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The gospel package
- Jacob Ninan
When John the Baptist came preaching just before Jesus started His public ministry, he was trying to prepare the hearts of the people to become ready to receive Jesus (Lk.3:4). He told them that they should repent from their sins in order to receive forgiveness of sins (v.3). When different people came to him wanting to get baptised, John told them specifically about what they should stop doing and what they should start doing. The Bible says that John preached the gospel to the people with many other exhortations (v.18). In other words, he was urging them strongly to do many things that would change their lifestyle.
Now, exhortations are not something that we usually associate with the gospel. Those of us who have heard the gospel many times have understood that God wants to give everything to us as a free gift and that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or to deserve it. (That is, of course, a good emphasis to place before people who think that somehow they have to do something to become pleasing to God.) Having learned to accept salvation as a free gift from God, we may find it difficult to understand what exhortations have to do with it.
But remember that John was trying to prepare the people to be able to receive what Jesus was going to come with. If we are to receive from God all that He wants to give us, we also may need to do certain things that would set our heart right and bring us to a place where we are receptive towards God. This may include repenting from our sins, setting things right with God and people, changing habits, taking hard decisions, etc. If we don't want to hear such words, we are ourselves cutting off what God wants to give us.
Salvation comes as package. There are things God wants to give us, and there are ways in which we have to respond. If we neglect certain parts of the package, we will miss some of the other parts too.