“John was leading in worship in the wilderness and a group of well-dressed Pharisees and Sadducees came to his service. They were interested in being baptized, hearing the spoken Word, and joining the doxological celebration. They reasoned they were notable men. They thought their ethnicity and ecclesiastical positions would provide for them a warm welcome, but they were wrong.”
If one wished to visit the most exclusive bars and night clubs in Miami Beach or Soho, one could not arrive at the posh club, open the door, and walk right in. The would-be partier would be required to stand in a long line outside the club and wait for the door host to give the nod. The host and his bouncers would be selective and partial. They would look for the required attributes — notoriety, apparel, skin, bling, acquaintances, beauty, brawn, bizarreness, confidence, cash — and one would have to impress them in order to join the celebration. Bottom line, all who desired to dance the night away would not be allowed to enter. Many would be turned away at the door.
That being said, I wonder if John the Baptist were the door host of your church on Sunday, would he let you in? Consider the following account:
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:4-12)
John was leading in worship in the wilderness and a group of well-dressed Pharisees and Sadducees came to his service. They were interested in being baptized, hearing the spoken Word, and joining the doxological celebration. They reasoned they were notable men. They thought their ethnicity and ecclesiastical positions would provide for them a warm welcome, but they were wrong. John the Baptist turned them away at the door, and why did he do so? He denied them entrance because they were religious individuals without the desired attributes.
They were religious charlatans disinterested in repenting and following the good Law of the gracious Savior.
So again the question is posed, “If John the Baptist were the door host of your church on Sunday, would he let you in?” Would he find you arriving early, with great expectation, eager to see friends, passionate to sing and pray, longing to be encouraged by God’s grace, hungering to eat and drink at the Lord’s table, panting to hear more of God’s good Law, and ready to repent and follow the good Law of the gracious Savior? Such are the required attributes of all who would be acceptable celebrants in the house of the Lord. Will you be rightly prepared to join the party this coming Lord’s Day?
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.