There was a house on the street where I grew up, which many neighborhood children said was haunted. Now, it was not really haunted, but was really run down. Tall grass and weeds filled the yard. The front porch was falling down, and the entire front of the house needed a good paint job. One day, to the amazement of everyone in the neighborhood, the house began receiving a dramatic transformation. The grass was cut. The house was treated to a fresh coat of paint, and the porch was repaired. Within a few days, the house looked brand new. When the kids in the neighborhood began to ask about the changes to the house, someone replied, “The house is under new ownership. A new family has moved in.”
Under New Ownership
Today’s text depicts John the Baptist inviting all who will listen to repent and be baptized. He, like many prophets before him, is calling on Israel to turn from their sins. For those Jews who might proclaim they were not in need of this cleansing of their lives because they were, after all, the sons and daughters of Abraham, John powerfully preached that being of Abrahamic lineage did little to remove the stain of sin from their lives.
Today, we offer a similar invitation. God is inviting us to turn away from sin through repentance and enter fellowship with Him. Now, some may base their relationship with God on the fact their family had been long-standing members of the church or on their parents’ or grandparents’ relationship with God. However, as John reminds us, that cannot be the basis of relationship with God. Each of us must offer ourselves to God and allow Him to become the new Owner of our lives.
The Effects of this New Ownership
The cleansing of life from sin through baptism offered by John would extend to all areas of their lives. Those coming to be cleansed wondered how this new life might look in practical terms. John replied in three distinct ways: For those to whom much had been given, they should share what they have with the less fortunate. For the tax collectors, this newness of life should bring integrity to their dealings with others. Finally, those who have power expected to refrain from using their power against the defenseless for personal gain. In each case, John is advocating that from repentance flows a new way of life.
There should be signs that your house (life) is under new management and a transformed life is the best evidence of a new relationship with God. It is not that one’s actions justifies you or gives you right standing before God. Rather, it means that true repentance results in transformation and bears fruit in the life of the individual. God has come that His will might be manifested in the human community through the actions of those in fellowship with Him.
Acknowledging the New Owner
The end of the text provides yet another caution to the Christian community. When we allow the Lord to transform our lives and deeds, people see the change in our lives. It can be tempting to take credit for the transformation, and sometimes people will begin to look only at us. After hearing the powerful words of John, the people began to wonder if he was the Messiah. John wisely pointed them back to a greater One who still was to come.
We must do the same. We must keep pointing to the One who is coming again. In fact, this new life is lived under new management in anticipation of the new Owner’s arrival. This is how we are able to sustain our good works in a world where darkness surrounds us on every hand. We know the One who has set us free is coming; until He arrives, we must work.