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When John the Baptist began his work, something new was happening. John was not only calling gentile proselytes to baptism, but also the chosen people, the Jews. John sounded much like the Old Testament prophets. He called the people to repentance. He condemned the corruption of the leaders. He warned of coming judgment, and he foretold the arrival of the Messiah.
That didn’t set well with the priests, Levites and Pharisees. So a delegation traveled out to the desert to confront John.
In the first chapter of John we see,
“…they said, 'Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'' Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' 'I baptize with water,' John replied, 'but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'” (John 1:22-27 NIV)
John told his inquisitors that he was only a messenger. His job was to prepare the way for the one who had real authority, the one who was coming soon, and whose sandals John was unworthy to loosen.
The baptism of John was the same – a sign of the reality to come, a symbol of the cleansing of sins and turning away from sin and death. But there was another, far greater baptism to come, John said. The one who would come after him – Jesus – that would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
We are not made righteous by water or by committing ourselves to good works. Only Jesus takes away our sins, and only Jesus makes us righteous.
We all know what we repent from. But the greater question is who we repent toward. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (NIV)
Jesus didn’t just do half the job by cleansing our sins and then leave the job of becoming righteous – to us. In Jesus, God both forgives our sins and he makes us righteous!
Truly, our Redeemer lives, and he lives for us!
I’m Joseph Tkach – speaking of LIFE.