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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Mark 1:4, where the Bible says,   

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


In many Lutheran services, the congregation confesses words like these together on Sundays:

O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee, and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them, and sincerely repent of them, and I pray Thee, of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.[1]


This a prayer of repentance to God for His gracious forgiveness. It sounds like something that John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, might say. Repentance, the God-induced sorrow for our sins revealed by His Law, also causes us to fall at the feet of Jesus seeking forgiveness for our sins, forgiveness only He can grant. Again, that sounds very much like something John the Baptist would plead for us to experience because he cares.

But there is a problem today with this simple, straightforward, and powerful truth. No one thinks that they sin anymore! One reason that many people don’t take comfort in God’s forgiveness is that they don’t think they actually need it. They take comfort in their sin instead, as if God is unconcerned at worst or tolerant at best with whatever one desires to do. In a Newsweek article way back in 1995, the author noted that “ninety percent of Americans say that they believe in God. Yet the urgent sense of personal sin has all but disappeared in the current upbeat style of American religion.”[2] It’s much worse today. The number of believers is reported to be continually falling, while the disregard for any notion of our actions being sinful is on the rise. Just look at what we consume for entertainment today as proof of our callousness to any notion of sin.

Nevertheless, here’s the point: John the Baptist’s message is just as relevant today as it was then. He was sent into a world that had a sin problem, a brokenness problem that sinful people could never fix on their own. The world was arrogant then just as it is today. It was full of people who believed that they had no need for God, a world full of hedonists, moralists, rationalists, secularists, and pragmatists who believed that life was under their control alone. In the face of all of that, the powerful, heart-transforming message then as today is proclaimed in Jesus’ words just a few verses after our reading, “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  Why? Because life is all about being reconciled to the God who created and redeemed us. Without such a relationship with God, life ultimately means nothing. Modern people are just as foolish as ancient people, but, thanks be to God, Jesus came for us all!

Whenever I think about John the Baptist, I think about the fact that he was a bit of an oddity to many people back in his day (see Mark 1:6). So, it shouldn’t surprise us that his message seems odd today too. But, if you want to receive Jesus, you must take John’s words seriously. Does anyone repent today? Yes, today, like then, the message is still getting through. Let it start with you and me.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, John the Baptist prepared the way for Your saving work for all. May his call to repentance be heard in my heart today, for my life and salvation are in You alone. AMEN.


[1] The Lutheran Hymnal (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941), p. 15.


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