{RE:} Repent and Bear Fruit

Thursday: Repent and Bear Fruit

What happens when we truly repent? The psalm we read says that it gives us a new song, a fresh wind in our sails, and sets us out to tell others. Today we will reflect on a passage about repentance from John the Baptist's perspective!

I have included 2 translations again. Feel free to check out others as well!

Read: Matthew 3: 7-11

"But when he saw many Pharisees and Saducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourself, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham!
Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!"

When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded:
“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 make any difference? 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 descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.
“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
(Message Translation)


John the Baptist got people's attention as a "voice crying out in the wilderness." He was a prophet, and kind of strange if we're being honest. But the people had not heard from God in several generations, so when John shows up in the wilderness dressed in camel hair he gets people talking! Once he's drawn a crowd, including religious leaders, his message is quite simple: 1) Repent! and 2) Live like you've repented!

The result of repentance, beyond the fresh wind and new song, is a transformed life. John says to the Pharisees and Saducees that words of repentance that don't result in a changed like aren't worth anything.

This is why repentance isn't the same as confession or feeling badly for what we've done. Repentance - the word is "metanoia" - is transformation.

  • Are there times when you are tempted to say the "right words" to people so that you look good?
  • How often do we put on a mask or fake smile instead of moving in repentance?

John is pretty harsh with the Pharisees and Saducees. He specifically calls out that they might believe they are saved by their religious works and heritage (as sons of Abraham). John wants them to know that rituals and lineage are not able to save them. He is preparing them to recognize and receive Jesus as the Messiah.

  • Have you ever thought about repentance as a way to prepare yourself to see, recognize, and experience Jesus? How can we live in regular repentance so that we can be more aware of Christ?

John does not call the people to bear fruit because their fruit will save them, but because their fruit are an outward evidence of inward transformation.  Jesus will later tell his disciples that they will be known by their fruit.

  • The "fruit of our repentance" will draw others to Christ as we live kingdom lives. Have you ever had someone notice that you live or act differently as a result of your faith? What was it that they noticed? 
  • Is there fruit that you want to continue to fertilize and grow in your life?  Begin with repentance by acknowledging your lack before God and turning in his direction!
  • If you're looking for some exampled of "fruit worthy of repentance" - the people ask John the same thing in Luke's gospel. Check out John's answer in Luke 3:10-14


Lord, grant me your peace,
for I have made peace
with what does not give peace
and I am afraid.

Drive me deep, now,
to face myself so I may see
that what I truly need to fear is
my capacity to deceive
and willingness to be decieved,
my loving of things
and using of people,
my struggle for power
and shrinking of soul,
my addiction to comfort
and sedation of conscience,
my readiness to criticize
and reluctance to create,
my clamor for privelege
and silence at injustice,
my seeking for security
and forsaking the kingdom.

Lord, grant me your peace.

Instill in me such fear of you
as will begin to make me wise,
and such quiet courage
as will enable me to begin to make
hope visible,
forgiving delightful,
loving contagious,
faith liberating,
peace-making joyful
and myself open and present
to other people
and your kingdom.

From Guerillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, by Ted Loder.


Nick Tebordo - March 31st, 2022 at 4:32am

Wow, I needed that this morning. I want that true fruit of repentance to shine forth in my life. But, as was said yesterday, it is hard work-a work only possible in the Holy Spirit-which is exactly what John the Baptist pointed to. “I baptize with water. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit!!!!” The fruit of repentance is indeed the fruit of the Holy Spirit! Before “reacting”, we must turn to God and let the Holy Spirit show us how to “respond”.

Susan Blais - March 31st, 2022 at 4:56am

One of the first times that I noticed that “my faith was showing“ was many years ago when I coat owned my own company named “You’re the boss“. We were doing some work for a lawyer friend. Her secretary was ill and I offered to help her out in her office. She said that would be OK, but that I would not be able to talk about my faith to her clients. I knew that I could not keep from offering my “Faith assistance“ To those who are in need. At first I felt a little hurt because she was rejecting me for my faith, but then realized that she was actually letting me know that my “faith was showing and I felt that I must be bearing some fruit for her to notice. I love you, Lord, and I pray that my faith would show more and more as I move on in my life.

Melody - March 31st, 2022 at 5:17am

There's so much to think about in today's reading, and I'm honestly struggling to get past the language in the Message version. I'm very grateful to have the side-by-side comparison here.

But anyway, overlooking all those extra idioms, it's really hard not to feel transactional when we talk about bearing fruit. If nobody has told us that they notice a difference because of Christ, does that mean we're unrepentant? Or if nobody wants to follow Christ, what fruit are we producing?

For me, I guess the "fruit" I'll claim since we've been in this neighborhood is that people ask us to pray for them. Our neighbors on the island regularly stop by or message or ask us for various prayer requests when we see them. I attribute this to Bibles & Brews, mostly, but also some of the people right on our block also ask for prayer. And now that I'm saying this, I got email from my former Director (in international programs) asking me to pray for his mom & their family, as she fell and broke her hip.

So I guess -- this is a type of fruit? But as far as I know, none of these people have made commitments to Jesus.

Kaitlyn - March 31st, 2022 at 8:34am

I agree, Mel! It is such a tough line to walk when we discuss the outward expressions of our internal change. It can feel transactional, especially for those of us who are "doers" and "achievers"! Can you think of a helpful way to frame that? I struggle with it - we are 100% saved by God's grace and not our own works. And yet, there is this expectation that we will be changed in some way as a result of that salvation.... I don't have good answers here, so I'm mostly just processing out loud. ;)

David Edelstein - March 31st, 2022 at 11:09am

I suppose the next step would be to invite those neighbors to pray with you for their concerns so they share in some intimacy with God.

Melody - March 31st, 2022 at 12:08pm

David, that's really helpful. Small steps :)




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