December 6, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world, meet with us this day in Thy Word.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
- Israel had departed from God’s covenant, and though there were still believers scattered throughout the country, Judaism had morphed into a cult or works righteousness, a religion that honored God outwardly but the hearts of the worshipers were far from God. Not only were the people strangers to God, their religious leaders were corrupt. The Sanhedrin, the highest religious body in the Jewish religion, was in league with the Roman government controlling and fleecing the people. If anyone stepped out of line or challenged their authority they risked being excommunicated from Jewish society or put to death by the Romans. Jesus described the people of Israel as sheep without a shepherd to feed, protect, and lead them (Mt. 9:37-38). In 2017 we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when Martin Luther confronted the power and tyranny of the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire with nothing but the Word of God. Luther called the church of his day to repentance from the false doctrines of indulgences, and Roman Catholic works back to the truth, beauty, and simplicity of the Gospel. Luther’s first Thesis of the 95 Theses summarized his message to the church: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent He intended that the entire life of believers be repentance. The entire Christian life is to be repentance, a turning from sin by faith in Jesus Christ, every day and every moment. Repentance is the Christian’s continual posture before God.
- This was the message of John the Baptist as he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Lu. 3:3). When people deny the power of Baptism to apply the forgiveness of sins to the hearts and lives of sinners I remind them that even John’s Baptism contained the forgiveness of sin. John was preparing the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus the Messiah by calling them back to God’s Covenant through repentance and Baptism. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The message of repentance from sin and faith in the Gospel was the message of our Lord. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mk 1:14-15). This was also the message of the early church. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:28). The Church of Laodicea thought they were rich and in need of nothing. But Jesus said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked and called them to repent that fellowship could be restored with Him again. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:19-20). Let us examine the doctrine of repentance together.
- The Necessity of Repentance. John was calling Israel to repentance in preparation for Christ’s appearing, and this is the same message the modern church needs to hear. The church in our day needs to repent of doctrinal indifference. It matters what a person believes regardless of how sincere they may be. Many Pastors today do not believe that purity of doctrine is necessary or even possible and so they tolerate false doctrine and error right in their churches. God’s Word can be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit and the key to understanding Scripture is a penitent heart willing to bow before God in His Word. Modern religion needs to repent of a false view of tolerance and love that enables people to continue in sin and still to be Christians. Any supposed Christian love that does not preach God’s Law and the necessity of personal holiness and obedience to God is not love, but hate. It is the devil’s love. Modern churches have been deceived by phony equality, the idea that all religions and cultures are equal. This is the rationale behind our current immigration. People imagine it doesn’t matter who you allow into your country. Since everyone in the world is the same you can replace the American people with Third World Muslims and still have the same country we have always known. Recent events have revealed that Multiculturalism is not only wrong and misguided but also deadly. The job of the state is to protect our citizens from criminals, terrorists, and evil men who would destroy us.
- If we continue down this path, we are going to lose this country. The reason why the church must proclaim God’s Law and show men their true condition is man by nature is a lost and condemned sinner in need of reconciliation, forgiveness, and new life. From birth man is separated from God his heart and mind are blinded to God’s Word and man is dead in trespasses and sins, an enemy of God and His Law (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:7). What is repentance? It is a God given Spirit led change of heart and mind toward God and about sin that turns from sin unto God through faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance involves the reality of sin and the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. If man was without sin he would not need to repent and if God was not gracious toward sinners it would do no good to repent. We are saved by faith in Christ alone but saving faith will always include repentance and a heart of contrition. Faith cannot dwell in a heart that is impenitent. Repentance and faith are gifts from God, man can do nothing to save himself. He cannot make himself repentant nor can he create faith in his own heart. Paul said: The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom. 2:4). When Paul was instructing young Timothy on dealing with difficult and cantankerous church members he advised him not to get into arguments with people who oppose the truth.
