Here is the second talk in my “Be Prepared” Advent series. I pray that God will bless you as you read through it. It is best to use a bible while reading it through.
Theme: Be prepared to receive
Aim: To a church congregation; that in order for us to receive Christ, we repent of our sins, and have our lives changed by Christ.
- 1. Call to repentance
- 2. Produce the fruit in keeping with repentance
- 3. Reason to repentance
What is the point? Why do you do this? Their were two questions that I was asked this week. On Wednesday morning, I went out on the streets did some leafleting, and talking to people about Jesus. The main evangelist who preaches on the street was half way through a talk, when a couple of women were outside Pound land and we were set up by Timpson’s in the canopy between two shopping centres. They were talking amongst themselves and I heard them say, what’s the point? Why does he do it? Who will listen?
Evangelism is not easy! Proclaiming the gospel is not easy! It only gets easy when people are willing to accept what you are saying, and take it to heart. It only becomes easier when God has opened their hearts, in order for you to speak to them. Though in order to receive him they must first know about him.
Last week, we saw the nature of the suffering servant, what his suffering means, and why he came to suffer. We saw that in order to accept who Jesus is and believe in him faithfully, he needed to reveal himself. After knowing who he is, and why he came for us, what do we need to do to receive him? What will happen when we receive him? What is the reason to receive him into our lives?
We now come to our passage at the start of Matthew’s gospel.
Call to repentance
This passage follows a period of 400 years of silence from prophetic ministry. There was a period of waiting. They were waiting for the coming Messiah. No one knew when he will appear or what he would look like. Though one man was sent by God and his name was John.
John was a man who lived in the desert and he was a preacher, just like the evangelist on the street, he was preaching about repentance. Now we usually hear on Christian T.V channels, a guy in a nice 3 piece suit, shouting at the top of his voice “Repent, Repent of your sins! Wrath of the Lord is here, turn away from your evil way!”
What does Repent mean? Why does John call out in the middle of a desert and Shout “Repent”? V2
The meaning of “To Repent” “Metanoeo” (Greek) doesn’t just mean to be sorry, but to change one’s life completely. It is not simply saying sorry for hitting someone in the face or saying sorry because you have burned the turkey on Christmas day. Repenting is an act that will change your attitude towards the things in your life. John was calling people to come to him, and turn from their own ways. Why?
“For the Kingdom of heaven is near”. What is the kingdom of heaven? It is the coming of the proclaimed king. John was preparing the people because the Messiah is coming, he is here! After 400 years of silence the promised King is here and he is bringing his kingdom with him.
But who is this John? What is his real purpose? Luke 1:17. He came to prepare people for the return of the Lord.
John is the one that the Prophet Isaiah foretold in Chapter 40:3 V3. John was sent to prepare the way for the coming king. For us today, he would be a scout, who has come to deliver a message. That is who John is. He is the one to prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him. In Isaiah 40, the prophet was describing the highway that God was preparing on which the exiles would return home from Babylon. To make a road smooth one would expect royalty to pass over it. That is the call to repentance. John is preparing our hearts in order for God to have a straight path to travel into the hearts and lives of his people. The kingdom of heaven says Don Carson “was increasingly spiritualized or planted in men’s hearts”.
For we do things in our lives, like I described last week, that we do need to turn from. What do we need to do in order to receive Christ in our lives? We need to prepare our hearts by confessing to him, all the wrong that we have committed, in order for us to receive his kingdom.
What made John so attractive? What made him attract so many people to confess their sins? Well it was the physical appearance of John that gave the Jews at the time the thought. V4-5 He wore clothe out of camels hair. Now I don’t know if you have ever seen camels hair, well it isn’t like cotton or Nylon or silk. For camel’s hair is rough and sharp, very cheap and not very luxurious. He had a leather belt around his waist. Do they remind you of an Old Testament character?
Elijah. In 2 kings 1:8 Elijah is described as wearing camel-hair and having a belt. He was to return when the Lord comes and dwell with his people. Malachi 4:5-6. What John ate also had importance. In Leviticus 11:22 Locusts were allowed to be eaten according to the Law, and the wild honey was the nectar of shrubbery. The reasons why John and Elijah were like this was in order to make themselves holy and not tempted in to softness in the ministries they were conducting. What impact did that have on the people?
Well v5+6 People came from everywhere to confess their sins; they came from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan. Confession of Sins was nothing new to the people who came. It was commanded in the Law that one should confess their sins, and each person had individual responsibility. Have you understood what it means to confess all your sins? This morning we will have the opportunity in making that act of confession later, but I want you to think. How would you have taken John? Would you take him seriously, or do you think he is a poor man with a problem? For John calls for repentance, but he also calls us to
2. Produce the fruit in keeping with repentance
John was having such an impact, preaching about repentance that he attracted the attention of the Pharisees, and Sadducees. V7 and John said to them V8. Produce fruit of repentance, well what does that mean?
