07/30/2017 – Matthew 5:8 – Happy to be Blessed: “Pure Heart->View of God”

Click HERE to get the AUDIO version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:8

Happy to Be Blessed: “Pure Heart->View of God”

07/30/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

I think I could never win an argument about this, and if I had any wisdom I wouldn’t dare enter a conversation about it … but, I’ll start a sermon using it as a reference point. Ready?

The best superhero ever to appear in a comic book, or on a movie screen or TV station is obviously … (drum roll Jake) … Batman

Why? What super-power does he even possess? He’s not faster than a speeding bullet. He can’t stop a locomotive, or spin a web, or fly and invisible airplane.

Batman’s super power consists of, really, just one thing (OK, now I’ll confess why I should never argue my case – I have never read a Batman comic book [and they’ve been around since 1939(?)!], and I really don’t even like most of the Batman movies; but the 1960s Batman TV show? For me, HE’s the only real Batman) – his one, real super power: Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego is Pure of Heart!

Yes, it’s true that his ultra-extreme wealth makes his Batman a reality, but it is his purity of heart that has put that millionaire above all the rest in conquering evil in Gotham City. And as such, he inspires all of us that we could do something similar in our own neighborhoods.

OK, for those who think Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Mighty Mouse or Underdog deserve this honor, we’ll hold a support group – er, discussion group over in that corner after worship….

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about over these last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

The 1st four Beatitudes remind us how much we NEED God! Poor in spirit, in mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Last week we saw mercy as a Christ-like character trait. This week we see PURITY of HEART.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-7 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God. (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

 

All cultures mark purity in their own ways.

“Christian purity” is different. It is not about a list of what we can and cannot do. It is, rather, about our focus on GOD and GOD’S WORD.

 

Every culture on this planet carries with it a sense of what is pure and what is not. Every religion has some kind of list of rules that describe what it means to be pure. Batman’s sense of justice for the defenseless might not cross into every group’s list of mores and morals, but they describe something of the general American dream for peace and proper behavior (not necessarily the Christian understanding, but the American one).

The Christian list is a little different. Buddha said to follow his four noble truths, Mohammed said to follow his teachings, Moses said to follow his commandments, Jesus said to “follow ME”.

In this Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the PURE in HEART, are those who follow JESUS.

 

What is the promised gift of being PURE in HEART? They will SEE GOD!

Long ago, Moses knew the desire to see God’s glory; David prayed for this “one thing” alone, “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4); from Genesis where Adam walked in the Garden with God to Revelation where the chosen will again walk in the Garden with God, being in His presence is the longed-for hope and desire!

Jesus says, “The pure in heart will see God!”

What did the angel Gabriel tell Joseph (through the prophet Isaiah) that Mary’s son would be called? ImmanuelGod with us! Jesus was/is the visible image of the invisible God! When we see Jesus we see God!

 

So what does it really mean to be “pure in heart”? To be “pure in heart” is to have a heart after God’s own heartDavid was described in this way; to love the things God loves; to want the things God wants; to live in ways that honor and present God to the world around us.

 

One of my favorite pictures of Jesus – not necessarily the paintings, but the description in the Gospels – is the picture of Jesus scolding the apostles for their efforts to keep the little children away from their all-to-important-leader-Jesus.

No!Jesus, I imagine scolding, with a slightly raised voice and clenched jaw and fist, “Absolutely let these children come to me! Do not hamper them! Get out of their way! Get every obstacle out of their way! It would be better for you, if you do hinder them, to have a millstone tied around your neck and you be tossed into the river!” (I imagine, if Jesus were played by President Trump’s new Communications Director, “Tony Scaramucci, He would say, “You mess wit dese little ones, you sleep wit da fishes.”)

Jesus says, “If you don’t become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven!” Those are Jesus words describing “pure of heart”!

 

When Jennifer and I were sitting in the Dubai International Airport, in the “holding area” for our Gate before our flight to Seattle, we were sitting across from a Black man from Australia, surrounded by Middle Easterners, Londoners, and Chinese. And this little 3-year old Asian girl walks between our rows of chairs, smiling brightly and greeting us with “Baba!”

