Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 3

January 2nd, 2011 by Vic

January 2, 2011

“Waiting for God”

Matthew 3

Use your imagination.  Thirty years have passed since you had a vision from God.  The voice of the angel choir has faded away.  The wise men have not returned.  Herod has died.  The star has never reappeared.  The Scripture about Bethlehem that the scribes read has been put back on the shelves.  The excitement has been crowded out by the routine.  The events of the first Christmas have really not made much difference in the world.  Society has not changed very much.  The excitement of the first time you met Jesus has faded.  When you first met Jesus and committed your life to Him He gave you spiritual eyes to see your life like you’d never seen it before.  But things have become routine.

In the last 30 years much has happened.  Probably Joseph had died.  Only Jesus’ mother and brothers attended the wedding at Cana.  Jesus had probably become the head of the house.  He had gained a reputation of knowing the Scriptures well.  He had apparently worked hard to support his family.  He may have been a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.  He may have employed others in His business.  John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, knew enough and had heard enough of Jesus’ life that he felt Jesus did not need to repent of anything.  But as good as Jesus was, His reputation did not spread beyond Nazareth and His family.

What Jesus thought about before His baptism was not written for us either.   He knew He had to do His Father’s business.  He knew God had a plan for Him, but He waited for God to open doors.  He was patient and fulfilled His duty to His family.  He could have called 10,000 angels any time and conquered the word.  With the rising popularity of John the Baptist Jesus knew His ministry was about to begin, but He was not sure what methods God would use to establish His kingdom.  How could He change the hearts of men to seek God with their whole heart?  That was the problem He faced in the next chapter when Satan tempts Him.  All the temptations are for instant gratification.  Jesus made a commitment to wait for God’s timing.

His cousin, John the Baptist, was a contrast to the life-style of Jesus and the world.  John also knew the Scriptures well.  He also had a miraculous birth.  John also had a good reputation.  But John was not part of a local community.  John felt compelled to live differently and testify to the concern of his heart.  At some point in time, John felt he had to go to the desert to serve God.  Maybe this was after his parents died.  He took on the life-style of a prophet.  He did not understand it.  The people were in the cities.  They needed to hear the Truth of Scripture.  They needed to see the hypocrisy of worship without repentance.  The people needed to hear again that God wanted obedience not sacrifice.  The people needed to change.  Why was God sending him to the wilderness?  There were no people out there.  Why couldn’t he stay home and work in the family business, like Jesus?  Couldn’t he minister to more people that way?

John had a growing conviction to dress differently and reflect the Truth of his message.  So John went to the desert and put on the clothes of a poor person.  He looked like some of the Old Testament prophets.  Luke 16:16 says that the Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John.  John was the last of the prophets who looked to the future and saw the coming of the Messiah.  The NT prophets no longer proclaimed the future.  They declared what God has already done.  In these last days God speaks to us by His Son (Heb 1:2).  Jesus sent His Spirit to teach us all things.  Today prophecy in the church is for strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (1 Cor 14:3).

John’s reputation began to circulate in Jerusalem.  People were saying a new prophet had come.  Some were saying that Elijah has returned in the flesh.

This was not a comfortable rumor for some executives.  Those who were set in their religious ways felt a little uneasy.  They may have to change.  Something different was happening.  If Elijah has come, why is he in the wilderness?  Why didn’t he come to church?  If Elijah is here then the Messiah should be here too?

God knows how to stir your heart.  If you had a fantastic experience with Jesus some time ago and you have grown complacent, God knows how to stir your heart.  If the message of the wise men and the angels has faded away for you, He sends a message.  It may not be in the form you would expect, but God will stir your heart.  He may use some unusual, good people.

We know today if a preacher of God’s Word is really going to be effective he needs to have some rich friends to market him.  If he really wants to get his message to the people, he needs to have some healing crusades.  He should buy an email list so he could solicit some support.  Then he could start an on line ministry.  He should get some designer clothes.  Maybe get his picture taken with some important people.

