Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 4. Greater than Giants . The message of John the Baptist (Part 2)

. The message of John the Baptist (Part 2)



Luke 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” 7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.


In this present sermon series we are looking at the preaching of the greatest preacher who ever lived according to Christ, as no man born of woman was greater than he. We noticed in the last sermon that his message was not one of easy believerism, but one of true repentance. He was not into popular preaching or into the tickling of ears. His aim was not to draw people after himself, but to sort out their hearts. His task was not to prepare a way for himself, but for the Lord. For this purpose the paths of the hearts needed to become straight, the valleys of the hearts needed to be filled, the mountains of the hearts needed to be lowered, the crooked hearts needed to become straight and the rough places of the hearts needed to be smoothed so that a super highway could be prepared for the coming of the King and His Kingdom.

Look around you at society – look at all the wickedness revealed by crime, hatred and a total lack of order and we will all agree that the heart of the problem is the heart, and that is what we saw last week is the very issue that John was addressing. We will see it unfold in more practical ways as we continue in this sermon. True repentance starts with the heart. We will see two more truths this morning namely that true repentance acknowledges divine wrath and that true repentance does not put confidence in rituals.

2. True repentance acknowledges divine wrath.

In Luke 3:7 (ESV) we see:  7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John the Baptist did not write that book: “How to make friends and influence people”. When last were you called a viper? Not often that you hear this kind of preaching.

Jonathan Edwards was quite renowned for this kind of preaching. He preached a sermon in 1731 entitled “Stupid as stones”. Obviously he was either in a bad mood, or he just learnt from John the Baptist. John could have just as well have said: “you children of Satan”. John just had no clue about being seeker sensitive. Jesus uses this very same language in Matthew 23:33. Shallow repenters are the offspring of that snake, Satan. John 8:44 (ESV) 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” By the way if you are a child of God, you know that what you were was offspring of Satan. We read it in Ephesians 2 in my last sermon, that we also like those who are still lost followed the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

What John is illustrating to us here is that Joel Osteen who says that he only preaches positive sermons is wrong. It cannot just be positive. Sure there are a lot of positive messages in the word of God, nobody will deny that. But there is sadly a mind-set in our churches that the gospel message always starts with a positive message. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is one of the favourites. Who can forget the bumper sticker, “smile Jesus loves you”? How many have heard the following statement: “if you were the only person alive in this world, Jesus would have died for you”? So many gospel presentations start with “Heaven is a free gift”; sorry you can’t get it because you have a problem, but praise God He solved your problem in Jesus Christ.”

This is so opposite to what we see in the word of God. What was Jonah’s message? It was repent. What was Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost? It was, repent. When revival broke out under Jonathan Edwards the title of his sermon was “sinners in the hands of an angry God”. The Jews by the way were very aware of the wrath to come. Now we do not have time to go into all the Old Testament sections that talk about it but Malachi the last prophet before John has to be mentioned. Malachi 3:1-2 (ESV) “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.”

Malachi 4:1 (ESV) “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

Malachi 4:5-6 (ESV) 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

And so you can go to Isaiah, Zephaniah, Amos and many other places to read about the coming wrath of God. So they knew something of what John was talking about. Either you are washed by the blood of the lamb or you will face the wrath of the lamb. There is divine reckoning for those under the condemnation of God. Sadly today many theologians are downplaying or totally eradicating the wrath of God and the subsequent eternity in hell. They either cancel hell completely or they put an air-conditioner in hell.

Christ by the way preached more about hell than heaven. Many theologians today will teach you that hell is nothing but being absent from the Lord. Well, I think the majority of people in the world will be happy with that. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 (ESV) is clear on the issue:  5 “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…. ”

I want to tell you on the basis of God’s word that there is a hell and it is forever and it is a forever alienation from God and a forever conscious punishment, conscious torment.  That's what makes forgiveness urgent.  That's what makes forgiveness good news. All the Old Testament prophets preached judgment; John preached judgment and today’s pastors are to preach judgment. There's more to repentance than scrambling to avoid the fires of divine wrath. Salvation is not because we are afraid of hell, but because the Holy Spirit is doing a work from above in our hearts.

But at the same time, there is hell and without the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ in your life, you are headed there and you better flee from the wrath to come.

