John the Baptist wasn’t exactly a social conformist. He lived, acted, and said things that were anything but mainstream thinking. But John wasn’t out to win friends and please people. His message was sharp and straightforward: “You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Do something to show that you really have given up your sins…. An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.” John was the first-century version of the guy with a placard on the street corner yelling for everyone to repent. He probably would have been relegated to the category of loony tunes had he not had an actual and substantial following of people who believed his message of repentance.
The reason the masses did not dismiss John as some creepy clown is that he offered them something better than just being stuck in old destructive patterns of dumb decisions, unhealthy relationships, and bad habits. John points us away from himself and squarely on Jesus. Christ is the one who can and will unstick us from our downward spirals of complacency, mediocrity, and sinful behavior.
To repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ allows us to bear good fruit. Being with the Lord, rooted and established in him, allows us to spring from the ground like a fresh new shoot growing into something beautiful. Dwelling in the presence of Jesus brings healthy patterns of life.
Jesus came once, and will come again. We need to get ready for that day. There are roads that need straightening; fires that need to be lit in order to burn away brush; dead trees need to be cut down; and, there are people who need to repent because the kingdom of God is near.
Lord Jesus, you are the rightful King of all creation. I confess those sinful things I have done, and the good things I have left undone. Your mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. Help me to so hear your Word that new life and hope springs within me and produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Amen.