We Must Answer Well, part 4: How Do We … Come To Jesus?
(To read in order, click: Answer Well)
So far in John the Baptist’s life, we’ve seen:
- that God is gracious,
- and in His graciousness He sends John (full of the Holy Spirit) to confront people regarding their actions in regard to God’s lawful standards and to warn people of the wrath to come,
- and offers repentance and baptism and forgiveness of sins before that wrath comes,
- and has come so physically close Himself as to render fasting not just unprofitable but not doable…
Now let’s look some more at what John says.
How Do We Repent?
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”
John says, ‘You can’t rely on your heritage as your faith. You won’t be saved because of your ancestors.’
John says, “…every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” It’s not just a group judgment, it’s a personal judgment.
And the people ask, ‘How do we repent?’
And John gives them actual actions to take. Actions that don’t just keep them from violating the Ten Commandments, but actions that produce fruit.
- Rather than coveting what their neighbor has, they are to see their neighbor’s needs and meet those needs with their own belongings.
- Rather than stealing from the people by charging extra taxes—and therefore lying—they are to tell the truth and therefore not make themselves rich at the expense of others.
- Even Roman soldiers—the occupying military presence wants to avoid the wrath of God?—come to John and ask how to repent. And John says, ‘Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t covet.’
This is John’s “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” It calls for change on the outside–change even AGAINST what the culture has come to accept as The Way Things Are.
- Roman soldiers were bullies. If Roman soldiers wanted something, they took it. If it benefited them to accuse somebody, whether true or not, they accused. Wages, status, power—all things to be grasped by a soldier.
John says, ‘Act in accordance with God’s law, which is contrary to all that.’
- According to The Way Things Are, it was understood that a tax collector’s job had certain ‘gray areas’ in which they were allowed to asses property and report taxes collected, and if some coins here and there weren’t accounted for, that was how they got a raise.
John says, ‘Act in accordance with God’s law, tell the truth.’
- And like it is today, the culture says, ‘Grab power and wealth, lie when it benefits you, look after yourself.’
And John would say to us, ‘Act in opposition to The Way Things Are. Act in accordance with God’s law.’
It only makes sense that “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” will be acting contrary to a culture and world view that has not repented before God. They don’t walk the same direction.
God, in His grace, isn’t just calling people to a baptism of forgiveness of sins, but to one of repentance and forgiveness of sins.
To want forgiveness without being willing to repent is like clinging to the outside of the ark, holding your breath, still in love with everything that’s underwater.
Don’t do that.
God’s plan for redeeming people is long-foreshadowed, specific, and highly anticipated.
Read John 1 and you’ll get John saying…
Come to Jesus
In John 1, it’s clear that John’s job is to prepare hearts to receive Jesus. Jesus, the Prophet who was foretold by Moses. Jesus, the Christ, the ruler foretold by David. And foretold by Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and, and, and. This is no small event. God has marked the day of Jesus’ coming on His calendar and for hundreds of years has gathered people around to stare at it. He’s been pointing to it often, hinting at it, working it into songs and poetry and wisdom literature, and visions, and declaring it point blank!
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John declares Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That’s a new spin on things. One Lamb, God’s Lamb, is NOT the offering for an individual or even just a nation, but for the whole world?
John declares Jesus to be the Son of God. Another staggering point of contention–the one, in fact, that the religious leaders eventually use as their reason for condemning Jesus to death (For to be God’s Son is to declare equality with God).
John points his own disciples toward Jesus, and when they leave to follow Jesus, John doesn’t stop them. ‘Goodbye. Follow Him. That’s been the point all along. See ya. Don’t look back.’
Come to Me, Be Born Again
What does this all mean? Repentance is an outward thing and an inward thing. Jesus explains in John 3…
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus says people have to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus doesn’t understand what Jesus means.
Jesus explains being “born again” as being born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God.
What is Jesus saying?
What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit?
Jesus makes a distinction between the flesh and the Spirit. But what is the distinction between being born of the flesh and being born of water and the Spirit? Is Jesus talking about baptisms?
This is a great place to set up camp and think things through because Jesus is about to slam Nicodemus with…
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”
Jesus, help us understand.
…next time: Beyond John 3:16
(To read in order, click: Answer Well)