Matthew 3: 1-9 (NIV): In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ “ John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
John’s job was to prepare the way for the Messiah. And his message was: repent. When we approach the Messiah, we do so knowing that we are sinners who cannot save ourselves by our good works or by our heritage. We realize that we must turn from our sinful lifestyles that do not please God, and accept the Messiah’s free gift of salvation.
Repent means to change your direction. It means to stop going where you are heading and go back the complete other way. We change our minds and realize that we need a savior. And yes, we feel sorry that we have disappointed God with our lives, and we desire to do better.
John was much like a street preacher today. He would go out to where people were and preach to whoever would listen. Because of his appearance and message, he began to draw a crowd. He got in the face of the religious leaders of his day. He told them not to count on their heritage for their salvation. We cannot count on our parents’ faith to save us. We must make our own decision to follow him - to believe in him — to accept him — to repent. We must have our own faith.
Craig Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek United Methodist Church in Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Pert. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. at Brushy Creek and 11 a.m. at Pert. See more of his columns at www.instantmessagelive.com.