by Bill Spaans:
In Luke chapter three Dr. Luke recounts the ministry of John the Baptist. On reading this chapter recently I was impressed with the fact that when God decides to act mighty things will happen! There was about a four-hundred-year period between the book of Malachi and the New Testament during which God was largely silent. But now God decides the time is right and He acts by empowering John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus.
And John the Baptist does not mince his words. He is no mealy-mouthed preacher who sugar coats his message. He calls the people a brood of vipers! In Luke 3:10 we read that the crowd asked, “What should we do then?” And Luke responds:
11 “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.”
These were radical suggestions; even for today when we all have so much. But in the day when John the Baptist preached most people had virtually nothing. There was no social security, no employment insurance, no bridge funding to tie people over during a pandemic or virus attack. The prevailing attitude was one of every man for himself! Yet the surprising thing is that the people listened and responded. They wanted to know what to do to be OK with God. John calls them to repentance!
Can we be as bold as John the Baptist who was jailed for calling attention to people’s sin and immorality and making them aware of the need for repentance? That’s a tough message, but unless folks hear they need a Saviour why would they embrace Jesus? In the end John the Baptist was arrested and jailed by the authorities of the day. Ultimately, he lost his head. Literally! What are we prepared to put on the line for the sake of the gospel?
One concrete thing we can do is to be prayerful as a congregation, to seek out God’s will for us. And specifically, let’s pray for God to lead us to the right pastor for our congregation. Secondly, let’s also pray for each of us to develop a passion to share the gospel message. The eternal destiny of our family, our friends and our neighbours may depend on it! And let’s recommit to also meeting the physical and emotional needs of our friends and neighbours. The deacons’ recent focus on targeted benevolence funds is a very concrete way in which we can collectively do this.
In the end, our calling is to glorify Jesus. At one point, John the Baptist said of Jesus: “He must increase; I must become less.” May it be so for us today!