The Right Response

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Deuteronomy 30:15–20 ESV
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Psalm 119:1–8 ESV
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
1 Corinthians 3:1–9 ESV
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
Matthew 5:21–26 ESV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

The Right Response

Concentrating on Luke 3:10-14
Subtitle: The Reality of Repentance
Big Idea: Sincere repenters seek ways to live anew
When repentance is preached,
There are spontaneous responses
Egotistic people become benevolent
Malcontents find fulfillment
Last week:
Big Idea: True salvation must include repentance. True Repentance always bears fruit.
Vipers flee the fire
God’s Children bear His fruit
Dead trees are fuel for the fire
Luke 3:1–22 ESV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Subtitle: The Reality of Repentance
Big Idea: Sincere repenters seek ways to live anew
When repentance is preached,
There are spontaneous responses
Egotistic people become benevolent
Malcontents find fulfillment

The Spontaneous Response:

Luke 3:10 ESV
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”
In several places in Lukes writing, we find the same or similar questions. These questions came to Jesus:
Luke 10:25 ESV
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 18:18 ESV
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
You see that the response to preaching the word of God, when the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of those listening, is that those people whom God is drawing to Jesus through the message will be concerned, or even alarmed, or at the very least have a great desire to do something good and right. All of these responses come when the Holy Spirit is doing a regenerative work in the heart of the hearer. I pray each week that whatever message I preach may work in the hearts of the hearers.
For what its worth, I spend much time in God’s word, concerning myself about how to preach each passage, and indeed it can be a great burden, for even when the study is complete, then I still must grapple with how to preach it. How will I make this message clear? What are the points of this message that those listening to me need? Will the entire congregation be able to get something useful from it? So each week, as I joked to Jenelle a couple days ago, another Sunday is coming, and what will I preach?
No matter what a bang-up job I may think I did in preparing, and in study, and in prayer, and in putting together the message, unless the Holy Spirit do the work of drawing people to Jesus, and causing them to believe the truth of scripture, it is all for nothing. I am but a man, who can make mistakes, to which my family and anyone who know me will certainly confirm for you if you like. Not one word of what I preach will have any effect of all… But God.
But God who works through this thing that has been called the folly of preaching, and make stone hearts into hearts of flesh, and bring those dead in their sin to life in Christ. He does the entire work. He gets the glory. And oh, how glad you should be that you need not depend on me! I will certainly let you down if you stick around long enough. But our good God will never let you down! So when we see the response to the preaching, when God does that beautiful work we call regeneration, whereby he brings a person dead in their sins to be able to receive the gospel and respond in faith, that He is truly an amazing God, who takes what may seem foolish to the world and uses it to make men and women and children wise unto salvation.
And so the response came to the preaching of Jesus, “What shall I do? How can I receive this eternal life?” and they said to John the Baptist as well, what then shall we do? And in response to the miracles on the day of Pentecost, when Peter gave his sermon, the people there, as Luke records, cried out a question in the same manner. Acts2.37
Acts 2:37 ESV
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
What sweet words to the preachers ear! What praise and joy Peter must have felt, the same joy that John must have felt, and Jesus himself, when, hearing the preaching of the good news of Christ, people respond like this: What should I do? Preacher, what should I do with this message? Oh, that the Holy Spirit would cut us to our hearts, that when we hear the preaching of God’s Word, we would respond like this. What shall we do?
And this is the response of the Philippian Jailor, who was about to commit suicide after Paul and Silas had their midnight hymn sing and the earthquake shook the prison, and he feared the prisoners had fled, and Paul cried out to him, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.
Acts 16:30 ESV
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And so Paul must have thought, in this case, I have not even yet preached, and here is a response! How powerful the Holy Spirit was working in the heart of the jailor that evening, that he cried out asking what he must do! Paul and Silas most certainly would not shirk their gospel duty, and saw a responsive person, so they give a very simple answer, to which all who come to Christ at some point marvel, because it seems much too simple a thing to do to be saved.
Acts 16:31–34 ESV
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Believe? Is that all I have to do? Yes, and yet, this is no easy thing, for it requires one to become humble, and many are incapable of the humility it takes to cry out to God. So many today, instead of replying as Paul and Silas, would have said to the Jailor, “DO you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” You don’t find this language anywhere in scripture, by the way. You aren’t ever asked to accept Jesus. You are commanded to believe. In fact, it is the other way around. Rather than you saying you will accept Christ, you ought to fall on your knees and beg Him to accept you! He isn’t some candidate for political office who needs your support. He isn’t some product at a trade show, that after hearing the sales presentation, you should be asked why you won’t accept him.