3. True repentance has no confidence in rituals.

There is a big difference between religion and a relationship and there is a big difference between religious rituals and worship. Sadly many on our day are caught up in the former. Spurgeon who I still believe is the greatest preacher that ever lived outside the Bible, stood in front of this magnificent audience in magnificent building and cried out: “oh Lord may we once again desire thee and not thine”

This is the problem that John the Baptist confronted. After calling them a brood of vipers in verse 7 and telling them to flee from the wrath to come, he says in verse 8: 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.….” The Pharisees and Sadducees were fleeing the wrath of God but their nature was not changed. They were still snakes. You see it does not help to recognize the fury of divine wrath but there is no change in your life, the kind of change that can only come through repentance. So what is the real issue here? Remember that they were coming to John to be baptized by him. The real question – is another religious ritual going to cleanse them from their sin?

We saw the same issue in our Bible study group a few weeks ago when we studied Isaiah 1. Their sacrifices, there trampling of temple courts, their prayers, their festivities, their cleansing rituals and even their formal prayers did nothing for them, so what is baptism as an added ritual going to do for them. The Jews thought that rituals were everything, and Jesus did not come to make a truce with Judaism. Jesus came to make a break with Judaism. The Jews by the way did not have a clue what total depravity was all about. They thought that adding another ritual will make them right with God.

You see it in our world today, people scramble before the wrath of God to worship relics, some bottle of oil that was supposedly blessed by Mary of some statue that weeps or fell over at night without somebody having pushed it and they rush before the wrath of God thinking that in another ritual they might find forgiveness. Just a while ago there was a lady who saw an image of Jesus burnt into her iron.

And John cries out repent and verse 8: bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Listen I know many Christians who are demonstrating no fruit of repentance. They do not do the things of God because they do not love the God of all things, they do not love the church of Christ because they do not love the Christ of the church, why? Because they have not turned around in repentance and therefore there is no fruit.

The Pharisees and Sadducees might have been baptized but they did nothing but slither into the water and they then slithered out of the water. John says where there is true repentance, there is a changed nature and where there is a changed nature there is fruit. Faith and repentance go together. When you turn to Christ for salvation from your sins you simultaneously turn from your sins that you are asking God to forgive you for. You trust in God and turn from sin at the same time otherwise your nature has not changed.

Now I know we have been saved from the power of sin but not from the presence of sin, and there will always be a dealing with sin, but sadly too many snakes slither in and out of the water of baptism and join the church and the next thing is that they bite the church and fill it with their venom and churches get hurt in the process because there was no true repentance. Repentance and fruit bearing are two sides of the same coin and faith is the edge that holds the two sides together.

No ceremony, no baptism will save you, unless you trust in the completed work of our Lord Jesus Christ and in your fleeing from wrath run to Him with a repentant heart you will not be saved.  Otherwise we believe in baptismal regeneration. I wish we had time to study the Sermon on the Mount. Because in Matthew 5-7 you see Jesus destroying every ritual possible that they can put their hope in. But this is not new.

Paul’s view of the same stuff is that it is nothing but manure. Paul was not willing to trust in any of this. He says in Philippians 3:4-10 (ESV) 4”though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

So, don’t tell me that you are or have been a Baptist all your life and that you taught Sunday School or that you are presently involved in a Bible Study group, or that you lead youth, and that you tithe and have been baptized etc. etc. Did you run to Christ in true repentance? You can be baptized as a baby or an adult, be confirmed, get married before the church, but my friend one day when your coffin stands before the church and people say all the good stuff about you it is too late. Yes you might have fled from the wrath, embraced rituals, but did you embrace the Saviour with a repentant heart? And if you did you will bring forth fruit of repentance and this church will never be the same.

So John is not saying that you must not flee the wrath, what he is saying is flee the wrath and bear fruit that shows that there is a changed nature. Even Believers Baptism is only a sign of what has happened in the heart. Let’s close this session as we read together Isaiah chapter 1 from verse 10 which I referred to earlier.

Isaiah 1:10-20 (ESV)10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The question for us today is this: Are you a snake or are you a tree? Snakes trust in rituals, trees bear fruit. In the next sermon we will look at three more truths.


Logos Community Church - 14 October 2012