Look at John.  He had no rich friends.  Money had no value to him.  He had no healing crusades; he never performed a miracle.  His touch or his word of faith healed no one.  He had no internet site, no TV show, no tailor, and no talk show interviews.  Yet Jesus said he was the greatest man among men.  All Judea went out to see him.  John had become very popular.  If all Judea is coming to hear John preach, shouldn’t we build a big stadium to seat them?  We need some ushers.

John is not in the city.  He did not build a large stadium.  He has no house.  He does not live near the shopping mall.  He lives in the wilderness.  He lives where God provides.  He eats what God provides.  He loves what God loves.  He hates what God hates.  He sees people as God sees people.  He hears the cries that God hears.  He speaks the words of God.  He was very popular.

John was a living demonstration against the consumerism of his time.  He was not educated in the religious schools.  He did not have any degrees after his name.  He did not write any books.  He did not seek popularity and fame.  He did not travel the speaker’s circuit.  But men were drawn to him.

What makes you spiritually attractive to people?  It is your relationship with God.  God’s anointing makes the difference.  John was a man of God.  The Spirit of God was on John.

In the chapter today we can see John as a light, a voice, and a signpost.  He’s a light that reveals evil.  He’s a voice preaching the word of God.  He’s a signpost pointing to Jesus, the Way.

3:1  In those days when Jesus’ family was living in Nazareth John appears in the wilderness of Judea, 60 miles away.  He stands out from all the others.  Jesus hears about John’s ministry (13).

3:2  John had a simple message.  “Repent because the rule and reign of God is at hand.”  John was a light that revealed evil and required repentance.  Repentance to the Jew was the only gate to God.  The root meaning is ‘turn’.  Turn from evil.  We turn from evil and toward God.  Repentance is a change in our attitude toward God.  Repentance is a radical transformation of the entire person.

Here John connects repentance with the kingdom of God.  God is breaking into history and preparing to rule  in the hearts of men.  The appropriate preparation is to repent.  In 12:28 Jesus says the kingdom has now come in His ministry and message.  It comes in His death and resurrection.  It comes in His second coming.  In Matt 2:2 Jesus was born a King.  The Sermon on the Mount will tell us how to enter His kingdom.  Jesus came to save us from our sin so the announcement of His coming is associated with repentance and confession.

When John connects repentance with baptism (7), the Jews were confused.  Baptism for them usually meant a change of religion.  John says it requires a life-style change.  Only Gentiles were baptised when they chose to be Jews.  Why should the Jews be baptised?  They were already children of Abraham.  John says, your life does not reflect your lineage.  Be baptised.  Change from your luxury and ritual and live simple godly lives.  Change your life to reflect your words.

3:3  Isaiah had preached about this event 750 years earlier.  He said there would be a herald to announce the Messiah.  Matthew says John is that herald.  John is a fulfilment of that prophecy.  We see continuity and contrast in this chapter.  Is 40:3 is quoted in all 4 gospels.

A herald is one who ran on the road ahead of the king and announced the coming of the King.  Everyone was to prepare the road in front of his own house.  A herald was also one who shouted the actual words of the king at a public meeting.  He was the PA system for the king.

There had been no prophet in Israel for over 400 years.  Malachi was the last one.  In 3:1 he says, “A messenger is coming before the Lord then the Lord will appear suddenly in the Temple (Luke 2:46)

3:4  The multitudes go to the wilderness and what do they see?  A fleet of Rolls Royces, elaborate gardens, luxurious fountains, a man dressed in gold?  No, the Rashneesh was not a prophet.

2 Kings 1:7-8 says Elijah wore a garment of hair with a leather belt around his waist.  In Matt 11:1-13 Jesus speaks of John the Baptist.  He says, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John.”  He did not wear fine clothes.  He was a prophet and more than a prophet.  The prophet Zechariah said that false prophets wear fine clothes but sometimes put on camel’s hair and a leather belt to deceive the people.  John’s address, clothes and diet validated the truth of his message.

