Bring forth, therefore, fruit meet for repentance.
John the Baptist was baptizing at Jordan, preaching repentance, and baptizing the converts.
And a strange thing happened: many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism.
But there was a twofold result of John’s preaching. On the one hand there was the multitude which came and confessed their sins. But the Pharisees and Sadducees did not.
And John fumed at these Pharisees and Sadducees: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
And then follows the text which I wrote above this meditation. Bring forth, therefore, fruit meet for repentance!
Let’s look at it.
Repentance: what is it?
There are two words used in Scripture for repentance.
The first is a word which indicates a change of the mind. And the second is a change of the heart.
The first is used here: a change of the mind.
What is the mind?
Surely, not merely the intellect.
But rather our entire world and life view, including our view of God, man and the world.
Paul states that we, that is, the Christians, have the mind of Christ. And in Romans 8:5, 6 we hear a description of the mind of man. On the one hand the mind of those who are after the flesh, and on the other hand the mind of those that are after the Spirit.
The first kind of people mind the things of the flesh, and you know what that means. The flesh and the things of the flesh are man without God and without hope in this world. They are the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
But those that mind the things of the spirit are alive unto God and are at peace with God.
Now by nature we are carnally minded. Our whole life and world view is carnal. James chooses the most excellent of this life view, that is, its wisdom, and condemns it as earthly, sensual and devilish.
But the word which is used here for repentance indicates that our carnal mind is changed, exchanged, transferred and transmuted. There happened a radical turning around of this mind.
Hence, the new birth of the renewed mind in our consciousness.
And such repentance reveals itself in two ways, negatively and positively.
Negatively, the changed mind sorrows after God.
Every child of God understands this. It is the first experience of the regenerated saint. They all, without exception sorrow after God. The Bible is full of this. Listen to Job: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” And this Job was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And pay attention to what God said of him: “there is none like him in the earth!”
Attend to David, the man after God’s own heart: “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me!”
And Heman: “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer Thy terrors I am distracted.”
And Moses, the man of God: “Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants.”
But why go on? The time would fail me. The whole Bible is full of the expressions of sorrow after God.
And there are two reasons for that sorrow. The first is our sins. And the second is because we love God. When we realize that we have sinned against such a lovely, attractive and beautiful God, we melt away in tears and sighing.
And the second element of repentance is joy in God.
You see, when we pour out our heart to Him and tell Him how sorry we are for our sins, He comes to us and shows us the Redeemer who died for all our sins. And He dries the tears of the heart.
And then we taste the positive element of repentance, for we break out in singing before His face. Whenever and wherever we see the revelation of that God of our redemption we break out in singing and jubilantly shout: Hallelujah!
Now what are fruits MEET for repentance?
What is the meaning of that strange word MEET?
That means worthy, in harmony with. You must bring forth fruits that are the natural result of repentance. There are fruits which belong to repentance. And you are supposed to bring them forth.
What are they?
The answer to that question could fill a book.
First there are the virtues which belong to prayer. I might as well tell you right at the start that the most beautiful fruits worthy of repentance are prayer and supplication. God loves to hear you pray. He delights in prayer.
There is a weak shadow among us.
When we bring forth children, we teach them to speak, and perhaps the first words which everyone teaches his or her child are Father and Mother. And when the first time such a child utters those words, we are delighted no end. You feel like telling the whole world of your acquaintance: My child said Mama!
That’s a shadow of spiritual things.
God teaches His children to call upon His name. That is, all prayer and supplication is wrought by God in the depth of our hearts. The Spirit of adoption teaches every Christian to say: Abba, beloved Father!
Prayer and supplication are the most beautiful fruits worthy of repentance.
And that includes adoration and ecstasy in God and godly things.
The best fruit you can bring forth is living communion with the ever blessed Covenant God!
But there are a veritable host of other fruits worthy of repentance.
Such as Christian sympathy with all that are in distress and misery.
The Bible would say: bowels of mercy.
Then there are reproving of evil all around you, teaching and speaking the truth with your neighbor in love, edification of the body of Christ, returning good for evil, peaceableness, humility from the heart, meekness, patience, contentment with what you have or lack no matter how or what, self denial, purity of heart and mind, fidelity, steadfastness, zeal and industry, consecration to God and Divine things, generosity, etc., etc., etc.
In a word: the life of Christ. In the world and the church.
And you have the Bible as your guide.
That Bible tells you exactly how you should think, speak and act in the midst of a crooked generation in the midst of the which you have your walk and conversation.
By their works you shall know them!
But no perfectionism.
Some think so. And they will point to examples in Scripture: Job, Asa, Paul: “as many of us as are perfect.” John: “He that is born of God sinneth not,” etc.
That is all wrong. The demand in Scripture does not assure of the performance. Scripture often judges a man according to the new birth, the new man in Christ.
But there is ever the old man of sin.
Listen to this: we never do anything but sin cleaves to it.
There is no perfection here below, with but one exception, and that is Christ during His sojourn among us. He was perfect. No one could convince Him of any sin.
But with us it is different. We are sinners. And therefore Jesus gave us the most perfect prayer, and one of the petitions which we must pray every day is: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This shows that we sin daily.
The heresy of perfectionism is dangerous. It shallows our conception of sin and it leads exactly to the root sin of pride.
No, but we STRIVE FOR PERFECTION every day.
It is our deepest hunger. We fervently desire to be absolutely pleasing to God.
Alright! Bring forth those fruits that are meet for repentance!
Just like that?!!
Some seem to think that. Just persuade men to bring forth fruit. Every man has a free will unto good or unto evil. Persuade men! And you may have your converts.
Yes, that is correct: you have YOUR converts. But they are not God’s converts.
No, it is not possible “just to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”
Attend to Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
There is a most beautiful and Almighty background to this bringing forth of fruits.
And that background is the Almighty Himself.
He speaks and it appears. He commands and it is done!
When the word of admonition is accompanied with the Holy Spirit of grace, then you are moved to go to work. And then, and only then do you bring forth fruit worthy of the God of your repentance.
Attend to Paul: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKETH IN YOU TO WILL AND TO DO OF HIS GOOD PLEASURE.”
The bringing forth of good fruit stems from regeneration.
We are dead by nature. That means we are dead to all good works. But when you receive the new birth the POTENTIAL is there. Then you are placed into living contact with Jesus. His Holy Spirit then dwells in your heart. And from the sanctified heart issues forth the seeking for God and godly things. Then you listen to the Word which is within and around about you.
And then it is to be expected that you gather grapes from the vine and figs from the fig tree.
Then your God is glorified by God-inspired works of faith. Amen.