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Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Family & Church: Two Ditches to Avoid


Great points!

Update: That title looks terrible!  Just to be clear, the family and the church aren't ditches!

What's Best Next

One of the blogs I follow is by a guy named Matt Perman who works for DesiringGod.

It's called What's Best Next, and it's about productivity.

I read everything he says, it seems like he knows his stuff--but I'll be honest--I don't do what he says all of the time, even if it makes sense.

It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Matt's having a subscriber special right now.  Check it out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Is the Son of God'

“Jesus Is the Son of God”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
October 25, 2009
Luke 3:21-4:13


I enjoyed being away last weekend, but I always miss worshiping with you, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to open the Word of God with you again today!

What a privilege it is to have the Word of God in our own heart language. And what a privilege it is for me to be able to set aside time during the week to study it for you to prepare a sermon for you like a good meal and then to stand up here on Sunday mornings and offer it to you to consume.

Thank you for having a great appetite for the Word of God!  Last week, my picture was in the paper for pastor appreciation month.  Thank you for that–especially for the little captions that you put in there.  This year it said, “Pastor Matt, thank you for helping us to see what is really important in life.”

And you are talking there about the ministry of the Word.   I’m glad that you are hungry for it. It is a great privilege and joy to be your pastor.

Today, we return to the Gospel of Luke.  Does it feel like we’ve barely gotten started?

Six messages into our series, and we’re still only in chapters 3 and 4!  Jesus, so far, has only said two sentences!  And the book is all about Him!

By now, you’ve probably noticed that every title in this series has Jesus’ name in it.

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus

Luke’s Gospel is all about Jesus.

And I’m going to try to use His name in every sermon title through the whole series in Luke.

Today is Name Tag Sunday, and we’ve emphasized already everybody’s names.

There are a bunch of names in today’s passage. Especially in chapter 3 verses 23 through 38.  I’m going to read them all.  Don’t worry about my pronunciation.  If don’t know it, I just fake it!

There are a lot of names in this passage.

But there is only one name that is above every name.  And that is Jesus Christ.

Today’s passage is going to be Luke chapter 3, verse 21 through chapter 4, verse 13. And that covers a lot of ground, very diverse territory.

But there is one theme that runs throughout this passage that ties it all together.

It’s a theme that, for most of the rest of the book, runs underground and is implicit.

But here it is front and center and explicit.  It is the unique Sonship of Jesus.

JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD.

That’s what Dr. Luke wants to show.  He does it in three ways.  First, through the story of Jesus’ baptism. Then, through a listing of Jesus’ genealogy.  And finally, through the story of the temptation of Jesus.

And all along, Luke is seeking to show us and grow us in certainty about how Jesus is the unique Son of God.

Now, you may already believe that.  I hope you do.

But don’t tune out because you do.  Tune in and see it again with eyes of faith.

Open your heart to that truth and experiencing what it means for Jesus to be the unique Son of God.

Because it makes all of the difference for our lives.

And if you are not yet convinced, listen up.  Because this is the difference between life and death eternally.

When we left off last time, John the Baptist had been preaching repentance to prepare hearts for the coming King.

And the sign and symbol of this repentance was baptism in the waters of the Jordan River.

John said that he was as forerunner of the Messiah. He came before Him and prepared the way for Him. He was the voice crying out in the desert, “Prepare the Way for the Lord!”

And he said that One greater than him was to come.  One whom John wasn’t worthy to untie His shoelaces.

Now in verse 21, that Great One appears.  And He, too, wants to be baptized.

He never had anything to repent of!  But still, He comes forward to be baptized. Baptism is an identification with someone or something.  Jesus comes to be identified with us.

And the most amazing thing happened when He did. Look at verse 21.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Okay, I’ve got to say it–“Yikes!  Wow!”

This was amazing.

Notice that Jesus was praying. Only Luke brings that part out.

John was baptizing. Jesus was praying.

And God showed up in a miraculous way.

The heavens opened up.  I don’t know what that means.  But it sounds awesome!

And the Holy Spirit visibly, bodily, something like a dove, descended upon Jesus.  People could see it!  John certainly could.  He talks about it in one of the other gospels.

And then God spoke from heaven!

This wasn’t some angel!

This wasn’t Gabriel.

This was God Himself!

What did that sound like?

More importantly, what did He say?

