************ Sermon on Luke 3:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 7, 2007
"Produce Fruit in Keeping with Repentance"
Topic: RepentanceThat boy's apology reminds me of a missing element in the lives of many Christians – genuine sorrow for sin. Facing up to sin is often forced on them by getting caught or by embarrassing circumstances. But there's no change of mind, no new action, no new motivation, no repentance.
Title: I Still Think You're Dumb!
A small boy dialed "O" and asked the operator to call a number for him. He didn't speak clearly, so she couldn't understand him. After repeating it four times, he blurted out, "You operators are dumb," and slammed down the receiver. Hearing this, his mother was shocked. She called the operator and made the boy apologize. Later, when his mother left the house, the lad got on the phone again. "Is this the same operator I talked to a little while ago?" "Yes," came the reply. "Well," said the boy, "I still think you're dumb!"
The Apostle Paul tells us there are two kinds of sorrow when it comes to sin:
(2 Cor 7:10) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. There is godly sorrow and there is worldly sorrow. What is the difference?
Worldly sorrow is not sorrow for sin; it isn't sorrow for rebellion against God; rather, it is sorrow for the painful and unwelcome consequences of sin; it is sorrow for getting caught. Worldly sorrow concentrates on the self and engages in self-pity. This sorrow can be very bitter and very intense, like that of Esau who sorrowed with many tears over the loss of his birthright (Heb 12:16f); or, think of Judas who was seized with remorse that he betrayed innocent blood (Mt 27:3-5). This is a sorrow that often leads to a bitterness in which the sinner blames everyone but him or her self for what has happened. This worldly sorrow can end only in death and judgment, in weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And then there is a godly sorrow. This sorrow knows sin has offended God and His holiness. This sorrow admits sin, accepts the blame for sin, and realizes the offensiveness of sin. This sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. This is the sorrow we find David expressing in Psalm 51.
(Ps 51:2-4) Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Today is preparatory for the Lord's Supper. How are we to get ready? How are we to prepare? Our old friend, John the Baptist, tells us to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8a).
I What Repentance Is
A What is repentance? What is it that John the Baptist is calling us to do on this preparatory Sunday?
In the Gospel of Luke repentance always involves three different elements: first, a turning from sin; second, a putting on of the new life; and third, faith in Jesus Christ.
First, repentance is a turning from sin. It is a change in direction. To repent is to stop in your tracks, pivot one hundred and eighty degrees, and head back in the opposite direction. Repentance is like a u-turn.
Shortly after my family and I moved here I absent-mindedly turned west on Acequia. The drivers of a couple of cars I met honked their horns and flashed their headlights at me. Suddenly I realized I was going the wrong way down a one-way street. I turned around in a driveway and headed east.You can say I repented; I changed direction 180 degrees.
Because of original and actual sin we all need to repent. You see, we all have a tendency to do what is wrong: to lie, envy, steal, gossip; to be proud, boastful, overbearing; to lust, hate, disobey. We also tend to avoid doing what is right: to love our neighbor as ourselves, to share with the needy, to say something encouraging to someone who needs it.
Repentance means to turn from all of this. It means to put to death what Paul calls our old man of sin. It means to muscle aside familiar habits and beat down old attitudes.
Topic: RepentanceThat's what repentance, true repentance is – when you stop doing the same old sins time after time after time.
Title: Enough to Quit
A Sunday School teacher once asked a class what was meant by the word "repentance." A little boy put up his hand and said, "It is being sorry for your sins." A little girl also raised her hand and said, "It is being sorry enough to quit."
-- Donald Grey Barnhouse
Subtopic: Duty of
Title: Stop Doing It
There was a cartoon several years ago in the "Saturday Review of Literature" in which little George Washington is standing with an axe in his hand. Before him lying on the ground is the famous cherry tree. He has already made his smug admission that he did it -- after all, he "cannot tell a lie." But his father is standing there exasperated saying, "All right, so you admit it! You always admit it! The question is, when are you going to stop doing it."
Consider the case of the tax collectors who came to see John the Baptist. They purchased from the Romans the right to collect custom or toll taxes. They made a profit only by collecting more from the people than they had paid to the Romans. Often they abused their position by overvaluing the goods and merchandise that passed through their custom stations. In their case, says John, repentance means "Don't collect any more than you are required to" (vs 13). In other words, they are to stop overcharging.
Or, consider the case of the soldiers who came to see John. Generally, they tried to supplement their income through intimidation and threats of violence against the very citizens they were protecting. In their case, says John, repentance means "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely – be content with your pay" (vs 14b). In other words, they are to stop their life of extortion and blackmail.
I can't pretend it is easy to repent. I can't pretend it is easy to stop sin. This is never easy. It takes hard work. It takes concentrated effort. It takes a long time, usually a life-time. And, it happens only by God's strength and power and grace. So if you are in the grip of a powerful sin, fall down on your knees before God; confess the sin; and ask for His grace, power, and strength to stop the sin.
