Thoughts from Matthew 3 …
I remember many of my children’s books that I had when I was younger. There were colorful Bible Story books, showing scenes and characters from popular events.
But there was one character that I always loved to see. They always pictured him in a faraway place, holding a long staff and wearing strange clothes. He had to be the strangest man that could ever think of:
He lived in the desert!
He dressed in camel hair (my picture books always showed him wearing some strange, hairy toga)!
He always had a big beard (in all my picture books)!
HE ATE BUGS!!
My Bible Story books showed people coming from far and wide to hear him. They would go into the desert to listen to this strange man preach. He would then lead them into the Jordan River where he would baptize them.
As I grew older, I saw many movies which dramatized the life of this man in the desert. He was no longer just a picture in a book, but a live person walking through my TV screen. It seemed like all the movies depicted this person, John the Baptist, as a very angry man. He was always shouting at people, trying if he could to scare them into repentance.
As we look at the Bible says, the picture of John the Baptist emerges as a very important man. Jesus would later describe John as the greatest man who ever lived (Matthew 11:11)!
Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, was about to arrive. John’s message had the following parts:
First, the king is coming! The long-awaited Messiah was about to be here! He would come and set up His kingdom on earth as the prophets foretold.
Second, the people were not ready. They needed to repent!
Finally, if their repentance was true, then they needed to come into the Jordan River with John. They would put their heads under the water and demonstrate to the world that they were now ready for the kingdom.
What does it mean to repent? It is much more than simply being sorry for disobeying God. Repentance involves both the knowledge and the sorrow that you have violated the law of a Holy God. It then involves a conscious act to turn away from your disobedience and to turn to God.
“Repentance means that the natural man takes God’s side against himself.” – H.A. Ironside 6
This was John’s message, but he had opposition. The religious leaders came to see why he was upsetting the status quo. John compared them to deadly snakes and urged them to flee from the fires of God’s judgement.
These religious leaders were caught up in their own imaginations about what it meant to be right with God. They believed that they were safe from God’s judgement because of their family relations — they were descendants of Abraham! They also believed that God would look favorably on them because they worked so hard to keep the law. But John said that all of these things — the family connections, their own good deeds — they all were worthless to God. They needed to come back to Him.
There was no longer any time for middle ground. You need to either repent and join the king, or be swept away in God’s wrath.
The people were impressed by John, but he always deflected their praise (see also here). He was not the king, he was simply the announcer for the king. When the king comes, John did not consider himself worthy to wash his feet!
Most of us have head of John the Baptist before this. The story of his life may not give you any new information. However, don’t forget some of the things that God is showing us through his life:
- If you have not turned to God, then the time is now! Repent and join Him! You may not have another chance!
- If you already belong to God but are not obeying Him, then you too need to repent. Don’t let this day go by before you get right with God!
- Don’t stop at the inward steps of repentance, but show it in your life. If you really have turned from your disobedience and turned to God, then there will be real, tangible changes in your life.
- Don’t let your pride or preconceptions stand in the way of getting right with God. Very few of the religious leaders believed John because they thought they knew better.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
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