Choices – we are faced with choices everyday. Sometimes we make good ones, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make bad choices by choosing not to make a good choice. You’re driving along in your vehicle. Suddenly a little light comes up on the dash. It is yellow, and it looks like an engine. You get home and hope when you start the car the next day it won’t be there… It is. All week long you drive and that little light is there. Maybe you take a little piece of electrical tape and put it over the light. Problem solved – you can’t see the light any more. The next day you have to peek, and as you’re driving down highway 11 on your way to Winnipeg for a wedding the little yellow light is now red and flashing…
That evening you phone the sister of the bride and apologize for missing the wedding as your car broke down on the highway – such a tragic accident. Well, not really an accident, but a series of bad choices.
We’ll come back to choices in a few minutes.
Today is the second step of our journey to look at Jesus together. We laid some groundwork last week, and today we are going to start where we first see Jesus as an adult. Let me set the context for you:
John is baptizing followers, calling them to repentance. Baptism was a public statement about your beliefs, your faith. It still is. There is still room for baptism today! As Canadians, we don’t like to be showy – we would rather sit around a pot of coffee and solve all the world’s problems quietly. Baptism, though, is a bold statement. I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1976. I stood up in a tank of warm water and told the people watching that I was a Christian and not ashamed of the Gospel. I was watching America’s funniest videos last spring, and there was a pastor introducing a boy about to be baptized. Suddenly this guy jumps in from off camera and does a cannonball right beside the pastor. After the waves and the people watching quieted down, he said that was the first… and last time that would happen.
So here is John baptizing on the edge of the desert, and suddenly One comes and it is all different. He tells Jesus He is not worthy to do it, but Jesus says He must. Jesus is baptized and here at the start of His ministry we see the Trinity all sharing in the moment: God speaks, the Spirit descends, and Jesus stands. We are informed by this interaction, that repentance is a God thing. It is also a defining moment in Jesus’ ministry. One lesson we take home is that we need God and His Spirit at work in and through us for vital ministry to happen. Jesus needed it – so do we.
Let’s move to the conversation:
This conversation is really spoken by John, but it sets the stage for Jesus. John says that holiness is the fruit of repentance. What this means is that we are saved to become more like Jesus in our attitudes, our words, and our actions. That is what holiness is. That is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about – about becoming more like Jesus. That’s why we do church.
So here is John baptizing, calling people to repentance. Who is there? It is the church leaders. They come, and he tells them, “Wait a minute. Hold your horses: This is the deal. You get baptized, you change your life.”
Verse 9 – it’s not about heritage
Verse 10, 11– fruitless trees are cut down and burned
Verse 12 – winnowing fork – God is in the business of clearing the chaff out of our life. Not unlike the song Refiner’s Fire
John wasn’t prepared to baptize those people who come to God unwilling to let go of their baggage, unwilling to let God control their lives, unwilling to follow Him. John was making a distinction of going through the motions, versus a change in your heart. Why were they coming in the first place? It was the thing to do. It seemed everyone was going to John and they didn’t want to miss out on the free promotion and the leverage they thought it would be to help them get ahead. A prophet hadn’t been seen in Israel for a few hundred years – John was a big deal! Consider the guys who cheat in University. They buy their essays online. They right notes on their hands for the exams and text one another answers. They try to get credit for nothing. They don’t learn the material; nor how to research, nor how to write and assemble their ideas. They graduate with an empty degree, learning nothing but how to bribe and lie – and it catches up to them in life.
In this context, the conversation is repent and be baptized. Give the deed of your life to Jesus, and let everyone see.
And here is the calling. It comes back to choice, a decision we all have to make. Repentance is a response to god’s initiative, to His grace; and it is a choice. It is not just a nodding of the head, it is a commitment to turn around 180 degrees and head in the opposite direction, away from sin. And you have a choice: to accept the claims of Jesus on your life, or to push Him away; to allow Him to change your life, or to remain in the driver’s seat yourself. Many of you have made good choices; but there may be someone here who has been ignoring that little light on the dash. You have maybe covered up with a tape of busyness, or the tape of pride. If you dare peek, though, you will find it is red and flashing.

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