Tag Archives: Luke 3

Brood of Vipers


John the Baptist Announcing the Messiah, Cappella Palatina di Palermo, Palermo, Italy (mid 12th century)

Luke 3:7-18
For Sunday, December 13, 2015
3rd Sunday of Advent

Crowds were willing to journey into the desert to hear  John the Baptist preach. Yet he must have missed the Seeker Sensitive Memo. He opens with, “You brood of vipers.” Now why would people traipse out into the dusty desert to hear that? It’s because we all thirst for the truth and want to be forgiven and transformed.

John’s point is that there is more to being a Christian than merely “avoiding the wrath to come” (v. 7).  We are called to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (v. 8).  If I look at my life as a tree where is the fruit?  Is there actually any difference in the way I set priorities, spend money, treat my wife, love my family, and pursue my daily work?  Is there?

John says, “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees” (v. 9).  See the axe at bottom left within the picture above?  We can pose as Christians all we want but if all we are is dead wood we will be cut down will all the rest of it!  And why not?!

The crowd says, “Ooh, that’s not good for us!  What should we do?” (v. 10).  John as a good pastor provides some great application.  Have an extra coat?  Share it with someone.  Are you a tax collector?  Then don’t over-collect to line your own pockets.  Soldier?  Then don’t use your power and authority to your own advantage.  May I pause at this point to ask the lawyers among us to pay particular attention to that last one?  Pastors, you too!  (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

John’s audience might have come out into the desert merely to avoid pain.  (I find I often do the same.  It’s ugly. )  Yet now John’s hearers are truly captivated by his message.  Note that it isn’t contemporary music, stage lighting, or even dry ice that captivates them.  It is his message.  They even start to ask themselves, “Wow, could this be Messiah himself?”

John quickly disabuses them.  “One who is more powerful than I is coming, and the throngs of his sandals I am not worthy to untie“.  Having just been utterly transfixed by the man in front of them can you imagine what it must have been like to anticipate the arrival of one infinitely greater?  Absolutely electric!

This was good news indeed (v. 18).  These people knew their world was broken.  They knew all too well the tremendous injustice, callousness, and selfishness that marked their culture.  And now here before them was a man announcing that the transformation they so deeply longed for was coming soon.

So what’s the bottom line?  For me it’s “Don’t settle for the status quo.  Don’t let your life be defined by mere pain avoidance.  Don’t play at being a Christian.  Lean into transforming faith in every moment and in every relationship.”  I think of my role as father of my family, as a member of my church, and as a business person.  Exciting stuff.

Your Turn
How about you?  Are you also tempted to settle for pain avoidance in place of authentic transformation?   What’s the next action this passage is calling for from you (whether giving away a coat or something else)?

God is well pleased with whom?

"Baptism of Christ", Fra Angelico, 1450, San Marco Church, Florence, Italy.

“Baptism of Christ”, Fra Angelico, 1450, San Marco Church, Florence, Italy.

Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-22
For Sunday, January 13, 2013
Baptism of the Lord (Epiphany Year C)

For those of us who believe in Christ Isaiah 43:1-7 ought to be a profound encouragement.  God says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isa. 43:1).  I’m sure I’m the only one in this predicament but there are days when I ask myself, “What am I doing with my life?!”  God responds, “I have called you by name, you are mine” (v. 1).   There are other days when I ask, “Why is this happening to me?”  God responds, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (v. 2).  There are yet other days when I wonder whether I am having any impact on anyone around me.  God responds, “I will gather my offspring from the east and from the west“.

Some reading this might object: “Well, those are nice words, but do they really mean anything?”  History tells us that they do.  God did work to deliver Israel from Egypt.  He did work to give them a land of their own.  He did work to bring them out of Babylonian exile.  And most significantly, he did work by sending them, and us, a Messiah and Savior in Jesus.  In another of this week’s passages, Luke 3:15-22, the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the bodily form of a dove, and God said audibly, “You are my Son … with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).  This actually happened.  For those of us who believe, just as God was well pleased with his Son, so is he well pleased with all whom His Son calls friends.

How would I live differently today if I knew that God was well pleased with me?  He is.  God is well pleased … with us.

the chaff heap of history

Kandinsky, "Yellow, Red, Blue", 1925

Kandinsky, “Yellow, Red, Blue”, 1925

For Sunday, December 16, 2012
Zephaniah 3, Isaiah 12, Philippians 4, Luke 3
Third Sunday of Advent

At one of my sons’ request, we started meeting two weeks ago to discuss the key features of the Christian faith.  We agreed to use the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the basis for our conversations.  Catechisms aren’t popular these days in evangelical circles, maybe because they sound so Catholic.  Yet replacing “catechism” with “conversation”, what better way to ground ourselves in what we really believe than to ask questions and formulate answers?   A friend recently pointed out that 85% of all evangelical kids are presently abandoning their faith after high school.  Is this because the counter case is so strong, or because their grounding is so shallow?

The first question I raised for my son was, “What is the chief end of man?”  I asked him, “How do you think most people today would answer this?”  Without hesitation he answered, “To get more stuff.”

This week’s passages offer a sharp contrast to this “get more stuff” view of life.  There is a God who loves us deeply; at present we are under punishment as a result of our alienation from him; yet God himself is at work to remove our punishment and reconcile us back to him.  Zephaniah puts it this way: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . The Lord has taken away your punishment.  The Lord … is with you; never again will you fear any harm.”   Isaiah concurs: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”  Luke then puts a point on the decision before us either to accept or reject the offer of redemption God offers to each of us through Jesus Christ: “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

If the Bible speaks truth, those of us choosing to live to “get more stuff” are going to end up on the chaff heap of history.  Deep down, if we actually stop to think about it, we already know this.  We also know there is something far better intended for us.  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.  It is the Advent of Jesus that has secured this end for each of us.

This is why the Apostle Paul could say to the Philippian Christians with such confidence and conviction: “Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything …  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.