Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Luke 3:9
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.

Those of you who know us know that last year we moved into the San Joaquin Valley, the central valley of California. The area in which we live is known as “almond country.” We are literally surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of almond trees. This past winter a local grower purchased several hundreds of acres of land very near our home that was previously used for field crops, originally cotton. The land was prepared with a great deal of deep plowing. Then deep furrows were drawn in the soil leaving eight to twelve inch ridges into which the grower planted about 110 almond saplings per acre. We watched this whole process taking place. He put in sprinkling systems for irrigation, fertilized and sprayed the saplings, and protected them with plastic tubes. There were many workers involved in the planting of these fields. The grower made a huge investment of his resources to get the field ready and planted and he did it all for one purpose. In a couple of years these saplings will grow into fruit-bearing almond trees and he will reap a huge harvest.

Also near our home was a fully mature ranch of almond trees. They had been producing almonds for over twenty years! This grower had many rich harvests and had made a great deal of money from these trees. One day I drove by this ranch and I saw a huge bulldozer out in the orchard and he was pushing the trees over. Hundreds of trees lay on their sides with their large root systems exposed to the air. In another part of the ranch there were workers with chain saws cutting up the trees. And in yet another area there were huge wood chippers receiving what had been pushed over and cut up. Being an almond country novice I had to ask the guys in church why that orchard was being destroyed. You already know the answer. They said, “It was no longer producing enough nuts to be profitable!”

When John was baptizing in the Jordan River there were crowds coming out to be baptized. He was unwilling to let them think that all they needed to do was submit to baptism in order to have right standing with God. He said, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…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! (Luke 3:7-9) John proceeded to tell the people what repentance looked like. The man with two tunics should share with him who has none. The tax collectors should not collect more than they were required to. Soldiers should not extort money or accuse people falsely. They were to repent from their sins and begin to live righteously.

Repentance. We don’t hear much about repentance anymore. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it is an unpleasant thought. Perhaps pastors think it will turn people away from their churches. Perhaps we are afraid people will think we’re being too judgmental. Repentance must be preached because people must produce fruit in keeping with repentance. If they don’t produce good fruit God’s bulldozer will do its work and they will be uprooted and thrown into the wood chipper! If we claim to preach the whole gospel of Christ we will preach repentance and the necessity of bearing its fruit.


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