Summary: Bear fruit worthy of the gift of grace in repentance.
Fruit Worthy of Repentance, Luke 3:7-18
In his book Living Faith Jimmy Carter writes: A group of Christian laymen involved in missionary work approached a small village near an Amish settlement. Seeking a possible convert, they confronted an Amish farmer and asked him, “Brother, are you a Christian?” The farmer thought for a moment and then said, “Wait just a few minutes.” He wrote down a list of names on a tablet and handed it to the lay evangelist. “Here is a list of people who know me best. Please ask them if I am a Christian.” The evidence of faith is spiritual fruit.
This morning we will discuss what it means to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” At the outset, allow me to make this point clearly. We bear fruit for the Kingdom not so that we may earn God’s favor, forgiveness, or merit, but because He has showered us with His favor according to grace alone!
He has poured out forgiveness according to the gift of faith alone! He has granted merit in that we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High!
Nothing I am now about to expound, nor anything else ever spoken from this pulpit shall ever be mutually exclusive to the divine reality that work proceeds from grace and grace proceeds from the abundance of God’s love for us.
What we will be talking about here is what does it mean to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” and specifically what is it that hinders our ability to do it. What does it mean matters; how do I do it makes the difference.
I would define “Bearing fruit worthy of repentance” as bearing fruit, living in such a way, as to outwardly express the reality of what repentance has wrought in our lives. In other words, it means that our lives reflect a lifestyle, action, and choice pattern which are consistent with having repented of sin – that is – with having made a declaration against the destructive things of this world in favor of aligning ourselves with the beautiful things of the Kingdom of God.
We are being called here to bear fruit which is worthy of the gift of repentance.
The New Living Translation of the Bible says it very well, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” (Luke 3:8)
John the Baptist is telling us to live in such a manner befitting of having repented. This, my implication, says that repentance is a part of the Christian life.
Repentance though is not a onetime act of confession or a onetime recital of a certain prayer or creedal statement. The great Congregational Pastor of old, D. L. Moody wrote that “Man is born with his face turned away from God. When he truly repents, he is turned right round toward God; he leaves his old life.”
Repentance is the declaration of the heart, of the soul, of everything that is in us, in response the terrible burden of our own sin and the great weigh of His love for us, in turning from that which is destroying us to that which saves us!
Repentance is little more than a deep abiding inward decision to reject this life for the life of Christ! It is the ongoing and living decision to choose Christ and live for Him; even more so to allow Him to live in us! Repentance is the attitude of the heart which is thankful for the grace of God.
John the Baptist points out a great heresy, or false religious view, of the Jews of that day, many of the Jews of this day, and many Christians. That is, the belief that I can be saved by another’s faith. Parents cannot believe for children. These Jews were not saved, even by the great faith of Abraham. Each of us must own our own sin and in response to the grace of God, repent and turn to the Lord; for it is in turning to the Lord that we will find not condemnation but freedom!
A little girl, whom we will call Ellen, was some time ago helping to nurse a sick gentleman whom she loved very dearly. One day he said to her, “Ellen, it is time for me to take my medicine, I think. Will you pour it out for me? You must measure just a tablespoonful, and then put it in that glass close by.” Ellen quickly did so, and brought it to his bedside. But, instead of taking it in his own hand, he quietly said, “Now, dear, will you drink it for me?”