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? 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. 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.” … The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
Are You Ready for Jesus to Come?
Christmas day is coming soon. John the Baptist wants to know if you are ready. John isn’t so much concerned about whether your decorations are up, gifts are bought, baking is done, and travel plans are made. John wants to know if you are ready to celebrate the birthday of Jesus – God becoming a human to save sinners for eternity. And while you are thinking about that, John wants to know if you are ready for this: “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…His (Jesus’) winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Jesus’ birth took place about 2000 years ago. So for us, he has already died, rose again, and ascended into heaven to rule all things in heaven and on earth. And, Jesus promised that he will return on Judgment Day to send unbelievers (the chaff) to hell and his believers (the wheat) to heaven forever.
There is a reason that John the Baptist is being so blunt here. Our biggest concern in life should not be if the egg nog tastes okay or if we get little Johnny or Susie the latest “must have” toy. John wants sinners like us to be in heaven one day and not in hell, and he knows that the only way that happens is if we are prepared for Jesus to return. John knows that we are easily distracted from being ready for Jesus to return so he shocks us with some straight talk.
Being ready for Jesus to return involves more than just claiming to be a Christian and acting like one a couple hours a week at church. Be a Christian at church, at home, at work, and at school. Strive to act like a Christian everywhere and at all times. Christianity is not just a name thing, like some used to falsely think they were at peace with God because they were physical descendants of Abraham. True Christianity is a lifestyle thing—those who share the faith of Abraham in their heart and live that faith in their daily lives.
Take to heart John the Baptist’s words. Stay prepared for Jesus’ return through humble, daily repentance—repentance that not only admits being a sinner, but also has a genuine desire to fight temptations to sin and to live a God-pleasing life on earth. Stay prepared for Jesus’ return by believing the good news that Jesus has declared you not guilty of any sin in God’s sight, rescued you from the punishment of hell, and empowers you to live a God-pleasing life until he comes to bring you to his eternal home in heaven.
Lord, only through Christ can I be truly ready to celebrate Christmas and prepared for Judgment Day. Continue to send people like John the Baptist into my life to convict me of my sin, to call me to repentance, and to continually point me to Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation. Amen.
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.