Tag Archives: john the baptist

How to bring righteousness to the world [Second Sunday of Advent, part 5]

14 Dec

In this series on the Lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, we have been following the life and ministry of John the Baptist and the message God was proclaiming through John: a huge roadwork project.  What is that project?  God wants us to repent, so that he might bring righteousness on the world.  And that brings us to the fourth reading, Philippians 1:3-11, which explains what this means for us.

There we read Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, a writing which would have been 25 years or so after the events of John the Baptist’s ministry. 

Very much like the church we heard about last week, in the city of Thessalonica, Paul had started a church in the city of Philippi, which like Thessalonica, is in modern-day Greece.  But unlike modern-day Thessaloniki, which is a bustling city, Philippi is now just an archaeological site.  In Paul’s day, it was another important city, however, not far down the road from Thessalonica. You can read about Paul’s visit there in Acts 16.    

We learn in his prayer in Philippians 1 that Paul had great affection for his friends there.  Take a look at Verses 3-5 and 7-8, and there we see Paul’s thankful and joyful prayer because of their partnership in the gospel. In verse 6 he expresses his confidence that God, who began good work in them, will carry it to completion. Sfter that encouragement, he concludes with some teaching and goals for them in verses 9-11.  It is a prayer for four things:

First, that their love may abound more and more in depth of knowledge.

Second, that they would be able to discern what is best.

Third, that they would be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Fourth, that they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ.

The anchoring phrase of these verses is that first phrase of Paul’s prayer: that their love may abound more and more in depth of knowledge.  In the language Paul originally wrote this in, ancient Greek, this is a very vivid phrase.  It carries the idea of an overflow of love that just keeps growing beyond what can be contained.  What happens in that extremely loving atmosphere of a church family is that they will be able to discern what is best, and they will be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, which is the day of the second coming of Jesus.  This is a love that knows no bounds, and a love that is getting to know one another more and more.

Paul is once again, like he was last week with the Thessalonian church, looking forward to second coming of Jesus, now teaching the Philippian Christians how to act in preparation for that day.  They are to love one another with a growing, overflowing love, that is marked by knowing one another more and more.

That raises an interesting question: Is it possible to love someone who you barely know?  You may be aware of them, but it cannot be said that you love them.  Love requires knowledge.   And knowledge boosts love.  When they love like that, growing in their depth of knowledge for one another, Paul says, there will be residual blessings.  They will be able to discern what is best, and they will be pure and blameless as they wait for Jesus to return.  Love for one another ,then, is foundational for a church family.

Finally, take notice of last phrase of Paul’s prayer: “that they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ.” This is the word that ties all our passages together: righteousness. 

Paul wants the people to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus.  From Malachi’s prophecy of the two messengers we learned about God’s desire for his people to be righteous. Then from Zechariah’s psalm in Luke 1, we heard Zechariah, the father of the first messenger, talk about God’s plan for rescuing his people so that we could serve him in righteousness all our days.  Next we looked at the ministry of Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, who fulfilled the role of the first messenger, calling people to repentance and lives of righteousness.  Now we conclude with Paul teaching the people how this righteousness flows from Jesus.  Paul will teach in many passages that we do not have a righteousness of our own, but instead we can only accept the gracious gift of Jesus giving his righteousness to us, at one point describing it like putting on the clothing of righteousness.

After we take on Jesus’ righteousness, waiting for Jesus to return, we are called to lives of love, demonstrating the righteousness that Jesus came to give to us.  That is the amazing gift of Malachi’s second messenger, who is God himself, that he wants to cleanse us of our unrighteousness and give us his! 

What is this righteousness?  I mentioned that it is very much connected to the idea of justice, of making things right, flowing from a heart of love.

As we wait, then, for Jesus to return, we are to be a people so filled with love, abounding with love, that we work to make things right in our lives, in our relationships, and in the world around us.  That is the fruit of righteousness.  That is how we live and work and prepare for Jesus to return.  That is the work of clearing the debris, making straight the crooked paths, smoothing the hills and filling the valleys.  By loving one another with so much abundance, we are bringing justice and righteousness to the world.

To this concept of justice, I think of the recent report given at our local ministerium about homelessness in our school district, Conestoga Valley. It is rampant. CV has more homeless students in our school district than any other in the county except for the school district of Lancaster. This is why we support CVCCS and the Ministerium and Homes of Hope.  I encourage you to consider what role you can play, especially at Christmas, no matter where you live. Get to know your community.  Can you find any evidence of injustice?

