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Behold the Lamb

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·         JOHN THE BAPTIST                                                           17-Jun-07

·         Reading – Luke 3: 1- 2 & John 1: 29 - 37

·         Theme – Preparing the People

·          

·         Mal 3:1 ¶  "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts.

·         2  "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderer’s soap.

·         Mt 3:3  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’"

·         John was given this great privilege and responsibility to prepare the people for the arrival of God in the form of a man. What a job to ask anyone and how do you do that.

·         Especially when the prophet Malachi had said “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

·         John’s task was to prepare the people for such a meeting – and how do you do that, how does anyone do that – how do you prepare the people to meet with God.

·         And yet is that not also the privilege and responsibility we all have as Christians to prepare the people to meet the same God.

·         Is this not the great commission we all have – “to go into the all the world and make Disciples of Christ,” the same God man that John prepared the people to receive?

·         And how do we prepare the people – the same way that John did as we shall see by preaching the truth of the gospel.

·         We all know what it means to prepare for something, over these recent weeks many have prepared themselves for exams, they have done this through study and revision and constant supervision and testing by concerned parents.

·         People go to great lengths to prepare themselves to go to work, it can take some young ladies what seems an eternity to get ready, and I know what it is to prepare for a meeting and what happens if you are not prepared.

·         Last week I had to give a presentation of the company I work for to a potential new customer, so I had to get my PowerPoint presentation ready, literature, company capability and capacity lists, reference lists etc and have my answers ready for any questions they where to ask.

·         In every area of our life we are constantly preparing for something, but are we preparing ourselves to meet with God, and are we preparing others as well.

·         The bible tells us that one day we all have to give an account for everything that we have done and should have done, and it is in this life that we need to prepare for that meeting.

·         We all have this appointment with God we might not like to hear that, or even think about it, we might bury our heads in the sand and try and ignore it but nevertheless it will happen.

·         The bible is very clear about this Heb 9: 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so each of us will one day stand before God.

·         The message of the gospel is the glorious truth you need in order to be prepared for that day. This was the way that John prepared the people to receive the Christ. He preached a message of repentance and trust in the one that was to follow shortly.

·         Is not this the same message we have today, how else do we prepare the people to meet God but through repentance and faith in Christ.

·         We too today have to make the paths straight so that others to can see the glory of Christ and find acceptance with God.

·         Like John we might have to be that lone voice in the wilderness of sin, preaching with authority and conviction that Christ is the only solution, and we have to take up the mantle like John did.

·         It is through the foolishness of preaching that people are prepared to meet God, it is by spreading the gospel message through the pulpit, through personal witness, and through godly lives that influences the sinner.

·         God through his Holy Spirit uses this to prepare the people to meet him.

·         So the aim this evening is to see from the life of John that we face the same challenge today that he faced all those years ago, and that it is only by preaching what Christ has done and what he accomplished on the cross that will prepare ourselves and others to meet with God.

·         John the Baptist

·         If you where to look at the character of John you would see that he was a man who knew what self control and obedience was, he was courageous and a powerful preacher, he was humble and yet had a burning zeal for his work, he was look at by others as a holy man and had the great accolade from Christ as being the greatest man to be born of a woman.

·         We know eventually because of his uncompromising nature was martyred for his faith but he leaves us an example we all can learn from and follow.

Recap history

·         Little is known of John’s boyhood, except that he “grew and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80).

·         The silence of his early years, however, was broken when he burst onto the scene with the message of repentance some time around a.d. 28–29, shortly before Jesus began His ministry.

·         Matthew reports that the place where John preached was the wilderness of Judea (3:1). Like Galilee, this lay within the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, under whom John was later arrested imprisoned and killed.

·         The gospels are unanimous in their report that John lived “in the wilderness.”—a vast inhospitable land full of crags, blistering wind, and relentless heat.

·         John called the people away from the comforts of their homes and cities and out into the wilderness, where they might hear him preach.

·         Not only did he dress like Elijah, in camel’s hair and leather belt he was also as uncompromising and dedicated to his ministry as Elijah was, to coin a Lancashire phrase “he called a spade a spade” he told as it was.

