The crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?”
—Luke 3:10

When John the Baptist began his ministry, his message was not only about repentance; his message also contained exhortation. That is, he told people what to do.

The multitude asked John, “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:10). They wanted to know what to do to prepare for the judgment of God. Now, if somebody asked you what to do to escape God’s judgment, hopefully you would say what the apostle Paul did: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). But when crowds asked John this, Jesus hadn’t died yet. So John said to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11) Then some of the tax gatherers said to John, “Teacher, what shall we do?” (v. 12). John said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to” (v. 13). Some of the soldiers said, “What about us, what shall we do?” He said, “Do not take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages” (v. 14). John wasn’t saying that doing these good things would get them into heaven. He was saying their unwillingness to do these things demonstrated they needed a transformed heart to be right with God.

John’s words remind me of Jesus’s message to the rich young ruler, who asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Their conversation sounded something like this. Jesus said, “You want to inherit eternal life? All you need to do is keep all the commandments perfectly.” The rich young ruler said, “I have done that.” Jesus said, “Really? You have kept every one of them?” “Yes.” Jesus said, “Wow, I am so impressed. Just sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Since you are righteous, that’s not a problem, is it?” The rich young ruler turned around without saying a word and walked away from Jesus. Now, Jesus wasn’t saying that the man could buy his way into the kingdom. He was saying that the man’s unwillingness to do what Jesus asked him showed how far his heart was away from God. That’s what John was saying: the fact that you don’t want to do these things shows that you need a transformed heart.

We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. The bad things in our lives do not make us bad; they only reveal that we are diseased on the inside. What we need to do to produce new fruit is to have new life. And that’s what God offers us–not just a ticket to heaven but a complete heart transformation.

John confronted people about their sin and the coming judgment. After he showed them the kind of righteousness that God requires, they were ready to accept the salvation that Christ offers.

Some accepted John’s message, and some were offended by it. But John continued preaching the truth. And for his boldness he ended up giving up his life because he spoke the truth.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Prophet Who Lost His Head over Jesus” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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