In the 1970’s, I drove from California to Alaska. When I entered Canada, I had to drive the 1,400 mile Alcan Highway to reach my destination. It was mostly an unpaved, solitary road that allowed me to see some of the beautiful sights as it took me to Alaska. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. As important as this road is, connecting Alaska to the lower 48 states, there was another road builder long before who built the most important roads.
He was John the Baptist. Luke wrote this about him, “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The prophet Isaiah had written these words hundreds of years earlier about John, "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation’” (Luke 3:3-6).
John preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He knew there was a sin problem, and the only way people would be able to overcome this enormous problem would be to acknowledge their sinfulness and repent, and then God would forgive them.
As John preached, the Spirit convicted the people of their sin. There is a close connection between repentance and forgiveness. John actually was a spiritual road builder. He helped people flatten out their sinful mountain peaks and fill in the terrible valleys of self-deception so the savior could enter their lives.
Today many preachers shy away from even mentioning the word sin so as not to offend people. However, if we don’t know how to repent, we will never find God’s forgiveness. If the church would repent of its indifference, materialism and selfishness, a wonderful highway of repentance would bring God’s refreshing blessings in our lives.
John's preaching brought a response of multitudes that came out to hear him preach. How this same kind of preaching is needed today because there are so many who need to feel conviction for their sin. Husbands need to repent for being loveless partners in marriage. Wives need to repent for being bitter and resentful against their partners. Families need to repent for hurting each other. Their repentance is a road that invites God’s presence, his forgiveness and his healing.
John told the people to “bring fruit in keeping with repentance”(Luke 3:8). It was dangerous to hear John preach because he brought them into God’s presence. That was both exhilarating and frightening. In God’s presence we all see ourselves as we are, completely sinful and undone. The fruit John was talking about was “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Gal 5:22-23). This fruit comes from God transforming our lives. It is the fruit of the Spirit, and it cannot be produced through self-initiated efforts but only after we have truly repented of our sinful ways.