Luke 3: 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.”
Luke 3:7 – John’s has harsh words to those who came to be baptized. People who come to be baptized are the ones who are religious and want to obey God and try to do better. But it can also be a matter of legalism and ritual and empty tradition. John sees right into the souls of these people and knows that their desire for baptism is miles ahead of their desire for holiness. And that will not do.
It is so easy to be religious and do religious things and be in a religious community doing what other religious people do. Religion can make a person so deceived about one’s own status with God. John’s message is for these religious ones to repent and prove their repentance by genuine deeds.
He says three things to them:
1)”bear fruits in keeping with repentance”- it is so easy to say “sorry”. But real repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction that will always result in changes of behaviour. Don’t claim to be sorry for sin if the sorrow is not accompanied by change of behaviour.
2) “Do not begin to say to yourselves ‘We have Abraham as our father’”. Do not trust your religious tradition. If God should ask you today why you should spend eternity with him what would your answer be? If you directed God to your family name, your connection to a church, your church attendance, your baptism, your denomination, your giving to good causes … God would plug his ears to you. We must never rely upon our religious tradition, our heritage, our religious activity. This would have been a serious blow to these Jews who believed that simply being Jewish put one in good standing with God. Such ideas have not changed. We may not be Jewish, but this type of deception still lives.
3) “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The issues are very serious. We are not tinkering with trivialities here. John’s hearers will ignore them at their own eternal peril. We can ignore the call of the Gospel and shrug it off as not worth our time and effort. But we will be judged.
Then John tells the three groups of people listening to him what they must do. Those who have enough to share must share. Those who collect taxes must not cheat. Soldiers must be content with their wages. All three have to do with money and possessions.
Wouldn’t it have been nicer if he had said, “read your Bible every day and be sure to have a prayer time”? Do you have these marks of repentance? Has a real soul saving relationship with Jesus Christ made you generous? Has it made you impeccably honest in your dealings with others so that you never benefit yourself at their expense? Are you content – with your wages or in life in general? John the Baptist was an Old Testament prophet whose job was to point to Christ. This little example of his preaching certainly shows how much we need a Saviour. It shows us what real faith in Christ will produce.
Do you have these marks of really turning to Christ?