No, when the gospel is preached, and the Holy Spirit is active in drawing people to Jesus, then they will not need to be gently asked to accept him, they will rightly seek to find out what it is they must do. And so we see in nearly every description of a conversion in the New Testament. No altar calls are recorded. The message was preached. Some mocked. Some got so mad they wanted to kill the preacher. And some believed, and those who believed were cut to the heart and instantly humbled to the point where they must only ask, “What now should I do?”
My last example from Luke’s writings is Paul himself. After persecuting the church, and hating Jesus, and suddenly and miraculously Jesus himself spoke to him, and he asked, “Who are you, Lord”, Jesus answered “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” And what was Paul’s response? Did he say, “but wait, Jesus, you have not yet asked if I would accept you.”
No, his response was like those who heard John the Baptist preach, like those who heard Jesus preach, like the Philippian jailor:
Acts 22:10 ESV
And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
Paul’s response when he encountered the living Christ was to ask that same question. It is a question of curiosity, what the person indicates they need some information. It is a question of humility, that says, I recognize my need. It is a question of fervor, where the one asking this question has a burning sense of their desperate state as a sinner before a Holy God.
What Shall I do?
So the people are coming out to John, and they are seeking to receive his baptism of repentance. They hear his chastisement, when he calls them a brood of vipers. They hear his warning about the wrath to come. They hear that they must not depend on being children of Abraham. They hear him and his urgency, that the axe is laid to the root of the trees, that trees without good fruit are going to be cut down and thrown into the fire, and so they ask, “What then shall we do?”
And John gives them some practical ways to live out now the repentance that was initiated in his baptism. We see that three main groupings are addressed. First, the crowds. In other words, verse 11 can be applied to all those who are seeking true repentance. Then he specifically addresses tax collectors, and then Soldiers.
Luke 3:11 ESV
And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Here what John is teaching should be no surprise to anyone who is part of Israel. After all, if Israel was the original D6 class, and had known very well that each generation had an obligation to teach and learn God’s law, to have it on their hearts, to speak of it all the time, then it should have been a completely boring and repetitive idea for John to speak of sharing. I mean, isn’t this basic stuff we deal with our own children with all the time?
There are only two hotdog buns left. Can you share with your sister? And yet, this is presented by Luke as something quite profound, as though this very basic teaching from the Old Testament was being rightly applied, at least for some of these people, for the first time. It sure wasn’t new. One of the virtues of Job was his delight in helping those in need:
Job 31:16–20 ESV
“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
Isaiah said this is the fast God chooses, or delights in: Isai58.6-7
Isaiah 58:6–7 ESV
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Ezekiel finds this to be a mark of a righteous man, that among other kindnesses, he gives bread to the hungry
Ezekiel 18:5–9 ESV
“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
Therefore, John the Baptist is simply calling the people to live in accordance to the ethical ways that they already should have been following. We see throughout Luke’s writings that he had a social concern: Luke6.30
Luke 6:30 ESV
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
Luke 12:33 ESV
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
Luke 14:12–14 ESV
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke 18:22 ESV
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
John’s commands here in chapter 3 are nothing new. They are God’s commands. God’s commands are not new, that they need to be taught them, but they have strayed so that they must be reminded of them. So we often need reminding of the teachings of scripture. Luther said something along the line that we must daily hear the gospel, because we daily forget the gospel.
Now, when we see all of these passages about giving, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving a tunic away if we have two, then many people start to get worried, for they think that the Bible may be advocating socialism, or some sort of communism even. Yet, that is not at all what the Bible teaches. We must remember that these are general principles. You are not commanded to let your own family suffer to take care of people outside your family, for example.
We lived on the Yankton Sioux Indian reservation before we came here. We saw poverty all around. Children in the cold without coats. People without food. And while we found it a privilege in the Lord to help some that we could, I knew I would not be a very good father if I took from my own family’s needs to give to others. However, it may be well worth considering for all of us how much we really need.
Lenski said this: “No indiscriminate giving is advocated by John or Jesus but a giving that relieves real human need.” He also said “A mark of conversion is honesty in all our dealings, but honesty for God’s sake”
So we have opportunities to give in many ways, and we should seek to reduce the pain and suffering in the world around us. And in John the Baptist’s view, this is the natural result of true repentance. Being generous is not proof of conversion, or proof of real repentance, but true conversion, true repentance will most certainly result in the evidence that comes when we share our worldly goods with those in need.
Subtitle: The Reality of Repentance
Big Idea: Sincere repenters seek ways to live anew
When repentance is preached,
There are spontaneous responses
Egotistic people become benevolent
Malcontents find fulfillment

