Today’s Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
It is in the third chapter that Matthew first introduces us to John the Baptist, one of my favorite new testament characters for many reasons. Do you have a list of “favorite characters”? Ask God to reveal to you why, or what is it about each one of them that has attracted your attention. What lessons do they teach with their testimonies?
In this chapter we find John has been baptizing people for repentance. The dictionary tells us that repentance is a deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin or wrongdoing. This is much more than the face of “sorrow” we often see today, that is a display of sorrow for being caught by man, not a sorrow for the sin against God.
Good ol’ John always tells it like it is! In verses 7 to 11 he has an encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees when he sees them coming to be baptized. The Pharisees and Sadducees were part of the religious leaders of the day. You could compare them to Bishops or Cardinals, or Pastors or Deacons, Theologians and Religious Scholars.
John understands the motivation of these religious leaders, that they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:42-43; John 5:44). He suspects they are coming to be baptized not for repentance but for show. In verse 8, we see that he challenges them, if they are to be baptized, to “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance”. In other words, prove it!
Where does John find such boldness to say these things, to the Pharisees of all people, those who appear above reproach? We learn that from verse 10, when he warns them that the axe of God’s judgement is bearing down on them already, ready to sever every tree that does not produce good fruit. John is more concerned with the approval of God, and as a result has no fear in telling these religious leaders that they have built a house of cards that is about to fall if they do not truly repent.
What does it mean to bear good fruit, or where else do we see this in scripture? That is found in Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.
I don’t know about you, but I have many times sought for and loved the approval of a person over God Himself. It could have been a friend, my husband, my mother or father, a boss or colleague, official, mentor, you name it. I have often sought the approval, love, and honor of others, for my appearance, my level of skill or knowledge or my ability, talent, the work I produce, the money I make. I propped up a face I wanted everyone else to see and believe was the real me. I liked making people laugh and I didn’t like knowing they might think badly of me. But the more I walked this path, the more I understood that the fruits named in Galatians did not match the fruit I put on display. That was no more real than the plastic fruit that used to sit in a bowl on my grandmother’s dining room table!
What a difference in my life Jesus has made! Through the power of the Spirit living in me, as I walk this journey with Him, I find I am less concerned about the approval of my peers and more concerned about His approval of me instead. A by-product of this is that the Holy Spirit has been able to produce in me the real thing, the fruit Galatians speaks about! He is able to do this for you as well, if you are willing.
Today’s Reading: Matthew 3:1-12 NASB