- Instead he was to instruct them in meekness in the hope that God will grant them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (II Tim. 2:25). Only God can give us a heart of repentance. True repentance consists of three things. The first is confession of sin. We must see our sins as God has revealed them in His Word. The word confess means to agree with God or say the same thing about our sins that He has said. In the Nicene Creed we confess our faith, we say the same thing God has said in His Word. If we confess our sins, (If we say the same thing about our sins that God has said) he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn. 1:9). The second part of repentance is Contrition. Paul describes contrition as Godly sorrow over sin. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (II Cor. 7:10). In true repentance there is not only a desire to escape the consequences of sin but a resolve and a sincere effort to turn from everything that is displeasing to God. The third part of repentance is conversion. True repentance will turn from sin and seek to amend our sinful life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are inseparable and occur simultaneously in the heart of a sinner when He is saved. You cannot have one without the other. Repentance without faith is nothing more than remorse or regret and faith without repentance makes Christ nothing more than an escape from hell.
- The Evidence of Repentance: When John saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Mt. 3:7-8). John knew these men were not coming to be baptized for forgiveness; they were trusting in their works and in their racial heritage to be right with God. They thought their blood relation to Abraham saved them. John exposed their false thinking: Do not say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Lu. 3:8). God is not deceived about our true sinful condition. True conversion will include a change of heart and life. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Is. 55:7). He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13). This is the message that Paul the Apostle preached to the Gentiles is: that they should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20). Paul said to the Greeks: God commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). The grace of God will change your life and make you a different person, if it does not, you have not received God’s grace.
- True repentance will create a new desire, strength, resolve, and effort to amend our lives and to do good works. The good works God desires are revealed in His Word and are the graces the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and lives as we walk in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Faith works by love and the love of God is the motivation for all good works. It is our love for Christ that motivates us to serve God by serving our brethren. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor. 5:14-15). True repentance and the new birth will make us generous with what God has given us. When the people came to John asking how they should live in light of their baptism he replied: He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. When the Lord truly gets hold of someone’s heart he also gets his wallet and checkbook. I’ve never preached a sermon on stewardship and giving in this church because when God’s people are being fed by the Word of God they will be generous, as you have proven over the years. A man once said: you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
- Jesus said it this way: When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Lu. 14:12-14). True repentance will make you generous. Next the publicans came to ask what they should do and John said: Exact no more than that which is appointed you. Tax collectors in that day were notorious thieves who extorted money from people with the power of the Roman Government behind them and John told them to start being honest. True repentance and faith will make a man honest with God and other people. It will make you a person of integrity, who is reliable, and truthful. People will be able to believe what you say and rely upon the commitments you make. We live in a world of lies and deception where God calls us to be people of truth. Finally the Roman soldiers came to John asking what they should do to show their repentance and he said: Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. John knew that men who exercised the authority of the government, soldiers and policemen in particular, might be tempted to cut corners, to exact their own personal vengeance on criminals or falsely accuse someone of a crime just to solve a case.
- And like most employees, the soldiers were tempted to complain about the money they were paid for doing a distasteful job. John did not tell them to resign from the military he simply told them to do their job as they were trained and be content with the money God had given them. The sins we commit have names. They are the good things we fail to do like helping our neighbor, being kind to the people in our lives, and teaching our children the Bible and they are the bad we should not do, like some of the movies we watch, or when we lie to people, and yell at our family. When we hear the call to repentance we need to get serious about the changes that need to take place in our lives. With the call to prepare the way of the Lord comes the gracious promise: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. That’s where repentance takes us, to the Gospel, to the forgiveness of sins and that’s what Advent is all about. It is receiving the grace of God in Christ knowing that God wants to forgive our sins and help us live a life that will glorify our Savior. Christ came to win our salvation on the cross. The child of Bethlehem came in human flesh as our brother to live the life God wants us to live and to suffer the punishment our sins deserve. This salvation was declared to the world when He rose from the dead. Therefore I urge you to take time during Advent for self-examination asking God for His help in making the changes He wants you to make in honesty and humility for Christ’s sake; Amen.