Bear Fruits Worthy of Repentance (Video)

There once was a traveler who lost his way in the desert. Soon, he ran out of water in his canteen. After a couple of days of wandering the scorching sun and dry desert, he knew he would die if he could not find some water to drink soon. As we all know, human beings can only last three days without water.

Suddenly, he saw a shack ahead of him. He strived toward the building, hoping it was not a mirage or hallucination. Fortunately, it was not a mirage. He knocked on the door, but no one answered. It looked like an abandoned shack. He helped himself inside and urgently looked for water.

“Thank God!” He saw a water pump right in the middle of the room. Gathering his energy, he grabbed the handle and started working it furiously. It was his last hope to survive. However, no water came out of the rusty old pipe. After pumping for a while, he gave up with exhaustion and disappointment.

Suddenly, he noticed a bottle on the wall. He reached out for the bottle and saw some liquid in it, but there was a note on it saying, “Pour this whole bottle of water to prime the pump. Then, fill the bottle and put it back here.” “It’s a bottle of water!” he thought, “Thank God, I’ll live now.”

With the bottle in his hand, he had a moment of doubt and wondered what would happen if he followed the instruction to pour the water into the pump and no water came out. It was a tough choice—a life-and-death decision. After all, he already had worked the pump, and it was not pulling up anything. What difference will it make?

If he drank this bottle of water, he would at least survive for a while. Don’t people say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” Maybe I should quench my thirst first and think about what comes next afterward.

As he was about to drink the water, he realized there would be no more water to prime the pump, and someone like him would not be able to get water in the future. After some thought, he decided to trust the note. Reluctantly and prayerfully, he poured the water into the pump. Then, using his final hope, he started working the pump again.

Suddenly he heard a gurgling sound in the pipe, and water came gushing out like a firehose. He luxuriated and showered his entire body in the refreshing spring water. Filled with immense gratitude, he lied down on the floor and took a nap under the shade of the shack.

He woke up with restored energy, looked around the shack, and found a map carved on the wall with a direction to the nearest village. It’s quite a distance, but at least he knew now where he was going. He filled his canteen for the rest of the journey.

Then he filled the bottle for the priming water. Putting it back on the wall, he added a note at the bottom saying, “Trust me, it works!”

This story is both simple and profound, depending on how you appreciate it. At a deeper level, it’s about exercising grace in times of scarcity.

The current prolonged pandemic is like a never-ending wilderness that many of us might have become lost in it—mentally and emotionally. The danger is that it might rob us of our grace. We might develop a scarcity mentality, survival mentality, or quick-fix mentality.

In that mindset, most people might rush to drink the bottle in one gulp before thinking about the consequences. The moment you do that, we break the chain of grace, and, most importantly, we won’t survive for long either. We live by grace!

Life is not like a flight emergency, where you must put on your oxygen mask before helping others. Life is more like this story, where you must decide to grace it forward to experience the miracle of grace. Again, it’s not salvation by work but still by grace. It’s just not as simple as the fundamentalists think.

The pump symbolizes our heart, which needs grace to prime it. The bottle of water is only a bottle of water if you quench your thirst, but it becomes a bottle of grace if you quench your heart. Grace is also known as the living water. When you quench your heart with that bottle of grace, you will find your life reinvigorated, and your heart gushes out a river of grace. Jesus said,

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37–38)

It means our hearts are created to be rivers of living water. We are made to thrive in grace. We are born to be fruitful. This fallen world—the sea of suffering—has stolen our grace and instilled doubts and cynicism in us to make us look out for the number one. The pandemic might have made it worse.

Jesus came to prime our hearts with grace. The note on the bottle symbolizes the scripture. All we need to invest is a little bit of belief. When we change from doubt to belief, it’s called repentance. Our fruit is the proof of our repentance. The outcome of our belief is a prolific life of grace—a river of living water.

On this Third Sunday of Advent, let us learn how to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ by bearing fruits worthy of repentance based on this week’s scripture lesson.

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Luke 3:7-18. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. (Lk 3:7–18).

[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]

It’s near Christmas, and we all want to hear about a positive and hope-filled message. So, it seems a little bit uncomfortable to hear terms like “brood of vipers” and “the wrath to come.” However, behind these harsh realities, there is hope and grace. All we have to do is to make our paths straight.

