“You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Luke 3:7-8, NLT
Life is unpredictable and change is inevitable. We all will face losses in life sooner or later – in our health, finances, and relationships. It is through change that we grow emotionally and spiritually. We need to change the way we think about our experiences in life by reflecting on how they are affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Changing the way we think through the awareness that we are not living the life that God wants us to live is the act of repentance. Repentance is waking up to the reality that we are living in slavery to our sinful desires, ulterior motives and hidden agendas and that we need to turn back to God to be delivered from the “Pharaoh” in our hearts.
John the Baptist called the people who came to listen to him, “a brood of snakes.” He did not preach a cheap gospel of repentance but harshly challenged them to change the way they live to prove that they want to turn back to God. They were not to take God for granted:
“You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove 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 the descendents of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.”1
The wrath of God is to draw us to the wonder of God’s amazing grace and our need for repentance to be set free from sin through the blood of Christ. The Good News is that Jesus died and rose from the dead to give us the Holy Spirit so that we can live in the power of the resurrection. It is through repentance that we can receive the true gospel. The real gospel is that Christ died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive when He returns:
“God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with Him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”2
The true gospel is rooted in the cross of Christ and the power of the resurrection. The true gospel fills devoted disciples with the Holy Spirit so that they are able to discern the truth from the distortions, distractions and deceptions of the evil one. The good news is that we are not human worms living from life to death but caterpillars who will be transformed into chrysalises to live from death to life like butterflies. This is the miracle of the triumphant crossing – when death means going home to our Heavenly Father to live the everlasting life.
We need to check if we are living out the true gospel. A cheap gospel leads to a superstitious faith and superficial Christians who claim to have faith without bearing any spiritual fruit. A fake gospel leads to false beliefs and fake Christians who idolize health and wealth. We cannot grow in faith with a cheap and fake gospel. We will deny and bury our fears instead of using them to build up our faith in God’s loving presence and protection.
We are to examine ourselves to see if we are feeding on the true gospel or if we are being misled and deceived by the evil one through cheap and fake gospels. We are test ourselves regularly – not to feel guilty but to see if we are in Christ and Christ is in us:
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”3
The members of the Corinthian church were encouraged by the apostle Paul to test themselves in order to have a firsthand faith. And if they failed the test, it would be an indication of his failure to share the true gospel:
“Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. I hope the test won’t show that we have failed. But if it comes to that, we’d rather the test showed our failure than yours. We’re rooting for the truth to win out in you. We couldn’t possibly do otherwise.” 4
We are to share Christ and not to “sell” Christ – to change guilty mindsets into grace mindsets. We are not called to be judges or saviors but to be witnesses of God’s faithful love that endures forever. We need to examine our lives to ensure that we are not fake Christians filled with the self righteousness and hypocrisy of the Pharisees which Jesus condemned:
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.”5
We are called to live as citizens of heaven here on earth – to be witnesses that we live from death to life. We are to put on the garment of praise and to remember that we are the Temple of God when we are in Christ and Christ is in us. We are chosen to live a life of love and to wear love as our basic, all purpose garment.6 We are to be spiritual warriors of love who overcome evil with love by trusting that the battle belongs to the Lord. The true gospel challenges us to live our lives here on earth as a stranger, as pilgrims on a narrow way:
“Mine are days here as a stranger
Pilgrim on a narrow way
One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for His name
But mine is armour for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And He has said He will deliver
Safely to the golden shore”7
1 Luke 3:7-8, NLT
2 1 Thess 5:9, MSG
3 2 Corinthians 13:5, NLT
4 2 Corinthians 13:6-9, MSG
5 Matt 23:15, MSG
6 Colossians 3:12, MSG
7 Christ Is Mine Forever More, CityAlight