By Russ Wilkins
Dir. of Missions, Shiloh Baptist Assoc., Adamsville
Focal Passage: Luke 3:7-18
Occasionally I’ll try to build or repair something around the house. Inevitably, it will always be harder and take longer than I imagined. Why? Because I am not skilled in this area so I am not as prepared as I should be. I believe this is often true spiritually. We rush into God’s presence to “ask a favor”, we call on Him only when we are desperate, or we pray to mark it off of our to do list for the day.
We live in a time where people are busy and distracted and constantly entertained so it is hard to prepare to meet with God. Even though the pace was much slower, we see in today’s Scripture that John is preparing the people.
John began his ministry preaching repentance and then he performed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus also began His ministry preaching repentance. Could it be that repentance is our first step of preparation? Isaiah 40:3-5 is quoted at the beginning of the chapter and it is a prophesy concerning John.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” Repentance was the preparation of the heart that John was calling for to make the paths straight.
John drew large crowds but if he was looking to grow a church, I would question the first words he chose to speak to the crowds recorded by Luke: “You brood of vipers!” Why would he say that to the people that came to be baptized? Could it be that some were just coming for the show? Some wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Maybe some were coming just following the crowd.
John was harsh and wanted to be clear about who should be baptized. It was the prepared that should be baptized, the ones whose hearts were repentant. Just because your Father is Abraham doesn’t mean your heart is prepared. Today, we could say, just because you go to church or just because your parents and grandparents went to church or even just because you are a deacon or Sunday School teacher; that does not make your heart right.
John teaches us in verse 8 that when we are repentant it leads to change in our life and there will be fruit. Once again, John’s teaching aligns with Jesus’ teaching as Jesus often spoke about bearing fruit and being known by our fruit. John also warned about a coming judgment in verse 9. The people needed to prepare their hearts for the coming Messiah.
The message is just as clear for today, as we need to prepare our hearts for the coming Messiah. Even though they were waiting on the lamb that would be slain and we are waiting on the lion that will reign. The call to repentance is the same.
In verse 10 the people ask, “what then should we do?” Have you ever known someone that wanted to lose weight and asked, what do I do? Exercise and cut out sugars and processed foods to start with. Or someone that wants to get their finances in order. Spend less than you make, save for emergencies and save for retirement to start with.
What they do next determines if they really want to lose weight or get their finances in order. When people asked John, he gave straightforward, practical, and simple steps. Simple but not easy.
After John told them what to do, he continued by letting them know…someone is coming! He’s going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now you know what to do, get prepared, be ready! Today, John could tell us the same thing; Jesus is coming again, get prepared, be ready!