05 Luke 3.1-20
v I remember our Wedding
Ø Absolutely wonderful, but took 6 months of planning
§ Perhaps some of your weddings took even longer!
v The bigger the event, the greater preparation
Ø Olympics ~ Athens
§ Carrie and I on our honeymoon in 1997 saw the construction that was to prepare for the 2004 Olympics
v The coming of Jesus Christ was prepared for since before the creation of the earth
Ø The time has come and John has been sent to make final preparations before the appearance of the savior…
v God knew that His people needed final preparation for Christ
v So God sent John
Ø READ v. 4-6
v When a king traveled from one place to another
Ø Preparation was always made
§ Usually hired men were sent ahead of the traveling King to clear the road of debris and obstacles in order to make the King’s approach as smooth as possible
· The picture given here is that on a colossal scale
¨ Valleys filled in, mountains leveled
§ I remember traveling back and forth to Pitt
§ Outside Port Jarvis just before entering PA on I84
§ Mountain cut in half and bridge over river
Ø These men would also herald that the king was coming momentarily
§ People would come out to see their ruler
§ They would put on nice cloths to present themselves
¨ Do you remember Lady Diana’s funeral procession from London to her final resting place
Ø People lined streets, flowers on the road, people waiting anxiously just to get a glimpse of the hearse
v John was given this immense task to make final preparations for the coming Messiah
Ø It was an immense task because look at the climate that he spoke into
§ Look at the Governmental situation – Roman
· Tiberius was Caesar
¨ A very sexually depraved man
¨ Lived alone on the island of Capri
¨ Willed his empire to Caligula
Ø Perhaps the most repugnant Caesar to ever live
· Pontius Pilot was governor of Judea
Ø Inflexible, merciless, obstinate and severe
§ Look at the Local Government Climate
· Herod, Philip & Lysanius
¨ Herod stole Philip’s wife, Herodias
§ Look at the Spiritual Climate
· There were two high priests!
¨ Annas & Caiaphas
So how was John to prepare the way?
What was John sent to do?
v Look at V. 3
Ø The word repentance here in Greek is metanoia
§ Made up of two parts
· Meta = Change
· Noia = Mind
¨ Change of mind
Ø An inward change
Ø A turning 180 degrees
Ø To go the opposite direction
v He was to preach to people about changing their direction in life
There is an amusing yet tragic story related by Edwin Orr, the Christian historian. Orr was with Billy Graham years ago when he addressed a meeting in Beverly Hills attended by the notorious gangster Mickey Cohen.
Orr writes, "He expressed some interest in the message, so several of us talked with him, including Dr. Graham, but he made no commitment until some time later when another friend urged him to invite Jesus Christ into his life.
This he professed to do, but his life subsequently gave no evidence of repentance. When confronted some time later, Cohen exclaimed, 'You didn’t tell me that I would have to give up my work!' You didn’t tell me that I would have to give up my friends!'
He had heard that so-and-so was a Christian cowboy, so-and-so was a Christian actress, so-and-so was a Christian senator, and he really thought he could be a Christian gangster
v What Mickey and many do not understand is that with true repentance comes a changed life
v You see…
Ø True repentance has to have good root and apparent fruit
§ The good Root of correct doctrine
· Very important
¨ Salvation rooted in repentance
Ø You cannot receive eternal salvation without repenting of your sins
§ That was John’s message…A Baptism of Repentance
§ But that is precisely where the Jews were mislead
· Look at V. 8
¨ And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
§ They believed that since they were descendants of Abraham
· That they did not need repentance
¨ John is saying that that is bad root
Ø What is Abraham without repentance…nothing!
v But just as the Jews of John’s day…
Ø Many people have Bad Roots
v There are many bad roots out there
Ø There can be a bad root called Church
· Some believe that coming to church makes you a Christian
Ø There can be a bad root called Country
§ Being an American makes you a Christian
· 82% of America claims to be Christian!
