7When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. 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.
John didn’t pull punches. The crowds are coming to him and he calls them a brood of snakes. So what is John giving us a black eye for today?
It appears to me, that first and foremost he is making sure we are “real”. Being a descendant of Abraham means nothing so I’m guessing having a church membership alone isn’t getting us any points with John either. John spells it out pretty clear what is expected: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Let’s break that sentence down a little.
“Repent of your sins…”. Repent means much more than being sorry. Repent does not mean we never sin again. Repent means we are sorry and we make a real effort to change our lives so we do not do those sins again. God doesn’t expect perfection, but he does expect sincerity and effort.
“And turn to God”. Eventually we have to face the fact that we can go in the direction of sin and be with God. We need to “turn” to God. Turning is a changing of direction. For me this means changing my focus, my thoughts, my words, my actions, my love…my life, to God. Sometimes I think getting closer to God is bit like walking up a spiral staircase because I am always turning, but I know actually its more like rolling down a hill. The staircase makes it sound like my effort to reach God is what is important, but really, I just need to be willing to change and ask God to help and he takes care of the rest so rolling down the hill is a better analogy. Besides, rolling down the hill sounds more like something a child would do and we all know what Jesus said about the Kingdom being entered by the childlike.
Finally, the sentence begins with “Prove by the way you live”. Being good without God won’t work, but neither will claiming to know God and not being good…or at least “gooder”. God changes our lives. We act different and thank God for that. Our life changes from a whimsical, frantic, desperate search of the next happy moment to a life of purpose, direction and fulfillment. We “turn” from a truly hopeless life to Jesus, and he gives us a life worth dying on the cross for.
Lord, give me the courage to keep turning toward you till I completely join the laughing rejoicing crowd of children in the valley of your Kingdom. Change me at every turn so this day I will be with you in paradise.