Power to Repent

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing,
he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 
And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ 
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.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. 
But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. 
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, 
gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Matt 3:1-2, 7-8, 11-12 NIV

John the Baptist really demolished that idea [that simply being a descendent of Abraham made a Jew safe in the life to come]: Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The Spirit of Power would be given — the Spirit who when He enters a man creates and brings the order of God where there has been disorder and chaos. He brings truth, divine certainty, knowledge of what to repent from, the power to repent. [1]

The warning words of John the Baptist confront careless and proud tendencies that would refuse the gift of a changed life. Repentance truly is a gift, and by it the Holy Spirit can accomplish purity in our hearts. In Lent we make an intentional effort to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s creative inner work. We can trust God to shine a light where we need to change, and to marry His power to our weakness as we walk it out. 

Come, Holy Spirit, bring order to our chaos. Empower us to welcome Your stirrings; pierce our hearts, loose tears, and grant us grace to let them keep falling until our hearts are cleansed. We renounce resignation to disorder. Descend into us, Refiner’s Fire.

Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1995), 239.
Painting:  St. John the Forerunner, St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church, Dayton, Ohio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Meditation prepared by Sarah Colyn, drawing on the writings and ministry of Leanne Payne.