Introduction: Mark Bittman is a well-known cookbook author and food writer for the New York Times. In the current issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, he has an interesting article about how to change your life one meal at a time. He said that a few years ago, he was battling a number of health problems, many of them related to his diet. A friend suggested he become a vegan, but that didn’t seem practical given his profession. Instead he made a few rules for himself. He listed them in one-two-three order, such as:
- From the time he gets up in the morning until supper, he eats no meat products (except for a little cream for his coffee).
- He does eat meat and fish many nights, but in smaller portions.
- He decided on his ideal weight, weighs himself regularly, monitors himself closely, and alters his diet accordingly.
My point isn’t about food and eating; it’s about making rules for yourself. I’ve done this from time to time, especially while traveling and away from the immediate demands of my life. I’ve sat down with a notebook, a cup of coffee, and just thought about things. I’ve listed three or four changes I needed make. Sometimes they were little changes, but little changes can produce big improvements. I’m not much of a believer in New Year’s Resolutions, but I am a believer in occasionally making some corrective rules for oneself. Looking ahead to the New Year, one rule for all of us would be to speak up a little more for the Lord Jesus Christ. Take advantage of every little opportunity to say something for Christ, however small or mild or gentle it may be. That’s the subject of Luke 3. There are three distinct paragraphs in this chapter, and every division accentuates a distinct witness to Christ.
1. The Witness of John the Baptist (v. 1-20). Luke begins his record of the ministry of Jesus Christ by devoting the first twenty verses to the forerunner, John the Baptist, who called people to repentance. Every revival begins with an awareness of sin and judgment, a subject seldom heard in American pulpits. John wanted to pave the way for the greatest revival in history—the three-year earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, who was Revival Personified. And so he preached repentance, telling people to prove their repentance by becoming generous (v. 11), honest (v. 13), and content (v. 14).
2. The Witness of God the Father (v. 21-22). When Messiah came, to John’s surprise He asked to be baptized. His baptism was His first sermon—it was a symbolic action pointing toward His crucifixion, which was a baptism in suffering and death. At the moment of our Lord’s baptism, the Trinity converged in one place at one time as the Holy Spirit descended and the voice of God the Father gave witness to Christ: “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.” If God the Father saw fit to bear witness to God the Son, shouldn’t we do the same?
3. The Witness of History (v. 23-37). At this point, Luke ends the chapter by inserting our Lord’s genealogy, going all the way back to Adam. He doesn’t cover every generation, of course, but he does give us our Lord’s line of descent. There are many things we could say in comparing this genealogy with the one Matthew gave; but my point is that all of history was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The seed of the Messiah passed from generation to generation from Adam to Christ, and all of history points to Him.
Conclusion: If John the Baptist, God the Father, and the Linage of History åwitness to Christ, shouldn’t we do the same? This week in Roan Mountain, I went to get a haircut. My barber there is a believer. He was cutting the hair of a 21-year-old fellow named Cody who works in the High Country resorts of Western North Carolina. During the haircut, my barber said, “Cody, you ought to come to church with me one Sunday. We’d love it, and I think you would, too.” I chimed in and said how important it was to have a spiritual foundation for life, and that I don’t know what I’d do without the Lord. Cody listened very carefully. Nothing more was said, but I left there feeling we had either planted a seed or watered it. And one day God will give the harvest. Every so often, think about your life, think about how you can improve, and make a few little rules for yourself. And let one of them be to be more alert to any and every little opportunity of saying a simple word of witness for our Lord Jesus Christ.