I picked up a list of reading for Lent at Church on Sunday. I have never gone to a Church that has observed Lent, so this is a new experience for me. I went to my first Ash Wednesday service last night. It definitely was something different, but it was a great experience. I hope during this season of Lent to spend time in prayer and meditation thinking about the depth of my own brokeness. By thinking about my own brokeness, I will have a great appreciation of the free gift of God's grace through Jesus Christ. I am also following the reading plan that I picked up at Church. I hope to be faithful in just sharing some of the things that come to mind as I read my way through this season of reflection. I pray that God will use my thoughts to touch others. If that is the case, then I would humbly ask you to share my post with others. I would also invite you to look through my archive, and see if some of the other things I have written may bless you also.
John the Baptist appears on the scene. He is the one foretold that has come to prepare the hearts of the people for the message of Jesus. He calls the people to repentance. Repentance is an old word, and I am not sure that we truly appreciate the strong meaning of the word. I know that I didn't for a large part of my life. I grew up in Church. I went to release time classes during school. I probably could have shared the Roman's road with you. I knew that the Bible said I was a sinner. Even that word has lost a lot of its meaning in our world today. I knew that I was not what God wanted me to be. I am not sure that I ever experienced true repentance. It wasn't until I was able to be honest with myself, and come to grips with the truth depth of my depravity, that I was able to truly come to a point of true repentance. It is easy to look at the evil in the world, and think that you are not so bad. However, sin is not qualitative. Jesus taught that if you have broken one of the commandments, then you have broken the whole of the Law. I tried in my own strength to be a good person in all I did. Matt Chandler, from The Village Church says it best when he says that God doesn't want a better you. A better me does not even come close to reconciling me to my Creator. I was like the Pharisees. Jesus said they were like whitewashed tombs. Nice and clean on the outside, but inside are dead men's bones. I knew that was the situation I was in. I spent a large part of my life scared that someone expose the real me. When I came to true repentance, then I don't have anything to hide anymore. I agreed with God that I am just as wicked as he said, and I don't need to put on a show and pretend I have holiness that I just don't. It allows me to live out loud, and be myself. There is a great amount of freedom in accepting how God sees me.
The second part of John's message was a call to Baptism. Baptism is a powerful symbol that we use in the Church today. To me, Baptism is a public confession of our agreement with the assessment of our Creator. It is also a recognition of our repentance. Showing publicly our brokeness for our sin, and our new place reliance on the mercy of God to turn from our wickedness. The amazing part of our conversion is that we are not expected to be better on our own. We are gifted with the Holy Spirit, so that the life we now life is in Christ. We overcome by the power of God, and given his strength in the process of being made more like Christ. We have died to that old life that we lived in the Spirit, and we are raised to a new life in Christ.
The last part of John's message is a message of expectation. He tells the people to wait. Wait because something better is coming. Someone much better than he. John is baptizing with water, but this other will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus comes to Jordan River to be baptized by John. He follows the will of the Father, by being baptized with water. This is a beautiful mystery. Here at the Jordan we have the three person of the trinity all present together. Jesus is God in the flesh. The Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove, and the Father testifies about the identity of Jesus. All together in one place, Jesus is confirmed as the Son of God there at the Jordan.
Following his baptism, Jesus retreats to the wilderness. He spends the next forty days preparing himself for the ministry that he was born for. We are told that Jesus follows the leading of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Once again, Jesus follows in obedience. He is tempted in the wilderness, but he is able to resist the power of the devil. He emerges from his time of preparation and begins his ministry.
Jesus comes out of the wilderness with the good news that the people must have been hoping for from the moment John appears on the scene. He announces that the Kingdom has come! Remember that guy that John was talking about? I am that guy. That is the core of Jesus initial message to the people. Amazing. Jesus came with the simplest message. He simply called to the people to repent and believe. That is the same message that we are called to share with the world. Jesus has come. He has instituted a new manner of things. He has brought his Kingdom to the world. We simply need to repent of our wickedness. Agree with the assessment that God has made of our hearts, and believe in the Grace and Mercy of a loving God. A loving God that never thought it was too much to ask to send his Son to give his life as the last and final sacrifice for the benefit of mankind. Amen.