Someone Else is Coming

Matthew 3:11-12 TLB

11 “With water I baptize those who repent of their sins; but someone else is coming, far greater than I am, so great that I am not worthy to carry his shoes! He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He will separate the chaff from the grain, burning the chaff with never-ending fire and storing away the grain.”

 

In these two verses JTB is still talking to the religious leaders, warning them about what is about to happen.

 

He tells them that someone else will soon be arriving on the scene. He’s talking about his cousin Jesus. The promised Messiah.

 

He talks about the differences in the two of them: how He (Jesus) is so much greater, that he (JTB) is not even worthy to untie and carry Jesus’s shoes. This was one of the duties of a slave. I’m not sure what social position was below the position of slave, but that’s where JTB felt like he belonged when he compared himself to Jesus.

 

Then he talks about the difference in their baptism. He reiterates that his (JTB’s) baptism is an outward symbol of what has happened on the inside: the person has repented of their sins. But he says Jesus’s baptism will be internal. He will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Again, Jesus is in a totally different realm than JTB.

 

Then JTB talks about one of the tasks that Jesus was coming to earth to accomplish.

 

He doesn’t talk about Jesus coming to preach (which He did), or heal (which He did), or set captives free (which He did).

 

He’s not talking here about Jesus dying for our sins (which He did), or rising from the dead (which He did), or ascending and going back to Heaven (which He did).

 

What JTB mentions here is another one of the major tasks that Jesus did. But it’s not as much fun to talk about.

 

Jesus came to separate. He came to draw a line in the sand. Or maybe it’s better illustrated as a large circle. And He’s inside the circle inviting people to join Him there.

 

Regardless of whether it’s a line or a box or a circle, it’s pretty apparent in this sermon by JTB, as well as in numerous other sermons by Jesus, that the religious leaders of the day were not on Jesus’s side of the line. And JTB has already given a couple of reasons why. They weren’t living like they had ever repented of their sins. And they were depending on their rule-following family legacy to determine their eternal destiny.

 

And neither of those will get you inside the circle.

Proof

Matthew 3:8-10

 

We covered these verses in last week’s blog, but there was something that kept coming to my mind about them. So I decided to talk about it this week.

 

When JTB confronted the religious leaders who showed up to be baptized, he told them they should be able to ‘prove’ they had repented. I love the wording in The Amplified Bible. It says, “let your lives prove your change of heart.”

 

It’s not that we have to do certain things or that there’s a list of do’s and don’ts we have to follow.

 

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

 

Jesus came (and JTB came as Jesus’ warm-up act) to de-throne religion. To de-bunk the myth that the way to a relationship with God, and the eternal life He offers, is to follow a list of rules and regulations.

 

That’s what the religious leaders of the day were doing. They memorized books of the Old Testament (it was the only one at that time). They stopped whatever they were doing wherever they were to pray at appointed times. They didn’t miss a Sabbath in the Temple. Or a Holy Day. They wore particular clothing that distinguished them as religious leaders. They only ate certain foods. And they followed all the laws, even down to tithing their herbs!

 

And they thought that if anybody should be candidates for baptism, it was them.

 

Yet JTB wouldn’t baptize them.

 

And then he adds insult to injury.

 

In verse 9 he tells them not to presume that they’re safe just because they’re descendants of Abraham. He says that God could create more descendants of Abraham from the rocks in this wilderness.

 

Which in common folk venacular means, ”You guys are nothing special.” Ouch.

 

These religious leaders were depending on their ancestry and on following a particular list of do’s and don’ts handed down by those ancestors to cement their relationship with God.

 

But apparently God doesn’t think that’s enough.

 

Or maybe He thinks it’s too much. Too much focus on human effort.

 

I think it goes back to the wording in The Amplified Bible: “let your lives prove your change of heart.”

 

A change of heart.

 

Isn’t that what Jesus focused on? The heart? And the changed lives that will always result when hearts are changed?

 

So what are we focused on?