According to some Middle Eastern mythology, young vipers are born by gnawing at their mother’s womb and tearing it open, killing the mother as they crawl out. So, calling someone “brood of vipers” means they were ungrateful and disgraceful people. God’s wrath is upon these mother killers. John said,

Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Luke 3:8).

The Israelites believed they had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card because they were the chosen people to inherit God’s grace and become a blessing to the world. However, John said only their fruit could prove the legitimacy of their bloodline. God doesn’t need them to keep his promise to Abraham.

John said, “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” It means God could use the lifeless gentiles to carry out the mission given to Abraham, and God did. Spiritually speaking, Christians are children of Abraham created by God through grace to fulfill God’s mission to bless the world.

It does not mean that we replace the Jews because this warning also applies to us today. If John were here today, he might say, “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have been saved by the grace of Christ’; God is able from these dry winter leaves to raise up children of grace.”

John said that we must show the fruits as the proof of the children of grace. Otherwise, we would be cut down and burned as firewood. Jesus also gave the same warning that he would not have recognized us if we were unfruitful. John’s words were convincing, so his audience asked him what to do.

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:10).

Most people might see this as a teaching of charity. However, if you put it in the context of the entire gospel, it’s not about charity but about grace. All other religions talk about charity as a means to earn God’s favor. It’s the concept of karma—what goes around comes around. It’s a transactional mindset.

However, Christianity is about grace. Unlike karma, grace does not expect a return or reward, but it does expect us to grace it forward. It’s a transformational mindset as opposed to a transactional one. That is the crucial difference. Keep in mind that grace is never transactional but always transformational.

The tax collectors and soldiers asked him the same question, “What should we do?” He told them not to abuse their power. So, underneath these instructions is the concept of grace. If you have grace, you will be charitable. If you have grace, you will not abuse power. If you have grace, you will do the right things in your own context. Whatever you do, do it from the paradigm of grace, and you can’t be wrong.

Because John’s words were refreshing, powerful, and transformative, people wonder if he was the Messiah, the savior.

John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16).

With all his charisma, John said he was far from what Jesus would do for the world. All John could do was to tell us how to correct our course. Jesus would ignite our life and set us on fire by his grace shown on the cross. John said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is like turning on the power. Jesus said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” (Acts 1:8a).

Here is the difference between John and Jesus. John teaches you to get your wiring right, and Jesus infuses the wire with the power to turn on the lights. John teaches you to transform your life, and Jesus empowers you to transform the world. John teaches you to strengthen the roots, and Jesus fertilizes the tree to help you bear the fruits. The passage ended by saying,

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. (Luke 3:18).

Even with all the scary images sounding like bad news on the surface, John was proclaiming the good news. The good news is like the note on the bottle in the shack. If you believe it, you will live. That bottle is a bottle of the grace of Christ. If you embrace it with your heart, it will turn into a river of living water.

The moment we believe, the Holy Spirit is there to empower us to do greater things than Jesus did. We need the power because we are like the warn-out, stressed-out, and thirsty traveler in this fallen world where we are pressured to become shortsighted, doubtful, and cynical.

We live in a dog-eat-dog world where we feel everything on earth is transactional, and we think the transformational grace is only in fairy tales. The pandemic might make us even more myopic. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to keep our light shining and grace beaming in dark times like this.

First-century Israel was no less bleak than our times. The hearts of people were heavy, harsh, and hopeless. John came to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ irresistible grace on the cross. He called Jesus “the Lamb of God.”

The cross is like the water bottle on the wall. It primes our heart of believers and let the spring of water gush out from there. As I quoted at the beginning, Jesus said,

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37–38)

For two years, we have been bombarded with bad news. Even now, the news of the surge of the pandemic might freeze our hearts even harder. When you feel your heart is stone-cold in this dreary desert, meditate on the cross and drink from the grace of Christ to prime your heart, and let your heart will gush out grace like a river of living water.

Let Christ’s irresistible grace transform your life and empower your heart to transform the world by gracing forward. Let him see the fruit and be proud of us when he comes.

That’s it for today, and I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I love receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.