Final Preparations for the Coming of Christ, part 1 (Mark 1:1-8)

Sunday, September 25th, 2011
Sermon Series: Mark

The Gospel of MarkDownload Sermon Outline

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Final Preparation for the Coming of Christ

Mark 1:1-8, part 1

 

Preparation–to get to work, to go to school, to take a test, to go on a date, in order to get married, to start a new job, for church, for dinner, for a trip, for a vacation, to see friends, to make a presentation, to preach a sermon, to throw a party–it seems like we are always preparing.

How about preparing to bicycle across the Atlantic Ocean?  That’s right, bicycling across the Atlantic Ocean–sounds like something Wile E Coyote would try.  But there are two men preparing to do just that this December.  They’ve built a 27-foot long, closed cockpit, self-righting, pedal-driven monohull boat that looks like something out of Star Trek, which they will be riding for 3,000 miles, taking them over one month from the Canary Islands to Barbados in the Woodvale Challenge Atlantic Rowing Race, in order to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Sealed into their sleek, aerodynamic, carbon-fiber death-trap, one man will pedal something like a recumbent bicycle to propel the rowboat-size craft, while his partner rests or sleeps in the back.  While sealed in their trendy rowboat, the temperature will average 85 degrees inside.  The main windshield can be opened for air and closed for bad weather.  Solar panels on the roof will help power navigation.  Water desalinating equipment, and a Sony PlayStation for boredom, during their 38-day, 3 mile-per-hour trek.  Every possible scenario has been considered and discussed.  There was been a massive amount of thought, planning and preparation that has gone into this endeavor.

Maybe you have never considered this truth–our God made massive, careful preparations as He readied this planet for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.”  The fullness of time includes the entire world under Rome, united by Roman roads, speaking one common language—Greek.  Yet despondent in their religions, empty in their immorality, and finding no love, peace or joy in their daily lives, the world was ready to hear of how God Himself could rescue them from their sins.

And this is how the gospel of Mark begins.  Open your Bibles to Mark chapter 1, and take the outline in your bulletin.  And today discover the final preparation God designed for the coming of His Son Jesus Christ, with the ministry of the forerunner, the life and service of the one who would announce the coming of the true King from heaven, the herald who would prepare the people in order to be ready to respond to God’s gracious salvation.  The final prophet of the Old Testament, who will prepare the world for God’s New Testament.

Let’s meet John the Baptist in verses 1 to 8–read aloud with me. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”’ 4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

This passage is going to ask us some pointed questions, like . . .

Are you here still wondering who Jesus Christ really is?

Do you know what must happen in your heart for you to truly turn to Christ so you can be right with God?

Do you daily live with a repentant heart, and experience the forgiveness God’s grace has provided for you?

Have you been identified with Christ by total immersion in water through the ordinance of water baptism?

Are you one who considers yourself committed to Christ?

Does that commitment actually display itself in your lifestyle?

Does your life truly demonstrate a heart of humility, where you show off Christ as worthy and yourself as unworthy?

If you’re a Christian, you’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit . . . is your life immersed in the Spirit’s person, gifts and power?

God prepared this world in a mighty way for the coming of His Son, and as He was about to enter on the scene, beginning His public ministry, Jesus was introduced.  Christ was heralded by a prophet of God, and people were prepared to respond to Christ by a great man of God named John the Baptist.

#1  The Purpose of John–to point to Christ

Have you ever been sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face, while a shout breaks your dream with, “Wake up, get up, you will be late.”  Sometimes with a splash of water or a pillow in the face, this person makes a point–you have got to get going now.  That is how Mark starts His gospel–He doesn’t mess around, there is no lineage, no nativity, no younger years, just the final preparation.  Look at how he begins in verse 1.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Here is the beginning–Mark doesn’t actually use the article “the”, but just the Greek word for beginning, telling us it is not the very beginning, or the only beginning, but a beginning.  Matthew begins the story with a trace back through the entire Jewish family tree of Jesus to Abraham, the father of the Jews.  Luke traces Christ’s lineage farther back, all the way to Adam, showing Christ as the only one who can help the human race.  John traces the gospel back even further, showing Christ’s origin actually lies in eternity with God, as God Himself.

