Last year, Tiger Woods' public persona unraveled as one moral failure after another rushed to light. While this sad occasion offers us another opportunity to critique the feeding frenzy of pop journalism as well as the idol status we offer our celebrities (a status they could never live up to), it also provides each of us a sober reminder. If we're honest, the image we present to others is often at odds with the life we actually live.

When John the Baptist appeared, traipsing around in the wild in camel-hair clothes and eating a strange diet, he preached one steady refrain. Change your behavior, Jesus is coming (v.4). For their entire history, Israel had looked for the Messiah to come and rescue them. Now, John announced that it was actually happening, the Rescuer was on His way. Israel, however, was in bad shape. They had forgotten God; and if Israel wanted to be ready for Jesus, they had a lot of cleaning up to do.

John wasn't one to mince words. In one instance, he called the gathered crowd a "brood of vipers" (v.7 NIV). A viper was a dangerous, poisonous snake, and John wanted the people to hear plainly that the path they were on (spurning God), was a dangerous way to live.

Many heard John's sobering words and asked the most sensible question: "What should we do?" (v.10). John's response was direct: • If you have extra coats or food, give to those in need (v.11). • If you're a tax collector, don't cheat anyone (v.13). • If you're a soldier, don't use your power unjustly (v.14).

John spoke to everyone, from the common person to those with power, and told them to live truthfully, honestly, justly. God is coming, and He is bringing justice with Him. Are we ready? , Winn Collier

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