The Heart Part 3 Download [HOT]
Our message is repentance. It is a hard message. It is a harsh message. It confronts sin. It unmasks hypocrisy. It denies superficiality. You cannot preach the true gospel apart from repentance. John came preaching repentance, the Bible says. Jesus came preaching repentance. The apostles preached repentance. Christ commands repentance. He does it at least three times in just Revelation 2 and 3. God saves through repentance. In fact, in Acts 11:18 it calls repentance, "Repentance unto life." There is no spiritual life; there is no eternal life without repentance. In Acts 5:31 it is said Christ is exalted as a Savior to give repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
The Heart Part 3 Download
I get the feeling that the prophet John wouldn't be invited to too many conferences if he was around today. Because, you see, he placed repentance in the middle of everything. In fact, he really belabored the point, as I have surely indicated you...to you in the time that it's taking us to get through this passage on his preaching. He preached about repentance because he knew that the preparation for Messiah was repentance; that the way you made a pathway through the wilderness of your heart so that the Messiah could enter in was through repentance. And so he was a preacher of repentance. And when he came he came saying repent.
Now as we have been looking at Luke 3 from verse 4 down to 17, we have been defining the nature and character of repentance. Realizing that there can be such a thing as a shallow or superficial repentance, we want to avoid that as John wanted to avoid that. And we've said a number of times he preached hard truth, he preached a harsh message, he preached a very confrontive message, he preached a very uncomfortable message. He preached a message that ripped the mask off people who thought they were good and even thought they were godly. He dug deep into their hearts to penetrate the true assessment of their real condition before God, which was a condition of utter and comprehensive sinfulness and consequent lostness that led them directly into eternal judgment. He really did unbare the reality of their condition. That kind of preaching today is just really not popular. A lot of sort of soft psychology has invaded the gospel and we think that we can just schmooze people into a relationship with Jesus Christ without ever exposing the reality of what the heart is and the reality of superficial repentance.
So, John marks out six features of true repenters. We've gone through them. Number one, true repenters reflect on personal sin. And that is in the analogy of verse 5, every ravine being filled up. Remember I told you it's kind of like the low, base, deep things, the ugly, hidden sins of life being brought up. You're going to have to deal with those. And then the mountains and the hills being brought down. The lofty sins of pride and self-exaltation and self-righteousness need to be brought down. And the devious crooked things, the scheming things need to be straightened out. And the clutter and the things that make the pathway difficult and impassable need to be dealt with, all the remaining iniquities that clutter up life. You've got to deal with sin deeply. That's the first point: Reflect on personal sin, its height, its depth, its breadth, its length. True repenters do that. They come to grips with their personal sin even to the point where John is saying to these Jews, you have to consider as if you were a Gentile, you're no better off than a Gentile, you're outside the covenant, you're outside salvation and so you need to come and repent and acknowledge that you're no better than an outcast which will be demonstrated outwardly when you go through what was proselyte baptism, a kind of baptism that Gentiles went through when they wanted to enter into the people of Judaism and become a part of their religion. So they reflect on personal sin.
So, true repenters renounce religious ritual and family ancestry. And they realize it's a personal matter between them and God. They do personal inventory on their sin. They recognize eternal wrath, eternal hell. And then, fifthly, as we saw last time, they reveal spiritual transformation. True repenters, listen to this, according to 2 Timothy 2:25, God grants repentance. According to Acts 11:18, God grants repentance. And when God is working the work of repentance in the heart, that is a work connected with regeneration, new birth, conversion, so that change is taking place. In the words of Ezekiel 36:27, it is God's Spirit being put into someone with the effect that they begin to keep His ordinances, to keep His commandments so that when someone is genuinely repenting, God is regenerating that person so there is manifest evidence of a changed life. So that's why he says to them in verse 8, "Bring forth the fruits that are in keeping," or that are fit, or that go along, "with repentance."
Now there are only two great commandments that sum up the whole law of God. "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." The love that you have for God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, that's hard to measure because your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength are all inner things. But loving your neighbor the way you love yourself, you don't love yourself with an inner love. You don't sit there and say, "Oh, I love myself, I love myself." That's not inside. You're not meditating, looking off and just contemplating how you love yourself. You love yourself in a tangible way. You love yourself by acts upon yourself that satisfy yourself, right? You don't have to be taught to love yourself, you love yourself. You got up this morning and you loved yourself in the mirror for a while and you loved yourself at the breakfast table for a while and you loved yourself, you know, by putting on your proper clothes and you took care of yourself. And that's what you do. You love yourself by the attention you give to yourself. And you made sure you were clothed. You weren't really concerned about folks in India this morning, you were concerned about you. You weren't concerned about people who might not have something to eat. You were just there, loving yourself. So loving yourself is a very visible thing. We all do that. And to a degree it's okay. I mean, God made us to love ourselves. That's part of self-preservation and that's part of why you can come out in public and we can endure it. This goes with life. We understand it, and God understands it, and I think it's fine.
So again, he's saying, if there's a change here, real repentance is going on, it's going to show up in the attitude you have toward others. And, of course, Jesus particularly condemned the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, because they would devour widows' houses, they were cruel, they were brutal. They bound heavy burdens on people, never helped them carry them. They put their legalistic rules all over people and made life miserable. They did the very opposite of showing love to people.
"Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John as to whether he might be the Christ, John answered and said to them all, 'As for me, I baptize you with water. But one is coming who is mightier than I and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'"
Now at first glance, again you see the harshness of John, you see the hard truth that John preaches and maybe you don't see anything else. But what you really have here is a very significant attestation to the fact that the coming One, the Messiah, the Christ, is in fact God. This is a great statement on John's part that the Messiah is God. And that is plenty of reason why John is not the Christ because the Christ can do things that John cannot do. John can baptize with water. Frankly, so can I. And so could you. But John cannot baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. That is supernatural. And that terminology comes from the Old Testament and has deep meaning in the minds of the Jewish hearers. And we'll get more into that next time.
In that same magazine that I was reading there was a dialogue going on there with a gentleman, a theologian who was a part of a committee that wrote a statement on salvation, a very accurate statement, a very good statement on salvation which, I believe, they're referring to the statement which I agreed with and actually signed. But the editors of the magazine said to this man, we see the statement, we read the statement but there's been some criticism of the statement because in this statement it says no one can be saved unless they have, first of all, an intellectual understanding of the content of the gospel. That is to understand Jesus Christ, who He is and what He did. Then the question came, "Don't you think that's too narrow? Don't you think that excludes some people? And haven't you been criticized by the narrowness of that statement which is that you can't be saved unless you understand the person and work of Jesus Christ?"
Now what does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire? Next Sunday I'm going to tell you and I'm going to tell you in the Jewish context. And see, this is part of great preaching, you have to preach the blessing side and you have to preach the cursing. You have to preach the wondrous realities of what it means to be immersed with the Spirit and the horrifying reality of what it means to be immersed in judgment. And that, John said, only the Messiah, as God could do. And we'll look into that in some depth next time. Boy! That went quickly.
So, I didn't give you a joke, three points and a poem. But I hope you're getting the main point. I don't care about three points, I care about one point, that true repentance demands trust in the true Messiah, apart from whom there is no salvation. That's why John is introducing Him to them. Join me in prayer. 350c69d7ab