Repentance has everything to do with a willingness to change. Change is difficult for anybody, yet change is what Jesus came into the world for.
We need to embrace God’s change from darkness to light.
We will look at John the Baptist’s announcement of change in John 1:6-28 , the Pharisees resistance to it and who we should look to for the best change of all.
What is witnessing? Some people seem to think that it means we make statements like we are saved and ask others if they have been born again. John 1:6-7 says that John the Baptist was a witness, yet he did not use any such language. He was sent (apostled) from God as a witness. John’s witness consisted of statements that he was not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet. He said his job was to be a voice crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord. When we ask what witnessing is, the first place we should look is the Bible, not a tract. Many of our ways of doing things have been invented by faulty human beings. We should constantly reevaluate the way we do things and realign them with the inspired Word of God.
Receiving Jesus as Word
John (1:11-12) wrote that some receive the Word of God, Jesus. How do we receive a word? Is it not first by listening? Faith comes from hearing the word (Romans 10:14-17). Even when reading the Bible for personal reasons, an ancient practice was to read aloud, because then it was also heard. Public reading of the Bible in the congregation, making it clear and giving the meaning is also an ancient practice (Nehemiah 8:7-9). When preachers avoid the Bible, especially the words of Jesus, the sheep are not listening to “the Word.” Why do we say we believe in Jesus if we don’t listen to him? Why do we go to a church where Jesus may be quoted in the Gospel text for the day every Sunday, then ignore him in our politics, business practices and marriages?
Change of Light
John came to point people to the Light (John 1:7-9). He was not the Light but a witness of the Light. Imagine people living in almost total darkness, who have never seen light believing that they live in the light. Those who live in the true light can see the difference, but those who have never seen it are fooled by their lack of experience into believing they have the best of everything. So it is with this world. Let us not be fooled by the politics, the advertising, the fashions and the deceit of this world into trading in the Light of Christ for the darkness of empty ideas. Light has come into the world and it is that Light that we celebrate at Christmas. Like John, the church is not that Light. Jesus is that Light.
The Best Change of All
All over the world people are petitioning for changes to laws:- Equip police with body cameras. Pakistani mother sentenced to death for blasphemy. Tell Unilever to stop bullying sustainable food companies. Stop lawsuit to bulldoze my family home. Stop the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. Allow tax-free savings for disabled. Free woman in Iranian prison for attending a volleyball game. Stop police brutality to peaceful protesters in Hong Kong. Make the NFL to pay cheerleaders a living wage. Stop animal abuse. A purpose of the Old Testament was to show that only one change in the law will be effective, a change brought about by the light. Jesus is that light (John 1:7-9).
John the Announcer of Change
Change is scary for people. We tend to demonize those who change things. Even in the church when the bishop announces the need for change some suspect him of a hidden agenda. Changes made by mere human beings can be scary because we tend not to trust them. Even if it is God making the changes, we still tend to be wary. In John 1:15-18 we read of John announcing an upcoming change in the way things were done. However, he announced that the agent of change would be none other than the Light. When asked if he was the Messiah, or Elijah or that prophet, he stated clearly that he was not. He said simply that his purpose was to be a voice admonishing people to make the way straight for the one who would institute change.
Change or Die
What happens if we refuse to change? Remember the vacuum tube? The electronics revolution of the 20th century possibly began with the vacuum tube. The first general-purpose computer, the "Eniac" was built in 1946 with 17,000 vacuum tubes. It took 1800 square feet of floor space and consumed 150 kW of power. Although there is still a niche market for vacuum tubes, the industry has largely died. You can still buy them from a small company in Memphis, but they no longer dominate the market and companies that refused to change died. How dangerous is refusing to change? In John 1:6-28 John prepared the way for massive changes in God’s covenant relationship with humanity. Throughout church history change has always been difficult. The Gospel does not change, but the culture does and churches must adapt or die.
A Wrong Change
God sent John to testify about the Light that was about to come into the world (John 1:26-27). The Jewish leaders sent delegates to ask him some questions. When a religious leader speaks it is important to ask ourselves by whom the person was sent. Is it merely a human ministry or divine? That is not always an easy question to answer, but there are clues in the message given as to the sending authority. John did not claim his own authority, but pointed others to the true authority. It is only human to want to wield authority and be recognized for being somebody. Bishops, pastors and preachers do not have authority to change the Gospel into something other than that taught by Jesus. Humble servants of Jesus Christ know that their job is to point to him.
The #1 Job of a Minister of Jesus Christ
What is the number one job of a minister of Jesus Christ? Is it to point people towards a big television ministry, a large church, to seek a popular following, gain political clout in a large denomination, be given an important title, chase educational pedigree or something else? A person can have all of those wonderful things as good as they may be, yet still not be doing the most important job of a minister of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist did not have the advantage of any of those great and lofty things, yet he did the right job and even though his ministry was a lonely wilderness outpost, Jesus called him the greatest of all. He fulfilled the most important job of any preacher. He humbly pointed people away from himself and towards Jesus Christ (John 1:19-28).
Change and Conflict
Two opposing points of view are a dialectic. The two can coexist peacefully or not. We may not be comfortable in making peace with those who hold a different point of view. We can live in peace and seek common ground. Perhaps one view is wrong, both are wrong, or both have certain elements of truth and some kind of synthesis is possible. The new covenant replacing the old brought all of the above. John announced messianic changes (John 1:19-28). Conflict came immediately from those in opposition or antithesis to Jesus. Eventually a synthesis of the old and new was possible. Circumcised Jew and uncircumcised Greek worshiped together. The law was not discarded but fulfilled in the new law of love for God and neighbor. Those entrenched in the old system found change difficult, while others readily moved forward.
The whole world wants change, not just any change, but a change for the good. That is only possible for those who follow the only change agent that can lead us in the right direction, Jesus.