He basically said one thing. And it was a message for Jesus.

It was this– “Jesus, You are My Beloved Son!  And I’m proud of you.”  V.22

“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Can you imagine?

Now, I’ve noted that the entire Trinity is present here. Father speaking, Spirit descending, Son being baptized.  I’ve preached on the Trinity before, and it’s important that it’s all here.

But that’s not the most important thing.

The most important thing in these 2 verses is that God shows up and says that Jesus is His son.

Jesus is the Son of God.  God Himself says so!

#1.  BELOVED.

God says to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love.”

The King James translates it, “Thou art my beloved Son.”

That’s how God feels about Jesus.

He is loved.  Uniquely loved.  He is loved as the most precious thing in the universe to God.

I have three sons.  I love them all dearly.

Drew, you are my beloved Son.
Peter, you are my beloved Son.
Isaac, you are my beloved Son.

(Robin, you are my beloved daughter!)

That’s what God is saying to Jesus.

I love you, Son!

I’m happy with you!  V.22, “...with you I am well pleased.”

“You are a good boy.

You are a perfect representation of me.
You are have obeyed me perfectly for the first 30 years.
You have love, trusted, and obeyed me.
You are perfectly God-centered.”

And this is before Jesus has begun His public ministry!

“You are a good Son.  And I love you, Son!”

Can you imagine?

This alone should lead us to worship Jesus.

We should be in awe of Jesus and hold Him in reverence.

He is unique. He is special.  He is God’s Beloved Son.

There are a lot of people who “like” Jesus but don’t worship Him.

They are more like what I call, “Godlians.”  They aren’t Christians.  They aren’t Christ-followers.  They say they believe in God.

Good.

But that’s enough.

You have to believe in Jesus.

If you truly believe in God, you will believe in Jesus.  And even worship Him.

And even LOVE Him.

Because that’s what God thinks about Him.

Our church exists to bring people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Do you know why?

Because God the Father has that kind of a relationship with Him!

Beloved.  “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

#2. OFFICIAL.

Where would you go after the baptism of Jesus?  Those two verses are totally amazing and miraculous and deep in meaning.  If you were Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, where would you take your readers next?

A genealogy, of course!

We’ve learned over the years that God is interested in genealogies.  And not for history alone–but for theology.

Every genealogy in the Bible has a point that it’s making.  At least one point.

And that point drives the names that get included in it.  Every genealogy is selective. And that’s not to leave out information for no reason but to demonstrate certain points.

The genealogy in verses 22 through 38 is very different from the one in Matthew.

For example, it descends from Jesus to down through the Old Testament instead of ascending from the Old Testament up to Jesus.

And both genealogies skip generations–that’s normal–but they skip different ones to prove their own points.

Matthew’s begins with and emphasizes Abraham.
Luke’s ends with and emphasizes Adam.

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is divided up into 3 groups of fourteen names.
Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is divided up into 11 groups of 7 names covering a longer period of time.

Now, there are a lot of other details in this genealogy that I could point out, and a number of interpretative difficulties that I studied this week, but I’m not going to talk about this morning.

If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, see me afterwards.

But what I do want to show you as we go through it is what I think Luke is most interested in proving.

It’s that Jesus is the Son of God.  Officially.

This genealogy, I think, isn’t so much concerned with bloodline and DNA like we might be, but about Jesus’ official legal standing as a Son of David, a Son of Abraham, and the Son of God.

He is, after all, adopted!  And I think this genealogy shows that as an adopted son, He is official.  Let’s look at it. 

Imagine having these names on your name-tag!  V.23

“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, [remember chapter 1.  He was born of a virgin!]  the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,  the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Jesus was the OFFICIAL Son of God.

Listen to what Darrell Bock says about this genealogy and the point its trying to make.

Jesus’ genealogy in 3:23-38 ties all humankind into one unit.  Their fate is wrapped up in Jesus.  His ministry, as seen from heaven, represents the focal point of history. The introduction of the genealogy right before the commencement of his ministry serves to highlight the scope of Jesus’ concern for humans. It points to his universal perspective.  Jesus is not some isolated minister to Israel; he does not merely minister to a tiny nation of subjected people seeking political deliverance from a dominating Rome. Rather, he is the culmination of a line of descendants stretching back through the great men of promise like Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. The lineage confirms his position and suggests his ministry’s comprehensive character.  In him, the entire hope of the [Old Testament] is inseparably and eternally bound.  In him, as well, the fate of all divinely created humans is bound together.[BECNT, pg. 360]

I think that’s right.  I don’t know how to bring it all out as we read it together, but I think that’s all there.

