John the Baptist, some would say an
unlikely messenger of God, but is he? If we were to see
someone like John, all scraggly looking with old worn clothes
preaching the word of God we probably wouldn't listen to him
Well, in some ways it's hard to
believe the people of his day would, after all John was very
different from the other religious leaders of the time. Not
only did he look and dress differently, his attitude and
message were very clearly different from the other religious
leaders. While many of the other religious leaders were
greedy, selfish and preoccupied with winning the praise of the
people, John was only concerned with the praise of God.
John lived differently to show folks
that his message was new and fresh, and was very different
from what the people were currently hearing from the religious
John came preaching a powerful,
prophetic, and truthful message of repentance, a message
calling people to change their behavior. He was telling folks
that they needed to turn away from their self-centered ways,
because they led to wrong actions such as lying, cheating,
stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing others, and
John was telling people they needed to
move away from all of this sin, and turn to God by following
God's way of living, as defined in the scriptures. John urged
folks to admit their sin before God, and then to allow God to
receive them and help them live the proper way.
John's message was true then and is
still true today. We all fall short of the glory of God. We
all are sinners, and we all are in need of God's forgiveness
As I reflect on what John was telling
the folks in Judea it's very clear to me that John's message
can be summed up simply by saying, "we need to change." We're
going down the wrong path, we need to turn away from the ways
of this world and turn back to God.
But how can we change, it's hard
sometimes to change from the way we've always done something,
or to change in a way that perhaps causes us to be different
from our friends, our family, and society in general. And as
we get older we seem to believe changing gets harder.
Well, change is hard, but change is
always possible, regardless of situation or age. Yes change
takes time, patience, and perseverance, but with the
empowering grace of God leading and encouraging us, change can
Some people hide behind the excuse
that they just can't change saying, "I grew up this way and
I'm not about to change now." But the truth is, it's never too
late to change. And change is important to our very existence.
Did you know that change is essential
to growth. If we stop changing, we stop growing, and if we
stop growing we're in trouble. What do you call a tree, bush
or plant that's stopped growing? Dead! And it's no different
with people, if we stop growing, we start dying. Some of us
know people who stopped growing years ago. Granted we might
not have buried them yet, but they really died several years
ago because they aren't willing to consider change in their
A famous inventor once said, "The
world hates change, yet it's the only thing that's brought
progress." The church, in general, doesn't like change either.
But if the church doesn't change, the congregation dies and
the doors will eventually close.
So the question we each have to ask
ourselves is, "what changes do I need to make in my life to
grow and to move closer to God, and how open am I to making
When we refuse to change we're
refusing to follow God's leading in our life, and as a result
our lives can become pretty miserable, not because God makes
our lives miserable, but because we've decided to take a path
not of God, sowe get caught up in things, or do things that
creates the misery we experience. And sadly, many of us won't
change until the pain of remaining the same becomes greater
than the pain of changing.
Before technology changed the way we
navigate on the water, bullhorns and whistles were used to
communicate from ship to ship. Well one day, a large armored
battleship was slowly making its way through uncharted waters
in a fog-covered bay.
Suddenly through the fog the captain
noticed what appeared to be a light off in the distance
heading right towards him. Quickly, he grabbed his megaphone
and shouted, "This is Admiral so and so of the United States
Navy, steer yourself 10 degrees south. We're on a collision
course, and I'm coming through with priority orders."
Through the fog the admiral heard a
faint reply, "This is seaman umpty scratch, you steer 10
degrees to the north."
The admiral got very upset saying to
himself, "I'm an admiral and this seaman is telling me what to
do, who in the world does he think he is?" So turning up his
megaphone the admiral yelled, "This is admiral so and so of
the United States Navy, you steer your vessel 10 degrees
south, I'm coming through!"
Well, through the fog came the reply.
"This is seaman umpty scratch, you steer yourself 10 degrees
to the north." By now the admiral was fuming and yelled, "I
said steer yourself 10 degrees south immediately, I'm a
Through the fog can an unwavering
voice. "This is seaman umpty scratch, steer yourself 10
degrees north, I'm a light house."
Our approach to life is like the
rudder of a ship. And we can either be ruled by the rudder
making the necessary course corrections as we go, or we can be
stubborn and ego-centric eventually allowing ourselves to be
ruled by the rocks. The choice is ours.
If we refuse to change, for whatever
reason, we're in trouble. And if we think we can't change, we
won't have the faith to change, even if change is possible. On
the other hand, if we believe we can change then the Lord can
say, "Now you've got the faith so let's get to work."
The willingness to repent and the
desire to make the necessary changes in our life releases the
Lord to do his work. God is always willing to work in us and
through us, if we will just give him something to work with.
If we say we can't, then we won't have the faith to cooperate
with God's attempts to bring wholeness and healing to our
lives. Our stubbornness and lack of faith ends up interfering
with God's work in us.
So do you believe you can change?
Well, we must believe we can. We must believe that our hearts
can change, that our attitudes can change, that life can be
better. God is able, the question is are we willing to repent,
are we open to changing those things in our life that are not
of God, are we willing to prepare ourselves anew for the
coming of the Lord? This really is the heart of our Gospel
It's a hard message to hear, but quit
frankly, God has no use for people who call themselves
Christian but then do nothing about it. Like many people in
John the Baptists day who were God's people in name only, we
are of no value if we're Christians in name only. But we can
change, it's never too late. We can become the productive,
fruit-bearing witnesses God calls us to be.
In just a few minutes we will all be
invited to share in the Lord's Supper. To United Methodists
the Lord's Supper is more than a remembrance; it's a time when
we commune with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,
and a time when we commune with the real presence of Christ.
Now Christ isn't present through the
physical change in the bread and wine. We believe the change
in the bread and wine is a spiritual change, and we believe by
taking part in the Lord's Supper we become "one with Christ,
one with each other, and one in service to all the world."
During our time of Holy Communion, I
invite you to seek God's forgiveness of you sin, ask God to
help you change where change is needed, and commit yourself to
following Jesus Christ and experience his saving grace.
Listen to the message from the desert.
Prepare yourself, Jesus is coming! Thanks be to God.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade