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SS-God Calls for Repentance-07-01-07

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SS-God Calls For Repentance-07-01-07


Focus: Examine the providence of God in John the Baptist’s ministry and prepare our hearts for Christ’s rule.

Central Truth: Repentance prepares hearts for Christ’s presence.

Golden Text: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”" (Matthew 3:2, NKJV)

Up until today, our lessons have focused on OT characters in the providence of God in salvation history.  But, beginning today with John the Baptist, we will study some NT characters. 

John the Baptist was born in 5 B.C., the son of a priest of Israel.  Being the son of a priest made John a priest automatically, by birth.  He entered public ministry as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem in 15 A.D., at the age of 20.

Not only was he a priest, he was also divinely called to be a prophet.  John was also a Nazarite, the name given to Israelites who took a special vow to (1) abstain from wine and strong drink, (2) refrain from cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with the dead.

This vow usually lasted from 30 to 100 days.  However, John the Baptist was one of only three people in the Bible whose vow was lifelong.  The three people are Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

As a prophet, John began his ministry in the wilderness of Judea, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, in 26 or 27 A.D., at 31-32 years old.  Matthew and Mark describe John’s appearance and diet: he wore a camel-hair cloak with a waist belt made of leather and he dined on locusts and wild honey.

His identified himself as the forerunner to the Messiah.  Like the Messiah, His ministry would not be a long one in terms of years.  He came to call men to repentance, preparing their hearts to receive Christ.

Question:  What comes to mind when you think of John the Baptist?

I. Plan: Prepare for Christ’s Mission. Isaiah 40:3-5; Mathew 3:1-3.


Isaiah 40:3-5.  Isaiah made this prophesy 700 years before John the Baptist was born.  We know that it is speaking of John because both Mat. 3:3 and Luke 3:4 identify it as such, and John the Baptist himself said it in John 1:23.

The language here in Isaiah has a double meaning.  It speaks of physically preparing a route over land by which the Lord would arrive.  In ancient times, workers were sent ahead of an important official to clear the way for his caravan to travel through.  The implication here is that the obstacles would be removed and the way made smooth for Jehovah’s return.

However, it was the moral wilderness of the people that John the Baptist was called to prepare.  It was the valleys, rough places, and mountains of sin in the heart of men that John’s message was directed towards. 

His mission was to prepare the way spiritually and morally among the Jews for the coming of Jesus that would enable them to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

The language in vs. 4 speaks of lifting up those who are low, the humbling or bringing down those who are high, making straight those who are morally crooked, and smoothing out those lives that are rough because of sin.

The glory of the Lord spoken of in vs. 5 has been partially fulfilled, but will see its total fulfillment during the Millennial reign when all flesh will see His glory.

Mat. 3:1-3.  Even though he does not emerge until the NT, John is considered the last and greatest of the OT prophets.  For 400 years, the voice of God through one of His prophets had been silent.  For the Jews, the emergence of John was like the sudden sounding of the voice of God.  

John preached repentance.  Repentance in Greek traditionally meant a change of mind or attitude, but under Old Testament influence it took on the sense of a change of action as well.  This means that John was asking his audience “to change their way of life as a result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.  Repentance carries with it the dual action of turning from sin and turning toward God. 

This change in the life of the Jews was necessary because John preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. 

There are 137 references to “the kingdom” in the NT, and over 100 of these are recorded during Jesus’ ministry. It is referred to both as the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ entire teaching and ministry as the Messiah—the Savior King—centered on this theme.

To what does the kingdom refer? It refers to God’s sovereign rule of the universe. He is King of the heavens.  But more specifically, here it refers to the entry of God’s long-anticipated Anointed One—the prophesied Messiah, the promised Son of David who would not only be the Savior, Deliverer, and King of Israel, but of all mankind.  

John announced that the rule of God’s King was about to overthrow the power of all evil.  The “kingdom” was near because the King was here to introduce the power of “the kingdom of God,” which meant a new world of hope for mankind.  

Man would no longer need to be held hostage to either the rule of death over mankind, resulting from human sin and sinning, or to the deadening rule of oppressive human systems, political or otherwise. Further, the kingdom of darkness would be confronted; and the death, deprivation, disease, and destruction levied by satanic power would begin to be overthrown.  

The kingdom of God is invisible to the natural eye, it has to be experienced spiritually.  Every believer in Christ becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God at salvation.  And that citizenship supersedes all other allegiances to nations, families, the world, or demonic forces.

II. Provision: Power From God. Luke 1:5-25.


Vs. 5-12.  John the Baptist had godly parents.  Both his father and mother were descendants of Aaron.  There was a lot of Godlessness around them, but John’s parents walked blamelessly and righteously before God.  However, advanced in years, they had no children.