3:5-6  If you have evil in your heart, no matter how many times you are baptised the evil will still be evil.  If you have dirt in your hand, no matter how many times you wash the outside, you will still have a dirty hand unless you release the dirt.  If you are truly sorry for your sins, you will let them go and God can clean you up.

John’s baptism was connected to confession and repentance.

3:7  Calling church leaders the children of ‘vipers’ is not very politically correct.  John preached a message of judgment to the religious leaders.  These were the people that had their daily devotions.  They read their Bible and prayed every day.  They were in church every Friday.  They could pray eloquently.  They could cry and weep and really impress everybody at church, but they didn’t show love.  They had no compassion on anyone else because they never thought of anyone else.  They did not know when anyone else was having problems because they were too busy being religious.  They never had any friends over for dinner because their friends might make their house unclean.

John said if you do not repent, the Messiah’s coming will be judgement for you, not joy.  John was picturing a fire in the desert like a judgement.  When fire swept through the desert, the snakes and scorpions would all run out of the bushes.  Also like the animals running before the sickle bar at harvest time.

As a light, John denounced evil wherever he saw it.

As a voice, John called men to live holy lives as God planned.  He was God’s herald

As a signpost, John said don’t focus on me, seek the King.  Like the wise men following the star.

3:8-10 Confess your sins, humble yourselves, and bow before your Maker.  The faithfulness and good deeds of Abraham will not cover your sin.  When the harvest comes, the vine and the fruit trees will be judged by their fruit, not their genetics.

3:11  John was pointing to Jesus.  Don’t look at me.  My lifestyle is only an external demonstration of what God wants us to be on the inside.  My baptism is only a visible demonstration of what God wants to do on the inside of our lives.  God requires purity.  Your inner life can be cleansed and purified by the Spirit of God.  John baptises for preparation.  Jesus baptises for fulfilment.

3:12  When Jesus comes the things in your life will be reduced and purified to the essentials.  The kernel of life will be separated from all the worthless pleasures that have surrounded it.  When Jesus comes, He will clean you up and start working on your clutter.  He gives peace and contentment.

3:13-15  Jesus surprised John.  John was the most sought after preacher in Judea.  But he knew there was One greater.  Jesus tells John that this baptism will inaugurate the fulfilment of God’s saving purpose and righteousness.  The baptism is right because it is God’s will, not because it makes sense.  Earlier John hesitated to baptize the religious leaders because they were not worthy to receive his baptism.  Now John hesitates because he feels unworthy to baptize.  He somehow knew that Jesus was the Messiah.

Why does Jesus need to be baptized by John?  Jesus identifies with the people He came to save.  He demonstrates His intent to take on a servant role.  And the Holy Spirit comes on us when we choose to obey God completely, humble ourselves and follow His purpose as Jesus did.

3:16-17  John was the greatest herald of history.  He was a light, a voice, a signpost.  John and Jesus submitted to the will of God and heaven opened.  Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming on Him (Isaiah 42:1-4).  Jesus hears a divine voice from heaven.  God said, “This is my Son.”  God spoke.  The voice of God had been silent for 400 years since Malachi.  Now Matthew says God is speaking from heaven again.  The One who is to baptize with the Sprit now is anointed with the Spirit.  The age of the Spirit is beginning as Isaiah said in 61:1.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.  He has anointed me to preach the good news.  In these verses we see the Trinity.

This anointing does not change Jesus’ status or role, but identifies Him as the Promised Suffering Servant and Son.  It marks the beginning of his public ministry.

Last week we found out you can’t change the Truth.  Herod tried.  The Truth changes you.  The Truth is that we have a Christmas.  Jesus has come.  Just like John He calls us to confess our sins, repent, and seek God.  Unlike John He offers us forgiveness of our sins and He purifies our hearts by faith.

For God so loved the world He gave us His Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

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