But being the author of action and the gospel of go, Mark starts off with the official start of Jesus’s public ministry, which officially begins with the ministry of John the Baptist.  Some view verse 1 as a title, but because of the connection to verse 2 starting with, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,” and because Mark is Peter’s gospel writer and Peter began his gospel sermons with John the Baptist (like in Acts 10), it is more natural to read verse 1 as saying this—“the good news about Jesus Christ the Son of God began with John the Baptist.

And Mark says this beginning is the Gospel.  Originally the Greek word “gospel” indicated a reward that was given for bringing someone good news–good news.  By the time Mark uses it here, it just means good news.  What is so good about it?

Every person who has ever lived has been trying to somehow earn God’s favor, appease His anger, find some release from their guilty hearts and dirty souls, and make certain heaven is guaranteed after death.  Every culture in the world has invented some type of religion to find the right path.  But not a single one will work.  No route invented or earned by men will ever make you right with God.  But the Gospel, the good news, is God Himself made a path for people to be right with God now and enjoy Him forever.  The Gospel is the message of salvation addressed to a world lost in sin.  Religion is man’s way to God, which will never work.  Christ is God’s way to man, which can only work–that’s good news.

It is not what you do, try to do, attempt to do, or hope to do, but what God has done through Christ for you—religion is do, Christ is done.  That is why the term Gospel contains genuine elements of joy, victory and gladness.  The message of the Gospel should cause you to have a joyful reaction.  Those who need it and those who have it, should be glad–how glad?  Like the bottom of the 9th, two outs, three runs down—grand slam kinda’ glad.  Your God did the work, and won.  Your God did the work on your behalf and won a way for you.

How did God do it?  Notice verse 1, “through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  The beginning of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, Son of God.  Mark, who writes this book, directs all the attention and all the credit away from himself, and on to Jesus Christ.  In fact, in this entire letter, Mark never mentions himself by name.  The focus of this book, and the focus of our lives, is to be all about Jesus Christ, not the herald of the good news, but Jesus Christ, the subject of the good news.  The Gospel is about a person whom Mark describes three ways.

JESUS is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation–God is the One who brings about salvation.  Jesus is the Savior’s human name, given to him by the angel before His birth.  Remember Matthew 1:21, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Jesus is salvation; Jesus is the way God is able to save His people.

The title CHRIST is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah, describing the only One who is Holy Spirit-anointed, set apart, commissioned and qualified to fulfill the role of Savior.  The only one who could carry out the task of saving His people from their sins to the glory of the Triune God–Jesus, the Christ, is the one whom God chose to provide salvation for His people.

And SON OF GOD points to His deity.  Christ had in Him a nature that was higher than man’s nature.  It was God’s nature.  The Greek has no article–there is no “the” in the Greek, so it’s not Jesus Christ, “the” Son of God, but Jesus Christ, Son of God, indicating Jesus was God by nature.  The only way Jesus Christ could pull off the amazing miracles that Mark is about to describe for us in this book, is for Jesus Christ be to be God Himself, fully human and fully God–God in a bod.  God was born a baby on Christmas, and the God-Man offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross at Easter.  Being fully man, Jesus could die for our sins in our place.  Being fully God, Christ could satisfy God the Father’s justice.

The New Testament makes it abundantly clear Jesus is fully man and fully God.  We know He is God, He is deity, through five major evidences.  Memorize this using the acrostic “CANDY”–this is truly “sweet”.

Christ CLAIMED to be God, John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”

Christ displayed the ATTRIBUTES of God, Mark 4:41, “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’”

Christ had owned divine NAMES, John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’”

Christ performed the DEEDS of deity, John 11:43 to 44, “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ 44 The man who had died came forth.”

Christ said YES to being worshiped, Matthew 14:33, “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’”

Christ was and is FULLY GOD and FULLY MAN–God in a bod, verse 1, “It is Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

Mark starts the gospel off with a bang in verse 1.  This coming forerunner is about to announce incredibly joyful news about how God Himself became a man, in order to provide salvation from your slavery to sin, and stop you from constantly trying to earn God’s favor through some religion or rite.  The good news is this–God has made a way, and God did it Himself.

