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Luke 3:1-3 ESV

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke’s gospel was an orderly account. Here he places the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry at a very specific time, naming off a plethora of historical figures. The word of God came to John in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar.

As if this was not specific enough, he added that Pontius Pilate was governor in Judea, Herod ruled Galilee, Phillip ruled Iturea and Trachonitus, Lysanias ruled Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas were joint High Priests. He was practically daring anyone to test the historical accuracy of his account. No one living at the time questioned it, and everything historians and archaeologists have discovered to date compliments, rather than contradicts, the Gospels.

Luke tells us that at this time God gave John the Baptist a radical message of repentance.

Luke 3:4-6 ESV

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

John’s life mission was to prepare the way of the Lord. This was why he preached a message of repentance. This prepared the region (and, through the record of Scripture, the world) for Jesus and His message. Jesus’s life mission was to save humanity from the curse of sin and death.

Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men live!

~Leonard Ravenhill

What we must understand is that without Jesus we are spiritually dead. We are not merely “sin-sick.” We are not merely “evil.” We are totally depraved and unable to do anything good apart from God’s grace and the work of His Spirit.

We must start with this revelation. Otherwise, we can never grasp how much we really need Jesus. Once we come to the realization that we are totally depraved, we can repent. Repentance is total surrender of ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

In our day and age, this is not a popular message. You will almost never hear repentance preached by anyone on television. Television ministry is expensive. These ministers are financially dependent on large donations from their ministry partners and viewers. Teachings on positive thinking, prosperity, and success, and God’s love are a lot more popular than the message of repentance and Christ crucified.

This has trickled down to non-televised churches, who have become seeker-sensitive to get more bodies in the pews, and therefore more money for bigger and better church programs. Biblical literacy falls by the wayside. Orthodox doctrine suffers and people stop believing in biblical inerrancy and foundational doctrines like sin, salvation, and hell. Morality gives way to the spirit of the age; divorce is rampant in the church, and open homosexuals are ordained ministers.

Televangelists and seeker-sensitive pastors may have told you that you are unconditionally special, or that a loving God would never send anyone to hell. I do not stand to gain financially from this blog, and I love you, so I will tell you the truth.

Apart from Jesus Christ you are totally depraved, evil and corrupt through and through. You must repent and turn 180 degrees away from your sinful nature. You are completely unable to do this of yourselves. His prevenient grace and Holy Spirit will enable you. You must fully surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you repent and believe the gospel you will be saved. If you do not repent and believe you will spend eternity being tormented in hell.

James 4:7-10 ESV

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

John preached a baptism of repentance. You must repent and confess Jesus is Lord to be saved.