Ø There can be a bad root called Parents
§ You were brought up in a Christian home
· Thus you are a Christian
¨ Many people start their testimony with their parents being Christians
Ø No! Your testimony starts with repenting of your sins and being forgiven by Jesus Christ
§ “A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”
Ø There is the bad root of Works
§ Many believe that doing good deeds makes them a Christians
· According to the Barna group, More than half of all adults (54%) believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven.
¨ But just as faith without works in dead
Ø works without faith is just as dead
Ø The only works that are of any value are those born out of repentant faith
§ And that is the Fruit that we are to display in our lives
· Fruit born out of true repentance
¨ John said in V. 8
Ø Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
A minister was talking to a professing Christian and asked him if he was active in a local church. The man responded, "No, but the dying thief wasn't active in a church and yet he was still accepted."
The minister then asked if he had been baptized. The man responded, "The dying thief was not baptized and he still made it to heaven."
The minister then asked if he was active in helping the poor, the needy, the orphans, the widows. The man responded, "No, but the dying thief didn't either, and Christ still received him."
The minister then asked if he was giving to the Lord’s work. The man responded, "No, but the dying thief didn't either, and Christ still received him."
The minister then commented: "The only difference between you and the dying thief is that he was dying in his belief and you are dead in yours.
v That is exactly what James is explaining to the church
Ø READ James 2:18-26
v And John says the same thing to the crowd when they ask what they should do
Ø READ V. 10-14
§ The fruit produced from repentance is love for your neighbor
· John tells the crowd to share, the tax collector not to overtax and the soldier not to exhort or falsely accuse
v When asked a similar question Jesus answered
Ø Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
§ The fruit or evidence for your salvation rests in how you relate to those around you
v John not only prepared the way by calling people to repentance and showing its fruit
Ø But also through…
v You cannot have repentance without first being made aware of your sin
Ø Just as in our day, many people in John’s day were not even aware of their need to repent
v John made people aware of their sin by speaking rather directly about it
Ø Look at V. 19
§ John spoke quite directly to Herod about His sin with Herodias, his niece and his brother’s wife, whom he was having an affair
Ø Again look at V. 7 ~ Calling the crowd a brood of vipers
§ Pointing to the hypocritical sin in their lives
v John also painted very stark images of the results of an unrepentant life
Ø V. 9 ~ Compares unrepentant life to a tree which will be cut down and thrown into the fire
Ø V. 17 ~ Compares unrepentant life to chaff that will be burned in the fire
§ In other words…
· Judgment is inevitable, it is coming
In 1982, "ABC Evening News" reported on an unusual work of modern art. A chair affixed to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and looking directly into the gun barrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an undetermined moment within the next hundred years.
The amazing thing was that people waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell's path! They all knew that the gun could go off at point-blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn't happen during their minute in the chair.
v That is the same picture that John paints for us
Ø People who don’t know the Lord gamble their eternal existence that the ax won’t swing today
§ People who don’t know the Lord gamble that the chaff won’t be thrown into the fire today
· John’s message is as real today as is was then
¨ Judgment is inevitably coming…
Ø But people still want to sit in that seat and taking their chances on their own
v That is why we have to tell people, as John did, that now is the appointed time for salvation
Ø Paul said in 2 Cor 6:2
§ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
v Because this might be the only opportunity that that person gets to hear the warning
Ø As the praise song states, “You’re the only Jesus some might ever see.”
Ø Sin and judgment are very difficult subject to listen to
§ None of us want to admit that we are sinful, but we are
· However, when those harshly realities are preached
¨ We usually turn off
v Here John is preaching in very strong terms about sin & judgment
Ø RQ: How do you react?
§ I guess the question is, “How do you sort your mail?”
¨ When you get your mail, how do you decide what to throw away and what to keep?
Ø Illustration of post office
v RQ: How do you sort through your spiritual mail?
Ø How do you sort through what is from God and has your name on it and what is not?
