The ministry of John the Baptist is a key component of the Gospel story, hence it is included in all four accounts of the Gospel. The ministry of John the Baptist is one more fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and John’s ministry demonstrates the divinity of Jesus Christ.
However, if we only make a theological point about John’s ministry, and miss his words, we’ve missed the point altogether. John’s preaching in Luke 3 teaches us three key things. (1) Judgment day is upon us, (2) The way of repentance, and (3) the power of Christ.
John the Baptist said, “The axe is laid to the root of the trees.” In that statement, he warned that Christ was coming, and so the people would need to make a decision regarding their faith. The proper choice, of course, is to repent and believe.
In discussing repentance, John gave clear teachings on what it meant to repent, and what true repentance looks like. The word repent means to turn and never return. It’s very similar to the word “forsake,” which means to turn away and never return.
While the repentant sinner may stumble and fall in the sin again, his life and desires are no longer consumed by the sin. Along those lines, John gave some guidelines by which to evaluate your life.
He said, “Let those who have two coats give to the one who has none. Let the tax collectors collect no more than is due. Let the soldiers no longer extort the civilians.” At the root of these statements are an evaluation. Are we covetous, are we content, are we prideful?
Had John been preaching today, he may have said, “Let the porn addict log off his computer, let the drug addict put down the pipe, and let the thief earn his way.”
The fact is that we often self-medicate with sin. If we are self-medicating, have we repented? And if we are self-medicating, are we really trusting God for healing and salvation?
John’s ministry also points out the power of Christ, who will baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The Holy Spirit indwells us at the point of salvation, giving us the power to overcome sin and heal. The fire is the adversity God uses to transform and purify us. Our job in life is to trust that process.
Judgment day is closer now than it has ever been, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business as usual can no longer be trusted. Let us all repent and trust the Lord as we move into 2021.