LUKE 3:7-9: “Crowds of people were coming to be baptized by John. He would say to them, “You poisonous snakes! Who showed you how to flee from God’s coming anger? Do those things that prove that you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act. Don’t say, ‘Abraham is our ancestor.’ I guarantee that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones. The ax is now ready to cut the roots of the trees. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Is our “Gospel” complete? Many have heard the term “Full Gospel”. To most, this term refers to those who not only proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior, but also proclaim the present day ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit. As a pastor of a Foursquare Church we proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King! This truly is a “Full Gospel”, a “balanced” Gospel, a “foursquare” Gospel. However, even this Gospel can be found wanting if we forget one important message. This is the message of repentance!
John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. When John saw the “religious” leaders of his day approaching him, he cried out – “…You poisonous snakes! Who showed you how to flee from God’s coming anger?” I wonder how John would address us today if we were there, coming to the Jordan, coming to hear his message? Have we emphasized all the wonderful blessings of the Lord, without calling men and women to repentance? Have we taken the “Full Gospel” and chopped off the foundational leg on which it must stand?
John was straight and to the point. He continued his address to the “religious” leaders, and to all who were within the sounding of his voice – “Do those things that prove that you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act.” Immediately one might suppose John was calling them to be more rigorous in their “religious” observance. However, John was calling them away from their tradition and back to God’s heart. He warned them – “Don’t say, ‘Abraham is our ancestor.’ I guarantee that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones. The ax is now ready to cut the roots of the trees. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.”
We can never trust in our “religious” observance or heritage. When we do, we are in danger of leading people into a relationship with “religion” or the institution of the “church”, rather than with Jesus Christ. Churches cannot save a person from their sins! In fact, as you read the 7 Letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation you will note that many churches were in fact leading people away from Jesus rather than to Him. In one church, the Church of Laodecia, things had gotten so bad that Jesus was kicked out and was standing at the door knocking, asking those inside to once again let Him in. And what was it that Jesus was asking for? He was asking for them to repent!
- “I advise you: Buy gold purified in fire from me so that you may be rich. Buy white clothes from me. Wear them so that you may keep your shameful, naked body from showing. Buy ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. Take this seriously, and change the way you think and act.” (Revelation 3:18-19 GW)
Notice – John and Jesus proclaimed the same message! Jesus said – “…Take this seriously, and change the way you think and act.” This is repentance! This is the prerequisite for a relationship with Jesus through faith. Repentance opens the door of our lives (and our churches) and allows the Lord of Glory to come in! Without an attitude, action, and posture of repentance in our hearts, we will never truly be preaching the “Full Gospel”!
I love the “Church”! Jesus died and shed His blood to purchase a redeemed people from every tribe, language, and nation. This is the “ekklesia”, the “called out ones” of God – “The Church”! Yet, “the church”, much like the nation of Israel, is prone to forgetting God’s call and His heart. We can become so involved in the “activity” of the church that we neglect the “Lord” of the church. If we are not living a life of repentance, and if we are not calling others to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the church is no more than a country club with a religious veneer. I believe the church is much more than that. That is why I have dedicated my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, to His Church, and to His Message. That is why I am calling all to “…change the way they think and act…” and believe the Gospel – the “Full Gospel”!
- Only a heart that is living out their faith in Jesus Christ with the attitude, action, and posture of repentance will be able to fully comprehend the wonderful truth that Jesus is our Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King!
Lord, help me to live a life that is continually changing the way I think and act! Help me to turn my heart toward the way You think and act! Let me seek Your truth (gold refined in the fire). Let me be clothed in Your righteousness (white clothes) by grace – through faith. Give me eyes to see, and ears to hear, so that each day I can see and walk in step with Your Holy Spirit!
In Jesus Name!