Well John’s sharp response picked up immediately the fact that they were there. They could have been keen to see what John was doing, or they wanted to come and condemn his preaching, or even to come and be baptized, but John called them a brood of vipers. They are like serpents; fleeing away from the wrath of God’s Judgement.
John is preaching genuine repentance, and genuine repentance means changed lives. The religious leaders must show their conduct that they have turned from their sins, and they are willing to turn away and confess their sins. Why? I thought that they were the chosen people of God?
V9 The coming of Christ’s reign demands repentance from us all, being a descendant of Abraham is not enough. They can’t think that Abraham will keep them from punishment. You are not saved by God because you are from a good background and you have a great job. It is down to your faithful obedience to God. What happens if you don’t?
V10 You will be chopped down and be burned, regardless of your roots. The fruit of genuine repentance that is produced cannot be added on to life, but grow out of the dispositions of the heart. If there is no genuine repentance, then there is no fruit. If there is no fruit, it means there hasn’t been a fundamental change to your heart. I remember hearing at a pastoral lesson of Thursday that you can’t staple fruit to a tree, it has to be grown. It looks fake and temperamental. That is what we do in our lives. We only scratch the surface in repenting things, but the deep problems remain in our hearts. We chop the top of a weed, but allow the roots to remain.
John wasn’t sent to judge them, but to prepare the way for the one who will. V11+12. John is pointing forward to the glorious event that will take place. Christ will come and baptize his people with fire and the Holy Spirit. This would be the way, Jesus would discern between those who have genuinely repented of their sins, and those who remained against him. The baptism of water is to indicate repentance, and the Holy Spirit would confirm it. John recognized that he was unworthy compared to Jesus. For he is More powerful and his sandals I’m not fit to carry highlights John’s humility towards Jesus.
What will happen when we receive Jesus? Jesus had come to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who confess their sins will be saved, those who don’t will be condemned and burnt.
3.Reason to Repent
Jesus’ baptism is the start of his ministry, and in v13 he came from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Now John recognized Jesus V14 and he tried to deter him. Being a humble man, he knew that it wasn’t right for Jesus to baptized by him, because he was conscious of his own sin, and he couldn’t detect any sin Jesus needed repenting of so he need to be baptized by him. John was expecting Jesus to fill him with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that is why he says I need to be baptized by you.
John then asks do you come to me. Jesus came to John. Jesus comes into our lives when we ask him too. When we faithfully proclaim God’s message, Jesus will come to you, and that is why Jesus came, but there is another reason for Jesus to be baptized. V15 to fulfill all righteousness. It was to fulfill the will of his father, which is to undergo the baptism of John, which confirms the ministry that he will conduct; the ministry that will lead to his death. It will be the death that will lead us today to all righteousness, because he bore all our sins by enduring suffering on the cross, as we saw last week. Jesus needs to obey all commands given to him by his father, and baptism was one of them. John agreed, and then the confirmation of Jesus’ ministry occurred.
V16-17. Immediately, the heavens opened and the spirit descended on Jesus. Along with the spirit, the father reveals himself, and confirms his loving relationship to his Son. This was the beginning of the salvation plan for God, to bring his faithful people back to him.
When we receive baptism, we pray for the Holy Spirit to awaken our hearts and to allow our eyes to see the wonders of faith in Jesus. Just as Jesus received the Spirit from his father, we can receive the Spirit in our lives. But like John, we need to know who Jesus is, and then when we know who he is, we are able to receive the gift of forgiveness and faith. God reveals a triplet about Jesus when he speaks.
- This is my son: It confirms that Jesus is the son of God, who was conceived by Mary, and was sent by God to suffer. He is the father who sent his son, to bring us back in a relationship to him.
- I love: The father loves his son. The bond of love between the Trinity is expressed in these verses, for the Son is baptised according to his father’s will, the father sends the spirit because he is the counsellor who will direct and guide the son in his ministry, and the son receives the spirit, because he will also sent the spirit to those he loves which are his disciples, and us today
- I am well pleased: God is pleased on how obedient his son is, and that he is fulfilling his purpose through obedience.
What do I need to do in order to receive Jesus? You need to repent! John calls us to repent, and as we await the return of Jesus, we need to be ready in our hearts to receive him as king. We will say a prayer of confession later and I encourage us to say that prayer from our hearts. We can say sorry from our mouths, but if it isn’t from our hearts, then we can’t produce fruit, and we will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
What will happen when I receive him? Your life will be changed. You will need to give up the worldly desires of your heart, and fully trust and obey Jesus. You will be given the gift of eternal life. I encourage you as you get to know Jesus by reading your bible, and through mediation in prayer, your lives will depend more on him, and not on worldly thoughts.
What is the reason to receive him in our lives? The reason to receive Jesus is to be saved. When Jesus returns, he will come and separate those who are wheat and who are chaff. If we agree with allowing Jesus to dwell in our lives we will be like wheat and not chaff. If we are like chaff, we are useless, and we will be burnt in unquenchable fire, but if we are wheat, we are taken with him into glory.
So what are you going to be, faithful wheat, or useless chaff? Let us be prepared to know Jesus and receive him in our lives. Amen.