– How someone dresses?

– How many times they attend church?

– How well they pray in public?

– How much we see them drop in the offering plate?

– What they eat or don’t eat?

– Whether or not they fumble around when trying to find a book of the Bible?

– What role their parents/grandparents/children play in the local church/denomination?

 

And what makes us feel more secure in our relationship with God?

– How many days a week we have a quiet time?

– How many scriptures we can recite?

– How many times we go to church in a week/month?

– What we wear to church?

– How many ministries we’re involved in?

– How much money we give away?

– How involved our parents/grandparents/children are in church?

 

It’s so easy for our focus to slip and for us to start concentrating on works more than our heart. Because keeping a tangible list of do’s and don’ts is much easier than digging deep into our own heart and taking the issues we find there to an invisible God for intangible surgery.

 

But until we do that on a consistent basis, we won’t have the changed lives that prove we’ve had a change of heart.

Matthew 3:1-10

John the Baptist. Now there’s a character.

 

He would never make the cover of GQ. I mean who wears a leather belt with a camel hair coat?

 

He didn’t have a church, or a leadership position in the Temple. He probably wouldn’t have been welcome at either one anyway, unless he changed his clothes. And shut his mouth.

 

But he didn’t really worry about being ‘accepted’ before he could start fulfilling God’s call on his life. He just went out in the wilderness, hung up his shingle, and started preaching. I wonder if he even had an audience when he began. He may have started out preaching to the wildlife.

 

However it happened, soon people started heading out to the wilderness to hear him preach. And it wasn’t like he was sharing a feel-good message. He was telling these people–most of whom were probably already involved in ‘religion’–that they needed to repent and be baptized. And that’s just what they did. And they went back and told their friends and family and people kept coming.

 

Then one day the local religious leaders showed up and asked to be baptized. You KNOW there’s a story behind that trip! My idea is that Temple attendance started falling off drastically because the congregation was all out in the wilderness listening to JTB. Or maybe the congregation was growing, but all they could talk about was JTB and his message and their baptism and their changed lives.

 

Anyway, when the religious leaders showed up, instead of rejoicing over them, JTB called them a bunch of snakes and told them he wouldn’t baptize them unless they had evidence of a changed life. How embarrassing that they didn’t!

 

I have a feeling they went back to town with as many questions as they left with. Maybe more. I don’t think they ‘got it.’ I think they went out there looking at JTB’s methods. I think they were trying to figure out what he was doing that was drawing such a crowd. Maybe they were checking out his logo and his mission statement. Maybe they even thought about having services outside every fifth Sabbath.

 

The sad thing is I don’t think they had a clue that they weren’t even in the same hemisphere as JTB, much less in the same ballpark.

 

JTB was sharing TRUTH. Life-changing truth. And they were still stuck in their religion.

 

There was no way they could compete because once you’ve had a taste of life-changing truth, you can’t go back to mere religion.

 

And if the religious leaders thought JTB was a handful, they were in for a surprise. Because he was just the warm-up act for the real religion-bashing, Life-Changing TRUTH.

 

======

 

Questions:

– When is the last time you heard life-changing truth? Where did you hear it?

– Where do you go to be challenged to repent?

– What is your calling? Are you waiting to be ‘accepted’ or are you moving forward to fulfill it?

– In what wilderness could you hang up your shingle and start fulfilling God’s purpose for your life? Why aren’t you there yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Matthew!

I’ve decided to take a trip through the book of Matthew. At some points on the journey I’ll slow down and really take a close look at the territory and other times, like today, I’ll just hit the high points and keep moving.

 

Today I want to share the 4 principles I saw in chapters 1 and 2.

 

Chapter 1 is mainly the genealogy of Jesus and a little background on the situation surrounding his conception and birth.

Chapter 2 covers the first few years of his life, which covered a lot of miles–literally.

 

Here are the principles that made an impression on me.