B Second, repentance is a putting on of the new life.
In speaking about repentance in Colossians 3 the Apostle Paul tells us to put off our old self and to put on our new self. In saying this he compares repentance to the change of clothing he saw converts undergo at the time of their baptism. In the New Testament period a convert, at baptism, tore off an old dirty cloak – symbolizing the putting off of the filth and pollution of sin – and put on a new clean cloak – symbolizing the putting on of the righteousness and holiness of Christ.
True repentance is always this way: something negative followed by something positive. We must put off the old self in order to put on the new. We can't put on new clean clothing until we take off the old dirty clothing. To come to the light we must leave the darkness.
This is the real secret to the dying-away of the old self. This is the real key to overcoming the ordinary temptations of the world. You see, the desire for evil diminishes when we, by God's grace, put on the new life.
Think of the oak tree in my backyard. The oak tree will not let go of some of its old leaves even with the wind and the frost. But in the Spring all the old leaves fall without any wind or frost, simply because a new leaf sprouts!We don't overcome evil and turn from sin merely by being sorry for what we have done or by fleeing from it. We overcome evil when we put on the new life.
In repentance we, by God's grace, put on the new life and begin to live it.
Topic: RepentanceWe would say that Patrick Reynolds has repented on behalf of his family.
Title: Cancer Corrective
Fifteen years ago Patrick Reynolds signed on to help the anti-smoking campaign of the American Lung Association. So what? He is the grandson of the founder of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company. Reason -- to "make up for the damage my family has done."
Consider the case of the people who came to see John. Being sinful, their natural inclination is to be selfish and mean-spirited. Repentance means not only throwing aside selfishness but also embracing charity. John says,
(Lk 3:11) The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.In repentance you turn from sin and put on the new life.
C The third element of repentance is faith in Jesus Christ. Actually, this is the first element. It is only when you come to know Jesus and love Him that you want to get rid of the life of sin and follow the life of obedience. Knowing Jesus is everything.
As we get ready to take the Lord's Supper, then, we want to prepare ourselves by producing fruit in keeping with repentance. In preparation for the Lord's Supper next Sunday we want to repent.
II Necessity of Repentance
A According to John the Baptist it is necessary, vitally necessary, that we produce fruit in keeping with repentance. It is necessary because those who don't repent will face judgment and eternal damnation. In fact, John warns that the judgment could happen at any moment:
(Lk 3:9) The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.These last words are surprising, to say the least. In a dry climate, like in Palestine, every tree is valuable. Normally, unfruitful trees would not be destroyed by burning; rather, the wood is saved for domestic and manufacturing purposes. But John announces a burning of unfruitful trees.
John further explains what he means by using the image of Christ at the threshing floor.
(Lk 3:17) His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.At the threshing floor the grain is thrown into the air; the wind carries away the straw and chaff and the plump kernels of grain fall to the floor. The wheat is gathered into the barn and the chaff is burned in the fire.
"Repent," says John in another place, "for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Mt 3:2). At that time a separation – such as what happens at the threshing floor – will take place: some will be gathered into the divine granary and others will be swept away in the fires of judgment.
B Some of those listening to John thought they were safe from the judgment because they were part of the chosen race, children of Abraham; they thought their salvation was assured. But John says their religion counts for nothing without genuine repentance and faith:
(Lk 3:8) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
There are some today who think the same way. They think their salvation is assured because their parents are Christian or because they are members of the church. They think they are saved because they are baptized or because they attend Christian school. They think they are saved because they give money to the church or sit on Church Council. They think they are saved because they attend worship once or maybe even twice on Sunday. But all of this counts for nothing apart from repentance and faith.
So I have to say to you what John the Baptist said to the children of Israel:
(Lk 3:8) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking you are one of God's children if you don't repent, if you don't turn from sin and put on the new life and believe in Jesus.
On this preparatory Sunday John the Baptist says, "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (vs 8a). It is best that we do it now, right now, before it is too late. You see, "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2), now is the time when whoever repents and calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved; but it will not always remain this way. There will come a time when the Lord will come in judgment. And when that happens, it is too late to repent. In fact, the time is shorter than we think (I Cor 7:29). Or, as John puts it, "The ax is already at the root of the trees."
Subtopic: Duty of
Title: Repent Now
The story is told of a famous rabbi who was walking with some of his disciples when one of them asked, "Rabbi, when should a man repent?" The rabbi calmly replied, "You should be sure you repent on the last day of your life." "But," protested several of his disciples, "we can never be sure which day will be the last day of our life." The famous rabbi smiled and said, "The answer to that problem is very simple. Repent now."
Repent now, congregation. Repent now, before it is too late. Repent as you prepare yourself for the Lord's Supper.
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