Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Matthew 3:4-12 "180 Degrees"

Read Matthew 3:4-12.

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." NIV

John the Baptist was a man on a mission -- completely devoted and unwavering. He is called the "forerunner to Christ." His message -- confess your sins and repent paving the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He must have been very charismatic because even with his strange living habits, people were drawn to his message. Then the Pharisees and Sadducees (the ruling parties in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court) had to come and see what John was all about. As soon as he sees them, John calls them to the carpet for their actions and not in a subtle way. "You brood of vipers" isn't exactly a warm greeting.

The Sadducees were tight with the political rulers and the Pharisees were legalistic. Both were missing the point of God's laws, as well as, living hypocritical lives. They may confess their sins and perform the right rituals for them, but repentance was not in their vocabulary, and John the Baptist was going to publicly expose them for who they truly were. I don't think he used the word, "viper" carelessly either. A viper is a very venomous snake whose fangs fold back against the roof of their mouth. They swing forward and lock into place when the snake opens its mouth for the kill. Pretty interesting comparison to these seemingly religious leaders who were poisoning the very beliefs they were to represent.

How many Pharisees and Sadducees are walking around today calling themselves Christians? They espouse the law and God's ways, but merely make sounds, not living out the life that produces good fruit. Basically, hypocrites -- saying one thing and doing another. The Sadducees were all about their power in the Sanhedrin (even though the common people listened to the Pharisees.) and the Pharisees were prideful in their following of the religious law. But a true surrender to God and heart change was not evident. They were in it for themselves and what it could get them, not for serving the Almighty. They had completely lost their fear of the Lord.

How many people that call themselves Christians are truly desiring to live repentant lives? Confessing your sins for forgiveness is easy. The hard part is making the 180 degree turn away from the life you used to live and demonstrating that change through your actions - whether physical or spiritual. But that is exactly what God calls us to do. Simply put -- deny self, surrender to His Lordship, live out the life He has called you to live.

And throughout, be true -- to God, to yourself, and to others. In the end the truth will come out. Christ wants to refine us by his Holy Spirit like fire refines metal. It removes the impurities and leaves only what is true. If we do not allow Him to focus our lives on Him and His ways, we will be separated out later. Like the farmer separating the wheat from the chaff, Christ will separate the true followers from the fakes.

Lord, I want to live a truly repentant life. I desire to produce fruit for Your honor and glory. Lord, help me not to be caught up in the law, but to live by faith and love through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. I desire to be a full and fruitful tree pointing the way to You. Forgive me for the times I have failed. You are the only one to be glorified. Lead me in that truth.

Further Thoughts:
  1. Research the Pharisees and the Saducees. In what ways could people today be calling themselves Christians, but living like these two groups? What would be the evidence?
  2. Read John 15:1-17. Compare and contrast Jesus' words with John the Baptist's.
  3. Look up the meaning of the word, "repentant."
  4. How do we protect ourselves from falling into a Pharisaical lifestyle?
  5. Where does true belief and change begin? Read Romans 2:17-29. (Especially note vs. 29) and read Romans 3:21-24.

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