And the man from Australia looks at me and says, “That’s a pure heart! She has no prejudice, she knows no fear of our differences, she just knows ‘Baba!’” And we were all thankful for that brief moment of peace and joy before we rushed to board the sold-out 15-hour cramped ride to Seattle.

(I looked for a picture that represented this little girl for our bulletin covers, that Caucasian little boy is as close as I could find!)

 

In a moment, we approach the Table of our Lord, and we have the opportunity to see God face-to-face in the Bread and the Cup.

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomepure of heart. But here’s the thing – we can do better as we live our lives seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, as child-like followers of Jesus, what we are promised is to see God clearly, not just in a glass dimly. And when we do, we will not be able to contain the joys of heaven!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Allen, Michael; “Blessed Are The Pure in Heart”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 25-26.

 

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

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07/23/2017 – Matthew 5:7 – Happy to be Blessed: “Mercy-Full–>Mercy-Filled”

Click HERE for an audio of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:7                                                                                                                          07/23/2017

Happy to Be Blessed: “Mercy-Full->Mercy-Filled”                                                       Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

In elementary school I was at the top of my class in math. No one was smarter. Then, in Jr. High School my Dad’s job moved him two times; thus I went to three different Jr. High Schools for 7th and 8th grades. Each new school I went to used the same PreAlgebra and Algebra 1 Math Books, but each time we moved the new school was a few chapters ahead of the old school. And since I had always been the smartest math student in my class, I just kept figuring I could catch up on my own…. I never did.

In 9th grade Geometry, Mr. Frasier new I wasn’t a slacker, he knew I was trying my best. By this time I even learned to ask questions and stay after class. But I could not understand math any longer.

In 10th grade Algebra 2, Dr. Jenkins understood exactly what Mr. Frasier understood.

In both classes I had earned a D+, something like a 67%. But both teachers had mercy on me. Neither wanted my GPA to suffer irreparably, so after both teachers suggesting I give up on math, they both gave me a C-. That was real Mercy.

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the fifth Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about over these last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

The 1st Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy, our need for God.

The 2nd Beatitude is about “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, receiving God’s comfort and grace.

The 3rd Beatitude asks us into “HUMILITY”, we know our spiritual poverty and mourn it, so we cannot exalt ourselves because we are unworthy.

The 4th beatitude deals with desiring legal, personal, and social “RIGHTEOUSNESS”, and Jesus promises to satisfy that desire.

 

Then this 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-7 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy. (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is the last in this intro-series.

These first four Beatitudes all remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

I began this message today with that story about my High School math teachers being merciful to me to help illustrate what mercy looks like.

“Grace” is often defined as getting what we DON’T deserveI did not deserve a C-, but I got one anyway – we do not deserve forgiveness, but God offers it through faith in Jesus anyway.

“Mercy” is often defined as NOT getting what we DO deserve – I did deserve a D, but I did not get that – we do deserve banishment, but God offers grace through faith in Jesus anyway.

 

Mercy is the generosity, tenderness of heart, and kindness of soul that moves us to alleviate the sufferings of others. It is one of the characteristics that reveal the children of God, for God Himself is “rich in mercy – Ephesians 2:4 tells us.

Lamentations 3:22 remind us that God’s mercies are never-ending.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us that those whose lives are marked by a deep and lasting heart of mercy are made this way by experiencing the mercy God shows us by allowing us to be born again! (I Peter 1:3)

 

Have you been “born again”? Do you know Jesus in a way that demonstrates faith and trust in Him as both Savior and as Lord?

If you say YES, then carrying the Christ-like characteristic of mercy will be a real thing.  People will say, look at her, she cares for people. They will watch you and wonder why you are so generous toward others, so tender-hearted.

If you say YES to that question about having a full-on relationship with Christ, but feel like you lack that love for the lost and the lonelyhere’s how we develop it:

We grow in mercy as we REFLECT on God’s mercy to us!!  Reflect on the truths of those first four BeatitudesPoor in spirit, mourning our sinfilled lives, humbly asking for God’s help, and hoping to gain in Christlikenessreflect on the fact that God’s Son died for you! Above all – He thought of you!

Reflect on that, son.

 

Then, after realizing how amazing God’s grace is – we will always want to share His grace with everyone around us – we will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, take care of the infirmed. We may not all do all of that with perfection, but some of it we will excel in!

