John the Baptist was a strong, articulate and direct communicator. He didn’t sugarcoat his message. In chapter 3 he addresses a problem that has plagued the church since the beginning.
One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against faith in Christ is the example of so-called “Christians” that live counter to what the Bible clearly teaches. Of course, no follower of Christ is perfect, but those who excuse or ignore their poor behavior create major roadblocks to outsiders that watch their lives. As John is teaching he saw a group of religious leaders that considered themselves God’s favorites because of their heritage. They were like those today that think church attendance and religious knowledge put them in God’s favor. But John sternly rebukes such thinking and sets things straight in verse 8 saying, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” If someone is truly devoted to being a follower then…well, they show by how they live a pattern of following God’s will in their lives. Repentance is when I deliberately choose to turn away from what God says is wrong and adopt His values, attitudes, and behaviors as my own. For instance, if I have lied to someone, repentance would lead me to admit it, ask the person’s forgiveness and then work hard to tell the truth going forward. If instead I just blew it off and thought it was no big then I am showing that I don’t really have God’s interests in mind and my heart is far from Him.
Our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and classmates are watching us. They are looking to see if the faith we claim is real or just words and feelings. When you and I choose to trust and obey Jesus they have a chance to see the reality of what genuine faith in God is and what He is able to do with a life that is devoted to Him.
Let's give them something good to watch and learn from!