The priests in the Temple served in rotation for one week, twice a year.  During the week that they served, they drew lots to see what service they would perform.  Zacharias was chosen to offer incense in the holy place. This was a high honor that was permitted to a priest only once in a lifetime.

As Zacharias went in to offer the incense, he was visited by an angel who had a message for him. 

You have probably noticed that God often speaks to His people and calls them while they are busy doing their daily tasks.  Both Moses and David were caring for sheep, and Gideon was threshing wheat.  Peter and his partners were mending nets when Jesus called them.  It is often that when we get busy, God starts to direct us.

Vs. 13-17.  The Bible does specify what prayers of Zacharias were being answered.  They were probably prayers for a child and prayers for the Messiah and the deliverance of Israel.

The angel tells Zacharias that he and his wife will have a son and to name him John.  He instructs Zacharias that John should live according to Nazarite vows, not taking any strong drink or wine.  This son will be special, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in the womb.  This is the only person in the Bible of who it is said they would be filled with the Spirit from birth.

His works will be mighty, therefore, he will be equipped with power and he will prepare the hearts of people to receive the Lord.  There are no recorded miracles of John the Baptist.  The power of his ministry was the truth he spoke about Jesus, a truth confirmed and anointed by the Holy Spirit causing them to believe.

Vs. 18-25.  It is never good to doubt the word of God.  Gabriel had been sent by God to give Zacharias a word and a promise and Zacharias doubted because of his age, just like Abraham’s wife had doubted.

For his disbelief, Zacharias was unable to speak from that time until his son was born.  Not long after this, Elizabeth became pregnant.  God will always perform His word.

III. Purpose: Proclaim the Savior. Luke 3:1-6; 15-18.


Vs. 3:1-6.  In vs. 1-2, Luke names seven different men, including a Roman emperor, a governor, three tetrarchs, and two Jewish high priests. But God’s Word was not sent to any of them! Instead, the message of God came to John the Baptist, a humble Jewish prophet.

Looking like the Prophet Elijah in both his manner and by the way he dressed, John came to the area near the Jordan River, preaching and baptizing. He announced the arrival of the kingdom of heaven and urged the people to repent.  

John the Baptist was a true radical, who shook the religious status quo of his time.  He “rocked the boat” with his message of repentance. He baptized both Jews and Gentiles, which meant that he was calling the Jews who knew the Law to repent of their sins, also. He challenged the Jews not to rely on the fact that they were born Jews but to discover a spiritual awakening for themselves.

The Jews were familiar with baptism.  Gentile converts to Judaism were required to be baptized after they had completed some other rituals.  But, for Jews to be called to repent and be baptized was unheard of before John.

Like Mathew, in vs. 4-6, Isaiah’s prophesy about John is quoted here.  He was like the messenger who went before the royal procession to make sure the roads were ready for the king. Spiritually speaking, the nation of Israel was living in a “wilderness” of unbelief, and the roads to spiritual reality were twisted and in disrepair.

The corruption of the priesthood and the legalistic hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees had weakened the nation spiritually. The people desperately needed to hear a voice from God, and John was that voice.  It was John’s task to prepare the nation for the Messiah and then present the Messiah to them.

Vs. 7-9.  Like some “religious Christians” today, many of the Jews thought they were bound for heaven simply because they were descendants of Abraham.  John reminded them that God gets to the root of things and is not impressed with religious profession that does not produce fruit. True repentance before God will bring about change that will produce fruit. 

Vs. 15-18.  John had a large following and many wondered if he might be the Messiah.  But, John did not let popularity alter his message or his mission.  He knew his call was to prepare and point people to the Messiah. 

He would not allow the people to put him on a pedestal.  He told them the one I want you to see is one I am not worthy to untie His shoes.  While I baptize you with water, the Messiah’s baptism will be with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The Bible teaches us the reality of and the need for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a complete immersion in the Spirit of God, by which our motivations are set on fire by the power of God.

When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we receive supernatural power to live and witness for God.  Like John, we should call attention to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the last judgment, the true believers (wheat) will be gathered by God, while the lost sinners (chaff) will be burned in the fire.

Conc. – John the Baptist is another in the line-up of characters that God used in His divine plan to bring salvation to humanity.  He was the forerunner of the Messiah.  His ministry was short, lasting only about 6 months or so, before he was thrown into prison and eventually beheaded.

John’s call from God had one purpose.  He was to call men and women to repentance to prepare their hearts to receive the 1st coming of the King – King Jesus.

And Jesus is coming back again very soon.  The call to repent is just as valid to as it was in John the Baptist’s day, if not more so.

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