(Last update: August 21, 2008)
There have been many times that I have been so frustrated by the events in my life that I just threw up my hands and asked, “What am I supposed to do?” When our circumstances get “out of control” (or at least, out of OUR control), then we tend to get frustrated and accept that we don’t have a clue!
That probably describes the feelings of the people who came to the river where John was baptizing. They recognized that the situation was not consistent with their previous experiences and knowledge. So they asked John, “What should we do, then?” (Luke 3:10). And, just as it is in the present, each person felt that THEIR situation was different from all the rest and, they were convinced that no one else could have it worse. Each of the three groups mentioned asked the same question. And I believe that they put the emphasis on the word, “WE.” (Compare verses 10,12 & 14.)
The story in Luke tells us that John preached three things: Repentance, recompense & readiness. Look at each element:
John, Jesus & all the disciples emphasized repentance in their preaching. Probably that was needed since each of us tends to deny our sins while God requires us to renounce them. (cf Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; 2Pe 3:9; Ro 2:4; 2Co 7:10 and Lu 15:7.) It seems clear that unless we repent (change our thoughts and direction) from our sins, we will perish (Luke 13:3). True repentance requires that we turn our backs on sin (hating the sin) and that we turn TO Jesus as both Savior & Lord of our lives.
There is very little preaching today on the topic of returning and making corrections for our past sins. But in Bible times, evidently, they understood this concept better. Zacchaeus was a tax collector but he decided, “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
Luke 3:4 says that we are to “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Now, Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28.) So, do we prepare the way FOR the Lord? Or, do we prepare the way TO the Lord? I believe it is the latter. John’s call was NOT to make Jesus’ walk easier – he came to serve us – not to be served by us. We are to make (OUR) paths straight – to Jesus. We are required to fill in our valleys – make up for the things we failed to do previously. We are to make our mountains low & stop building mountain top shrines to OUR glory. Instead, we are to do everything to bring glory to Him. This is what John said would “produce fruit in keeping with [our] repentance.
The last issue that John dealt with was the level of expectation in the people. Verse 15 describes how the people were waiting expectantly (compare with Is 40:31). I remember back in the ’60s (when I accepted Christ as Savior) that the people would gather about an hour before church and find a place to pray. By the time church started, there were often people who were already “prayed through” and already in communion with God! I don’t agree with the groups calling for the church to return to the “good old days.” But we MUST return to the ATTITUDE of those days. The attitude seemed to be, “God will meet with us in this service. I want to make sure that I do not miss anything God has. I want to be prepared for a time of sweet communion with my Savior!”
John recognized that he could not do everything. Neither can we. John said, “I will baptize you in water but you need more. When Christ comes, He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire!” We are supposed to do what we can (Repent, make Recompense & be Ready for Him). Whatever we cannot do, HE will do for us.
The questions for us today:
- Would I be a candidate for John’s baptism (have I produced fruit in line with repentance)?
- What have I done that SHOWS how much I hate my previous sins?
- Am I a candidate for the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
This message was preached on the 6th of July, 2008 at Agape’ Fellowship Church of God. The recording is missing the last 3 minutes of the service. (sorry, it was a technical problem)
Sermon – What am I supposed to do?