1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ” [a]
7 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? 8 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. 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.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 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.”
John the Baptist is one of the most interesting personalities of the bible to me. He wore clothing like the prophet Elijah’s: camel hair tunic, no priestly robes. He was the son of a priest, but had the office of prophet. He was totally counter-cultural, living in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. If he were alive today, I think he’d be the guy downtown, wearing a sandwich board, handing out bibles and tracks, warning passersby that the end is near. He would definitely stand out – as he did in his day.
The word tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. Yet his words in the passage above are harsh and biting. He issues a wake-up call to a dozing, complacent people, who have become arrogant in their heritage, placing it above their relationship with God. After getting their attention, John warns the people to repent and be baptized. He makes it clear that true repentance bears fruit (namely “growing in the knowledge of God” and developing godly character). Good fruit can only grow out of a repentant heart. John makes it clear that the individual – not the nation, not the community, not the family – is responsible for his/her own fruit and that no one can rely upon position or the relationship an ancestor had with God in order to be right with God. Redemption must be personal and deliberate.
No one can come to repentance without seeing him/herself accurately in relationship to God. Being a “good person” is not enough. Being powerful is not enough. Possessing intelligence or wealth or social standing is not enough. No human being has any trait, gift, possession, characteristic, or position that (s)he can use to commend him/herself to God. John knew this and told his audience, so that they could prepare their hearts for the One whom God sent to fix the broken relationship between himself and all of humanity.
What have you been using to commend yourself to God?
Where have you become complacent in your relationship to God?
Where have you become arrogant?
What type of fruit are you producing in your life?
If you don’t see a need for God in your life, will you consider asking God to show you if there is one?
If you know someone who believes that they don’t need God, will you ask God to reveal the need to them?
Ultimately the choice to accept or reject Jesus as savior is an individual one. God respects your decision, I certainly do. But I do ask that if a relationship with God through Jesus is something that you have not considered, would you please take time to think about it, ask questions about it, or express your reservations? Whatever conclusion you arrive at, please give the matter the time and attention it deserves. It would be a shame to gloss over something so very important.
Be blessed Family!
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