Words of Faith 3-9-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  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.  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."
There is a tendency to sort of skip over John the Baptizer and view him as just sort of a warm up guy with bad hygiene. Here is a fellow dressed in camel hair speaking with locust breath. He is clearly not the Messiah we are looking for. But John was a critical part of the preparation for the coming of Jesus.
When the crowd began to come out to be baptized, John wasted no time offending them. He even questioned their motives about being there at all. The other Gospel writers tell us that there were even some of the Sadducees and Pharisees among those attending this revival. Some of the harshest words may have been directed to them. "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"
This was not your standard "welcome and sign-in time" at church! Just imagine strolling up to church, and just as you are getting your doughnut and nametag, the preacher comes by and says: "Viper!"
"Excuse me? Good morning, Preacher!" you reply.
"Snake!" says the preacher.
"Oh, howdy, Pastor," you try to smooth things a bit.
"Who told YOU to come to church today?" he snaps.
You might conclude that even the best doughnut is not worth this. We might suggest that such a preacher needs to go to a church growth seminar or even stop by a Dale Carnegie course! This is not the way to reach people. But still they came.
You see, John had no interest whatsoever in people who did not want to do serious business with God. It was a serious time. John had no need to make people comfortable. He was not in the least bit seeker sensitive. John saw right through the religious phonies who wanted to talk about repentance and leading a Godly life, but didn't really want to change.
For John, fake repentance was a deadly religious snake in his book. If you want to talk about repentance, let's see a little FRUIT in keeping with repentance. Let's see some CHANGE in your life and that will be a measure of whether you are really hearing from God.
John also attacked the human tendency we have to depend on our religious affiliations. Don't tell me how proud you are to be a Jew, a child of Abraham. Don't tell me about your denomination or religious pedigree. God does not care what your religious affiliation is. God does not care what group or sect or denomination you support. If God wants to do so, he can make rocks turn into children of Abraham.
What does God wants to do? John was clear that it was a time for RADICAL SURGERY of the Spirit. And it would not require a little scalpel, it would take an AX. The ax is ready. The TREE of ISRAEL had been without fruit for 400 years. Trees that don't produce fruit won't just be ignored; they will be cut down and used for fire wood.
Wow. Tough stuff. Not easy to listen to. I wonder how many downloads of that message were requested. But that is the point. There are times for comfort, times for encouragement, times for rejoicing and celebration. But this was a time for repentance. And repentance is NOT just a little weeping and smoothing over. Repentance is not just a little street cleaning to prepare for a visiting politician. It is RADICAL SURGERY, a major renovation of the roadway into our hearts.
Now, we want to be careful not to get the wrong idea about ministry. The point is not to seek out a church family where a mean preacher yells at you all the time. We need to see there is difference in scripture between the gift and function of a Prophet and a Pastor. Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:11 that God gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. The prophet is not who you want to come to the hospital when you are sick. The prophet-evangelist is a heavy demolition supervisor. The pastor-teacher cares for and grows the Body for future service. There is a difference.
But there are times when we need the radical surgery and major demolition. There are clearly times when we need to hear from a John the Baptizer. On an ongoing basis we probably need a Timothy or a Barnabas, a Pastor who will stand with us through the hard trials of life.
So what is God doing in your life? Is it time for some surgery with an axe? Is there a need for repentance, major changes? Is it a time for heavy demolition of some of the religious facades we tend to cling to?
Father God, I come to You in open surrender. Show me the surgery You desire to do in my life. Show me the roadways into my heart that need demolition and straightening. Cause a spirit of repentance in my life and heart. Show me also the connections in your Body where I can learn and grow and be strengthened. In Jesus' name.