·         John was no doubt as rugged as the desert itself. Nevertheless, his commanding righteousness drew large crowds to hear him.

·         What they encountered from this “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3) was a call to moral renewal, baptism, and a messianic hope.

·         The real sting of John’s preaching was that it challenged them to see themselves as God saw them; it exposed their greed, avarice, hypocrisy and false religion.

·         His command to share clothing and food (Luke 3:11) was a painful jab at a society that was hungry to acquire material objects. When he warned the tax collectors not to take more money than they had coming to them (Luke 3:12–13), he exposed the greed that was at the heart of each of them.

·         And the soldiers, whom he told to be content with their wages, must have winced at the thought of not using their power to take advantage of the common people (Luke 3:14).

·         He criticized the people for presuming to be righteous and secure with God because of their heritage as children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9).

·         John laid an ax to the root of this presumption. He warned that they, the Jews, would be purged and rejected unless they demonstrated fruits of repentance (Matt. 3:7–12).

·         John knew with a certainty what he was to say, and he preached with love, sincerity and conviction, he preached with authority and many listened and believed.

·         Why could he preach like this because it was not his message but God’s and so with that came all the authority and conviction that what he said was true, infallible and of absolute necessity.

·         The Post-modern dilemma

·         There was not doubt in his message, there was no stammering lip, he did not preach in a sort of apologetic way. He did not say this is what I believe to be true, but you know what is true for me may not be true for you.

·         John was not what is known today a postmodernist.

·         That is someone who does not believe there is such a thing as absolute truth.

·         And in the context of the church it is someone who does not believe that the Word of God is complete and absolute truth in and of itself.

·         A postmodernist would suggest that if objective truth exists, it cannot be known objectively, (without a bias or with any degree of certainty.)

·         John MacArthur would sum it up like this if you were to boil it down to one single thought then postmodernism is the “rejection of every expression of certainty” – you cannot be sure about anything

·         You cannot say that the bible is the final authority – certainty or truth is regarded as inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive and therefore always wrong.

·         This is not really that new - I am sure we have all been faced with this accusation when we have challenged anyone with what the bible says

·         Well that is what you believe the bible to say, but I believe it says this” as though the truth it contains is not absolute.

·         So then all that this does is reduce biblical truth so that it meets individual or personal needs even when these needs blatantly contradict other truths and commands the bible tells us.

·         E.G We say that the bible clearly teaches there is a narrow road to heaven and few are on it, and there is a broad road to destruction and many are on that – but a postmodernist will say - there are many narrow roads and they all reach the same place in the end.  And what right have you got to be so arrogant to suggest this; you cannot know this how can you be sure?

·         The end result has to be that we cannot have a definitive authority; we cannot say that our gospel is the only way, because absolute truth cannot be known.

·         In fact uncertainty is the new truth – in the church especially in America the emergent church movement which holds this view, would promote doubt and scepticism as a form of humility, that right and wrong should been defined in terms of subjective feelings and personal perspectives.

·         You accept other points of view as valid as an act of humility even though they are wrong, and what is right for you might not necessarily be right for me but that does not matter. What matters is that we have love.

·         What does this mean, it means that we cannot stand and preach that Christ is the way the truth and the life and that only through him is access to the father and eternal redemption.

·         Because what they have done is undermine the word of God, it is no longer seen as being the final authority; you cannot have absolute truth, so the bible is not completely rejected but it is put to one side.

·         Rob and Kristin Bell are the husband and wife team who founded Mars Hill – a very large emergent church in grand rapids Michigan they said this in Christianity today 2004 - “they found themselves increasingly uncomfortable with church.

