S (Scripture) – Matthew 3:1-2, 7-10
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…
…But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
O (Observation) – Lord, I remember the first time I read this verse many years ago – it stopped me in my tracks. I had grown up in the Roman Catholic church, going through all of the rituals and ceremonies prescribed to me at various ages, served as an altar girl, read as a lectern, and even gave the eucharist and wine as a eucharistic minister. Despite all of the external facade of holiness, I was broken inside. I had so many areas of my life that needed to be healed, restored, and dealt with in regards to sin. I didn’t know You personally then, and as I read these words, I felt for the very first time that Jesus really wanted more than just my service on Sunday. I realized that it is possible to appear righteous and in step with You, yet be a broken and hypocritical liar to the rest of the world. To repent means “to turn around,” or “to change one’s mind.” In other words, we surrender ourselves to You and what You say is true, stop walking in our current direction that leads to even more destruction, and start following after You for the rest of our lives. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;…” I knew then what it was like to be that person. To feel so conflicted about what I say with my lips I believe and what I continue to do in the flesh. The religious leaders that were coming to John the Baptist were wanting to be baptized (an external expression) without the inward change of heart. Simply going through a religious ritual and experience is not going to please You.
A (Application) – The concept of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance means that our lives and actions should accurately reflect the work that God is doing in our hearts after committing ourselves to Him. Are we the same people we were years ago before we were saved by grace? We shouldn’t be. Maybe we tell ourselves we have trusted Christ, but we continue to lie, cheat, abuse alcohol or drugs, live sexually immoral lives, harbor bitterness and un-forgiveness, and flat out refuse to surrender to God and His word on other matters we face. If we have been born again into the family of God, the Holy Spirit’s process of combing through our hearts and minds and removing all that is not from God begins. Our Christian walk, if it is healthy, should mature – this ultimately leads to bearing fruit in keeping with repentance…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control…generosity, forgiveness, a heart without bitterness, lips without lying, and intimacy that honors God.
P (Prayer) – Precious Jesus, thank You for saving me from the wretch I used to be. Your grace is amazing, and without You I have no idea where I would be right now. Holy Spirit, continue to guide me each and every moment – reveal to me anything that I am doing, saying, watching, thinking about, or believing that is not pleasing to You. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Father God, I want everything I do to be pleasing to You and give You glory.