“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Matthew 3:8–9
Not everyone who came to hear John the Baptist preach came because they were sincerely interested is experiencing the change of heart and life he proclaimed. Some came because it was the popular thing to do among religious people, and others came simply because they were curious to see what all the fuss was about. For the first group their motive was to maintain the appearance of spiritual respectability they’d been cultivating for themselves, while for the second group their motive was merely to be entertained
It was primarily to the first group that John addressed his comments in Matthew chapter three verses seven through twelve. This group felt no genuine need for personal repentance. For generations their families had been among the faithful, they’d grown up attending the synagogue every sabbath, they’d read the scriptures and recited their prayers every day. They felt secure that the reward of the righteous was theirs.
“You brood of vipers,” John exclaims, “who told you to flee from the wrath to come?”
I’m not certain he could have characterized their true spiritual condition more plainly. They may have convinced themselves and one another that they had it all together but nothing short of true repentance will ever satisfy the requirement God places on earning the forgiveness he offers.
Many believe that salvation is free but the truth is that salvation will cost you everything and on top of that it cost our Savior everything to purchase it for you.
Most of us don’t need me to elaborate of the enormity of the sacrifice Christ made to win our redemption so I’ll explain what a I mean when I say that salvation will cost you everything.
First, the sacrifices we make for salvation are not a price paid to purchase admittance into heaven. Jesus’ sacrifice was all that required for that. However, if we’re to benefit from his gift we must accept the changes receiving that gift brings. You see, salvation changes us and we must be willing to be changed, if we’re not we’ll ultimately reject the salvation Christ bought for us with his life.
The scribes and Pharisees who came to Jesus weren’t looking for a change; they thought they had it all together and that no change was necessary. But John made it clear that radical change was required even for them. They needed to have the fruit of sincere repentance growing in their hearts. Pretense and make believe righteousness would never do. True repentance begins with humility because the humbled heart realizes that it’s not merely empty but full of rebellion and sin as well.
John speaks to people like me today. People that have all their lives cultivated habits of morality and religiosity. There’s a danger in this. The danger of depending on ourselves and our understanding to fulfill the requirement of righteousness. “All our righteousness is like filthy rags.” Only Christ and his righteous, living and radically changing our lives, will ever satisfy our need.