Jesus is the OFFICIAL, legal, rightly recognized Son of God.

That was important for Luke to establish, because for Luke it established Jesus’ qualifications for what He was about to do.

What does it mean for Jesus to be the Son of God?

Well, the whole rest of the book is going to explain that.  Everything Jesus does is tied to His Sonship.

Part of being the Son is being the Messiah–the Royal Rescuer that had been promised throughout the Old Testament.

Well, Jesus is the Son of David. Legally.

Psalm 2, right?  God says to the Davidic King, “You are my Son!”

Jesus was qualified to do all that it meant to be our Savior and Lord.

There is no other genealogy in the Bible or in other ancient documents that ends like this one does. V.38

“The son of Adam, the son of God.”

Jesus is the Son of God.

God said it!

The genealogy says it!

And now, it’s going to be get put to the test.  Chapter 4, verse 1.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”

Now, let’s get the story straight.

The devil led Jesus into the wilderness, right?

Wrong.  Who did?

The Holy Spirit did?

Why would He want to do that? The devil was going to be there!

God wants a face off.

God allows Jesus to go through a TEST.

You know that He does the same for us, don’t you?

When Satan is tempting, often God is testing!

Don’t ask which it is. It’s both.

Jesus is going to be tested. Where?

In the desert for 40 days.

What does that make you think of?

Israel right?  They were taken care of in the desert for 40 years.  But they failed their test.  Will Jesus pass?

Who else was tested at the beginning?

Adam was, right?

Did he pass or fail?

He failed, too.

Was he allowed to eat? 

Yes, Adam was allowed to eat everything in a nice garden except the fruit from one tree.

Jesus is fasting.  It’s a harder test. 

Was this real fasting or just fake? Did this really affect Jesus?

You bet it did.  He was a real person like you and me.  What does v.2 says?

“He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”

I’ll bet!

He was weak, no food, in the harsh conditions–and the devil comes along to test Him.

What’s the test about?

It’s about whether or not Jesus was the Son of God.  V.3

“The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’”

That’s a test.  Have you ever been hungry?

Now, we can learn a lot about how to resist temptation from this story.

I remember hearing the famous preacher E.V. Hill preach this passage and teach us to “Hit Satan with the Word” “Hit him!”

Because that’s what Jesus does. And the Word is effective in warding off temptation.

But that’s not the point of this passage.

The point of this passage is that Jesus is the Son of God.

#3. LOYAL.

Jesus is the loyal Son of God.

The way that Satan poses the question in verse 3 is meant to sound like this, “Jesus, since you are God’s Son, and God must care a lot about you.  Beloved?  I think He once called you...then surely you can use your supernatural powers to feed yourself.  If God really cares about you, then He’d want you to be well fed.  Tell this stone to become bread.  You can do it!”

It’s a test of His loyalty. Is God really good?

Is God good when we’re hungry and suffering?  When bad things happen to us?

Is God really good?

Does He really love us?

Maybe He doesn’t.

Maybe we’re on our own.

Maybe we need to take things into our own hands.

Jesus says, “No.”  V.4

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'’”

Deuteronomy chapter 8, verse 3.

“Hit him with the word!”

“Devil, I may be hungry, but I’m doing only what I know God wants me to do. I listen to His Words and they are more important than bread.”

I don’t listen to you.  I listen to Him.

Loyal.

Do you see how He’s acting like a loyal son?

Satan tries again.  V.5

“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’”

Do you see what Satan is offering?

He’s offering the world without the Cross.  By-passing the Cross to win the world.

I can see how that would be tempting.

But Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He fights back. Again, with Scripture.  Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 13.  V.8

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'’”

Take that, Satan.

Jesus is loyal.  He is the Son of God, and He will worship no God but God!

He is loyal.

One more time, the devil tries His hardest.  V.9

“The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here.”

[Come on! Take a nose dive.  Since you’re the Son of God. God will protect you. Prove it once and for all!]

For it is written [Satan knows the Bible, too!]: ‘'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'’ [Psalm 91]

Jesus answered, ‘It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'’ [Deuteronomy 6:16]

[Satan, that’s not how it works.  God tests you. You don’t test Him.]

