Does Conversion Mean Change?

14 Apr

ArrowYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the parable of the minas. We learned that Jesus will hold us accountable for stewardship; He’ll reward faithfulness and judge disobedience. Every one of us, every child of God is to do God’s business until He comes back. This morning we’ll ask the question “When a person genuinely turns to the Lord, should that change their approach to money?” In what ways does a real relationship with God impact our values?

I encourage you to take the time and turn to Luke 3:10-14.

Here’s the back story. John has come on the scene and is preaching in the area of the Jordan River. We need to take a look at John’s view of salvation. To keep it in context, Lu. 3:3 says, “And he [John] came in to all the district around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.” Repentance literally means change of mind. For John, salvation meant change and it should mean change for us too. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) John preached about turning away from sin and to God. This change is not only possible when you have a relationship with Christ, it is expected.

In v. 7, John calls a group of people vipers. That seems pretty harsh given his message of forgiveness in Christ. Vipers are poisonous. You need to stay away from poisonous  snakes. They are dangerous. John is really asking them, “Who told you that getting baptized will protect you from the coming wrath?” John’s implied answer is, “Not me!” He is addressing insincere converts, people who have a salvation that is in words only. Maybe they’re caught up in emotion.  Maybe they’re friends are doing it. Maybe they’re out to get something. The real reason these vipers are coming is not stated, but John is very clear about why he speaks about a, “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” according to v. 3. Verse 8 tells the story: “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” There are certain things that must happen following true conversion. Baptism and holy living go hand in hand. Baptism is the outward expression of what occurred inside.

It has become far too simple in the church today. People claim to know Jesus Christ, yet there is no change in their lives. Salvation involves a total change of mindset, life, and direction. John says to, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Lu. 6:43-45 says, “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Back in Lu. 3:8 John says, “Do not begin to say ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” In Jo. 8:37 Jesus said, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” In other words, if there is no repentance, it doesn’t matter who your daddy is. John brings this sobering line of reasoning to a close by saying, “Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Lu. 3:9)

John goes on to provide some practical instructions. In v. 10 the crowds ask John, “Then what shall we do?” John told them that real repentance brings forth good fruit that result from a change of heart. Don’t think John is talking about a salvation based on works. To demonstrate that, John says in v. 11, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him that has none, and he who has food is to do likewise.” Clothing and food are consistent with 1 Tim. 6:8 that we saw in part 1 of this series. This instruction is consistent with O.T. teachings found in Job, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Any real faith must have social concern for the poor and unfortunate. Caring for the poor among us is a common theme in Luke’s writings. Lu. 6:30, “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.” Lu. 12:33, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” Lu. 18:22, “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Repentance results in change. According to Luke, this change should involve possessions.

The tax collectors ask John the same question in v. 12, What shall we do?”     This is really interesting. Being a tax collector was synonymous with sin. Regarding church discipline in Matt. 18:17, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Jesus compared someone unrepentant with a tax collector. The gospel message is not just for some people. People say God can’t or won’t save me because of  . . . . you fill in the blank. Tax collectors were some of the most despised people in the community. Their testimony in a court of law wouldn’t be accepted. These tax collectors were Jews that worked for the Roman government; they collected more than was owed. We would call them thieves, but even thieves can repent. What are they to do? “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to” (Lu. 3:13) Notice they didn’t have to quit their job, just become honest.

The final group, the soldiers ask John, “And what about us? What shall we do?” These soldiers were likely Jews who signed up for military service or were conscripted by the government. They received little pay, but could force people to give them money. John says, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” Like the tax collectors, the soldiers were charged to become honest.

 

What’s this all mean? According to John, repentance is not confined to religious acts or private life. True repentance impacts your work; it impacts your private and public life.

Therefore, true repentance impacts your stewardship. No matter who you are, you are to share what you have with others. No matter who you are, you’re to be honest in your business and private dealings. That’s the power of Christ’s transformation of the heart.

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