Egotistic People become Benevolent

Luke 3:12–13 ESV
Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
I’m not sure too much needs to be said about tax collectors and how much they were loved by the community. We see the pairing in the gospels “tax collectors and sinners”. Tax collecting was actually like a business, but a business that was somewhat mafia-like. Tax collectors would bid on their position. They would pay Rome a certain amount, and then so long as they paid that, they could strong-arm people under threat of law.
It was almost universally thought that all tax collectors were crooked. And in the Jewish community, not only that, but they were considered traitors to their own people. We can see the assumption in John’s answer that reveals that he seems to think they are bad people, because he only gives them one simple direction. “Collect no more than you are authorized to do”
This may seem like something too easy, but if you understand wicked hearts, and let us not be liars and say we do not know wicked hearts, since all of us have first-hand experience with our own wicked nature before we came to Christ, as well as our ongoing battle to put to death sin in our lives, but since we do indeed have an understand of the inclination of the human heart to wickedness, let us acknowledge that for these tax collectors, this one evidence of true repentance, this one task John gives them, is certainly quite a challenge. John is more or less pointing out that this one change would be enough for the world to make the observation that something was radically different.
This would be evidence, or fruit, in keeping with repentance. And yet you may still say to yourself, “Really? Just this one change? How hard could it be to just keep one rule?” I invite you to ask Eve about that if you ever get to meet her. Certainly God knows the heart of people, and for some, just the step of obedience of one command provides all the evidence that is needed regarding the genuineness of a person’s confession.