Addressing injustice in our communities is just one example of how we can bring justice and righteousness and prepare the way for the return of the King.  Think about that return of the King.  What will he see when he arrives?  Just like the dignitaries that visit Jamaica, will Jesus find a road with potholes and debris, or will he find a road that is paved and cared for?  I’m not talking about actual roads, in case you were wondering!  I’m talking first and foremost about his church, but also all people, society, and culture. Will Jesus find broken relationships, people stuck in addictions, ravaged by injustice?  Will he see his church striving to love and to bring righteousness to the world?

God’s road construction project [Second Sunday of Advent, Part 4]

13 Dec

Road construction, as we said in part 1 of this series on the Lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, is usually a nuisance.  Today we learn that God wants to do a major road construction project.  Will it be a nuisance?  Do we need it?  Let’s move to the third reading, Luke 3:1-6, and find out. Who do we meet there? Zechariah’s son, John, now an adult.  Remember Zechariah the priest from the second reading?  Review his story here.  He had a son, John, and now that son is grown up, and we find out that his son is quite a character.   Let’s take a look at how John fits with the readings so far this week.

We start with verses 1-3 which is simply a historical placement of John’s ministry in the First Century Roman Empire, and we read in verse 2 a familiar phrase, “the word of God came to John.”  That phrase is used frequently in the Old Testament describing the prophetic ministry of many people whom God spoke through.  Luke is clearly saying that this John, the son of Zechariah, was a prophet.  He tells us that John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, exactly like his dad, Zechariah, in his psalm Luke 1 which we studied in part 3, said John would.

Luke goes on in verses 4-6 quoting one of those Old Testament prophets, Isaiah 40:3-5, showing John as fulfillment of the prophetic words in Isaiah 40.  We’ve already seen how John was the first messenger prophesied in Malachi 3, and now we hear a bit more about the first messenger’s prophetic task. 

Remember how the first messenger prepares the way for the second messenger?  In Isaiah 40, that ministry of preparing the way is illustrated with amazing images. It is a massive earth-moving project used to depict personal repentance. 

Look at the images in Luke 3:4-5: “Make straight paths, Valleys filled in, Mountains and hills made low, Crooked roads straightened, Rough ways smoothed.”  That is some serious demolition work done by this first messenger. But that’s what you do to prepare the way for the king.  You don’t want the king’s vehicle to be driving down a road with potholes and crazy curves and dangerous debris.

When we lived in Jamaica, we experienced some of the roughest roads ever. But what was interesting was that the road from the airport into the city was really nice.  They took care of that road.  They wanted visiting dignitaries to think that Jamaica had nice roads. 

How does this relate to people?  The first messenger wasn’t a road construction worker with dynamite and a jack hammer, a paver and roller.  Nope, John preached to people a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 

The messenger’s ministry was one of helping people smooth out the rough patches of their lives. He encouraged them to get ready spiritually for the coming of the king. That is what the Season of Advent in all about.  And that is what the first messenger was doing to help people get ready for the arrival of the second messenger, the Lord.

Why? As we read in Luke 3:6, so that all mankind will see God’s salvation.  God wants all people to repent and come to him and be saved.  It doesn’t mean that all will.  It is still a free choice.  But God is saying that he desires all to repent.  What that means is our theme continues.  Though the word isn’t used,God wants all people to experience righteousness.

In part 5 of the series, we’ll look at our fourth and final reading, examining how the theme of repentance and righteousness matters to our lives and our world.

A New Testament Psalm [Second Sunday of Advent, part 3]

12 Dec

Normally, our second reading from the Lectionary is from the collection of Psalms in the Old Testament.  But for this second Sunday of Advent, the Lectionary takes us to the New Testament, to Luke 1:68-79, and guess what we find there?  A Psalm!  A New Testament Psalm.  And one that I think you’ll find is very prophetic.

We read that this psalm was given by Zechariah the priest who ministered in Jerusalem in the very early part of the first century AD.  More than 400 years had gone by since Malachi wrote our first reading, and life had changed once again for the people of Israel.  The Persians in Malachi’s day were defeated by the Greeks, and then the Romans conquered the Greeks.  The Romans did massive building projects, including a huge new temple in Jerusalem.  And that is where Zechariah ministered.

