Summary: Authentic Christianity is a transformed life. It does not end with repentance… Repentance is the turning point, the seed that germinates in the heart and life of believers ~ but that seed must be allowed to grow and produce much fruit.
Why Christmas Is a Big Deal:
Scripture Text: Luke 3.7-18
When I go mountain hiking, it is a long, physically-draining experience. My usual approach is to get-the-gear-on, …plug-up my MP3 player, …and shut-out the ache-in-my-knees by listening to good-music!
There’s an interesting-little-ritual that many hikers participate in… At certain places along the trail, …they will place a rock on a pile-of-rocks ~ (they are called ‘cairns’ ~) …a pile that was-started by the hundreds of hikers who’ve made-it-that-far before them. And as you-place your-rock on the pile, …it’s your-way-of-saying, “I was here! I made it, too!” The pile-of-rocks stands as a silent-witness to the achievement. And as-long-as that pile-of-rocks-stands, …you can look at it and remember that you made it to that-point ~ …whether-it-be 12,000 feet, …or 13,500 feet above sea-level, …or, at 14,000 feet as you begin the final-approach to the summit.
People have been piling up rocks for a very-long-time. It’s not-just mountain hikers ~ …leaving those piles-of-silent-testimonies, …but-also the ancient Egyptians ~ …piling stones on top of one-another (to form the pyramids); …and the Romans ~ …who built the coliseums and theaters; …and the Aztec and Mayan civilization ~ …which carved cities out of the jungles of central-America; ….and the people-of-God ~ like Jacob, who set up a large stone as a symbolic-reminder of-when God appeared to Him at a place called ‘Bethel’ …and the Israelites ~ who piled up stones as they marched through the River-Jordan, ….and when God made covenant with Joshua and the people of Israel ~ …the people of God set up piles of rocks to stand as witnesses to what had happened at significant-spots in-the-road.
And-whenever someone would pass-that-way, again, …they would see the pile-of-rocks and they would remember ~ …They remembered what happened there-in-that place; …they remembered that they had been-there and that God had-met-them there, …and it would be an occasion to celebrate the goodness-and-the-blessings of God. He is faithful ~ and the piles of rocks testified to the things that God had-done to bring them along-the-way.
When John the Baptist started preaching and telling the people they needed-to-repent, …he knew that the people would protest (at-least, to-a-point), …and they would point to the piles-of-rocks in the past. They would point to the pile-of-rocks that Jacob and Joshua and others ~ …John knew that the people would point to the piles of rocks as a way-of-saying: “We’re the children of the guy that left-this-stone! “We are the heirs of his heritage! “Our father-Abraham met with God, …and God made promises to-him, “…and that’s good-enough for us!”
The problem with that argument is (and John says this…): …they weren’t-there when those rocks were piled-up! Abraham left a tremendous-testimony to God’s grace and His promises; …Joshua was a tremendous leader and his pile-of-rocks represent the promises-fulfilled …but the children can’t claim the rocks unless they walk-the-path.
Let-me-give-you-an-example: I have left rocks in the piles of stones that stand on many of the mountains of Colorado. Mt Yale Mt Sherman, Mt Shavano Mt Lincoln ~ …but, just-because I’ve left rocks there, …doesn’t-mean that my son can claim them as his-own. I have been-there ~ …and the rocks that I’ve left on those mountains testify to me being-there. But, if he wants to claim those rocks, …he’s got to strap-on his hiking-boots, …and make the hike into the thin-air, for-himself.
When the people protest to John the Baptist, …saying that they are the children of Abraham, …John says that God is able to make children-for-Abraham out of the stones lying-on-the-ground. Essentially, John is saying, To be true children of Abraham, you’ve got to walk-the-walk that he walked ~ …you’ve got to live-by-faith in Abraham’s God, …not by-faith-in the pile-of-rocks that Abraham left!
Well… What would it look-like to walk-the-walk that Abraham-walked? That’s a good-question… And John the Baptist gives us answers. If you want to walk-the-path that Abraham traveled, …if you want to be called a true-child of Abraham, …if you want to be certain that things-are-good between you-and-God, ….this is what-you’ve-gotta-do: Repent!
For those-of-us who are familiar with the Christmas-story ~ …we remember what-kind-of-preacher John-the-Baptist is. He is fiery. He is combative. He is in-your-face, …callin’ it like it is! And when he steps-onto-the-stage, …and starts preaching to the crowds, …what does he say?... “You brood of vipers!”
I’d say that’s kinda gruff! When Zig Ziglar wrote his popular book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, …I’m pretty-sure that he did not recommend starting a conversation by calling-a-person a ‘snake’! John the Baptist may not be worried about “winning friends” ~ …but he is interested in fulfilling his calling: …to “prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”
And, if you were to boil-down the main-message that John-the-Baptist preached, …Luke tells us that it was this: