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Yesterday on the blog we discussed how repentance means forsaking your sin and your self-righteousness. But how do I know if I have really done that? Because repentance bears fruit.

Would you believe me if I told you I parachuted to my job this morning? What if I told you I was skydiving and my parachute didn’t work so I had to clean myself up a bit before work, which is why I was late. Would you believe me? Absolutely not! Why not? Because you cannot have an encounter with the ground going 120 miles per hour and not be changed.

The same is true with God. You cannot have a genuine encounter with the God who created the sky, the ground, and gravity and not be changed. Repentance—real repentance—will change you. Repentance bears fruit.

John the Baptist makes this clear in Matthew 3:8 when he urges his hearers to “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” He doesn’t say “bear fruit” so you can repent. He says bear fruit to give evidence that you did repent. If repentance means change, then your actions will change if you repented! In this story John mentions two types of fruit:


The initial fruit of baptism

Matthew 3:6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

The word baptism literally means to “immerse” or “dunk.” The practice of immersing people in water as a religious symbol wasn’t invented by John the Baptist. Archaeologists have discovered these ancient pools throughout Israel called Mikveh baths. When I visited Israel a few years ago I got to see this one, which is located just south of the Temple Mount.


Jesus likely walked past this mikveh every time He entered the temple. This could have been used to baptize 3,000 new believers on the Day of Pentecost. One of the uses of mikvehs like this was to baptize Gentile converts into Judaism.

If you were born a Gentile, but wanted to profess faith in the God of the Jews you could symbolize that commitment by being dunked in a mikveh. Understanding this brings deeper meaning to what John is requiring when he asks Jews to get baptized. John is telling them, “Your Jewishness isn’t enough to make you right with God. You must repent!”

And the first fruit, the first evidence of that repentance was to submit to the same symbol that a Gentile received to become a Jew. John Piper puts it this way: “When a Jewish person received John's baptism, it was a radical act of individual commitment to belong to the true people of God, based on personal confession and repentance, NOT on corporate identity with Israel through birth.” [1]

So too with our baptism today. It’s a radical act of individual commitment to belong to the true people of God, based on personal repentance and faith in Christ alone. Have you been baptized?  If you haven’t been baptized as a believer in Jesus, you’re missing the first fruit of repentance.

Most of you have. But don’t think you can just check off this point and move on. You also need...


The ongoing fruit of good works

John is not content with people getting dunked in a river. He continues…

Matthew 3:10—Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

If you have truly repented, your life will result in good works. Again: we’re not saved by good works, we’re saved for good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it this way, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Your good works will vary depending on your stage and season of life. For singles it will mean resisting sexual immorality. For the married it will mean submitting to your husband or loving and leading your wife. For children and teenagers it will mean obeying and honoring your parents. For employees it will mean working hard and honoring your employers. For the retired it will mean using your time and talents to love God and your neighbor.

But here’s the point: If you will not fight your sin and fight for good works, you have no reason to believe that you’ve really repented. Do you know why John (and later Jesus) was so hard on the religious people? They act like they’re fine when they’re not. They pretend to bear good fruit, but inside they’re filled with sin and death. They’re hypocrites.

The Christian will struggle with things like this, but he’ll fight it. We’re talking about direction not perfection. The church should be a safe place for people who are willing to fight their sin. It’s a safe place for sinners. But the church cannot be a safe place for hypocrites. Fellowship Groups should push you to be open about your struggles. Our life together should push us to hold each other accountable. We should be willing to discipline those who claim to be following Jesus with no observable evidence in their lives.

But here’s the good news for the hypocrite reading this: even now God invites you to repent!

You’re not prepared to meet the King unless and until you repent. Repentance bears fruit, beginning with baptism and continuing with a life of good works.   


[1] John Piper, I Baptize You with Water, Sermon (Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1997),