Verse 1 tells us the purpose of John’s coming is to point you to Christ.  Jesus is the good news.  Jesus is God come in the flesh.  Jesus Christ is God’s only way to rescue lost, broken, worn out, guilt-ridden sinners like you and me.  Is this good news, hot off the presses?  Is it the newest story to break?  Is the good news “new news”?  No, the good news has been planned, and this Gospel was prepared for . . .

#2  The Promise of John–a part of Christ’s plan

Mark doesn’t quote a lot of Old Testament passages in His book, but in verses 2 and 3 he does.  If Mark is the first gospel written, he’s the first of all four gospels to quote these verses affirming the ministry of John the Baptist, heralding the coming of Christ.  All four gospels affirm that John’s role in preparing for the ministry of Christ was planned long ago in the mind of God.  Look at verses 2 and 3, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way; 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”’”

This gospel beginning has its roots in the past.  The verb “as it is written” means it is a past completed action, but with present abiding results.  The verb “written” is actually stating a fact–this was written long ago, but its truth is actually affecting us today, and still stands today.  Mark and the other gospel writers also state that this passage was written by Isaiah.  But verses 2 and 3 are actually two Old Testament quotes put together, from Isaiah and from Malachi.

Mark and the other gospels are not in error–he is simply stating that the full significance of the Isaiah passage is made known when you see both passages together.  Isaiah is made clear once you look at the whole of Scripture.  Viewing Isaiah with Malachi together makes God’s intended meaning through Isaiah obvious to all.

What is that?  The voice who cries out in the desert is actually the herald who immediately precedes the Lord, the Messiah.  God planned for John’s preparatory ministry.  It’s prophesied.  This was not a mistake, a fluke or a random convergence.  Jesus didn’t run around trying to fulfill prophecy.  He didn’t secretly meet with John to get him to fill out this role any more than He planned His own birth in Bethlehem.

Jesus Christ fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah during His life and ministry, written down in Old Testament documents that were preserved, collated, even translated hundreds of years before Jesus was born.  The odds of one person actually fulfilling hundreds of prophecies create statistical numbers so large we don’t even have names for them.  Quattuordecillion—1045, Centillion—10303, then there is googol—10100, and don’t get me started on Googolplex.

God prepared John to prepare the people for Jesus’s ministry.  This was God’s plan from the beginning, expressed in prophecy at least 600 years before Christ was born, when Isaiah wrote it.  Mark says in verse 2, “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You.”  The speaker is God Himself, and starts with “behold”, commanding the hearer to give full attention to this announcement.  I send My messenger ahead of You–literally, “I am sending,” telling us this is going to happen.  You will get a messenger–which is the word for angel or important human messenger.

And God says, it is my messenger–this is God’s personal envoy.  And this personal messenger of God is sent ahead of You, literally before your face–ahead of you means before your face.  This is Mark telling us of the close connection between John and Jesus–ahead of you, or before your face, is telling us John’s ministry will be performed in the personal presence of the coming Lord.  They will not be distant, but overlap–they will see each other.  And what did God prepare for Him to do, what is God’s plan?  Verse 2, “Who will prepare Your way.”

Today, you can travel on main roads in some countries that are so poorly maintained, potholes are swimming pool size with ruts so deep, they will actually break your car’s axel.  Roads in the East 2,000 years ago were generally in bad condition.  A coming king would often send a representative ahead of him to assure that the roads had been adequately prepared.  The historian Josephus, when describing the march of general Vespasian, says that the vanguard was to “make the road even and straight, and if it were anywhere rough and hard to be passed over, to plane it, and to cut down the woods that hindered their march.”

Spiritually, this was John’s task–he was to prepare the road for the coming King.  He was to remove hindrances in the hearts of the people so they’d be ready to receive the coming One.  The Word of God, in verse 2, says, “Take note (behold), I, God, send my messenger to be the one who will prepare you for God’s salvation!”

Where will this messenger preach, and what will he say?  Verse 3, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”  Mark literally says, John will be a voice shouting in the wilderness.  The word “crying” is a loud cry, or a shout–heard from a distance.  God planned that Johns teaching would be marked with intensity and emotion–he would gain people’s attention.

