Luke 3:1-6 Text vs. 6 “And all people will see God's salvation."
Mary, who was to become the mother of Jesus, lived in Nazareth. And when she heard her Cousin Elisabeth was with child, she visited her before she gave birth. Elizabeth lived in a village called Ain Karem 80 miles South of Nazareth between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. And when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting as Mary entered her home, the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb and was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice Elizabeth exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"
Luke 1:15 says, John was full of the Holy Spirit from the moment he was born, and one day would announce to a nation steeped in sin that Jesus is Messiah. When John was 30 years old, that happened! Israel was under the cruel reign of Herod the Great. People were fascinated by the thundering voice of a strange, rugged, fearless hermit preaching on the banks of the Jordan River shouting, “Repent!” John the Baptist told them the long-awaited Deliverer was at hand. Crowds came to hear him preach and baptize. They were ready to do anything he said. John was at the height of his popularity when he baptized his cousin Jesus and proclaimed Him as Messiah. Mission accomplished! John had presented Jesus as the Son of God to the Jews. His work was done.
Now, 2000 years later, this Season of Advent is ready to proclaim the arrival of Jesus. We’re preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus - the time God became fully man and lived among us to be our Redeemer. Last Sunday, we lit the first Advent candle to be a symbol of our Preparation for Jesus’ coming. According to the prophet Zephaniah, "the great day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly". Advent gives you four weeks to think about that! Four weeks to reflect on how you should respond to John’s call to “Repent!” Four weeks to adjust your busy schedule to include time for calm and reflection. Four weeks to look into a mirror and think about what you see. What do you see?
The prophet Isaiah expressed the Hope of Advent. Are you seeing Hope? Do you have Hope Jesus will come and find you mindful of Him? In the Gospels, Jesus implied life could put such a demand on you that it’s easy to forget what your life is all about. Life can make it easy to forget you have a truly wonderful Savior. Over 2000 years ago, John told the people to “Repent!” Get ready for Messiah! And John’s telling us the same thing now. Get ready! He’s coming! Acknowledge your sinfulness! Repent! God’s forgiveness can still be yours.
A man once said, "Most people repent of their sins by thanking God they ain’t as wicked as their neighbors." And that’s true! You can see the speck in your neighbor’s eye. But not the log in your own eye! John’s still preaching to us. And we’re still falling short of what God expects of us. All of us sin. Period! So, our need is to repent and accept the forgiveness of the One born in the manger!
A Scottish painter named Jake was out to make a buck anyway he could. The local church needed repainting. The members offered Jake the job. His bid was lower than the rest, so Jake got the job. He bought paint. Got to work. And when he had finished about three quarters of the job, he realized he didn’t have enough paint to finish the job. So, he decided to thin out the rest of his paint to make it go further. When he got halfway with what was left, he still didn’t have enough paint to finish. He would have to thin out a little more paint. If he did that, it would stretch out enough to cover the whole church. Unfortunately, a terrible rainstorm came that night. Jake was awakened by the crash of thunder and realized; the paint he thinned out would not stick to the walls of the church in that heavy rain! He panicked. He realized he had betrayed the trust put in him by his neighbors and would be shamed in front of everyone. So, at dawn, Jake ran to the church. Then suddenly stopped! He saw all of the paint he had thinned out was now covering the front lawn of the church. Faced with humiliation, and possible ruin of his business, Jake fell on his knees and prayed: "God, please forgive me. Help me see the error of my ways." Immediately, a powerful Voice spoke out of the thunder and said, - "Jake! Jake! - Repaint, you thinner! - Repaint and thin no more!"
Well, Jesus never told anyone to “repent and sin no more”; however, He did use the word repent in Mark 1:15 when He said, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Gospel”. And one of the first steps to salvation is repentance. The Gospels make that quite clear. John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the way for repentance. John’s call was, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). What does it mean to repent? What’s repentance all about? B.H. Carroll, who was a giant among men, not just because of his six-foot four-inch frame, but he was one of the most influential Baptist leaders and thinkers of his time observed, “No matter how much one may desire to repent. Not how often he may resolve to repent. Unless he actually repents, he is lost! Because God has made repentance the requirement to have eternal life.” Repentance comes first!
Repentance is when you look at your life and what you’ve done and regret your past wrongs. It’s when you make a commitment to show, and prove, there’s going to be a change in your life for the better. You make a commitment to change your life. You decide to live a more responsible and caring life. In other words, you’re sorry for your wrongs. You feel guilty for what you’ve done. And repentance is the only way for you to obtain salvation. That’s when you confess your guilt to God. And you promise not to do it again. And if necessary, you make amends for the wrong you have done. Salvation is delivered by God's grace. You’re free from sin and its consequence of eternal punishment. You have been raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:4)
But our text asks, “who will see God’s salvation?" The salvation of God means Messiah. The Promised One. The One who is the Christ. “The anointed one” - “the chosen one.” The expectation is all people will be made aware of the Messiah/Savior and accept Him. (Romans 1:18–20) But not all will. (John 3:36) Anyone who wants to repent and express faith in Him can be saved. (John 6:37; 2 Peter 3:9) But not all will! (John 3:18) “Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21 NLT) . . . BUT “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. (Romans 10:9).
Now, someone may say "Surely, it’s not that simple". God says, oh yes it is! It is that simple! God said, “Repent and receive Jesus”. That’s it! That’s God's plan! You can, at this very moment, believe on Jesus and receive Him as your Savior. Right now, if you haven’t already! God’s love offers you His free gift of grace in order that you can be saved “if you confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised Him from death, you will be saved. For it is by your faith that you are put right with God. It is by your confession that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) Come just as you are. He’s waiting for you to sincerely pray this prayer - “Lord, I know I have sinned. Please forgive me of my sins. Cleanse me and come into my life as my Lord and Savior”. The Bible says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
During this Advent Season, what better way could there be than for you to just confess, repent, and commit yourself anew to living a more Christlike life. To re-dedicate yourself. To make your part of the world where you live, not just a better place for you to live, but a better place for you to share with those who love you and know you. Advent looks forward to celebrating Christ’s incarnation at Christmastime. But this Advent is really more about expecting his second coming. Remember, by God’s faithfulness, He sent Christ into the world 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Then, look back. Remind yourself, this same God who kept His Word back then, is keeping His Word now. He is going to return to this world, soon. He will finish setting up His Kingdom upon Earth. He will bring an end to evil. He will bring an end to conflict. He will bring an end to death. He will bring His perfect justice and peace. And remember the words of the prophet Zephaniah, "the great day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly".
Are you ready for this? Are you ready for His coming again? That’s what Advent is all about! Think about it. Then do something about it. He is near! Get ready. He is coming again! Hallelujah and AMEN