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

Now, again, we can learn a lot about how to stand up under temptation from watching Jesus here.

And we are all tempted every day to go in our direction.

God’s Word, His promises, have power to keep us from giving in.

But the main point of this passage is that Jesus didn’t give in!

Jesus is the Son of God.  The perfectly loyal Son of God.

The Father was right to say, “I am well pleased” with You, Jesus!

Because unlike Israel, unlike Adam, unlike you and me, Jesus passed the test!

And that makes Him qualified to be our Savior.

Did you ever think about that?

If Jesus had turned the stone to bread or briefly bowed the knee or bungie jumped off of the temple, we would all be lost forever.

But He didn’t.

He stayed perfectly loyal.

He didn’t give in.

He passed the test for us.

He truly is the Son of God.

And because He is, we can become sons and daughters of God, as well.

Jesus passed every test perfectly and He offers His perfect scores to you and me.

When He died on the Cross, He took our failures on Himself.  That’s what His baptism pointed to.

And when He came back to life, He offered His life, His perfect record to be given to us.

That’s the greatest news in all of the world.  It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Do you see what I say that this is the difference between death and life eternally?

Are you trusting in Him and what He did at the Cross and His resurrection?

If you are not, I invite you to do it now. He invites you to trust Him now.

He is the Son of God!

Believe in Him.

And worship Him! 

And love Him!

And follow Him!

And center your life on Him!

And talk about Him!

Tell other about Him and what He did for you!

He is God’s Beloved Son.
God’s Official Son.
God’s Loyal Son.

And He offers Himself to you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Robin Joy


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[Matt's Messages] "Preparing the Way for Jesus"

“Preparing the Way for Jesus”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
October 11, 2009
Luke 3:1-20

After a great visit from the Durocher Family last week, we are returning to our study of the Gospel of Luke, the series I’ve entitled, “Certain of Jesus.” Luke told us in the first paragraph of the book that he’s written it to assure us of the certainty of Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. And so, we are studying it together to grow in that certainty.

We’ve reach chapter 3. This is where the story really gets rolling.

We’ve gotten past the “Back-Story of Jesus” where his conception and that of his relative John’s were predicted, and past his humble and yet glorious birth, and past the few yet significant details about his very special childhood.

Now, the story really gets going. In fact, Luke just about begins again in chapter 3 with a new introduction. The prologue is over; the story has begun.

And it begins, again, with John, the son of Zechariah. We call him, “The Baptist.”

In chapter 1, we left John in the desert, growing strong into adulthood and waiting until the time for his public appearance in Israel (1:80).

It’s now time. Just as his father, Zechariah, had predicted John’s job was to prepare the way for Jesus. Zechariah had said, “You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins...” (1:76-77).

And that’s exactly what he did.


Luke 3. Verse 1.

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.”

Let’s stop there for second.

Notice how Dr. Luke is doing his historian-thing again. This time, Luke sets his story in the context of not just one ruler so that you know when this all happened, but in no fewer than seven historical figures: Tiberius, Pilate, Herod (this is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who we talked about in chapter 1), his brother Philip, Lysanians, and Annas and Caiaphas.

Again, these are historical people. They really lived. They really had positions of authority during this time period. The date is about 29 AD.

Luke is careful to make sure that we know that this stuff is not a fairy tale or a myth. This really happened in space/time history.

I think that’s more and important in our day when the historicity of the gospel accounts is so much under attack. This really happened.

Now, what happened? V.2, “...the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.”

John was called to be a prophet. God’s word came to him in some special way–and he had to proclaim it. What was this word? V.3

“He went into all the country around the Jordan [that’s a river in Palestine], preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is why we call him, “John the Baptist.”

He had unique ministry. Under the inspiration of God, John was preaching that people–good Jews even!–ought to get baptized to symbolize their repentance to prepare for the forgiveness of sins. Water as a symbol of cleansing.

This was a preparatory baptism, a preparatory repentance, preparing for forgiveness.

How do we know that? Luke fills us in on what this meant in verse 4. John’s baptism of repentance was preparing the way for the Lord. V.4

“As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'’” Isaiah 40:3-5.

Luke sees that John fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.

He is “The Voice.” It’s his job to call out in the desert “Prepare the Way for the Lord.”

