Summary: A sermon on Luke 3:1-20.
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"Heavenly Father, when your words are at times hurtful, let us not doubt that they are nevertheless good news. Amen."
Tough Words – Good News
A long time ago there was a man that prepared people for the coming of Jesus. John the Baptist preached to everyone: "Turn back to God and be baptised! Then your sins will be forgiven." John put pressure on people to look at themselves and then change. Young and old were asked to meet the challenge: "Turn back to God." "Turn back to God and you will see his saving power."
And the message was not proclaimed meekly. John the Baptist was no softy. He laid into people when they only made half-hearted attempts to be part of his repentance regime. When they thought that they could just turn up and listen to a few of his sermons, then undergo baptism and that would do the trick, he surprised them with rude words: "You bunch of snakes! You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgement? Do something to show that you really have given up your sins." John was tough! Too tough?
Do we think today that he overdid his cries of repentance? Maybe we do, but the Bible says that John actually spoke good news to the people. Hard words that prick the conscience, that make us honest about ouselves, that shock us with the truth about our lives – those kind of hard words have to knock us down sometimes. Otherwise we hear the cry: "Turn back to God," and actually think that this call does not mean us. Oblivious to reality we may say: "Repentance is for unsaved sinners but not for baptized people like me." Who says that baptized people need no repentance, no renewal? Who says that you and I need not renounce our sin and renew our commitment to God? That's when meek sermons may no longer do the trick but hard words are needed to penetrate one's self-deception.
At first we won't be pleased. Hard words hurt but at the same time hard words are good therapy/good news because they lead us back to God and his coming salvation. John the Baptist was a man from God with a good message even though he was tough.
Let me illustrate what the Bible means with a modern-day example. The event which I am going to relate to you is extreme and I will take longer to tell you the whole story but we will learn from it. A Christian writer narrates: [Just one comment before I begin the story. The writer uses some words which we do not commonly use and therefore may not understand. Don't worry about it because we will understand the gist of it.]
One of my indelible memories goes back to ... when I was a patient at an alcohol rehabilitation center ... Twenty-five chemically dependent men were assembled ... Sean, our leader, directed a patient named Max to sit on "the hot seat" in the center of the U-shaped group. A small diminutive man, Max was a nominal Christian, married with five children, owner and president of his company, wealthy, affable, and gifted with remarkable poise.