John . . . went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:2–3)

OBVIOUSLY, JOHN THE BAPTIST never studied How to Win Friends and Influence People. Note his methods:

1. Insult people. He called them snakes. “You brood of vipers” were his exact words.

2. Tell them to put their money where their mouths are. That is essentially what he said: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

3. Tell them to quit making excuses. He warned, “Do not begin to say . . . ‘We have Abraham as our father.’”

4. Warn them if they don’t straighten up, they will go to hell. He said, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John’s methods were appropriate for his day. He was a prophet of God, called and anointed by God, and the first such voice in four hundred years. Although his methods may not be the best for today, his message is timeless. We need it in every generation.

“Repent!” That was his message. It means more than being sorry. It means we must turn from the wrong path and begin following God.

Augustine understood repentance. After his conversion, he saw a former mistress who called seductively to him, “Augustine, Augustine.” He answered, “The name is the same, but the man is different.”

Repentance requires a 180-degree turn from what we used to be to what God wants us to be.

Don’t walk. Run away from sin and toward God.

Ron McClung works at his denomination’s world headquarters and lives in Indiana with his wife, Carol. They have two sons and nine grandchildren.