And what would John shout?  “Make ready the way of the Lord.”  This is a summary command for all of you people of Israel, to be prepared–the Messiah is coming, and you are not ready.  So with the force of a curt military command, Mark quotes the prophet Isaiah saying, “Get ready now.  Mark is blowing the morning trumpet call–you know, Reveille.  Your heart is a shambles, your motives are not tucked in, and your behavior is going to get you eternally court martialed.  Make ready–get prepared for, Mark says, the way.  The picture again is leveling the roads, the way, and making them safe for the coming of the Lord before His arrival.  Deal with your heart right now, before He arrives.

You are preparing for your Lord, “Make ready the way of the Lord.”  By quoting this, Mark is equating Jesus with the Old Testament Lord, God Himself.  This is the only one everyone is accountable to–the Lord of all, you will have to answer to Him for the life you have lived.  No matter who you are today, you will answer to God, you will have to explain yourself, you will have to give reasons for the choices you have made.  Whether done in secret or out in public, whether thought or deed, whether motive or action, whether speech or attitude.  You will give an answer to God, who knows all about you.

That will frighten anyone but a fool–and a normal response would be to try to correct your life externally–start giving, acting religious and being kind.  The other response would be for you to realize you are wicked internally.  You can’t change yourself, so you cry out for God to transform you and make you willing and capable of living a life that can please God.

John’s ministry was to call people to get ready for Christ.  In fact, that is why he ends verse 3 with, “Make His paths straight.”  Mark says that the forerunner, John the Baptist, was coming to fix the road of the people’s hearts for the Messiah’s coming ministry.  Clear away all the obstacles they had thrown into God’s path, they must deal with the obstructions of self-righteousness, the pride of religious effort, and the disease of smug complacency to be ready.

Come to the place where you know you can’t do a thing to save yourself.  Come to the realization you are sinfully wicked internally, and only God can transform a person from the inside out.  And today, I believe the Lord would say the same thing to some of you.  Stop your Christian religion, where you prayed a prayer once, made a decision, served in a ministry, attended church for a season, but your heart was not transformed into someone who was willing to do whatever Christ desires, with a new heart that desires to serve Christ with your entire life, and now a believer whose life is an act of worship to Christ, even though you still battle with sin.

John was called to expose the crooked paths of the human heart, for people to be able to see their own wretched sinfulness, which is more than to admit they lied once, stole once, lusted or got angry at their spouse.  It is the realization that your entire nature, your very being, is wicked, filled with pride, self, deception and sin.  Your motives, thoughts, and drives are sinful.  Why do you need to “own” your fallen sinfulness?  So you’d come to a place to see your desperate need for repentance, and create in you a heart that would cry out for forgiveness.  Which leads us to verse 4 and . . .

#3  The Primary focus of John–our need for Christ

The purpose of John was to point to Christ.  The promise of John was God’s plan set in motion so that people would be prepared for the ministry of Christ.  And now, the primary focus of John is to help people see their need for Christ, found in verse 4.  In answer to the prophecies given hundreds of years before about John, and in fulfillment of the prophecies recorded in verses 2 and 3 from Isaiah and Malachi, verse 4 says, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

John was a common name back then and today.  But the meaning of John is not common–it means “to whom God is gracious.”  And just like Joseph, who was told by an angel to name our Savior “Jesus”, the angel Gabriel told Zacharias, John’s father, what to name him—John, “to whom God is gracious.”

And here Mark calls him, “John, the immersing one.”  You say, “Chris, my Bible says, ‘John the Baptist.’  It doesn’t say immersing one—you’re just pushing your opinion on us.”  No, I am not.  Luther and Calvin, who both sprinkled in practice, would tell you the Greek word baptidzo means to immerse.  Baptidzo describes the process of taking a piece of cloth, immersing it in liquid dye in order to change its color–which doesn’t work too good if you just sprinkle it.  It’s gotta go under the water.