Malcontents find fulfillment

We now see the question once more, this time from soldiers:
Luke 3:14 ESV
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
I found out in the past couple of weeks as I have studied this passage that there has been much discussion about whether these are soldiers of Rome, or soldiers attached to the temple, or perhaps even hired mercenaries who were contracted by the tax collectors we just discussed. It seems to me pretty likely at any rate that they were Jewish people. I personally just don’t feel like Roman soldiers would be flocking out to undergo a Jewish baptism. However, since scripture does not tell us exactly what type of soldiers these are, perhaps we are better off not to worry too much about it, although some commentators indeed had much to say on this topic, so it is important to some of them.
However, we need not worry our pretty little heads too much about this, since the lesson we can draw from it has little bearing on the exact type of soldiers they were. Instead, we know enough about the nature of these soldiers, since John gave them some very specific instructions as well. Do not extort money by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.
The root word translated to extort here literally means to shake thoroughly and thus to terrify. In other words, no shake-downs. Soldiers in those days were like policemen today. And sadly, in those types of occupations, where someone has a position of power, or the ability at least to make someone else’s life miserable, there is corruption. Not to say all powerful people are corrupt, but we know that it happens. I quote Lenski again, and Calvin said something similar, “Each station in life has its peculiar temptations and sins”.
In other words, no matter who you are, your life will bring certain temptations about. In the case of these soldiers, a major temptation must have been to shake people down. Along with this negative command, to not do these things, John gives this positive command, be content with your wages.
Many years ago, I was the manager of some retail stores, and one morning, on reviewing the cash register reports and receipts from the night before, I found a fishy looking refund receipt. Long story short, a cashier had faked a return and gave himself about $200 from the cash register. As I was discussing this with the General Manager of the company, he made a statement that stuck with me and has been a lesson ever since.
He said when an employee feels he is paid too little, or has otherwise convinced himself that he is worth more, in other words, is discontent with his wages, then he feels justified in stealing from the very company he works for. And this is the danger of being a malcontent. And certainly it was the case with the young man, who ended up deported over the theft of the $200, that he has often complained, along with some of his co-workers, and felt he should have been paid better, or gotten more favorable shifts.
But my boss was right. This sort of malcontented attitude makes one feel justified in stealing. For the soldiers who came to John the Baptist, they likely found themselves often grumbling about their wages as well, and in this malcontented attitude, along with the power they had as soldiers, caused them to often extort money. They had learned and perfected many different ways to do the proverbial shake-down.
For each of us, this lesson is a strong one: that when we find ourselves suffering from a malcontented attitude, we are much more likely to partake in grievous sins, whether it be theft, or some other taking advantage of our opportunities. We must be content, and work on being content, so that we can avoid some of the temptations that come when we feel entitled to more than we deserve.
I read recently a short biography on Jonathan Edwards, who early in his life wrote 70 resolutions that he would live his life by. I will share just one of them, because I think he had the key to being content, and that was by not thinking more highly of himself than he ought.
Resolution 8: Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
This is helpful towards contentment, and also that if we never expect to receive any honor or congratulations, or commendation form people, and realize that if not for Christ, we would merit no commendation at all, then we can be content, even when we are not encouraged, or recognized, or compensated to the degree we might have.
Subtitle: The Reality of Repentance
Big Idea: Sincere repenters seek ways to live anew
When repentance is preached,
There are spontaneous responses
Egotistic people become benevolent
Malcontents find fulfillment
Now in closing, as we consider what we have said from God’s Word, let us each consider our own selves in light of this word. Every passage of scripture that we encounter should cause us to ask some questions. Some questions work for every passage. Questions such as, “What does this passage draw me closer to Jesus?” “what does He require of me in this passage?” “What does it tell me about how to love Him better?” “What does it teach us about the church and our own involvement in it?” “How can we encourage one another to walk in this truth?”
Certainly there is much more than the points I made that could be said, but let us consider at least some parts of this together. First, our big idea, or if you prefer, our proposition, the one sentence or phrase that sums up this message. Sincere repenters seek ways to live anew. Or perhaps we may say instead, that sincere repenters always seek ways to live anew. It is an automatic fruit of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit by which we come to faith in Jesus.
Yet, we must remind ourselves not to put this cart before the horse. We must not ever think that our works or obedience in any way contributes to our salvation. Scripture clearly teaches that if we are in Christ, it is because He, by the Spirit has drawn us. Jesus said no one comes to Him unless the Father draws Him. If we are regenerated, if we have put saving faith in Jesus, then that work is all of God. He alone provides our salvation, and we deserve no credit at all, which is why Paul reminded the Ephesians that Eph2.8-9
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
No works bring salvation, but most assuredly, salvation is evidenced by works. Another way to look at it is to understand that our love for Jesus should drive us to do these good works willingly. Not being dragged into it, not begrudgingly fulfilling our duty, but with great joy and energy. If you have lost this, you may be in need of returning to scripture to remind yourself of the goodness of God in His salvation. You may, like David, need to ask Him to restore unto you the joy of your salvation, in order that you may again serve him with the love and grace you once had. This prayer, I am sure, if you are in Christ, He will answer.
Sincere repenters always seek ways to live anew. They always respond to the gospel with a sense of urgency and need to follow through. Perhaps you look back, and this may be painful to do, but your eternity is on the line, so this is well worth doing, to look back on. Maybe you look back in your life in the church and you cannot recall a time ever having this sort of reaction to the gospel, the sort of reaction that caused you to ask the question, “Then what am I supposed to do?” And you may have never asked this question because many presentations of the gospel these days tell you what to do before you have ever asked the question.
So people hear a presentation of the gospel, and then they are invited to accept Christ. Yet this is not biblical. I am not saying it is meant badly, but we must be scriptural in how we teach and present what the Bible says. You see, when the gospel is presented, and people, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, are moved to believe it, we need no altar call, for those individuals affected by this message will have an uneasiness until they have settled once and for all that they are going to be obedient to that gospel, that they will indeed bow a knee to Christ. That He will become Lord and Savior.
Yet many people are led in a sinners prayer, so called, that barely acknowledges that the person is a creature, standing before a holy Creator. I have seen it done where the person is not even asked to bend the knee to Christ! They stay in their seats, or perhaps stand, and repeat some words the preacher gives them. And I trust that in some cases, if the faith was sincere, they are accepted by God. But I fear in many cases, the person was just part of a ritual.
Children at a VBS, or at youth camp, adults at an evangelistic meeting, many have gone forward, spoken to someone who was trained just that afternoon to lead someone in a prayer, and they sign a card, and are told that if they said that prayer an meant it, they have eternal life! And yet many of them go forth and show what fruit in keeping with that repentance? Zero.
These who cried out to John were not of that camp. They were not led to a point of making a decision. They were not asked to accept the teaching or to accept Jesus. They heard a call to repent, and sensed their own wretchedness. Why? Because God’s holy Spirit beckoned them. He snatched them out of their complacency and caused them to be regenerated to the point of receiving in full John’s message. “What then shall we do?”
And John answers, and tells them, and we see those responses and evidences of true faith:
When repentance is preached,
There are spontaneous responses
Egotistic people become benevolent
Malcontents find fulfillment
So what do we do with this? God may indeed be calling you to put faith for the first time. Your response then to the message ought to be to pose the question “What then shall we do?” You would join all of those we have spoken of who responded to the message of grace. Perhaps you have said a sinner’s prayer, perhaps many times, yet you never said it with sincerity, with a true fear of God, and a true sense of your need. Perhaps you never truly humbled yourself before the throne of God and bent your knee to Jesus. Today is the day of salvation. You must ask, with those many before you, those who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses, “What then shall we do?”
Many of you indeed have come to Christ, in true sincerity, and with full assurance of faith, and yet you have lost your first love, and have grown somewhat cold towards your Lord. You also may ask this question, “What then shall we do?” And scripture will give you comfort as well. If you are truly one of His, and you need to be reminded of that love and passion you once had, then you must ask Him, and commit to returning again to His Word, by which he confirms your faith and renews your mind. Ask Him to restore to you the joy of your salvation.
Ask Him for wisdom to live the life He has called you to. Ask for Holy Spirit empowerment to be able to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it shall be opened for you. For the glory of Christ, and for the sake of His church, may we ever learn to obey and apply these things.
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