1. No matter what the current politics or the local culture, God has and always will value females as much as he does males. This is evident in the genealogy in chapter 1. Several women are listed–something that normally wouldn’t have happened.

2. Jesus is “God with us.” Near the end of chapter 1, it mentions one of the names that Jesus would be called–Immanuel. The meaning of this name is “God with us” and it’s one of my favorites. It doesn’t make sense that “God put skin on and moved into the neighborhood” — which is one way I’ve heard it described. But He did. And He did it because He loves us and wants to be with us . . . FOREVER. And He was willing to do whatever it took for that to be possible.

3. God uses dreams to speak to and guide people. He used dreams several times in these two chapters. Earlier this year at my church, we had a missionary couple who serve in the Middle East come and speak. They serve in a very dangerous area of the world and do some very brave things when God asks them to. They shared some unbelievable stories of Muslims who have been converted because Jesus appeared to them in their dreams and they became curious enough to talk to these missionaries or to ask for a Bible. If you don’t already, you may want to pay close attention to your dreams and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what they mean.

4. Sometimes the path we have to take to follow God is not a straight one. Look at all the travel Joseph had to lead his young family on during the early years of Jesus’ life. First Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem before Jesus was born. Then they had to flee Bethlehem and go live in Egypt for a while to keep Jesus safe. Then they came back to Judea but had to leave there and ended up in Nazareth. I think sometimes we believe that if we’re following God, everything will be simple, straightforward, and sensible. And yet often it is complicated, convoluted, and makes absolutely no sense to our logical brains. I’m so glad we have these examples in the Bible so we can know this is the normal life of a God-follower.

 

Application Questions:

1. What do I need to change about the value I place on males versus females?

2. How often do I realize how close God is to me?

3. How has God used dreams to speak to me lately?

4. What does my path look like right now?

Excellent Questions

Andy Stanley wrote a best-selling book several years ago titled The Best Question Ever. He says the best question you can ask yourself when facing a decision is, “In light of my past experiences, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?”

I’m not sure anyone can top that. I agree with Andy. When you’re facing a decision, that’s the best question you can ask yourself in order to determine your best course of action.

 

The question I shared last week that my pastor asked a few weeks ago is also an excellent question. It’s probably not the best one to ask when you’re making a decision. But if you continually find yourself making wrong choices or just not living life to the fullest, this is a great question to ask yourself: “What lie am I believing and how is it affecting my life?”

 

Here are some lies a lot of Christians have believed at one time or another that can be very detrimental to living the abundant life God created you to live.

– God is mad at me.

– God is disappointed with me.

– God is not in a good mood when I fail.

– God gets impatient with me when I repeat mistakes.

– God gets annoyed and exasperated with me sometimes.

– God is not interested in the details of my life.

– God doesn’t have time to listen to all my prayers.

– God is not approachable.

– God expects me to be more spiritually mature than I am.

– God wants me to figure things out on my own.

– God is waiting for me to “clean up my act” and then come back to Him.

 

Believing one of these lies for just a little while can drastically affect your ability to enjoy life, to live the abundant life God created you to live, and to fulfill the purpose you were created to fulfill.

So just in case you need a reminder . . .

– God is not mad at you.

– God is not disappointed with you.

– God is always in a good mood.

– God does not get impatient with you.

– You do not annoy or exasperate Him . . . ever.

– God is interested and involved in every detail of your life.

– God listens to every syllable of every prayer you pray.

– God is always approachable because Jesus’s blood is interceding for you 24/7/365.

– God knows exactly where you are and exactly why you’re there.

– God has given you Holy Spirit to teach you everything you need to know.

– God is pursuing you. He wants a close relationship with you. And if you have walked away from Him (like the younger son in Luke 15), He is eagerly watching and waiting for you to turn around and take one step back toward Him. As soon as you do, He will run to meet you, embrace you just like you are, and celebrate your return.

 

Don’t waste another moment believing any of the lies designed to keep you from an intimate relationship with God. It’s what you were created for!