Connections 12.12.2021: How to Live

Luke 3:7-18

Who knows what people expect to hear when they go out to listen to John the Baptist preach. We do know what they hear. They hear a preacher who sees it as his calling to tell them how to live.

John first tells them that they need to live independently (vv. 7-9). That is, they need to live independently of their heritage. He tells them that they can’t depend on their being descendants of Abraham to establish their standing before God. Now John’s audience had a noble heritage. How could they hear the stories of the great things that God had done through their ancestors and not have their hearts swell with awe, gratitude, and even pride? But John tells his listeners that having a noble heritage isn’t enough. He tells them that every boat has to float on its own bottom. He tells them that God would evaluate them not by the fruit that their ancestors produced in their long-ago lives but rather by the fruit they do or don’t produce in their present lives. They have to live their own lives. They have to make their own decisions and choices. They have to take responsibility for their own lives.

So do we.

John also tells his listeners that they need to live graciously (vv. 10-14). He had said that they needed to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (v. 8a). The people now ask, “What then should we do?” (v. 10). And John tells them. He tells the crowd that they need to share clothing and food with people in need. In other words, they need to live generously. He tells the tax collectors and soldiers that they need to avoid cheating and extorting people. In other words, they need to live ethically. We need to remember, though, that the actions John tells people to undertake are “fruits worthy of repentance.” They are actions that come out of a changed heart and a changed life. John tells the people that they need to live in light of the change God has brought about in them. They need to live graciously.

So do we.

John finally tells his listeners that they need to live expectantly (vv. 15-18). They already have expectations—they expect to find out that John is the Messiah. They at least hope to find out that he is. But John makes it clear that their hopes and expectations are misdirected. They are to expect someone else to come, someone who will fulfill the mission that John’s preaching points toward and anticipates. That someone is Jesus. And Jesus comes very soon, right on the heels of John’s announcement. Jesus comes to make the kingdom of God present in the world. Jesus comes to live, to die, and to rise again. Some will see him for who he is. Many will not. John tells the people that they need to live in light of the fact that the Messiah is coming. He tells them that they need to live expectantly.

So do we.

We need to live expecting Jesus to return soon—understanding that God’s idea of “soon” may differ from ours. We also need to live expecting that Jesus will come to us right here and right now. We need to always be expecting Jesus to come to us in surprising ways, surprising situations, and surprising people. We need to keep our eyes, our mind, and our heart open to him so we don’t miss him.

Discussion

  • How might our lives demonstrate that we are living with the expectation that Jesus will come again and that he is always coming to us here and now?
  • What are some ways that we might rely too much on our religious heritage or pedigree?
  • How can we determine what genuine repentance should look like in our lives?
  • Why is it important that we live expectant lives? How might doing so help us be more effective disciples?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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