by Tony Nester

Grace-Based News
Tony Nester
Luke 3:1-20

The gospel of Jesus Christ opens our minds to the power of God's grace. The gospel is grace-based news, and only those with open minds can hear, see, and believe in the power of God's grace.

The grace of God always challenges our open-mindedness. That's because God's ways are not our ways.

We sing "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound ..." but the truth is that grace can be anything but sweet. The gospel is grace-based news - it's about how God is acting in ways that we don't expect, didn't plan for, and do not always agree with.

We see this in John the Baptist who prepared the way for the beginning of Jesus' ministry. John was a strange figure who surprised people with his message and his style of ministry.

First, John called people out of town and into the wilderness. The town, and in particular Jerusalem, was where the Temple was located. John was saying to the people, "You can get everything you need from God right here in the wilderness. You don't need the Temple. You don't need the priests. You don't need to offer sacrifices. Just come and be baptized in the this river as a sign of your repentance."

Secondly, John told people it was time for them to give up their competitiveness with one another and begin acting like a true spiritual community. He told tax collectors to stop gouging people with taxes, and he told Jewish soldier-policemen to stop practicing extortion against their neighbors.

Thirdly, he told the religious authorities that their claim to superiority as Abraham's descendents was a useless, false, and spiritually damaging claim. God, said John, was able to turn stones into Abraham's children - implying that hard rock was easier for God to work with than the closed-mindedness of Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and the rest of the religious hierarchy.

The Bible names what John said and did as "good news" - i.e. the gospel.

(Luke 3:18 NRSV) "So, with many oth ...

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