In Luke 1, we find out that Zechariah had a problem.  He couldn’t talk.  He was made mute by God as we read in verses 19-20.  He was silent for nine months!  Nine months…what happens in nine months?  Babies are born.  There was a pregnancy.  Who’s pregnancy?  It was his wife, Elizabeth, who was pregnant.  She and Zechariah were old, and thought they were past child-bearing age, but God came to Zechariah in a vision and said they were going to have a baby, and get this, God said their baby was going to be the first messenger God promised in Malachi 3!  Zechariah was an upright man, Luke tells us, but he was blown away by this news.  He and his wife were old, so he questioned God, “How can this be?”  At that moment of Zechariah’s disbelief, his mouth was closed by God.

After nine months of silence, what are the first words out of his mouth? As we read in verse 64, his first words are praise to God.  No anger at such a longtime.  No bitterness.  But praise! Filled with the Holy Spirit, here is what Zechariah said.

First in verses 68-75 he is rehashing the covenant promise God made to David, about God freeing Israel from their enemies.  He uses the Old Testament phrase, “a horn of salvation” which indicates strength, like the strong horn of an animal.  Then he prays, “enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”  There’s that word again, righteousness.  Zechariah is praising God that his prophecies are being fulfilled right before his eyes.

Where the prevailing idea of the people was that the way God would fulfill his prophecies was to boot the Romans from their land and turn Israel into a regional superpower again, like it was in the days of Solomon, Zechariah understood that God had a much bigger vision that than, and it had to do with righteousness.

Zechariah continues this flow of thought in verses 76-79 which are a commentary about his son John as the fulfillment of the first messenger of Malachi 3.  He says his son, John, is the first messenger who will prepare the way for the second messenger, and here again we read about the big plans God has!

What are God’s plans?  Zechariah says the plans are to give people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of God.  What great news! 

He then uses imagery of the skies when he says, “By which the rising sun will come from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 

So in the first two readings we have heard the prophecy of the two messengers, how it will be a new covenant based on righteousness, and we have seen that Zechariah believed his new baby son John was the first messenger. 

In part 4 we’ll move to the third reading, and I think you’ll see very quickly how it connects to the first two.

Who is THE prophet? [God’s heart for people to find truth, part 4]

29 Nov
Image result for john the baptist pointing to jesus

In part 3 of this series, we met a prophet named John the Baptist in the book of the Bible titled John (though the “John” in that title was a different John!)  In John 1:25, the people question John the Baptist about his ministry.  They wanted to out him as the Messiah (the savior king that God promised to send to Israel), or the reincarnation of one of Israel’s most famous prophets, Elijah, or the fulfillment of the promise in Deuteronomy 18, THE prophet who was to come.  John responds with a resounding “No!” to all these questions.  The people are mystified.  If he is not any of those, why is John the Baptist having a ministry of calling people to repentance through baptism?  His ministry model seems like something that one of those promised leaders would do!  John tells the people that he has a specific role, that he is preparing the way for THE prophet.

As the passage continues, we read that John saw Jesus the next day and proclaimed that Jesus was the one he was preparing the nation for.  Some of John’s disciples, then, start following Jesus. Soon more disciples start following Jesus, and one of them, Philip, says in verse 45, to another guy, Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law.”  By saying this, Philip is making a reference to the Prophet Moses referred to in Deuteronomy 18. 

But the references don’t stop there.  In John 5:46 we read Jesus saying the same thing, that the person Moses wrote about in the law was Jesus himself!

In John 6:14, after Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 5000 people with only five small barley loaves and two small fish, the people say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

In John 7:40 after a powerful teaching by Jesus, some people in the crowd said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”  Others said “he is the Christ.”

A few years later, after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension back to his father, after the church had first started, we read in Acts 3 that Peter and John healed a man, and Peter started preaching to the crowd.  In verses 22-26 he quotes Deuteronomy 18, where Moses talks about the prophet to come, and Peter says that Jesus was that prophet!