That was John’s message. Point #1 of 3 this morning.

#1. PREPARE FOR THE KING!

This repentance, this baptism that John was preaching was preparatory. It was getting hearts ready, getting people ready for the coming king.

I love the picture in verse 5.

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.”

What is Isaiah talking about?

He’s talking about building a highway.

How many have taken the new 322 highway from Port Matilda to State College?

How about the new I 99 from Altoona to State College? Pretty cool, huh?

It seemed like those construction projects would never be done, didn’t it?

What did they have to do to build those roads?

They had to move the mountains didn’t they? And it was a bigger project than they predicted, wasn’t it? Because they found that acid rock.

They had to cut through the mountains and move a lot of dirt to make those highways.

That’s the picture in Isaiah 40 and in verse 5 of Luke 3.

They are making a highway. Who is going to roll in on the highway?

The KING! The Lord.

“Make straight paths for the Lord.”

The King is coming.

Make a royal highway for him!

Prepare for the King!

That’s John’s message. Prepare for the King!

Now, what does that look like? John says that it looks like repentance.

And if you come to him for baptizing, repentance is what you are saying by getting baptized by John, “I repent.”

The mountains and the hills and the valleys that need leveling are sins that must be turned away from. This is a highway into the hearts of God’s people.

A baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord.

Before the King comes, His people must get ready, and the way to get ready is to repent.

And crowds of people started coming out to the desert to get baptized!

Can you imagine the sight?

The Bible says that John was a strange man with strange clothes and strange diet in a strange location.

And people come flocking out to see this strange man and submit to his message and his baptism.

Clearly, something is happening.

John is preaching repentance. Is anyone listening?

Are we listening? When the subject is repentance, are we tuning or tuning out?

Is repentance just for non-Christians or is it for everyone?

Is repenting just something you do once and then you’re done?

John was trying to get people ready for the coming of the Messiah, the King.

But he wasn’t convinced that everyone who was coming to be baptized was the Real Deal. V.7

“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

I don’t think that John would have won any popularity contests!

What a response! Here come all of these people out to hear him and be baptized, and this is how he treats them?

He sees that many are not genuine. They are a bunch of snakes. They feel the heat of the fire coming, and they snake out looking for somewhere safe.

But they are not real. Real repentance can be verified. V.8

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 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. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

John was quite a preacher, wasn’t he? Vivid! Stones and axes and fruit.

Some of the people coming out didn’t think they needed repentance. Because they were Jewish! They were Hebrew. They were children of Abraham.

“Abraham is my father! I don’t need this ‘baptism of repentance’ thing.”

John says, “Oh yes, you do!”

Being a child of Abraham is nothing. God can raise up a child of Abraham wherever he wants. It’s not race, it’s grace!

And we to hear today, too.

God has no grandchildren, only children.

You don’t get into the Kingdom by belonging to a godly family.

The Durochers who were here last week, they have a great family. All happy and holy–loving the Lord. But just because you are a Durocher doesn’t make you a Christian.

Everyone has to repent for themself.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a part of this church for 80 years, if you are not repentant yourself, you are outside of grace.

Everyone has to repent for themself.

And it’s important. John says, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

This is a “repent or else” message. It IS “turn or burn.”

Those are the only two choices. It is that important.

Judgment is coming. It is imminent.

Notice John’s message.

#2. “PRODUCE FRUIT IN KEEPING WITH REPENTANCE.”

And if you don’t have it, you’ll be chopped down and burnt up.

What is John saying?

John is saying that true repentance includes a change in behavior.

Repentance is a heart-thing, right? It starts in the heart.

But it doesn’t stop in the heart, does it?

No, it always works itself out in a change in behavior.

Produce Fruit in Keeping with Repentance.

The root is our hearts. That’s where repentance happens.

But if it is true repentance, our root will produce fruit that shows it.

The crowd wants examples. V.10

“‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’”

Want to know what repentance looks like? It looks like sharing. It looks like generosity. It looks like taking care of others. V.12

“Tax collectors also came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don't collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them.”

Whenever you see the word “tax-collector,” you should think, “Boo, Hiss!” and maybe spit. These guys were hated in Israel for not just collecting money for the Romans but forcing people to pay big amounts on top of the Roman tax–just because they could.

