My mother taught me RELIGION - "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."
My mother taught me LOGIC: "Because I said so, that's why."
My mother taught me FORESIGHT - "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."
My mother taught me IRONY - "Keep laughing and I'll *give* you something to cry about."
My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS - "Shut your mouth and eat your supper!"
My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM - "Will you *look* at the dirt on the back of your neck!"
My mother taught me about STAMINA - "You'll sit there 'til all that spinach is finished."
My mother taught me about WEATHER - "It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."
My mother taught me how to solve PHYSICS PROBLEMS - "If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you; would you listen then?"
My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY - "If I've told you once, I've told you a million times - Don't Exaggerate!!!"
My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE - "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."
My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION - "Stop acting like your father!"
My mother taught me about ENVY - "There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do!"
My mother taught me WISDOM. "When you get to be my age, you'll understand."
my mother taught me about JUSTICE. "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!"
The impact of a mother’s task could be summarized: Shape Up… the desire to help hone and shape and influence her children to be better people…Shape Up! This is God’s desire for each of us as well. To become more and more like him… You first heard it from your mother!
I included Luke 3:7 as a preview of next week. John preaches some harsh words, vipers are snakes…Vernon McGee: “I wonder how long a preacher would last in any Church if he began his Sunday Sermon by saying, “O generation of Vipers”? I do not think he would be in the pulpit the following Sunday. The people would soon get rid of him. I do not recommend using John’s unusual introduction for a sermon, but I do think it would be appropriate in many churches.”
I hope I can convey next week is that sometimes trimming and snipping at the tree just isn’t enough, but instead we need to cut the tree down and start completely over. This is the message of John. This is the message we all need to hear because we fall in love with the way we are and can’t imagine anything different, no matter how unhealthy and out of shape we’ve become. Yet our choices and patterns cause us to stay distant from God.
Shape Up! Says John the Baptist. John is sent by God at a specific time and place to prepare for the Jesus to burst onto the world stage. He is now an adult, and the time is right as determined by God. But before Jesus enters his public ministry, God sends John with more prophetic message: get ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – are you ready?
It’s like the opening song for Monday Night football…are you ready for some football, and the song sets the mood, encourages you to sit back with food and drink and soak in the experience. What John has to say is far more profound: are you ready? Are you ready for the coming of the Lord, don’t put off any longer the preparations. Our tendency is to procrastinate. One person said, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it” (Richard Evans). There is a great need to get your life in shape, to shape up, the Bible calls it to repent… like spiritual weight lifting. Luke 3:1-2 starts out with a lot of historical detail. It’s a fascinating study. I am focusing more on the application.. The message of John is what’s most important for us today: READ Luke 3:3. Shape Up, John is preaching. Get ready. Procrastinate no more…
Sin, destructive patterns, has a gradual, cumulative effect in our lives. Here’s a true story. In Saint Louis in 1984, an unemployed cleaning woman noticed a few bees buzzing around the attic of her home. Since there were only a few, she made no effort to deal with them. Over the summer the bees continued to fly in and out the attic vent while the woman remained unconcerned, unaware of the growing city of bees. The whole attic became a hive, and the ceiling of the second-floor bedroom finally caved in under the weight of hundreds of pounds of honey and thousands of angry bees. While the woman escaped serious injury, she was unable to repair the damage of her accumulated neglect.
The sin, the destructive patterns build up, weigh us down. John’s message is for those who procrastinate, or those who feel stuck in a rut. Herschel Wiley used to talk about the early days of cars back in Missouri, the roads leading into town would become two ruts, once you got your car in the ruts, almost impossible to get out. Maybe you feel that way in your life… stuck in a rut. In Israel, in the time of John the Baptist, the people had been waiting, waiting, waiting, a foreign nation, Rome, was in charge. Prior to John, it had been 400 years since the last prophet had spoken. Suddenly John burst on the scene. Sometimes the only way to get out of a rut is a jolt. John provides that jolt. Two key words in Luke 3:3 are “repentance” and “forgiveness.” Forgiveness means your sin is no longer counted against you. Repentance means you change your ways. Forgiveness and repentance are bookends that make for a complete change. In a burst of energy, John’s words ring with authenticity. The people heard: the time is now. Too often we only focus on forgiveness. But a confrontation with Christ means your life is changed!