Jesus said, Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

 

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomefull of mercy. But here’s the thing – as we live lives mercy-full what we are promised is to be, ultimately, completely mercy-filled. We have it, and then we get even more!

 

And this Beatitude, some believe, promises ultimate mercy on our souls! As we SHOW mercy to others, God promises eternal mercy on our souls!

 

We are invited to find God’s ultimate SATISFACTION in Christ. The imperative of this indicative/imperative clause is to be merciful; the indicative is that as those who know the deep, deep love of Jesus, we are already mercy-filled!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Steward, Gary; “Blessed Are The Merciful”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 21.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

07/16/2017 – Acts 17:27 – This Is where God Is

Mark Wheeler

I Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 14:1-2; Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:11-12, 31; Acts 17:27

This Is Where God Is

07/16/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Jennifer and I returned from our vacation across the globe on Tuesday evening, after traveling the equivalent of 46 hours straight, from Maasai Mara, Kenya, to Nairobi by van, from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dubai by plane (and then bus), from Dubai, UAE, to Seattle by 15 hours of plane (and then trains), and from Seattle to Spokane by plane and minivan.

And those 46 hours followed almost three weeks of incredible sites, experiences, and people, including our son Andrew in Kyrgyzstan and our C.E.O. director Edina in Kenya.

 

Today, I want to show you some photos (I narrowed it down to about 75), and in the process of showing you some of what we experienced tell you stories of how we encountered GodGod’s presence and God’s power, God’s patience and God’s peace, God’s persistence and God’s people.

And Jennifer, who always catches things I miss, sees things I don’t, learns things I remain stupid about, is also here to add her insights as we share.

 

And when we’re all done, I hope we leave some time for some of you to also share stories of how you have experienced God so far this Summer.

 

Our bulletin cover and our Call to Worship, and our Sermon Notes page list a few of the dozens of Bible verses that talk about seeking God. Let’s take a quick look at those as we start flipping through some Kygyzstanian photos.

Psalm 14:1-2, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;  there is no one who does good.   The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand,  any who seek God.

 

Acts 17:27, “He has done this so that they would look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him. In fact, he is never far from any one of us.”

I Chronicles 16:11,Search for the Lord and his strength. Always seek his presence.

Matthew 6:33, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

Our first stop was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, northwest of China, in the mountains along the ancient Asian Silk Trading Road. Kyrgyzstan is part of what used to be the USSR and has been an independent nation for fewer than 30 years. Mostly Muslim in religion and mostly rural, farming, in industry.

Everywhere we went Andrew introduced us as his parents and siblings, and everywhere we went the men would gather around and start talking, in their best English, to ask what I did for a living…. There are lots of ways to respond to that question, but to limit the potential walls that might grow, I simply answered that I work for a Christian Church, a Protestant Church. That answer seemed to open doors for sharing about their faith system and so we could talk, a little, about how we were similar and how we were very different.

Knowing that people can only see the light of the Gospel when the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, it was my job to faithfully reveal that light in ways that could pique interest.

From my personal devotional reading this morning I ran across this promise in Luke 12:11-12 & 31. Hear the Word of God: “ When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” And, “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

 

I was invited to participate in the slaughter of a lamb, a sacrificial lamb – I was reminded of the Old Testament requirement of a sacrificial lamb as a sign of our repentance and contrition. If I had to sacrifice a lamb for every sin I ever commit, I would consider my action and my disobedience to God much more seriously….

 

I experienced God in the majestic beauty of mountains and wildlife, in the warm hospitality of the people we encountered, in the respect and admiration and love people of every generation and walk of life had for Andrew, in the humble act sacrifice.

 

Kenya: very different natural beauty, very different warm, generous hospitality, very different wildlife, renewed relationships with orphaned children and their caregivers, and with Edina Nekesa Wanyonyi (our spiritual daughter), and hospital stays (but these are Jennifer’s stories).

I experienced God in more directly Christian atmosphere, and again, in the care of brothers and sisters sharing their all with us strangers in their midst, family from across the globe.

 

Where have you seen God this Summer? How have you sought His presence and power?

 

Let’s encourage each other to continue to seek His Kingdom, every day!

