Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!
—Luke 3:8 (HCSB)
As a kid, one of my favorite Saturday activities was watching old Western movies with my dad. Men like John Wayne, Audie Murphy, and Roy Rogers would fill the screen with their heroic attempts to bring a happy ending from the brink of disaster.
Inevitably, this would lead to a climactic showdown between the battle-tested hero of the story and his rival. This would mean a face-to-face, man-to-man confrontation, as the crowds would look on with anticipation.
In this passage, we come to a similar showdown between the religious elite of Israel and John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for Jesus.
John had been baptizing in the Jordan River and teaching about the arrival of the Messiah. He chose this setting to challenge the popular religious beliefs of the day and set the record straight on what real faith is all about.
John immediately questioned the people’s belief—that their connection to Abraham could somehow change them. He told them what it really takes to have a relationship with God. God looks for a certain type of heart to respond to Him, therefore John was calling for hearts that were truly changed.
God isn’t looking for family connections. He’s looking for repentant hearts. And a heart that’s truly changed will be revealed by the actions that come from that heart.
Being born in a Christian nation, growing up in a Christian home, or going to a Christian church mean nothing if we don’t have repentant hearts. The word “repent’ literally means “a change of mind.” When the mind changes, the actions of the believer change (i.e. the behaviors described by John in the latter part of the passage).
Simply put, transformed hearts transform our lives and the way we relate to others. Our interactions with those around us will look entirely different because of the fruit that’s being produced in us.
With salvation, though, must come judgment. As John shares, “the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees” (Luke 3:9), prepared to bring judgment on those who rely on anything but a repentant heart and faith in the finished work of Christ.
- What or who have you placed your faith in for salvation? Your good name? Your good actions? The family that you were born into? Confess to God that your only hope is the sacrificial death of Christ for you.
- What actions would you most like to see changed in you? What thoughts do you need to change to make that happen?
- In Romans 12:1-2, Paul talks about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. How do you think that happens for a Christ-follower?
- What are some behaviors that can help you as you retrain your mind to think like the “mind of Christ?”