Along Route 180 outside of Muncy, construction has begun for a new hospital which will be affiliated with Geisinger Medical Center. Though it will be a relatively small facility, workers this past summer have been very busy with excavating, moving around mounds and mounds of dirt and rock in order to create a level building surface. After all, the former field had to be prepared for the beginning of the actual construction of the hospital.
In a similar way, we read today about the ministry of John the Baptist. Both Luke 3 and Mark 1 talk about this man’s relatively short ministry of “preparing the way of the Lord.” John was obviously not the Messiah but his ministry was to prepare people for when Jesus would come on the scene. If you stop and think about that for a second, what a special ministry John was given- to prepare people’s hearts for the coming Messiah!
And what was the essence of John the Baptist’s ministry? It was a preaching of repentance. Before Jesus would come onto the scene preaching that he was indeed the Messiah and that by believing in Him one could have everlasting life, John’s primary message was one of repentance. In fact, we read in Luke 3 that he was calling people to “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” In other words, he was calling people to show proof that they had truly repented by the evident changes in their lives.
And so it is today, before the message of believing in Christ is to be preached, the heart of the sinner must be prepared to receive this “good news” by an emphasis on repentance. No one should be encouraged to trust Christ unless they truly understand the sinfulness of their heart and are broken of their sinful will. This work of repentance is something that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish as no one on their own would have a radical desire for change in their life. But as the Spirit of God works on a man’s heart and brings genuine conviction resulting in a sincere brokenness over sin and a desire for change, now the good news of the gospel can be understood and appreciated.
And so it is for us as believers, any fundamental changes in our own lives will begin with repentance. It’s not just about turning over a new leaf, trying harder, memorizing Scripture, etc. No, there must first be a brokenness over the sin in our own lives before there can be lasting change. Repentance was essential to how our Christian life started but it certainly didn’t end there. A walk with the Lord involves continual repentance of sin and self as we strife to be more Christ-like.