A few more years went by, and the church had grown like crazy in Jerusalem, and the Jewish religious leaders were not happy, feeling threatened by popularity of the Christians.  So they started persecuting the church, and one of the first men they attacked was a guy named Stephen.  In Acts 7, Stephen is standing trial before the high priest, and Stephen tells the story of the nation of Israel, eventually concluding that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised one.  In verse 37 he refers the Old Testament teaching of that promised one, and guess who he quotes?  Moses, in Deuteronomy 18, where Moses says,“God will send you a prophet like me.”

What all this means is that the earliest Christians, and Jesus himself, said that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18, the promise of a prophet who would come. 

So if Jesus was THE Prophet, what does that matter to us?  As Moses said in Deuteronomy 18, we need to listen to the prophet. Check back in to part 5 of this series, as we will specifically apply this teaching to our lives!

Of Prophets [God’s heart for people to find truth, part 3]

28 Nov
Image result for john the baptist

When you think of prophets, what comes to mind?  A scraggly guy like the one in the picture above?  Or maybe a preacher in a church?  Someone who has a vision of the future?  The Bible is loaded with prophets, and they come in many shapes and sizes.  One thing is similar about them all, and that is what this post is about.  In this series, we’ve been looking at Deuteronomy 18:9-22, seeking God’s heart for how to discover the truth. As we saw in part 2, Israel should not listen to the sorcerer or diviner.  Now in Deuteronomy 18:15-22 we read that they should listen to God’s prophet. 

In verse 16 Moses reminds them of the time 40 years earlier when they were at the mountain and God made his covenant with the people.  See Deuteronomy 5:23-27.  There we read that God’s voice was so powerful, the people wanted God to stop talking because they feared for their lives!  We so often wish God would speak to us.  Maybe if we actually heard God’s voice, we might feel differently.  I know we like to joke about loud mouths, but imagine a voice that could get you killed!  So God said that he would raise up a prophet from among them, and God would speak through the prophet, whose voice wouldn’t kill them, and they were to listen to the prophet.  Moses was that prophet. 

Turn back to Deuteronomy 18, and Moses is prepping the people for the time when he would die and there would be a new leader.  Moses spoke God’s truth to the people, and eventually there would be a new prophet to lead them.

The big question was how were they to know if the prophet was speaking for God or just for himself or for other gods?  That prophet would have been in a prime position, right?  He could really manipulate the people for personal gain. He was the one who was supposed to be speaking the words of God, and if he wanted, he could make the words of God say a lot of stuff that would benefit him, keep him in power, enrich him. 

Like the tele-evangelists who say, “God wants me to have this multi-million dollar Lear Jet.”  Or maybe for 2019 when we start up our capital campaign again, I should say, like some preachers, that God wants me to lock myself in the church steeple until we raise all the money.   

How do we know what to believe?  With so many people saying “God told them this or that,” how are we to evaluate it? 

Well, God gives them a test.  In verse 22, he says that if the prophet speaks things that don’t take place or come true, then they can disregard that guy.

This is similar to New Testament teaching about false prophets. 

1 John 4 says that there are two tests we can use to determine if a teacher is true: must agree that Jesus has come in the flesh and is from God, and second, that teacher must listen to the apostles.  In other words, teachers must follow New Testament teaching. If they don’t they are false.

So just as Moses in Deuteronomy 18 says that there will be more prophets after him, the people of Israel began keeping an eye out for these prophets. There were many.  Through the Old Testament, there is a lineage of prophets, and they were both men and women.  Some of the most famous, you may have heard of.  Deborah in Judges 4-5.  Samuel, Nathan, Elijah & Elisha, and of course the many prophets who have biblical books to their names: Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all those short books at the end of the Old Testament, the Minor Prophets.  Even in the New Testament we read about prophets.  At Jesus’ birth there is a lady named Anna, and a man named Simeon, who functioned in a prophetic role.  Jesus called his cousin John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, but was John THE prophet that Moses refers to Deuteronomy 18?

What I mean is that as the centuries went by, the situation of the Jews changed. After the Israelite period of Kings, the people turned their backs on God and he allowed them to be defeated by the many world powers fighting for control of the region.  The Babylonians gave way to the Persians who were conquered by the Greeks and eventually the Romans took control.  So by the time we get to the New Testament, the Jews longed for another kind of Moses, a leader who would once again lead them to freedom.  And they looked to Deuteronomy 18, the Prophet who was to come. Was John the Baptist that new prophet?

