Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 3:1-19 (John Prepares the Way)

In today's reading, the writer tells us about John the Baptist.  He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  John is also a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah:

"A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 
 Prepare the way for the Lord, 
   make straight paths for him. 
 Every valley shall be filled in, 
   every mountain and hill made low. 
 The crooked roads shall become straight, 
   the rough ways smooth. 
 And all people will see God’s salvation."

Prepare the way. Make straight paths. Fill in the valleys.
Make the mountains and hills low. Straighten the crooked roads. Smoothen the rough ways.

In the times of kings, people would go before the king, crying out "Make way for the king!"  These guys were letting people know that a king was coming.  For the places along the king's planned route, that meant getting everything ready.  Make sure the roads are in great shape.  Make sure everything looks perfect for when the king passes through.  No potholes in the roads.  No detours. No bandits. No obstacles!

Even today, the Secret Service does the same thing for our president.  There is a detail that goes before the president to secure everything.  They plan the route the president's motorcade will take.  They scout the entrances and decide where to station guards and extra protection.  The preparation teams make sure that everyone knows the protocols, procedures, and everything so that when the President comes, it is smooth, perfect, and there are no surprises.  The people, the city, and everything else is ready to receive him.

In just the same way, John's job was to get the people ready to hear Jesus' message.  He called them to a life of repentance.  "Turn from your wicked ways!" he would cry out.  Repent of your sins!  Repent literally means "to turn away from."  That's a 180-degree turn, not a 360-degree turn.  When a person turns from their life of sin, they need to keep walking away from sin and towards God!  Going in circles is not repentance!

John even gave a  few hints of the coming Kingdom of God that.  If you have two shirts, share one!  Don't take more taxes than you are supposed to!  Don't accuse people falsely!  Does that sound familiar?  John was giving people a taste of what Jesus would later tell them (we'll read this in future studies of Luke)

John is not the Messiah and he knows it.  He wants others to know this too.  He told the people that Messiah was coming.  John was a bold man for the sake of Christ.  He was filled with the Spirit and spoke God's word.  I pray that some day I can be as brave and as bold as John was.  I pray that some day, God will use me in a mighty way.  I pray that when that day comes, I will not stand in the way of God's work.

So what do we take away from this passage?  What's the point?
Here are a few things that stuck out for me:
- Repent of your sins!
- Who you are will not save you. It is Christ who saves you.
- Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit

If you are living in sin, this is your chance to abandon the life of sin and begin a new life in Christ.  You don't have to clean up your act before coming to Christ.  He will meet you right where you're at.  Now, that doesn't mean you keep doing what you're doing.  Jesus loves you too much to leave you there.  He wants you to draw closer to Him and to live the life He's got planned for you.  When you tell Jesus that you need Him to forgive you, He offers you that forgiveness.  You accept it and belive that He saves you from the consequences of your sin (death).  That's it.  The Holy Spirit fills you up and begins working a change in your life, as a new creation and member of the body of believers.

Take some time to read Luke 3 today and see how God uses a man to accomplish His great works!

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