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October 16, 2015

Life Change

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Matthew 3:8 (NLT)

Life change is the greatest evidence of true repentance. God is not saying, “Clean up your life and, then, come to me.” He invites us to come as we are, and He says that He will cleanse us from our sins if we are willing to turn from them to God. The message of John the Baptist was confronting.

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.

John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God for forgiveness and were turning from their sin to live as God intended. Baptism was an outward sign of that commitment. It was showing on the outside what only God could do on the inside when, by faith, He washes us clean and makes us right with Him, leading to a changed life.

It’s fascinating to me that John’s message was particularly directed to the religious leaders that had come to hear him preach and watch him baptize. He knew they had substituted a form of religion for a true relationship with Jesus Christ. They simply tried to add faith to their sinful lifestyles and use their position as a means of excusing their sins. But, if what we believe doesn’t affect the way we behave, then what we believe doesn’t really matter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian during the reign of Adolf Hitler said, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.”

One of the great deceptions of the devil today is the idea that we can simply add Jesus to our present lifestyle with little or no change. It results in what I call “unsaved believers” who possess a form of religion devoid of any personal life-impacting relationship with Jesus Christ. John pressed the issue further with a clear warning:

Don’t just say to each other, “We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.” That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. Matt. 3:9-10 (NLT)

John was saying that, just as a fruit tree is expected to produce good fruit, those who claim a commitment to God should bear fruit in keeping with their repentance. Life change is only possible when the life of Christ takes up residence in our lives. His presence empowers us to live a new quality of life that produces a changed life. Faith is more than words. It requires action and a change of behavior. Do your actions match your profession of faith? The Apostle Paul challenges us to evaluate the genuineness of our faith. Writing to the Church in Corinth, he said,

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is in you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)