In the beginning of Luke 3 we see the commencement of John the Baptists ministry. John came to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus and to get the people ready for Jesus by turning them back to God. His primary ministry was to speak about the need for repentance and he came preaching a baptism in water for repentance as a sign that they had begun a new life with God.
Repentance is an interesting ministry in the Bible. The word that repentance is derived from in Greek (metanoia) means “to think differently.” Repentance then is a call to change the way you behave by changing the way you think. The ministry of repentance taught by John was to encourage the people to turn away from the evil ways of this world and to turn towards God. They were to seek the ways of God by firstly changing the way they thought so as to think about what was good and right and true.
Repentance is a matter of the spirit of a person, not the flesh. As can be seen from the word itself, it is about your thinking rather than your actions. The essence of this is that if you can change the way you think you will change the way you behave. Every action that a person takes is preceded by a thought. So if you can come to the place where your thinking is in accordance with the will of God, your behaviours and actions will also accord with God’s will.
Is it possible for man to achieve this state of his own strength? No it isn’t. Man still has the weaknesses of the passions of the flesh that will lead him to do wrong, but repentance is the start of the process of change.
John the Baptist’s ministry was to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Verse 4) It was not to complete the work but to make a beginning. Repentance is a starting point from which the Lord can then build upon. A person must first come to repentance though before the Lord can continue the work. Repentance is about changing the way a person thinks, as I have said. But this change is to bring a person to the place where they recognise their sins and their failings so that they will come to the Lord in humility seeking a Saviour. Repentance then is also about being humble under the mighty hand of God.
A proud and arrogant person does not consider their faults. They believe there is nothing wrong with them. But a person who repents understands that they are in need of help, and when they come to the Lord asking for His help, they receive what they ask for. In repentance people are having the rough edges made smooth, as the prophet shows in verse 5 in this section.
When this occurs the Lord then offers more help to assist man to go to the next stage. He offers his Holy Spirit to those who ask for it so that the Spirit can teach, comfort, guide, counsel and fight on the individuals behalf as they walk with the Lord. An unrepentant person does not receive this help because of pride. But a repentant person stands humble and ready for the transformational work of the Holy Spirit who will bring the repentant person into the image of Christ.
And this is not our doing but is the work of God. We cannot perfect ourselves, but it is the work of God to do this work in us. Is it possible to be perfect in this life? Yes it is for the Bible tells us so. Jesus told the rich young man it was possible saying, “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) This man had issues with money, but the key to perfection shown here were to follow Christ. Then perfection will be possible.
When or if a person reaches that place in this lifetime is not for me or anyone else to say. It is God who judges us in that and every other regard. However, the Lord showed clearly that it is possible to achieve, but only through faith and the working of the New Covenant via the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus.
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