In the New Testament, in John 1:21, we read that John the Baptist was gaining popularity in the nation of Israel.  This was a thousand years after the time of Deuteronomy.  John the Baptist was in ministry right around the year 30 AD in Palestine.  The Roman Empire had military control of the land, and the people of Israel were hoping and praying for change.  Maybe John was the guy they were hoping for!  So the people ask John a very unique question: “Are you the Prophet?”  They were referring to Deut. 18, and the prophet mentioned there. But John says, No.  So the people ask him, “Are you the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior?”  Again he says, No. In verse 25, they question John further.  If he is not the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, and if he is not the Prophet, or the reincarnation of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of Israel, then why was John baptizing people?  They were really curious about John.  But clearly John was not the Prophet, though he said he did have a unique role, in that he was preparing the way for someone, someone who was far more important.

Tomorrow we meet THE Prophet!

Questioning Jesus – Luke 7:18-35

24 Jun

In our study of Luke’s Gospel, our next story reintroduces us to a guy who was feeling confused about who Jesus is.  He is doubting Jesus.  Jesus used to be very real to him.  But now it seems that Jesus has gone away.

That doubting guy?  You’ve met him before.  Maybe you know him quite well.  Maybe Jesus seems to have gone away from you too.  In the story from Luke 7, the doubter is John the Baptist.  He was Jesus’ relative, and he was the guy who ushered Jesus into the ministry.  He had a reputation for being bold, but John has changed. Maybe a year has gone by, John has been in prison probably for months, and his doubts about Jesus start growing.  John still has a couple disciples caring for his needs in prison, and he sends them to Jesus to ask if Jesus is really the One.

Questioning Jesus. Have you ever done that?

In response to John’s question, Jesus doesn’t say a word.  Instead he does what the One was supposed to do: miracles upon miracles.  Only after that Jesus tells John’s disciples, “What do you see with your own eyes? Just tell John what you see.” What did they see? They saw the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit working powerfully through Jesus to perform the miraculous deeds which would confirm that he was who he said he was. The Messiah. The Savior. The promised One. He was who months ago John said he was, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.

John might be languishing in prison, and that would be terribly difficult, but Jesus’ miracles are a response to John to not give up. Jesus was doing what the Messiah was supposed to do. And as difficult as it would be to have to hear about that from a prison cell, John could still rejoice that the long awaited Messiah actually had come.

Is it possible that for those of us who don’t see God, don’t feel God, and feel distant from God, we need to see Jesus differently?

Jesus was right there. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing.   Perhaps prison had affected John’s viewpoint.  He couldn’t see Jesus anymore.  He felt very distant.

What about you?  Don’t see Jesus? Feel distant from him? Be assured that Jesus is right there. He is doing everything that he is supposed to be doing!   It is no different in our day. He is alive and well.

But perhaps our expectations are wrong!

So often in my own life I want Jesus to answer my prayer a very specific way. And when he doesn’t, I can get upset. I can think he betrayed me, that he didn’t show up when I wanted him, when I felt I needed him.

But he was there. He was doing what he was supposed to do. It was I who needed to see him differently.

I have heard this many times over the years when a loved one has passed away. We don’t want that person to be gone. We miss them. The passing is hard. In many cases we have prayed that God would heal them and prolong their lives. But our loved one dies, and we are left wondering why God didn’t answer our prayer the way we want. In those moments our faith in God can be rocked.

But know that Jesus is there. He never left. Most likely we need to change our perspective of who he is, what he does, and how he should act. Like my one seminary professor Ken Miller says “we try to fit Jesus in our back pocket, as if we own him, as if he could fit there.” We shouldn’t even try.

You might not be in prison for months like John, but there are plenty of other situations that have you feeling imprisoned, trapped, hopeless, and you wonder why Jesus isn’t rescuing you like you want him too. The longing and the waiting can be tiring and many times we can get to a point where we want to give up on Jesus. But he is there.  He just might fit in our pocket.

You might not be able to see his work in your life. You might have such a specific idea of what you want him to do, to be, to look like, how you want him to answer your prayer, get you out of a difficult situation, make life easy, peaceful, and because he isn’t doing what you want, you feel like giving up.

But he is there.   Right in front of you. Doing what a Messiah is supposed to do. He hasn’t left.

