Summary: There are three parts to "making changes" in your life. John the Baptist shows us what they are...
Matthew 3:1-12 “MAKING CHANGES”
If NBC were to call you on the phone this afternoon, and tell you that they were coming over to your house in one hour, because they are planning to do a story on you, as part of their people-living-in-a-small-town series, what would you do to get ready? You put the phone down, and you have one hour to get ready, because you are about to be placed on national TV. Well, you’d probably look around your house and try to straighten it up a little bit. You’d probably look in the mirror, change your clothes – do what you can to get ready, because you’re about to be on TV.
But with only one hour, there’s only so much you can do. You can do the dishes in the kitchen, but you can’t remodel it. You can straighten up the way your hair looks, but you’re not going to have time to get a whole new look. The cameras are coming, ready or not, and you’re only able to change around a few small things.
Jesus tells us in his Word that he is coming, and it’s time for you to get yourself ready. And as we study God’s Word this morning, we find out that when Jesus tells you to get ready, he’s not just talking about changing around a few small things about your life. Jesus wants a complete change. This morning, we’re going to look at what that means. You see, we’re getting ourselves ready for Christmas. In just a few weeks, we are going to be celebrating Christ’s first coming, and there are certain things we can do to get ourselves mentally and spiritually ready. And as we do that, we’re also preparing for Christ’s second coming.
In Matthew chapter 3, we meet John the Baptist. He was chosen by God to be the “forerunner” of the Messiah. Does anyone know what a “forerunner” is? Many, many years ago, back in the days of kings and horse-drawn carriages, a forerunner was someone who would prepare a town for a visit from the king. Before the king would arrive, the forerunner would go to that town, get the place ready, get the people ready, because the king was coming. That’s what John the Baptist was doing for Jesus. “Repent,” he told the people. “Because the kingdom of heaven is near.” Here’s how you get yourself ready for the Messiah, he was telling the people – repent.
Now what does that mean to “repent”? We get some hints as we look at the next verses. Verse 3 tells us that the ministry of John the Baptist was something that had been foretold many many years ago by the prophet Isaiah. Notice how Isaiah describes repentance: “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.” You see, back then, if a king was coming to your town, one of the first things they would do is check the roads. If your main road was bumpy, had potholes, was crooked – going this way and that – one of the things they would do is fix up the roads. They’d fill in the potholes, cut down the bumps, and straighten out the curves – massive road construction – kind of like what we experienced in front of our building this past summer. They didn’t want their king riding into town on a bad road.
That gives you a picture of what it means to “repent.” Your king, Jesus Christ is coming. We’re about to celebrate his birth, and we’re also preparing for his second coming. And your life is like a road that’s in need of repair. There’s sin in your life – potholes, bumps. Instead of straight and smooth, your life is like a crooked and bumpy road. Jesus is coming, and it’s time to do some road construction on your life. And we’re not just talking about making a few small changes here and there - God is looking for you to get rid of that old life that you’ve been living, and to start living a brand new one. That’s “repentance.”
And there are 3 parts to doing this soul construction, as we see in our lesson for today. In Matthew 3, and we see a description of John’s lifestyle – a very different, a very unusual lifestyle – his clothes were different, his diet was different. Do you know why? It’s because his message was different. People went out to listen to him, and as they did, we see the first part of repentance, the first part of reconstructing your soul. Look at the beginning of verse 6: “They confessed their sins.” In other words, they said to God, “I’m sorry. I’m sinful. I’m born that way. And here are the things that I’ve done in my life that show how sinful I am. I’m sorry.”