John says, if your baptism of repentance is real, then you’ll cut that out. You’ll only take what you should.

Another hated group was the soldiers. V.14

“Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He replied, ‘Don't extort money [don’t shake people down] and don't accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.’”

Produce Fruit in Keeping with Repentance.

Change your behavior if you really mean it.

Now, I want you to notice what John does not say.

What John does say seems pretty basic. “Give to others. Don’t steal. Be content. Don’t lie.”

What doesn’t he say?

He doesn’t say, “Go through all of these motions. Take on these rituals.” Sure, baptism, but not if you don’t mean it. And not a lot of other rituals–no extra sacrifices, no new religious rigamarole. Let’s get religious! No.

And he doesn’t tell them to get all emotional, either. Sometimes, we think that repentance is a feeling that we need to work up or have come over us. No, there is no navel-gazing here, no working up your feelings.

Repentance is a radical change of heart that leads to a radical change of life.

And that radical change is to live holy and loving lives.

You say that you are repentant? John says, “Okay. Show me.”

Here’s the question:

Is there fruit in keeping with repentance in your life and mine?

Now, I would urge everyone here that professes to believe in Jesus to get baptized.

Everyone who believes in Jesus should either get baptized or be planning to get baptized. That’s a matter of obedience.

But the real and deeper question is whether or not our baptisms point to real repentance or not.

Has there really been a change in our lives?

Is there fruit in keeping with repentance in your life and mine?

Or is it just “talk?”

Now, John wasn’t calling the Jews to claim perfection. He was calling them to change their ways.

And God is calling us to the same thing.

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

I’m working on a paper right now for one of my classes on my information addiction.

Did you know that I’m an information junkie?

I am.

I love to know things. Sometimes, I feel like I HAVE TO KNOW THINGS!

This last week, I was worrying about a financial transaction–whether some money that I had asked to be deposited had been deposited in time so that I didn’t get another “speeding ticket” like I mentioned this last Summer.

And so, I checked my balance online–online banking, right? Great idea.

I checked my balance–30 or 40 times a day for a couple of days.

My wife pointed out very lovingly (by laughing at me) this was not a healthy use of my time. In fact, it was sinful. And she was right.

And I needed to repent.

What would fruit in keeping with repentance look like for me in this situation?

It would mean only checking once or twice a day, right?

And what else? Using that redeemed time to love my family and my church, right?

The Lord wants you and me to be repentant, to turn from sin.

That’s one of the things that our baptisms symbolize–though they symbolize more than that now that Jesus has come.

But he wants us to turn, to repent.

Where is the Lord looking for repentance in your life right now?

Is it an addiction of some kind like my information addiction? Maybe an addiction to food or gossip or something else.

Is it a relationship or a behavior or an attitude?

It isn’t enough to feel bad about it.

God is calling for us to change.

Not to become perfect all at once–but to turn away from our sin and produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

Maybe it has to do with money for you. Did you notice how all three examples of repentance that John gave were about stewardship and generosity?

What is your checkbook saying right now about your repentance, about where your heart it?

Repent! God will give you the grace. Repent.


I have a third point this morning, but I want pause right here for a second and pray for us that we would produce this kind of fruit in keeping with repentance.

[prayer]

Now, John was stirring things up. He didn’t care a bit about what people thought of him. And people kept coming and coming and coming.

And some people were changing. It seemed like the King was arriving! There was something big happening. It was making the officials uncomfortable.

And people started to get excited and expectant that maybe the Messiah was here! V.15

“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.”

Is this it? We are preparing the way for the Lord!

John says, “No. I’m not the Christ.” He’s someone much greater than I am. V.16

“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. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’”

Number 3. This is John’ message.

#3. PONDER THE POWER OF CHRIST!

Oh, no, friends. I’m not the Christ! He’s still coming. And boy is He powerful!

I’m not worthy to untie his shoelaces.

You think I’m something?

I just baptize in water. He baptizes in God the Holy Spirit and with fire!

Now, I’m not sure what that fire refers to. I think it might be the fire of Pentecost on the heads of the disciples. Or maybe the purifying fire that refines us who are believers.

But my main thought is that it is the fire the separates the believer from the unbeliever in final judgment. V.17

“[The Messiah’s] winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The picture here is that the Powerful Messiah, the Christ, holds a winnowing fork, a great big wooden fork that you pick up the grain with and toss it in the air to thresh.

