“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.” “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke Chapter 3
It seems to me that the Bible often has record of things that were said that we tend to ignore or de-emphasize. Can you imagine a priest or pastor today preaching this (see passage above) to the folks in a church? What would the elders, deacons, presbyters or bishops say if our clergy preached like John preached! Imagine the idea of telling people that they had better offer proof that they were serious about God and His Kingdom. To hear John preach you would think that John did not believe that God, or His Kingdom, were desperate to bring in all the people He could! John’s preaching would turn some folks off, offend others and anger others because he spoke of God as if God were some sort of “perfect” being that expected us to choose to do just as He commanded and just what He expected. The God John the Baptist preached about offered forgiveness, but on His terms along. You could accept them or you could go on and look somewhere else for purpose, fulfillment and an eternal life of glory without Him.
I believe that this is what we should be preaching and teaching—not a saccharine laden message of “come as you are and leave as your are”. What we should be preaching is the good news that Jesus Christ has come to save us from certain death and destruction and that salvation is based upon God’s dictates, not man’s choices. If we choose to accept salvation and escape God’s judgment, John would say that we must repent and give proof of it. This would suggest that it is not merely a matter of admitting sin, but acknowledging (i.e. confessing) that what we did was wrong, make amends (if possible) and stop doing it! I don’t recall hearing that very much in today’s preaching. Jesus told the adulteress, “Neither do I condemn you, (but) go and sin no more.”
God have mercy on me if I fail to preach the gospel—-which includes what we are yearning to hear and what we don’t like to hear as well. As a follower of Jesus I have been redeemed to shine and walk in the light—not the shadows or darkness. The message I must present requires that I honestly explain the need not only for remorse, but also repentance and a determination to give up those things that are stand on contradiction to holy living.
John the Baptist eventually lost his head for speaking truth. Some people don’t like to hear the truth and want to silence the messenger. But may God send us more men like John…
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