We are NOT the END, Jesus is. I know that’s hard for us to accept sometimes. We play a role along the way, but Jesus is the power, Jesus focus, Jesus is the destination, Jesus is our reward.
Matthew 3:8–12 (CSB) — 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say 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. 10 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. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”
Pretty strong word from John The Baptist here. This word is for the religious elite, Sadducees and Pharisees, who think they are the story, the power, and the glory, but they were not, nor are we in the church either. In my message Sunday, I said the only way to see a sunrise after the sunset is to turn around. In the verse that precedes these, John calls them “offspring of snakes”. They had come to his Baptism, don’t know if they wanted it or just wanted to see what the commotion was, most likely the latter, but he responds in v8 that he wanted to “see fruit consistent with repentance” (that is a change of mind). There is only hope if a true desire for change is present.
v9 don’t presume (to have an opinion/expectation) We can be very presumptuous in the church can’t we? We up a steeple and a sign and we think we are somebody that God needs. Praise God he wants us, and uses us, but he doesn’t need us. Oh come on, “we are the First Baptist Church”, “We are the Covenant Presbyterian”, “We are Grace Church.” Ok, good for you, maybe. But no one comes unless the Father draws them, the Spirit empowers then, in the name of Jesus the Son. John says, God doesn’t need YOU to fulfill his plan. If he wants “sons” for Abraham, he can raise up those from these stones. He doesn’t NEED us.
v10 He is cutting down “church trees” if you will, if they don’t produce good fruit. kalos karpos – Beautiful Fruit / Crops. Notice, it doesn’t say “plentiful” but “beautiful”. So, it’s not about how BIG our harvest is, but if it is a God Move, Christ Glorifying, Spirit empowered produce coming from the tree that bears his name. If NOT, it is thrown in the fire and burned. We aren’t talking about hell here I think, we are talking about trash. Even churches have a timeline, a shelf life, and if we stop producing beautiful fruit, he may clear the way for someone else who WILL produce beautiful fruit.
v11 – water for repentance – our job is NOT to be the end, the power, even the change agent, but our job is to call to repentance, to walk with them as they come to Jesus. And then John says, the one who is coming is more powerful than I. He is more worthy. Joh says, “I can’t even tie his shoes. What makes WORTH? Position, Power, Product, and Purpose. John is saying, “hey I just get people wet. I just encourage them to turn around, but HE / Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and Fire.
Oh yes Lord, there is a place for the church, but it’s to clear the way for Jesus. And when we do that, then he blesses us and we relish our role.
I was reading from Isaiah 4 yesterday – Isaiah 4:4–6 (CSB) — 4 when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodguilt from the heart of Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night over the entire site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies. For there will be a canopy over all the glory, 6 and there will be a shelter for shade from heat by day and a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.
Do you see the beauty of what happens when we settle into our role, bring people to repentance, introduce them to Jesus and he makes all things new? Then, from our place of fulfilling our role, we because a “cloud of smoke” a “flame of fire” i.e. we become a place that points to the presence and glory of God in Christ Jesus. And we become a shade, a canopy over the glory. We become a refuge and shelter where people run to find the answer and that is Jesus.
v12 says he has a winnowing shovel (fork) – Again, it’s not our job to do all the separating, but tossing it up in the air and allowing the wind of the spirit to do the separating, the good falls, the useless is blown away – wheat and chaff separated, and God brings in the good, and he gets rid of the bad, sent to the fire of waste.
We must consistently be reminded church that we are being shaped and formed. We have been made alive, but we are NOT the power, not the purpose, not even the precedent – we are just calling people to turn around and come to Jesus. We are just telling people what God has done in us and inviting them to know it for themselves.
I remember hearing of a man blind by cataracts on a mission field. He was brought to a missionary Doctor who performed surgery and gave him his sight. Now able to see, he traveled back home more than 100 miles. Sometime later, here he came – former blind man – now with sight. With him was a long line of blind people, all holding on to a rope, being led by the former blind man back to the place where they could gain sight. That’s it! We can’t make ourselves see, nor anyone else, but seeing, we can bring others back to where we got our sight and that is our purpose.