The cottonmouths formed rank and were flanking the right side of my four-wheeler. It didn’t matter that driving up on their nest was an accident. They closed within ankle striking distance in seconds and were prepared to fight to the death or eat me. Before the biggest one could hit, I had the clarity of mind to kick the gears down into reverse and gun it backwards out of the swamp (taking out a few in the process).
There’s nothing worse than a wad of snakes.
But I shouldn’t have been too scared. After all, I used to be a snake. That’s what John the Baptist would have called me anyway. I shared something in common with the religious folk back in his day.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
These guys were The Sin Police and good at it. They could sniff out iniquity from a quarter-mile and relished in pulling over lawbreakers (even when it was one of their own). Sure, they sinned too, and knew it. The problem was that they did a whole lot of lip service to repentance without ever actually repenting.
They condemned pride, but were self-righteous know-it-alls. Jesus called them white washed tombs. Clean on the outside, but dead on the inside. John just called them a wad of snakes.
There was a time in my life where I also knew all the terrible things I was doing. In fact, my accountability partners and friends knew as well. Our meetings were a lot of confessing and condemning but very little (if any) true repentance.
To repent means to turn around. It’s a military command – an “about face.” And it’s the difference between a snake and a saint.
My repentance back then was a lot of lip service with zero life-change. It mirrored the Pharisees. So, you know, not repentance. John, however, didn’t tell us snakes to leave. He didn’t even say, “Never sin this way again.” Instead, he commanded to, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Does your repentance bear fruit? Are you just talking a lot about your sin or are you desiring sin less? Is repentance a guilt-driven moment of confession that you gut through until the next meeting? Or is it a daily habit of turning from sin and towards Christ? True repentance is what separates people. One makes a saint; the other, a snake.
And snakes get run over by dudes on four wheelers.