We’ve been hearing messages about repentance for several weeks now. What have you done with those messages? Has it caused you to go home and make adjustments? Have you simplified your life and said no to many things that are eating up what little free time you have? Have you pruned things that are choking the spiritual life out of you? Have you pulled up weeds and broken up the rocks? Do you expect the Sunday mornings to be a time when the bulldozer comes out and demolishes all the crooked paths so that you can thrive spiritually without doing your part?
What have you done this past week to repent and to struggle over old habits and die to self? If you are stuck in your spiritual life and you don’t see change and there is no fruit, have you asked for help? Did you call on someone to pray for you? If you open your Bible and you are just reading words on a page and your heart is stone cold, have you asked a brother or sister to read the Bible with you so that their sharing might stir your soul?
Spiritual life is a two-way street. God initiates, you and I respond. God is not the SWAT team. He doesn’t barge his way into our hearts. He knocks. We have to open the door. God gives us a word. We are the ones who have to repent, we have to dig around our hearts, we have to put the word into practice and obey it. God gave us the church so that we can turn to one another. If you are stuck spiritually and you haven’t asked for help from this body of Christ, then that’s on you. We’re here to help, if you want to be helped.
The bottom line is: the reason why we don’t change is because we don’t really want to change. Which means, if you say you are a believer, you don’t really value your relationship with Christ that much. If you are having a bad relationship with your sibling or parents, wouldn’t you want to do whatever was in your power to reconcile? If you are married and you are having trouble in your marriage, wouldn’t you want help to build up that relationship? If you love your spouse, you would. If you are parent and your child is not talking to you, wouldn’t you be concerned and try whatever means necessary to get through? And there would be a sense of urgency. Because the longer you let things go, the worse your relationship gets.
This is how we treat our human relationships. But for some reason, with God, we don’t really care all too much. Do you? Do you really care if a week, or a month, or a year or several years go by and your relationship with God remains icy cold. With human relationships, it bothers us and we take action. But when it comes to our relationship with God, many of us just don’t care enough. We learn to live with crooked hearts, we learn to live without repenting, we learn to live estranged from God.
The gospel writer John sums it up in John 15:5 –
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Who is the vine? Jesus Christ. If you remain in the vine, Jesus Christ, and he remains in you, you will, you will bear, not just a tiny amount, but you will bear MUCH fruit. Guaranteed. Your life will change if you really care about staying connecting to Jesus through daily repentance.
Have you changed? I’m not talking about change in the amount of Bible you can spout off, or the surface level behavioral modifications we make, or change in terms of our commitment to one another. Those are good things, but I am talking about change deep in your heart. Are you more loving, more joyful, more patient than you were last year?
We can change our circumstances. We can change churches. We can move to another country. But the problem is, our hearts follow us. And so unless the path to our heart is straightened out, the Word of God will never penetrate and take root.
In closing, the invitation to repent is given with a sense of urgency.
In v11, it says, John the Baptist baptized with water for repentance. But one day Jesus will return and he will baptize the world with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And that word “fire” is used in v10 —
10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Again, there is mention of “fire” in v12 —
12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
When Jesus returns, he will be a fork in the road. He will divide humanity into 2 groups. The good fruitful trees and the wheat on one side. And the bad fruitless trees and chaff on the other. The point being, all of us will go through the baptism of fire–some will be refined by the fire eternally, while the rest will be burned up in judgment eternally.
If God is calling you to repent, don’t delay. The longer you delay, the harder your heart will get. The ax is already at the root for some of us. Repent, for today is the day of your salvation. May we all bear fruit in keeping with repentance to the glory of God.