Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.
—Luke 3:8

We can learn several things from John the Baptist’s message. First of all, his message began with confrontation. “He began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Luke 3:7). Now, that seems a bit harsh. What was John doing?

We get a little more insight from Matthew 3:7. “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” You see, there was a great national revival going on at that time. People were listening to John’s message. They wanted to get their hearts ready. They were lining up to be baptized. When the religious leaders saw what was taking place, they thought, “Man, we better do what these people are doing so they won’t think we are unspiritual.”

But John saw right through them. He knew there was no genuine change in their hearts. He said to these religious leaders, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). God isn’t interested in splashing some water on you; He wants to see genuine fruit in your life. He anticipated their objection. They would say, “Change of heart? We don’t need any change of heart. We are right with God. After all, our father is Abraham.” Their greatest claim to a right relationship with God was their physical heritage. They were descendants of Abraham. They thought all they had to do to be right with God was to have the right father or the right grandfather, to be a Jew. But God is not interested in your physical relationship. He is interested in your spiritual relationship. You are not related to God because of your physical heritage. The only way you can be related to God is by being born again.

John said that the best way to know whether you are really in God’s family is your works, the fruit that is coming from your life. People ask, “Are good works necessary for salvation?” Absolutely. Good works are necessary, not to earn our salvation but to give evidence to our salvation. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-10 that we are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. The reason Christ died on the cross for you was not just to give you a free pass to heaven. He came to give you a whole new way of living that would produce good fruit in your life. The message here is very simple: Look at the fruit in your life. Where there is no fruit there is no faith. We are not saved by our good works. There is nothing we could do to earn God’s forgiveness. Our salvation is totally of grace. But we are saved for good works. And without the works there is no genuine salvation.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Prophet Who Lost His Head over Jesus” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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