7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 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. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
This spring my husband and I doubled the size of our garden. We skimmed the grass off the top of the soil and cleared debris. We broke up lumps of clay with a shovel and mixed in organic compost and peat moss. Our hands blistered and our muscles strained as we labored several weekends in the garden plot. When the date for the last frost passed, we planted our vegetables.
Slowly, the fruit of our labor appeared: heirloom and Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, and basil. We enjoyed abundant vegetables throughout the summer. The soil preparation was a prerequisite for the harvest of vegetables.
Similarly, a repentant heart is a prerequisite to producing spiritual fruit. John the Baptist responded harshly to some in the crowd, calling them a “brood of vipers.” He knew their lives did not match up with the repentant heart he preached. They strived to earn their salvation, working towards the appearance of good fruit, but never producing the real thing.
We too strive in our efforts to produce good fruit. To counteract this desire, Jesus used the illustration of a grain of wheat falling to the ground (John 12:24). Only if the grain dies in the soil will it grow and produce fruit. Jesus referred to His own death and resurrection in these passages, but this paradoxical principle applies to the believer as well. When we die to self, we live, and the soil of our heart softens.
Like the garden, this working of the soil of our hearts requires constant nurturing and inspection. Repenting when required. Changing our actions when needed. Continually dying to self. Have we not had to die to so many things this year?
Dying to self is hard for sure, but the resultant good soil allows our hearts to pay attention to the heart of God. The fruit production will then be of God and consistent with what John preached about.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What have you had to die to this year? How has that changed your heart?
- Seasoned gardeners suggest testing soil samples. If you did a spiritual heart checkup, what would you find?
- What fruit are you producing? How does it honor God and others?
Pray for A and H, global workers in our church family preparing to serve in the North Africa/Middle East region. Pray for provision and equipping in every way, for their family relationships and for God to open hearts ahead of them for the gospel to be received.