Daily Reading: This morning, we’re reading Luke 3. Start there, then read this devotion that will tie in with what you’ve read.
There are two really dangerous thoughts we can have in relation to God. We can think, “I was born in a Christian home (in the south!), I’ve been around church my whole life. God has to save me.” Or, we can think, “I’m so messed up, so broken, so damaged, God could never save me.” In today’s passage, John the Baptist straightens out both of these lies.
John the Baptist was Jesus’ 2nd cousin (I’m from Mississippi, I know this stuff). He started his public ministry before Jesus and is famous for wearing “camel’s hair” and eating “locust and wild honey.” While he might sound like a crazy guy living in the woods, he actually drew large crowds as he proclaimed the coming Messiah. In Luke 3, we get to see a snippet of one of his messages.
“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?'”
– Luke 3:7–10 ESV
John is speaking some hard words here. Yet if we look a little closer, we see some incredible grace in them. He’s speaking to a group of Jewish people, and he’s clarifying to them that just being a descendant of Abraham doesn’t make you right with God. The Bible says that people who are truly God’s children have repented. That means to turn from trusting yourself and loving evil and turn towards God and loving God. We know this happens in a moment as we turn to God in faith, but it also happens over our lifetimes seek to become more and more like Jesus in every area of our lives. Here John challenges these Jews saying, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” In other words, “If you’ve turned towards God, act like it!” You see these Jews didn’t have hearts submitted to God, they just assumed they were good because of the family they were born into. What about you? Are you depending on something other than Jesus for salvation? If you are depending on Jesus, does your life show it? Is there fruit in your life that grew from the gift of repentance in your heart?
While this passage is pretty tough, weaved into it is a thread of hope. John says, “For I tell you, God is able from those stones to raise up children for Abraham.” I don’t know about you, but that’s music to my ears. Why? Well I know I wasn’t born a child of Abraham. I wasn’t born in the right family to receive God’s promises. Not only that, I know that in my there is nothing good enough to deserve God’s promises. I also know that in my strength, I can’t bear fruit. Pine trees just don’t grow apples. I can’t do anything to change that. But God can make a rock into his child. He can take someone who is lifeless and give them life. He can take a rock and make it fruitful. Now that is good news!
Finally, the crowd heard John. In verse 10 they ask, “What then shall we do?” John goes on to give them some practical instructions. He tells them how they can obey God in their lives. Let me close by pointing out that this is the ‘first fruits’ of repentance. We turn to God and say, “what now?” They don’t have it all figured out, they aren’t suddenly perfect, but from they heart, they want to obey. Rocks don’t ask what they should do. God’s children do. Which are you? How will you act today?