A story is told by a missionary: When I was in South Africa, a fine, handsome Dutchman came into my service, and God laid His hand on him and convicted him of sin. The next morning he went to the beautiful home of another Dutchman and said to him, "Do you recognize that old watch?"
"Why, yes," answered the other. "Those are my initials; that is my watch. I lost it eight years ago. How did you get it, and how long have you had it?"
"I stole it," was the reply.
"What made you bring it back now?"
"I was converted last night," was the answer, "and I have brought it back first thing this morning. If you had been up, I would have brought it last night." ~ Gipsy Smith, The Bible Friend.
That’s repentance. That’s shaping up by setting right. Sometimes sin festers in your life, eating away at you, you know you are forgiven, but you need to set your life right, you need to quit the bad behavior, get rid of the destructive thoughts, confess your sins and change you ways. A jolt. Years ago when I was a kid the Crouse family ran the concession stand for many summers at the ball park ~ the snack shack. One night the snack shack was broken into, and candy bars were stolen and probably not much else… It was probably 25 years later, the person who did it, who was a teenager at the time, came and confessed to my father what he had done, and he wanted to make it right. I thought my father gave a wise answer… he didn’t say, “of that was a long time ago, forget it, thanks for letting me know.” My father did not say, “give me the money with interest I could use it.” My father said, put an extra measure of money in the missions offering. Sometime we need something tangible, something of substance. ~ that’s getting into next week again…
Are you ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into your life? Start getting in shape. Procrastinate no more.
The next section of John’s message adds a delightful way to get ready for the Lord. It’s not just the need to deal with the sin through forgiveness and repentance, but make the preparation complete by creating something beautiful of your life: READ Luke 3:4-6.
The image in these verses is that of getting ready for a King, a dignitary. What would the City of Sumas do if we were to host the governor of the State? Make straight paths for her. Fill in the potholes in the street. Fix the sidewalks. Trim the bushes that are sticking out too far. Fill in the Valleys; level out the mountains, role out the red carpet for the coming King.
Do you want the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life? Prepare by putting everything in order and make something beautiful of your life. That’s all these verses are saying. It’s not just a matter of subtracting sin through repentance, but then it’s what you become. Too often the reputation of Christianity is that it’s dull – get rid of the sin and that is the only fun you have. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luke 3:4-6 speak of what we become. This is the positive way of speaking of forgiveness and repentance, because it is not only the sin you take away, but the order that you add, the beauty… to receive the Lord it’s not a matter of finding stability for yourself, but rather, becoming something beautiful for God. “The crooked shall become straight,” the bible says, “the rough ways smooth.” That’s your life. Like a rough piece of wood that is planed, sanded, worked, polished, lacquered, to become a beautiful work of art. Here’s a box, my favorite box… 40 years ago I used to mow the lawn for this church property. One day, right outside the front door, I found this box in the bushes. It was quite weathered and worn. I lovingly sanded and stained and added a felt bottom. The rough ways of your life shall become smooth.
And the most beautiful verse of them all: Luke 3:6.
You know what this verse is talking about? John’s message is about getting ready for the coming of the Lord, are you ready to receive Christ, he’s coming. Are you stuck in a rut, feeling like nothing ever changes? Are you a procrastinator. It’s time to make the hard changes/shape up! Forgiveness means that your sins are no longer counted against you, whatever it is that you have done, your sins are taken away. Repentance means that you make the hard changes so that the patterns of your life are different, your focus is different. For those at SOH on Thursday, what a wonderful testimony of a man that two years ago got out of jail after serving 27 years for murder, and how God kept working away at him, revealing himself, and the changes in his life… the positive way of saying forgiveness and repentance is to make something beautiful of your life, fill in the valleys, level the mountains, roll out the red carpet for the coming of the Lord, “the crooked shall become straight, the rough edges of your life shall become smooth….”
“And all mankind will see God’s salvation.” They will see the Lord’s Salvation in you… when your life becomes a life of beauty for God, people will be able to see the difference, they will be able to tell that not everything is the same. They will see the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, the kindness, the goodness, the faithfulness, the self-control. When the rough ways of your life are smooth, people will know. They will know you are no longer the same person you once were. The king of your life is coming. Shape up your life. Get ready!