“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.” Luke 3:7-14 NIV
When a change occurs in your heart, a change occurs in your mouth and in your actions. John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He commanded the people that they should, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” and he told them that, “the ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
John was straightforward and brutally honest with people – he called things as they were and he got people’s attention. They were either convicted of their sin and they repented, or they became really mad at John and continued in their sin. Once people repented and were baptized, they were hungry for righteousness. They asked John questions about how they should conduct their lives from then on.
John encouraged all of them to be unselfish and to share whatever extra clothes and food that they had with those who had nothing. The tax collectors would usually take more from the people than what was owed and keep it for themselves. For this reason, they were hated and reviled by the populace. John told them to be honest concerning the taxes they collected and not to steal from the people. He told the soldiers not to use their authority to steal from, threaten, intimidate, or falsely accuse people.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:8-17 NIV
James writes, in his book, that, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” You may have faith, but until you put action to your words, your faith is not proven. You don’t have faith because you say you have faith – you have faith because you acted on your faith. Faith, by its very nature requires action!
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Galatians 2:20-21 NIV
Righteousness with God is not attained through your own works, actions or efforts – it is purchased with the priceless and precious blood of Jesus. However, once you have heard the gospel – once you have realized that Jesus died for you – you must take action. If you believe then you must speak – you must believe in your heart that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and you must open your mouth and confess that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Otherwise you will not be saved.
James encourages us to, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” As the body of Christ, we are not judged as the world is judged, but we will be judged by the Word – whether what we believe is translated out into our life and our actions. Whatever is in your heart will be heard coming out of your mouth and will be seen manifested in your actions. Your fruit will reveal your root and all that is truly in your heart.