Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:8, 9 NIV)
If God has a list of favorite words, “fruit” would have to be in the list. Perhaps even among the top ten.
Adam and Eve “ate” the “fruit”. Jesus constantly called for the right kind of fruit, Paul even describes the spiritual life in terms of “fruit of the spirit”.
In this passage, John doesn’t hold back among the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day. It wasn’t that they were less holy or more sinful than the people who were coming to John to be baptized. It was that, of all people, they should have known better. They were the teachers of Israel who didn’t have a clue as to what God had been trying to teach the people. For centuries, they have neglected the meaning of the law and flaunted their jaundiced teaching in full view of God.
Today, however, John was calling their bluff. He doesn’t mince words. Straight to the point. Apparently he did not read “How to win friends and influence people”. However, what John does know is the truth, meaning and importance of having fruit that reflects a person’s repentance. Repentance is not a matter of asking up to the front of the church and telling people you did bad things. While it may involve that, it is definitely not defined by that action alone.
True repentance is a completely broken heart before God. It is that point in life when a person discovers that they can’t stand before a holy God in the state they are in and then makes a conscious decision to turn their life over to that God.
It doesn’t mean that person is now perfect. It does mean that person has a great desire to be perfect and has committed their life to God to begin the process of perfection.
John reveals to us that just because a person is a “member of the clergy”, a religious leader, or, one of us regular “Joes”, what God requires is a repentant heart. A heart that continues to grow toward the things of God.
A heart that understands repentance is not some religious act, but a hatred of sin, a desire for spiritual enlightenment through the Holy Spirit, and a day to day walk with the lord as he guides us through the valleys and to the mountaintops.