·         Life in the church had become so small, “Kirsten says,” it had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working. The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the bible itself – discovering the bible as a human product as rob puts it rather than the product of divine fiat (Authority). The bible is still in the centre for us rob says but it’s a different kind of centre. We want to embrace mystery rather than conquer it. I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the bible Kristin says that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. and I feel like life is big again – like life used to be black and white and now its colour”

·         Brian McLaren probably best-known figure in the emerging church movement writing in Christianity today says – I don’t think we’ve got the gospel right yet……. I don’t think the liberals have it yet. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us have arrived at orthodoxy. (Orthodoxy The body of doctrines taught by Scripture)

·         Brian McLaren in his book “a generous orthodoxy” says - how ironic that I am writing about orthodoxy, which implies to many a final capturing of the truth about God, which is the glory of God. Sit down next to me in this little restaurant and ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope’s whoever’s) is orthodox, meaning true and here’s my honest answer: A little but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian understanding of the world and God, Christian opinions on soul, text and culture…. I’d have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong”

·         Brain McLaren in his book “A new kind of Christian” I drive my car and listen to the Christian radio station, something my wife always tells me I should stop doing (because it only gets you upset). There I hear preacher after preacher be so absolutely sure of his bombproof answers and his foolproof biblical interpretations….. and the more sure he seems, the less I find myself wanting to be a Christian, because on this side of the microphone, antennas, and speaker, life isn’t that simple, answers aren’t that clear and nothing is that sure”.

·         Today we live in an age where no one has the right to stand up and declare that the bible is the only infallible truth in this world, that it is inspired by God, inherently true, sufficient for all the needs of man, and clear in its teaching.

·         This way of thinking is what colours all society; this is why Prince Charles would rather be called the defender of faiths and not the defender of the faith. Why because no one has the right to be so dogmatic.

·         It does not take a genius to see that the commands of scripture are undermined and ignored by the governments of this land and the reason why is because everybody should be allowed to do and think what they believe to be right.

·         So abortion is accepted as a right of choice, homosexuality is classified as legal, we have generated a promiscuous society, that lets mothers take their 12yr old daughters to the doctors so they can be put on the pill.

·         E.G Phil – Christine Saturday morning after pill and contraceptive implants.

·         In the news this week it told us that we have the more pregnancies, more sexually transmitted diseases and more drug addiction in teenagers than in any other European country.

·         I sat listening to the radio on the way to work when this report came on – the specialist was asked what was the cause for this and she answered – these girls are influenced by those stars and idols in the public eye that live these sort of lives.

·         But the reporter said surely it must go deeper than this; there are many girls who are not like this surely there must be a deeper rooted problem than mere idol worship.

·         What she was getting at was that family life has broken down, there no control now; because the standards have all been removed what we have is the result of a post-modern society where anything goes because we have no absolute truths.

·         It is like that because you have not the right to tell me what is right and wrong for me – we are in this mess because we believe we know better than God.

·         In fact we are in this mess because we believe we are God and so have the right to do anything we feel will benefit our needs, and we should have them right here and right now.

·         We live in a society today whose fabric is a lie - there is no truth, no certainty, no real right and no wrong. This same concept is infiltrating the church and the pulpit.

·         We no longer have preachers but  communicators, we no longer have a sermon but a discussion, we no longer gather together in reverence as a family to worship God, we meet in small groups around the table, listening to whatever music turns us on, talking about whatever we want all in the name of Christianity.

·         Remove the authority of the word out of the church and it will slip downward just like society has. It will fall into an immoral mess; this always happens when false gospels enter the church and undermine the word of God.

·         Jude 4  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

·         We enter the church and we might as well be in the pub or the club there not much difference really.

·         Biblical Authority

·         But we believe that the scripture is inspired by God, the final authority on all things; we also believe that the scripture is clear in its message - it points us to Christ.

·         Scripture is God saying to the world just what John the Baptist said to these people “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

·         This is how John prepared the people – he preached a message of repentance telling the people that the Christ was approaching.

·         And we should notice that he preached a message of sin and repentance and not one of victory and a fulfilled way of life.

·         Why he did not get the people worked up into a frenzy of self esteem and self worth because soon there messiah was to come and give victory and triumph.

·         Why did he do the opposite – that is obvious - this was not the reason for the Christ coming, and it was certainly not what the people required.

·         The preparation that God had commissioned John to do was to help them understand that between them and their God was a great barrier called sin, and what they needed saving from was not oppression or poverty but judgement by a holy God.