The entire imagery of New Testament baptism, being in union with Christ in His death–under the water, and resurrection–coming out of the water doesn’t work, unless it is by water immersion.  Plus, the reason the Greek word is translated John the Baptist, and the reason why the Greek baptidzo is transliterated “baptism” instead of translated “immersion”, is because of King James.  When he (King James) commissioned the translation of the Bible into English, he asked/commanded that baptidzo not be translated immersion, because he didn’t want to be immersed.  So they just transliterated it “baptism” in verse 4.  John is literally John the one immersing, stressing his personal identity, marked by his primary characteristic activity.  Immersing others is what he was known for–it is what He did.

But you and I still don’t get verse 4, because we are familiar with baptism–we baptize, we immerse.  It is what biblical Christians do.  But it is not what God-fearing, natural born Jews did 2,000 years ago.  You see, by calling the Jews to be baptized, John was being radical.  The only people who were baptized during the time of John and Jesus were Gentiles who wanted to follow the one true God by become Jews.  Only Gentile converts to Judaism were baptized as a ritual washing from all the defilement of the past–living as a Gentile.

So when John calls the Jews to be baptized, he is asking Jews to do something they had never done before in their history.  John is calling Jews to do something only the disgusting Gentiles had to do in order to be a Jew.  In doing so, John was asking the Jews to admit they too were defiled–they were just as sinful as a Gentile, and just as needy of repentance and forgiveness.

This is where you have to be to become a Christian today.  This is the position you have to embrace to be born again.  You don’t come to Christ admitting your sin, yes–but thinking yourself not as bad as the Hell’s Angel, or an Adolf Hitler.  You come to Christ admitting your sin is the worst sin you know.  You come to Christ when you admit God is just to condemn you to hell for your sinful heart, and for every single one of your sinful actions, from the impure thoughts to a small word of gossip.

The genuine Christian is first one who is disgusted with their own sin.  This is what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  John prepared the Jews by calling them to mourn over their sin.  Those who mourn over their sin see their need for grace and for a Savior–therefore, they’re prepared/ready to receive Christ and be blessed.

Where did John minister?  Verse 4, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness.”  When I think of wilderness, I think of forests of trees, or an African jungle, or a lone rocky region where those who want to live off the grid dwell–so isolated the FBI can’t find them.  That is not the wilderness of Judea in Israel.  The area between Jerusalem and Jericho is the wilderness.  That region is a desolate, dry, hilly, dirty bad lands–a hill country west of Judea, and east of the Dead Sea near Jericho.  It is a desolation–a vast, undulating expanse of barren, chalky soil covered with pebbles, broken stones and rocks.

The text seems to imply that the wilderness is also emblematic of your heart.  So spiritually, this is your heart toward God–dead, dry, chalky, with an occasional brushwood.  Often at the Jordan River, sometimes in a wadi of water feeding into the Jordan, verse 4 says John the immersing one appeared.  He literally became–Marks way of saying John came on the scene.  John began his prophesied ministry of preparing hearts for Christ.

And John did that by immersing and by preaching–what did John preach?  Verse 4 adds, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  John preaching in the desert means he was proclaiming or announcing as a herald.  He had been given a message to proclaim to all willing to hear–a message he continually heralds that will prepare the people’s hearts for their coming Lord.  And the sermon John, the immersing one, continually proclaims is an immersion into repentance–a life of repentance.

Verse 4 says, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Picture the scene–people by the hundreds, later thousands, were leaving their homes and journeying into the wilderness for a day trip (about 14 miles), to hear John preach about their sin.  Here they were, seated by the Jordan River, listening to John warn them about judgment, speaking to individual sins, naming names, pointing out their greed, lust, cruelty, lack of mercy and love.  Then calling for a life of repentance, an immersion into repentance–literally, to live aware of their sinfulness 24/7 and turn from it.

Finally, when they were duly convicted, they formed endless lines to be baptized as an external sign that they were repenting of their sin.  Get this–they were immersed in water on the outside as a sign.  They were immersing themselves in repentance on the inside.

John didn’t tell them to pray a prayer, or that Jesus would fix all their problems, or God would heal them or give them wealth.  He called them to change their minds about sin.  Instead of excusing their sin, to admit their sin.  Instead of ignoring their sin, to actually deal with their sin.  Instead of blaming others, to accept the responsibility of their sin.  Instead of worrying about their self-image, to be broken over what God thinks of their sin instead.

