Repent! Of Living for Jesus.

What? Excuse me? This isn’t how that line usually goes. You’re right. But that’s exactly what I heard in a sermon I listened to this morning and I’m, again, trying to get that concept embedded into my soul. I better explain myself before anyone thinks I’ve lost my faith.
The sermon was on Matthew 3:1-8 where John the Baptist is quoted as preaching ‘Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ in verse two, and then in verse eight saying, ‘Produce fruit in keeping (or worthy of) repentance’. The Greek word used here for repent means to ‘think differently afterwards’ or to have a new thought about something. So, although we tend to associate repentance with sin or doing something bad, in reality, you can ‘repent’ of anything, good or bad. It’s simply gaining a new perspective, thinking in a whole new way about something. Repent.
Today I’m repenting, thinking in a new way (and yet a way I know well) about living for Jesus, mainly, because I can’t. Live for Jesus that is. I can try, but it will wear me out and I’ll get frustrated with myself because I’ll blow it so continually. So, I’m repenting of that, as I have had to do in the past, and will instead endeavor to allow Him to live through me. Which, of course, is what He intended and teaches in Scripture. Twice, in Galatians chapter 5, the writer tells us to ‘live by the Spirit’. Not by our own strength, or our own will power, but by His Spirit that lives within us. This is not a new understanding to me, but it is one that I easily slip out of. When I do, I fall back into the mindset of ‘doing’ things for Jesus, or for His glory, or worse yet because I think it’s what is expected of me from other Christians. (Lord have mercy on me!)
And that brings us to the statement in verse 8 of Matthew chapter 3, ‘Produce fruits in keeping with repentance’. I need to be doing or ‘producing’ works that fit with my ‘repentance’, my new way of thinking. Again, my dear preacher friend, Stephen Manley, delved into the Greek to bring our understanding of this passage into proper perspective. The Greek word translated produce, or in other translations do, is a certain kind of ‘doing’. It is NOT the doing of a duty or obligation but rather a creative doing. A type of doing, the creative writers here on Triond, should well understand. It flows out of what is inside us. We don’t make fruit in factories. We ‘produce’ crops of fruit. A seed is planted, trees or plants grow; sun, water and nutrients contribute their input and fruit is produced. In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine and branches to illustrate how this is to work. He says that he is the vine and we are the branches growing off that vine. As long as we stay attached to the vine the life and nourishment of the vine flows into and through us and fruit will be produced. The only obligation of the branch is to maintain a strong connection to the vine. The production of fruit, or lack thereof, then remains the result of what comes through the vine into the branch.
So, I’ve again repented of trying to ‘live for Jesus’ and am moving again in the mindset of letting Him simply live His life through me and resting in the knowledge that whatever ‘fruit’ is produced out of that union with him IS the kind of fruit He desires and is ‘in keeping with repentance’.
If you’d like the privilege of listening to the teaching of Stephen Manley, mentioned as my inspiration for this piece, you can find him on the web at www.crossstyle.org His base of operations in the U.S. is located in Lebanon, Tennessee but you will see by his schedule that his ministry spans the globe. His teaching style is far from the ordinary and is strongly rooted in the power of understanding the Word of God in its original language and cultural settings.

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