Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2).
Certainly Jesus highly approved of John’s simple message, as it was the same message that Jesus preached wherever He went (see Matt. 4:17). John called people to repentance—to turn away from a life of sin and turn to a life of righteousness. He knew that a relationship with God begins with repentance, and that those who don’t repent will be cast in to hell.
Unlike so many modern evangelists, John never mentioned the love of God. Nor did he talk about people’s “felt needs” as a means to entice them to pray a meaningless prayer of “accepting Jesus” so that they could begin to experience “the abundant life.” He did not lead people to believe that they were basically good people whom God wanted to take to heaven if they could only realize that salvation was not of works. Rather, he saw them as God saw them—rebels in danger of facing eternal consequences for their sins. He solemnly warned them of the wrath to come. He made certain they understood that if they didn’t change their hearts and actions, they were doomed.
So the second quality that John possessed that is worthy of every disciple-making minister’s imitation is this: John proclaimed that repentance was the first step in a relationship with God.