True repentance had fallen on hard times in John’s day, just as true repentance has fallen on hard times in our day.  Repentance is not feeling bad cause you were caught in your sin.  Repentance is not merely confession–repentance is not even grief and regret for sin.  True repentance is a radical change of mind that results in a 180-degree change of life direction.  True repentance is described in 2 Corinthians 7:10 to 11.  The next time you are looking for repentance in your own life or in the life of others you are shepherding, this is what you look for.

Second Corinthians 7:10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”

When repentance is real, it will produce fruit–life change and altered behavior.  Acts 26:20 bears this out when it says, but kept declaring . . . even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.  You will live differently when there is true repentance of heart.  It was not baptism that removes sin, but a true repentant heart!

And John was calling the people to immerse themselves into a lifestyle of repentance of sin–24/7.  To see their own sin, accept responsibility for it, hate their sin and turn from it.  Why?  The result of a repentant heart is sweet.  Mark says in verse 4, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Who doesn’t want to be completely, genuinely and fully forgiven?

Feeling guilty?  Overwhelmed by your sin?  Sad over choices you’ve made?  The Greek word forgiveness literally means sending off, sending away, or dismissal.  It speaks of the cancellation of sin, escaping the deserved, just punishment for sin.  In the human heart, there is nothing more liberating than total, unearned, complete, forever forgiveness.  Be encouraged by:

Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

Isaiah 44:22, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist.  Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

Isaiah 55:6 to 7, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

John the immersing one is calling people to be immersed in repentance so that they may have a heart prepared for the One who could bring about total, complete, forever forgiveness.  Most of those who came to John were aware that there could not be forgiveness without the shedding of blood.

The Jewish people had seen the Passover, the slaughter of thousands of lambs, and the bloody mess that made.  But very few understood that it would be God Himself, come to earth as a man, who would offer Himself as the final Passover lamb who would take away the sin of the world.  It would be John, the immersing one, who would declare in John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”  The primary focus of John was to point us to our need of Christ.

Later, the apostle Paul would make it very clear in Acts 13:38, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him [Christ] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”  Christ died on the cross for the sins of His own.  And Christ rose from the dead to give us new life, now and eternal life forever.  Today is the day for you to turn from your sin, and turn to depend on Christ alone–will you?

But Chris, what was it like when John preached?  And what price did he pay to really be heard by the people?  And how is John’s ministry different than Christ’s ministry?  For the answer to that, you have to come back next week.  Let’s pray.  With your heads down and eyes closed, reflect on this:

*Are you ready to acknowledge Christ as Lord–He is in charge of every event, every person and everything.  Nothing happens to you by accident.  And this same God knows your mind, your secrets, your bents, your sins, and you will answer to Him.  Don’t try to fix up your life.  Cry out to Him for mercy, submit to Him, exchange all that you are for all that He is, depend on Him, turn from your sin, and watch Him forgive you, cleanse you and transform you from the inside out.

*True believers confess their sins–to themselves, to others and to God.  Private sins, privately.  Personal sins, personally. And public sins, publically.  But don’t stop with the admission of sin—repent.  Compare your heart against the true repentance described in Scripture and ask the Lord for a radical change of mind about your sinfulness–that by His Spirit, he would begin to deliver you from those sins that continue to weigh you down and discourage you.

*Commit to cultivate hearts like John the Baptist did.  Help others around you to see their sin–not always with confrontation, but with example.  Love your spouse so much that others are convicted by the way they treat their spouse.  Train your children, raise them so they see their sin.  Do not ask them five times to obey, then explode.  Ask them once to obey, then discipline.  Children need to see their inability to obey, and their accountability to obey, so that they realize they need a Savior.  Discipline them with the Gospel in mind.

*Finally, if you are his child, thank Him for the repentance He has given you, and the forgiveness He has granted you.  Ask Him to make you into a man or woman who repents of sin and knows forgiveness.  And be blessed in your position in Christ, totally forgiven now, and ready for heaven at any moment.


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Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.
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