·         So what he preached with passion was a message that pointed man to Christ to help them understand their inability to be obedient to the commands of scripture.

·         This was a God given message to John – and he would not be distracted from being faithful to it

·         It would not let him compromise on the truth – he could only speak what the spirit of God gave him and what the scripture taught. He could not say you can have Christ and your Jewish traditions, you cannot have the cross and circumcision.

·         It would not let him tone down the message – he did not try and appease the people with a compromised message, the cross was an offence to some and foolishness to others. That is why he told the tax collectors, roman soldiers and the Pharisee what they didn’t really want to hear.

·         It would not let him try to appease others, to present a non offending gospel especially when his own personal welfare and life was threatened.

·         He challenged Herod for his relationship with his brother’s wife and was put in prison for this and eventually killed.

·         It would not let him choose who he was to preach to – John never did any market research of his congregation before he preached. He did not do a survey to see what the people found acceptable in what he said or what they would like to do in the church.

·         He did not send out flyer advertising that he was having a meeting – he preached to whoever God sent to him, old or young, male or female, rich or poor, influential or unimportant they where all the same to him.

·         It was the same message to whoever came out into the desert to hear him.  He knew each and everyone of them had been sent by God, some would believe and some would not.

·         To some his message would be for eternal salvation and to others is would be eternal damnation.

·         It would not let him change the focus of the message away from Christ and towards himself or others

·         His popularity did not get a hold of him and make him become proud and self righteous, the more the people wanted to elevate him the more he went out of the way to walk away form such situations and point the people to Christ.

·         Are you the Christ – No! Are you Elijah – No! Are you a prophet – No!

·         Who are you then – I am the one who has to come before the Christ appears to prepare the people. I have come to preach that the answer to mans sin is approaching.

·         John’s message was behold the Lamb of God – and he would not be distracted from this.

·         We live in similar times today whereby the gospel message is under threat and the same challenges that John faced, faces each of us today as Christians and as a church.

·         We to are under pressure to: -

·         Compromise on the truth – to say that the gospel we have is not the only way – page 34

·         To tone down the message and to remove the offence because of fear of persecution – to put to one side our doctrinal differences for the sake of love and fellowship. To walk side by side with those that would deny the deity of Christ, the resurrection and the virgin birth.

·         To select who we want to preach too – to aim for those who we think will be attracted to our certain style of worship and church life. Like the 20 / 20 movement that want to have 1000 churches 500 strong by 2020

·         How will they do that not by preaching the cross but by giving them what they want to hear and what they want to do?

·         To remove the focus of the message away from Christ  onto ourselves

·         The pressure to do this comes not only from outside the church but also from inside as well.

·          

·         John did not say “Behold the Lamb” and -

·         Compromise on the truth - You can have your own individual faith as well

·         To tone down the message - You do not need to be too specific with the detail just a general overview will be fine

·         You can take the message just to a select few and if persecution comes you can just back away 

·         It does not matter if you take the focus away from Christ as long as we all love each other that’s all that matters

·         I am sure we can see that this was not in the mind of John at any time during his short ministry.

·         And like john it is our responsibility to point others to Christ like he did, because like him we believe that the bible to be true and right and that its message is clear and simple – repent and believe on the lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – believe not and you will die in your sins.

·         Like John we have to see the absolute necessity that we preach this message with clarity and authority and not get sucked into the compromise of the modern church culture.

·         Why because this is the only hope for man, though he might not like to think about this, he might not like to accept it or believe it. It is true nevertheless because God says so.

·         John told them to look at Christ because he was the “Lamb of God” sent to remove sin.

·         Lamb of God

·          If we where to use this language today it would be meaningless and almost foolish.

·         But to the Jews and those that came out to hear him, this had a great relevance, because they would understand exactly what he was talking about.

·         A lamb, among the Jews, was killed and eaten at the Passover to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt.

·         A lamb was offered in the temple, every morning and evening, as a part of the daily worship

·         The Messiah was predicted as a lamb led to the slaughter, to show his patience in his sufferings, and readiness to die for man. Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

·         A lamb, among the Jews, was also an emblem of patience, meekness, gentleness. .

