3 In those days John the Baptist came and preached in the Desert of Judea. 2 He said, “Turn away from your sins! The kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 John is the one the prophet Isaiah had spoken about. He had said, “A messenger is calling out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3) 4 John’s clothes were made out of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all of Judea. They also came from the whole area around the Jordan River. 6 When they admitted they had sinned, John baptized them in the Jordan. 7 John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing. He said to them, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have turned away from your sins. 9 Don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones. 10 The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water, calling you to turn away from your sins. But after me, one will come who is more powerful than I am. And I’m not fit to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His pitchfork is in his hand to clear the straw from his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can’t be put out.”
In this passage of scripture John draws a distinction between the crowds who were confessing their sins and being baptised and the religious people who were making a show of repentance. In trying to put myself into one of those categories I started to think about the nature of genuine repentance and whether I was living a truly repentant life or a life focused on making a show of repentance.
I thought these two questions helped me to determine the nature of my repentance: Am I going in the opposite direction to sin? And am I deliberately asking God to help me do this?
In order to bring the question to life I asked it in this way: Am I actively moving away from fear, resentment, bitterness, hate, indifference, stinginess, being overly critical, negativity and pride? Am I choosing with God’s help to live with faith, forgive, be selfless, love, be generous, encourage and be thankful? Or do I throw my energy into making people think I am these things?
God, please help me to intentionally move in the opposite direction to sin and to choose your ways, not out of a desire to look good, but out of a desire to be changed and made more like you. Amen.
Written By Beth Waugh