By Patricia Simmons
Our Scripture passage begins with John the Baptist holding accountable those trying to escape the consequences of their sin. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, and to John this is the wrath of God.
When John says to bear fruit worthy of repentance, he means for his listeners to take swift action with sincere hearts that want change. In verse 7, he mentions the Sadducees and Pharisees wanting to be baptized, yet not displaying fruit or evidence of repentance. They appear to be good, but their hearts are evil; therefore, they are living contrary to the will of God.
John’s words are meant to bring all of Israel (and you and me) to a place of repentance. Each of us is called to take a thorough inventory of the condition of our heart and repent of sin. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Israelites were not to think that because Abraham was their ancestor, they need not change their ways, for God is able to raise up stones to be Abraham’s children. If you don’t bear fruit, says John, you will be cut down like a tree that is only good for the fire. We are also reminded that as John’s baptism calls God’s people to repentance, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit who gives power to turn from sin, draw closer to Jesus, and live for God. We are further warned of the unquenchable fire that will come when we live contrary to the will of God.
In Advent, we wait for our Savior, our Messiah who is coming again; yet while we wait, let us continue to grow spiritually into mature Christians, bearing good fruit. Let us arise and shine for Christ is with us! Though we recognize Advent as a time to celebrate Christ’s birth, it is also symbolic of our present situation. As people of God, we wait in these perilous days with great hope for Christ to return in glory. May the promises of God be with us. Come, Lord Jesus!
Prayer: Lord God, convict our hearts of the secret sins only you know. Prune us, for we want to bear good fruit, walk in your will, and celebrate your kingdom come!
Patricia Simmons is part of the RCA’s church planter residency program. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.