“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 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.9 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.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “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.” Luke 3.7-14
It’s an honor to have something in common with John the Baptist — we’ve both baptized people in the Jordan River! But seriously, that was a pretty amazing experience that I’ve performed on a few occasions on my trips to the Holy Land.
John was baptizing people in the Jordan to help people make way for the Messiah. Salvation isn’t all about good deeds, but it often goes there. One way we can become more like God is by doing the right thing, being holy, doing good for others. But that’s not the end of the story. We are not saved by works alone, no, we are saved by grace through faith by Jesus. We are saved by believing in him and that his blood is a atonement for our sins. It’s how we, as A.W. Tozer said, “a gateway into God,” (https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=2nIYAgAAQBAJ&hl=en_US).
So john was baptizing both Jews and Gentiles (Roman Soldiers are mentioned in the account) and they are asking “Teacher, what should we do?” In other words, “John, how can we make ourselves more holy for the coming Messiah.” And in truth, there isn’t much we can do. Even the most “righteous” person is still a great big sinner. Even he or she who has the best intentions still slips into the “flesh” and seeks to please the carnal person.
But John had to give them something, didn’t he? And so, he basically said — “Begin with your actions. What you DO matters.” He talked about not cheating, being honest, being generous and being kind. Everything that would line up with the Greatest Commandment of Jesus — love God and love others as you love yourselves.
John wasn’t the complete answer, he was only the Master of Ceremonies holding the mic, standing on the stage for the One who would come — Immanuel, God in the Flesh.
It goes without saying that we can’t save ourselves. We can and should do good works, but this isn’t what saves us or even what cleanses us. It’s the blood of Jesus, God’s redemptive act in Christ Jesus that makes us whole. Knowing about this act isn’t enough for we must believe or as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, “You must be born again.”
Have you been born again? Have you been raised to new life with Christ? Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Why not turn to the Lord today? Turn to the One who paved the way for your salvation.
“O Lord God, it’s a new year. The old is gone and the new has come! What a great day to commit ourselves to your love. To find ourselves hidden in your grace? Come now, Holy Father, heal me, save me, restore me. Help me be all you have created me to be that in this life I might please you. Come now, Spirit of God, fill me with your love and peace. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen