For to us a child is born...
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
Aside from being cousins have you ever wondered what John the Baptist and Jesus had in common? Well let me give you one you probably hadn’t considered; they both start their recorded ministry with the word “repent” as written in the Gospel of Matthew. Now most of us when we hear or see that word we immediately picture some lunatic fringe-type of person carrying a sandwich board that states “The End is near!” Believe it or not that is exactly what Satan wants us see in our minds. But we must guard ourselves and our message so that we continue to use the word because transformation only starts after we acknowledge our need for change.
Repentance and restoration spring from a change within a person that recognizes their need for God. One of the best illustrations for this is Nicodemus. Outwardly he was a fine example of the man who had it made – at least religiously. But on the inside he was just as corrupt as the next guy. That is why Jesus answered him with a spiritual answer about rebirth. The world preaches that you are what you think or dress for success or even “name it claim it.”
Such is the advertising for our great utopian society. We think that change is best instituted and controlled through education, money or government. But unfortunately that’s all just sugar coating – taste great, less filling – to quote an adult beverage maker. The only true change comes from within.
Here is the bad news; in the church we have the tendency to “spiritualize” repentance and restoration so that we continue to “look good.” Seldom does repentance reach all the way down to the mundane details of our life. And when it does people often feel that they have to go into some ministry in order to live out this change in a genuine way; otherwise we are not expressing our new love for Christ correctly.
But if you look at how John the Baptist replied to the question “What shall we do?” you’ll notice something very curious. John doesn’t tell them to quit their day jobs rather he tells them to repent of their sins and to bring a godly character to their careers. For the soldiers, tax collectors and Jewish officials who heard this message it was a hard saying because there was a whole lot of corruption in their professions. How many of us are bringing repentance and restoration to our place of employment?
Over the last century Christians have abandoned many of our society’s institutions of media, education, arts, business and government. We even suggest that we disengage many of these things in the name of Jesus. On the one hand, we give up trying to influence society altogether. On the other, we might think that if we just elected the right people and enacted the best laws we can make a change. But a more biblical approach might be to serve the common good while recognizing that Jesus saves not being moral.
What Jesus are you serving?
Father God, thank You for the knowledge that we are forgiven, and thank You for the good news that Christ became flesh and dwelt among us. As we worship You, prepare us to testify to this good news wherever we go. Amen.