The heavy stuff which is good lands down on the floor and is kept and useful.

The light stuff, the chaff blows away and then is only good for a fire.

The Messiah is powerful and brings judgment.

And there is no escaping Him! Remember verse 9 and His ax at the root of the tree.

Ponder the Power of the Coming Messiah!

I am not the Christ. He is still coming.

And you’d better repent while you still can!

That’s John’s message.

Some people received it. Others did not.

Herod Antipas did not. V.18

“And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.”

Herod had stolen his brother’s wife.

And John preached against it. He didn’t care who Herod was.

And Herod locked him up and eventually killed him.

But that didn’t stop him or his message.

#1. Prepare for the King! The King is coming. Make a highway. Do whatever it takes, move whatever it takes to get ready for His coming.

#2. Produce fruit in Keeping with Repentance. Stop. Turn. Change. Do something differently. Walk out your talk.

#3. Ponder the Power of the Christ! He is coming! And is Great! And He is powerful. He is going to bring judgment. Repent while you can.

That’s John’s message.

What do you think is going to happen next?

In the next verse, which we’ll read in two weeks, Jesus steps out onto stage.

And He gets baptized.

But His baptism is not a baptism of repentance. It’s a baptism of identification–with us.

While our baptism says that we’re sorry for our sins, Jesus’s said, “I’ll take your sins on me. I’ll be one of you.”

And that’s how baptism becomes “a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus dies for those sins.

He pays for those sins.

He pours out His blood for those sins.

Repentance opens the doors of our hearts for the Lord to come in.

But it was His work on the Cross that cleanses us.

That’s what we now celebrate at this table.

If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, that is producing fruit in keeping with repentance, then you are invited to eat and drink this meal with us today.

If you are not yet a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, then please do not eat and drink with us yet. But instead use this time to ponder the power of Christ.

Do you believe in this history?

Do you believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah?

Do you believe that there is a judgment coming?

Wheat and chaff separated?
Chaff burned with an unquenchable fire?

An ax laid at the root of the trees? And every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire?

If you are not yet trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sin and the hope of eternal life, I urge you turn today and trust in Him.

Repent and believe in Jesus.

Tell Jesus that you want to turn and trust in Him.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!

This is the good news.

If you do believe the good news, don’t stop repenting.

The Christian life is a race of repentance.

The Lord is probably putting His finger on some sin in your life. Some area that hasn’t been conquered yet.

Tell Him that you want to change and you are ready to be radical about it.

He will help you.

He wants your transformation more than you do.

Use this time to talk to the Lord about what you need to repent of and how you can about doing it.

Thank Him for being broken for your sin and pouring out his blood for your sin.

And tell Him how you want to change because of it.

Tell Him that you want a highway in your heart that the King smoothly ride right on so that all mankind will see God’s salvation.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A New Forgiveness Quiz

Chris Brauns, author of Unpacking Forgiveness has posted a new quiz about the subject on the one-year anniversary of the publishing of his book.

Take the quiz, enter a contest to win a copy of the book and/or a Flip Camera.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A New Friend - Steve Lutz

Got to meet Steve Lutz today, a missionary with the CCO.

We met through the Gospel Coalition.

Check out his ministry: Missio Dei.

Good to meet likeminded brothers!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Filled Up

“Filled Up”

Love gives up himself and ends up receiving.
Love takes up his cross and ends up relieving.
Love loses his life and ends up finding.
Love is bound up in death and ends up unbinding.

Love loses it all and ends up keeping.
Love dies to make seeds and ends up reaping.
Love owns nothing at all and ends up giving.
Love hates his own life and ends up living.

- BRW

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Concert Report



Excellent!

And what a joy to have them and get to know them better.

If you can come to church at Lanse tomorrow (9am Paul is going to speak, 10am worship and preaching), don't miss it!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Craig & Carolyn Williford - Blog

The new president and first lady of Trinity International University have begun a blog.

For those who care about TIU, their posts will probably be something important to read.



Concert Tonight!



Paul and Judy Durocher and 10 of their kids are currently running along I-80 on their way to Lanse Free Church for tonight's free concert.

We're all ready to be blessed and to be a blessing to our community.

And--NEW'S FLASH--the Durochers are going to be back to worship with us on Sunday!