In the third chapter of Matthew we’re told about Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. The Bible says that, “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 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.
I don’t think I have ever heard an altar call like this! John was brutal with these religious folks—-i.e. the Pharisees and Sadducees. Evidently he knew what they were thinking and he probably noticed how they carried themselves, and noted the same arrogant and smug faces. He was telling them, in effect: NO! First there’s got to be a change of mind! You must be answerable to an amendment in your life. The proper evidence that you are sincere is that there is a change of heart and will
Luke recorded in these words in Acts: “First to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, then to everyone in the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I declared that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds worthy of their repentance”.
Paul said to the good people in Ephesus: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”.
There appears to be some responsibility in deciding to follow Jesus. Evidently we’re supposed to repent—-and show that we are sorry and mindful of our need of a Savior. Jesus never begged people to come to Him and John the Baptist never cheapened the call to repentance and baptism.
Sometimes I think we work within the church and Christian ministries as if there’s some desperate need for us to drag people to the altar and into a relationship with Jesus Christ as if the church will cease to exist if we don’t. It’s akin to offering discount tickets to the last people to fill the empty seats on the Gospel Airline or the Jehovah Railways!
Jesus taught us to make disciples—not beg people to please join the church. Christ’s words pierced to the heart and many did not follow Him—-at least, not at first. The church’s explosive growth was not connected to persuasive oratory, but preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Some will hear and obey, some will not, and I would suggest that if everyone does come, we’re probably cheapening God’s grace and misleading those who are truly seeking Him.
A follower of Jesus has repented—-and that always involves remorse and sorrow. Pride and a sense of “I’m going to be a blessing to God” are signs of religious pride, not Christian conversion.
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