The message of John the Baptist was directed at all classes in the Pharisaic society. The people in the audience of John’s message were proud of being descendants of Abraham, but John knew that their hearts were very far from God. They thought that because they were children of Abraham they had no need for repentance. Their attitude was wrong, which is why John exhorts his listeners to bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Often today, many people take pride in having been raised by Christian parents, or perhaps even in being the children of pastors, as if this heritage alone were enough to ensure their salvation. They fail to look at their personal relationship with God. It is a wonderful thing to have a family heritage of faith, but the faith of our parents is not enough! God wants each of us to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the way of life each of us must choose for ourselves.
Whoever trusts in and obeys Jesus Christ will bear in his or her life the fruits John speaks of. And what are the fruits? John gave us examples: If we have two coats (or more), we are to find someone who has no coat and give one or more of ours away; if we have more than enough food, we are to offer life-sustaining food to someone who is hungry—maybe constantly hungry. These and other acts of compassion are a vital part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
God knows our failings and our sins. That is why, in love, God sent Jesus to save those who turn from their own way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. And as we follow, we learn who Jesus is and how we are to bear fruit for the kingdom of God.
Dear Lord, thank you for knowing who I am and for inspiring me to turn away from my sins. Help me this day to bear fruits worthy of repentance. Amen.
Reviewing the scripture passages for this week, the hymn title “Rejoice, Give Thanks and Sing” might come to mind. The writers of this week’s texts advise us to do all these things. At this time of year, these responses often seem to come naturally for many of us. The prophet Zephaniah exhorts his audience to sing aloud and rejoice. The prophet Isaiah calls on the people of Judah to “give thanks to the Lord.” In the letter to the Philippians, Paul advises his audience to “rejoice in the Lord always.” The tone of the Luke passage for this week is more somber; through the words of John the Baptist, Luke challenges his audience to maintain right relationships with God and humanity. Taken together, these passages provide a number of life lessons.
Read Zephaniah 3:14-20. Recall a time when you have experienced joy in the midst of trouble. Give thanks to God for your joy.
Read Isaiah 12:2-6. How does your trust in God enable you to overcome fear?
Read Philippians 4:4-7. Are you able to release your worries to God when you pray, or do you tend to hold on to the worry even after you have prayed about it?
Read Luke 3:7-18. Where in your life are you being nudged to do the right thing? How will you respond?
Respond by posting a prayer.