Formations lesson for Dec. 12: When Bad News is Good News : Friday, Nov 19, 2004
November 19 2004 by Wayne Proctor

Formations lesson for Dec. 12: When Bad News is Good News : Friday, Nov 19, 2004
Friday, Nov 19, 2004

Formations lesson for Dec. 12: When Bad News is Good News

By Wayne Proctor
Focal Passage: Matthew 3:1-12

This week's lesson focuses on John the Baptist, or more accurately, John the baptizer. His title didn't reflect denominational loyalty, but described his calling and ministry.

John was truly an amazing man - the New Testament version of Elijah. He was a prophet, a close blood relative of Jesus, a devoted friend of Jesus, and a remarkable leader. He was the forerunner of Jesus. And he, better than anyone else, understood that his primary mission was to prepare the people for Jesus the Messiah. He completed his mission well.

Repent!

Matthew 3:1-10

If we should choose one word to encapsulate the preaching ministry of John, it would be "repent." Some think the word means only an apology to God, but apologies can be given without changing one's will or life. The biblical picture of repentance is the image of a "U-turn," a conscious, deliberate choice to turn away from sin and towards Christ.

Sometimes we are like Lot's wife, we start the journey away from sin, but we longingly look back. That's not true repentance.

John was resolute in his preaching. His message was simple, yet constant. He preached repentance to the commoner, and he preached repentance to the high and mighty. In fact, his message was toughest with Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of Judea. He didn't mince words. Their ancestry and position in society would not save them, and of all people, they were subject to God's wrath (verses 7-10).

The Kingdom

Matthew 3:11-12

True repentance would lead to a divine gift. That gift is not a right or a duty, but it's "grace." It's found in the Kingdom. In his gospel, Matthew refers to the Kingdom 50 times. He usually calls it the Kingdom of heaven (Mark and Luke call it the Kingdom of God). The Kingdom is the eternal reign of God, and Christian believers can become participants in it through the path of true repentance and by calling upon Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord.

John understood his place in the Kingdom. He recognized the power of Christ and felt unworthy before Him.

John's primary purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. That preparation took many forms. It included his prophetic preaching that the Messiah was coming, his plea for repentance, his baptism by water for all who would repent, and the promise that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and usher in the Kingdom.

While John baptized with water symbolic of repentance, he said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Jesus would come in grace, offering the gift of Himself through the Holy Spirit's presence, but He would also some in judgment to separate the "wheat" from the "chaff," distinguishing between true and false believers.

Sticking it out

While we don't know how many years John preached this message, we do know he preached it fearlessly, persistently and effectively. He had gathered a core band of followers and a region of support, but when Jesus came upon the scene, John graciously asked his followers to align their faith and support with Jesus.

I have a Christian friend who has gone through much adversity this past year. A little over a year ago he repented of his sin and asked Christ to be his Savior. He experienced joy, but in a few months he would experience an intense testing of his faith. We talk often, and he's determined to "stick it out" and not turn away from Jesus.

John himself experienced intense testing. Some didn't want to repent and turned their hatred upon him, eventually, leading to his death by execution. Yet, John never gave up, causing Jesus to recognize him as a truly great spiritual leader.

11/19/2004 12:00:00 AM by Wayne Proctor | with 0 comments




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