§ We all have been to cities where corner evangelists preach about coming judgment and sin into the crowd
· Usually we do not listen
Ø Be Berean
§ Acts 17:11
· Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true
§ In others words…Is it Scriptural
· If it is keep it
¨ If not discard that mail
Ø Is it correct interpretation of Scripture
§ Many can quote Scripture, but incorrectly
· Misuse for their own motives
¨ Illustration: Tele-evangelists on TV asking for money
Ø Nothing wrong, but it is how
§ Promise great gain / reward
· Ecc 11:1
¨ Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again
· Sowing a seed promises great harvest
Ø Does it touch your heart
§ The intangible
v Finally, John prepared the way for Jesus by…
Pointing to Christ
v Verse 15 tells us…
Ø The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ
v Here is John…
Ø John was the first Yahweh prophet in more then 400 years
Ø Preaching powerfully in the desert
Ø Fulfilling messianic prophecy in Humble appearance
§ Isa 53:2
· He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Ø People were following him
§ John had disciples
· Andrew the Apostle was one of them
v You can imagine why people were wondering whether John was the Christ
Ø But John did what so many others do not
§ Points to Christ as the one to follow
· V. 16
v Sadly we have too many examples of people who got caught up in their own fame
Ø And led many down a very dark path
§ Jim Jones
§ David Koresh
v But John knew his place…
Ø To point to one who was Superior
§ John recognized Christ’s Superior Personhood
§ Look at V. 16 again
· John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
¨ There was a rabbinic saying dating from the days of Christ
Ø A disciple should do everything for their masters that a slave does except one thing, untie his sandals
§ That was just too low, too degrading, too humiliating
· Like saying today that we are not fit to wash our teacher’s toilet bowl
· You see…
¨ John knew his place in relation to Christ
Ø He knew who he was, but he kept that in tension with who he was in relation to Christ
§ He realized the superior personhood of Christ
Ø Which allowed him to say later on in his ministry
§ John 3:30 ~ I must become lesser, He must become greater
A Presbyterian pastor in Melbourne, Australia introduced Hudson Taylor, the first missionary to China and who later formed the China Inland Mission that still in active today, by using many superlatives; gifted, dedicated, humble, but especially using the word great. Taylor stepped to the pulpit and quietly said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”
§ I must become lesser, He must become greater
· That should be the goal of all Christians
¨ My voice and opinions should become lesser and His greater
¨ My will should become lesser and His greater in my life
¨ My actions should be come lesser and His greater
¨ My time should become lesser and the time I give to the Lord’s work greater
¨ My money should be come lesser and the money I give to the Lord’s work greater
¨ How I use the talents God has given me the way I want should become lesser and using God’s gifts in ministry should become greater
§ The list is endless, but the principle is one
· Christ in me should come more and more to the forefront
¨ And Blake should recede more and more into the background
v The greatest flattery any of us should ever receive is to be found looking more and more like our master…Jesus Christ
John not only knew his place but his mission…
v John also pointed to Christ’s Superior Ministry
Ø V. 16 ~ John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire
· Upon his first arrival in Ephesus, Paul meets disciples who had only heard of John’s baptism and not Jesus’
¨ Would be like meeting a person who lives a repentant life, but has no idea who Jesus is!
· So Paul baptizes them in Christ’s baptism and they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-10)
§ You see…
· John’s baptism was external
¨ But Christ’s is be internal
§ John’s baptism can wash the skin
· Christ’s scoures the soul
§ John’s baptism points to the promise
· Christ’s baptism comes with a promise
¨ The promise of eternal life
Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, “What did you think about as you stood on the surface of the moon and looked back at earth?”, The astronaut replied, “I remembered how the spacecraft was built by the lowest bidder.”
We as Christians can rejoice that the work and promise of salvation did not go to the lowest bidder, but was performed by an infinite God. There will never be a deficiency in His work and His promise to bring us back home is an iron-clad guarantee. Our salvation is as sure as the architect of that salvation…Almighty God!