s only a one percent difference in gambling inside the churches as outside the churches.” George Barna did a survey of 152 separate items comparing the lost world and the churches, and he said there is virtually no difference between the two.” That is a serious accusation.
The Bible knows nothing of a faith that does not lead to a changed life. Jesus had a very simple way of putting things; you could say that he put the cookies on the bottom shelf so anyone could reach them. For example, He said this about obedience and love: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. . . He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:23-24). He also said, “If anyone wills to do His (God’s) will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. ( John 7:17.) James wrote these familiar words, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds? . . . Faith without works is dead.” (2:14, 26).
An essential part of genuine repentance is that it leads to a changed life.
4. The fourth fruit of repentance is found in Verse 11, where John the Baptist states, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
There is a lot in this verse, but I want to particularly point out John’s claim that the one coming after him is “mightier than I.” This is a powerful Savior we’re talking about. The act of repentance includes admitting that you messed up, that you tried to run things on your own and you failed.
A final fruit of repentance is dependence. It grows out of us recognizing in our repentance that we have fallen short, we admit our sin and, as we just noted, pursue a changed life. But, obviously, if we’ve failed in the past, we’re going to need more strength than we possess to finish this journey we’ve now begun. The good news for those of us in that position is that we serve a mighty Lord who is able to provide all the resources we need for victory in our journey through life. The key is that we must recognize our need to depend on Him and trust in His strength. Too many of us are trying to experience “Victory in Jesus” by-way-of our own power, smarts, and insight. We will inevitably fail, unless we turn to the One who is able to bring us through. Repentance is an essential part of Salvation; salvation is repentance and faith.
The signs of salvation are given in Galatians; Paul calls them the “Fruit of the Spirit.” And today we have seen that there are also signs of repentance, four in all: humility, urgency, a changed life, and dependence on God.
Ask yourself a simple question this morning: can you see the fruits of repentance in your life day-by-day, or are you standing this morning with the Pharisees and Sadducees?