·         Jesus was the great Passover lamb, turning away the anger of God, and saving sinners 1Co 5:7 For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

·         But we must not miss the fact that he was the Lamb appointed by God. He was appointed by God, approved by God for this work, the bible is very clear it was God that sent him; it was God that punished him. John 3:16 “for God so loved….. he sent

·         Isa 53: 10 ¶ Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.

·         It was all God’s doing he appointed him to be our lamb so that our sins could be punished in him.

·         He was the lamb slain for me as the Apostle John saw in his vision of heaven in Rev 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

·         He takes away sin by bearing in his own body the sufferings which God appointed against sin, and he bled and died as the ultimate eternal infinite sacrifice for sin for my sin.

·         Heb 9:26  but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

·         Heb 10:12  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,.

·         Conclusion - Personal Redemption

·         This is the message we have to take to the people, the same message that John preached, when the world is screaming at us you have no right to say this we must persist and follows John’s example.

·         Because like John we have been commissioned to preach so that we can prepare the people to meet this same Jesus – when he returns in all his glory to judge sin.

·         And without repentance and faith how can they endure and stand that day, if we do not preach a message that is clear and true. One that is without doubt but full of love and grace.

·         But when we preach this gospel there is an important truth we must not compromise upon and that is Jesus did not come to save the nation or the world he came to save the individual. It is a personal redemption he offers.

·         It is crucial that we understand this very important truth regarding his death, and that is that it was a personal work that Christ performed.

·         Christ becomes our personal substitute and he takes my sin and turns God's wrath away from me.

·         This would have been understood by those that heard this message.

·         Think back to when the Passover was instituted as the children of Israel where leaving Egypt.

·         What was the purpose of the Passover lamb, was it not to avert the anger of God away from the first born son (specific person in the family) – that God would pass by that house and not unleash his anger upon him.

·         The first nine plagues had presented no real danger to the Israelites, God's judgement falls only on the Egyptians – it was as though God was making a distinction between them and his people.

·         What is a little surprising is that in the tenth plague this distinction is conditional. The firstborn is not automatically spared from death; a lamb has to be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled around the door frame.

·         The implication is that the firstborn son of the Israelites would die if this is not done, for God says “when I see the blood I will Passover you.

·         Thus the lamb becomes a substitute for the firstborn son dying in his place. (not for everyone in the family) – it was personal redemption

·         When we go to the New Testament the writers make a connection between Jesus death and the Passover sacrifice, in fact there is no clearer picture of this than in the words of Christ in Mark 14 at the last supper.

·         Where Christ is clearly portraying himself as the Passover lamb -

·         Mark 14: 22  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."

·         23  Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

·         24  And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many

·         Christ is making himself to be like that lamb that was slain all those years ago.

·         But he is also telling us that this was not a sacrifice that everybody would share in - It was for those who in obedience obeyed the command and painted the door posts with the blood of the lamb.

·         So also this sacrifice will not be for all – it will be for those who in obedience will repent and believe, to those who will obey his command and listen to his teaching.

·         Just the same when John preached some believed and where baptised and some did not believe and walked away.

·         We cannot so generalize the gospel that we remove the truth about the personal redemption of Christ.

·         When we preach “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” we have to remind them that this sacrifice is conditional – it was for those that obeyed the command. It does not cover all people and all faiths.

·         Christ came to be the personal substitute for all those that would be obedient to his command of repentance and faith.

·         This is the gospel the world needs, it is a hard message, it is not compromising but it is the truth. It is a message of grace and love, it is a message about Christ being our sacrifice, our substitute and satisfying the demands of a holy God on our behalf.

·         This is the message God has given us and what right do we have to change it, who is the more arrogant the one who preaches the truth of scripture or the one who says that the bible is not the word of God, that God has got it wrong and Christ's death was really in vain

·         Let us like John prepare the people by preaching the same message and pointing them to the only one that can deal with their sin – let us simply say “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

·         May God give us the grace to glorify him in this?

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