You just might need new eyes, a new heart, a new mind to see him.

So hang in there. Stay strong. Pursue him. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to him, to see things the way he does. He is the miracle working God. He brings new life. He wants to transform our hearts.

How repentance is actually beautiful – Luke 3:1-20

14 Jan

The word “repent” conjurs up horrible images.  Awful, judgmental images.  Hellfire and brimstone preachers. They scare me. How could “repent” be anything but an ugly word?

Angry-ChristianThis past Sunday we studied John the Baptist.  You can check out the sermon here.  It was looking at Luke 1:80 briefly and then Luke 3:1-20.

Luke records John sermonizing with some pretty harsh comments. He seems to have been like those street corner doom and gloom preachers.  Check this out:

“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.”

Imagine being in the crowd that day.  How would those words make you feel?  What would you say?  Walk away?

In verse 10 the people respond. They question, “What should we do?”  As John looks at specific people in the crowd, they ask him the same question over and over.  It is a very good question.

It is a life-changing question.

It shows they are at a point to make a change.

What is John’s answer?  He said it already: “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  Fruit is a beautiful thing.  Repentance seems ugly.  People across the centuries have painted and photographed fruit because it is so beautiful.  What about repentance could line up with the beauty of fruit?

When you repent you change. It is not just a change of mind either. The specific word used is to change your mind so thoroughly that you also change your actions.  Change is hard, but it can lead to exquisite beauty.

Your life should show that change.  Things that do not change stagnate, wither and die.  That’s why the question “What should we do?” is so good.  It not the questions of “What should we think?” or “What should we feel?”  While our thoughts and feelings are involved, they should flow into action.  A change of heart and mind, properly placed, must lead to visible action, must lead to something that we actually do.  Or perhaps something we stop doing.  Or maybe something we do differently.  Good change, right change, leads to beauty.

To the person with two cloaks, John gave them something beautiful to do: “Give your extra cloak to a person who needs one.”

To another who had lots of food, more beauty: “Give your food to him who has none.”

To the tax collector, “stop cheating people.”

To the soldier, “stop extorting.”

All very doable and very beautiful things.  When you repent, you actually have something wonderful to do.

The aftermath of my freshman year in college left me with a need to do specific things.  I, a Bible college student, cheated on a Bible test.  Nice, huh?  I strongly disliked a gen. ed. class, and falsified my attendance record.  Eight skips were allowed.  I think I missed 15-20 times.  When a guy in the dorm rigged the hall phone to make free long distance calls (cell phones still rare in those days), I partook frequently.  That year I also allowed myself to be very selfish in a dating relationship.  All of these I needed to deal with.  I met with professors, the school finance office, and wrote a letter to the parents of the girl I dated.  It was confession time.  That’s how repentance started for me.  It wasn’t easy, but it was so good.

This business of producing fruit in keeping with repentance is practical. It’s not just in the head. It’s not just belief. It matters to our real lives. Repentance means that we stop doing the wrong things, and start doing the right and beautiful things. It means saying “I was wrong.” And it means saying “I need to change.”

Specific change.

Our lives should be a lifestyle of repentance. We should see the fruit in keeping with repentance. It means repentance might need to happen over and over again.

See repentance as a spiritual discipline. Check yourself over and over.

A symbol like baptism, such as what John was doing there in the Jordan River, can lead us to a false belief of “yeah, I’ve been baptized…I have the golden ticket.”

But that’s not a lifestyle.

Instead when we repent we do not ignore social change. Because of our hope in Christ we enact that kind of change.

It is so fascinating that John didn’t tell the people in the crowd that day that they should do what he did. He went out and lived in the desert. Instead he told them to live out their faith in their real worlds.

Bearing beautiful fruit in keeping with repentance needs to happen in our jobs, in our homes, in our schools, in our communities.

By the choices you make, the people in your life, such as your neighbors, your classmates, the other kids on your sports team, your co-workers should be able to say “That is a person who is living a repented lifestyle.” They might not use the words “repented lifestyle”! But they will think of you something like this that you are beautiful, lovely, and they will know that you love Jesus and are actually trying to do what he wants you to do.

So do you need to repent today?

Are there things that are a part of your life that do not honor God?

What could it look like for you to live a repented lifestyle?

Do you see the fruit of repentance in your life? Do others see it?