Summary: Repentance leads to an adventure with Christ.
The ADVENT ADVENT-ure
1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
When the consultants were called to do the consultation with this congregation back when Pastor Mari left, I found it a very hard thing to swallow. I was deeply disappointed and very angry. I was so upset that I wanted to call the Synod office and demand that my name be put up for call to a congregation that needed a good pastor.
What was said about me by some people totally contradicted what I saw in myself and in past experience. Obviously something was wrong with this picture. There’s a failure of expectations; a failure of communication; a failure of vision.
What was really hard was admitting how wrong I was—about myself and my view of this congregation and my view of certain people. I don’t know about you, but I hate being wrong.
1. Do you know anyone who likes admitting they are wrong? Do you like to admit you’re wrong? Of course not!
a. John the Baptist made a career of going around preaching to people and telling them they are wrong. Not only are they wrong, but they absolutely MUST change. The word the Bible uses is REPENTANCE.
b. I wondered about this. Why would people want to hear how wrong they were and why would they want to be told they MUST change? Why would they tear their own clothing as a sign of change? Why would they allow themselves to be dunked in the cold water of the Jordan River as a sign of their changed lives?
2. I think we can understand how John the Baptist succeeded if we can understand the word REPENTANCE.
a. What is REPENTANCE?
i. It’s not a word the church invented. It comes from a long time ago—before there were roads or maps.
ii. Traveling through the wilderness a person can get lost. Getting lost in the wilderness can cost a person his or her life.
iii. When ancient nomads would travel, they were very aware of the fact that they might be going the wrong direction.
1. This awareness of going the wrong direction is step one.
2. But REPENTANCE doesn’t really happen until the traveler changes directions. That’s step two.
b. REPENTANCE was a matter of life or death to the ancient traveler.
c. REPENTANCE is a matter of life or death to anyone’s spiritual life.
i. The payoff for the nomadic traveler of ancient times was life itself.
ii. The payoff for the spiritual traveler today is life itself—eternal life.
When Hilda and I are driving somewhere and she notes that I make five right-hand turns in succession she may ask: "Are you lost?"
Being the humble soul that I am I respond, "no, I’m not lost."
She notes that I make three more right hand turns and then says something that no loving spouse should say to another: "Why don’t you stop and ask for directions."
Who wants to hear that?
3. John’s preaching in the wilderness probably first repelled people. Who wants to hear that he or she is all wrong? NOBODY! (I suspect people came to hear John because they couldn’t believe someone could actually get up in front of others and say things like this!)
a. At first people don’t want to hear the message.
b. I am very resistant when someone tells me I’m all wrong.
i. I will deny it, argue it.
ii. I will blame someone or some situation for causing any problems.
iii. I will get angry at the one who tells me I’m all wrong.
c. I’m guessing that when John preached in the wilderness, there was similar human resistance: lots of denial, argument, blame, and anger.
I don’t know about you, but often I don’t want to ask for directions. I want to believe that I’m self-reliant and in control.
Then the message sinks in—I admit to myself (and sometimes even to Hilda) that I really don’t know it all. I have to stop and ask for directions. Admitting that I’m lost is the beginning of repentance. That’s step one.