John the Baptizer Calls His Audience to Repentance

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John the Baptizer calls his audience to repent
Image source: LUMO Project

One thing that I’ve been reminded of in this strange new world we live in: The simplicity of the Gospel. In today’s Bible reading*, we read of John the Baptizer. He’s out in a deserted region, baptizing people in the Jordan River. They come from near and far with one purpose: They want to be right with God. Their hearts are prepared to do business with God.

However, when the religious leaders — the Sadducees and Pharisees — approach him, John didn’t greet them with a warm handshake, telling them how glad he was that they came out to hear his program. No, John looked them in the eyes and called them a brood of vipers, a family of venomous snakes. “You think you’re somebody because you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham. That’s nothing! If God wanted to, he could create Abraham’s descendants out of this rock pile. Get ready, because God’s about to bring judgment on the House of Abraham!”

Now, that doesn’t sound very friendly, does it? That doesn’t sound very “seeker-sensitive”, does it? I thought you could attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Well, honey does work best … if you’re wanting to attract flies. But if you’re calling fallen people to get right with a holy God, you can’t beat around the bush. You have to be real. You have to be direct. You have to call your audience to repentance.

All the Sadducees and Pharisees knew — all they were interested in — was religion. John’s call was not to religion. John’s call was to come to know God in a relationship. And they couldn’t do that without a miraculous work of God in their hearts, drawing them to turn from their old ways of dealing with God under the rules of the Old Covenant Law. Their hearts were hard.

Later, when Jesus asked them for the source of John’s authority, (Matthew 21:25–27) they claimed they didn’t know. They knew that if they said he received his authority from man, the people would revolt. And they knew that if they said John received his authority from God, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe. So they blinked. They knew they had been caught in their hypocrisy.


The Gospel is a very simple message: God is God and you aren’t. God is holy and you aren’t. You are enslaved to sin. You are an enemy to God. And if you’re ever going to be made right with God, you’ll have to humble yourself and turn from your ways. You’ll have to turn to Jesus and ask God to take Jesus’ death as the payment for your sin. (Romans 6:23)

There is simply no other way to be made right with God.

Yes, the Gospel is a very simple message. But it isn’t easy. It requires a commitment — every single day — to die to your way. Die to your wishes. Every single day, you choose to pick up your instrument of death and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23)

If you’ve never made a decision like this to follow Jesus, please reach out to me. I’d love to tell you more!

* Today we are reading Matthew 3.

This devotional was originally published on April 8, 2020.

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