 

07/02/2017 – Luke 3 – God Spoke to John … in the Wilderness

Mark Wheeler

Luke 3

God Spoke to John … in the Wilderness

07/02/2017

Family Solution Centre, Eldoret, Kenya

 

Bwana asa fiwe!

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

What a deep privilegeGod is so good!

 

I am so deeply honored to be asked to be here with you today! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for ALL people! And while we speak different mother-tongues, and live in different cultures, we also speak the SAME language of God’s love, we live in the SAME culture of Christian, biblical ethics, and we have ONE HOPE, ONE BAPTISM, ONE LORD, Jesus ChristAmina?!

I pray that God blesses you, that God blesses US as we listen to His voice call our name today, and as we follow, more closely, today!

 

When WAS the last time you heard God’s voice?

  • What did He sound like?
  • What did He say?
  • What did you do?
  • How did you feel? Afraid? In awe? Humble? What is the correct response?

 

One year ago, my brother in Christ, Pastor Cary, had asked me if I might consider joining him on a “mission trip” to Kenya? He was going alone, and would love a brother to join him.

  • I said YES – I might consider it!
  • Then I turned to my wife, and we prayed, and we both “heard” God say, “You should go!”
  • My Church, then prayed and heard God say, “You should go!”
  • And then a small group of others from Pastor Cary’s Church heard God tell them “You should go!”
  • And the 6 of us joined together and were welcomed into the ministry and into family of our dear Edina Nekesa Wanyonyi.
  • God kept saying, “You should go!” So, fearfully, humbly, and excitedly, we all obeyed. God is so good!

 

Today, I invite you to hear the Word of God from the Gospel According to Luke – chapter 3.

 

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when (A)Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and (B)Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of (C)Annas and(D)Caiaphas,

This is real history. This actually happened. When Luke wrote this Gospel, his readers could remember the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor, and Herod and Philip and Lysanias were in charge of Galilee and east of the Sea of Galilee and southern Lebanon, and when Annas and Caiaphas shared the high priesthood. People knew these times, and they lived under these rulers.

Notice what Luke does –

  • 1 Emperor (Tiberius – talented, ambitious, cruel, licentious, infamous, inhuman! – sought world dominion!, evil, mean-spirited, egomaniacal),
  • 1 governor (Pontius Pilate – the local representative of the tyrant Tiberius, life and death were in his hands),
  • 3 tetrachs (Herod, Philip, Lysanias – vassals of Rome – whatever Tiberius, or Pilate, wanted, they did!),
  • and 2 high priests (Annas and Caiaphas – priests who were in it for the glory of themselves!)
  • Ruled by tyrannical Roman political sovereigns – and Led by degenerate Jewish religious leaders.

 

And the next line in the Bible says, “the word of God came upon John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” This seems like the most important sentence: “Neno la Mungu lilipomjia Yohane, don wa Zakariya, kule jangwani.”

 

The Word of God (the Greek word used here is Rhema – that means the voice of God, the vocabulary of God – this different than when we say the Bible is the Word of God – that is Logos of God; when John writes the Word was with God and the Word was God, that is Logos – this is Rhema, the spoken words of God) came to JohnNeno la Mungu lilipomjia Yohane.

  • The Word of God did NOT come to Tiberius – their king
  • The Word of God did NOT come to Pontius Pilate – the governor
  • The Word of God did NOT come to Herod or Philip or Lysanias – the local rulers
  • The Word of God did NOT even come to Annas or Caiaphas – their priests
  • The Word of God passed the emperor, passed the governor, passed the tetrarchs, passed even the priests
  • The Word of God came to a person prepared by God, chosen by God, to receive it!
  • The Word of God came upon JOHN! Neno la Mungu lilipomjia YOHANE!

 

And where did God speak to John? Where was he when God’s Word came to him? He was in the wilderness!

John was not in Rome – He was not in Tiberius – He was not in any local county seat – He was not even in JerusalemJohn was kule jangwani! In the wilderness!

This seems very important to me!

Where will God’s Word find its home? Where will the Word of God find vantage ground?

  • Not in Rome – that’s not a surprise, not impossible, but not where God chose … this time.
  • Not in Jerusalem – we might have expected it there! The religious center, the capital of Israel … but not this time.
  • God’s Word came upon John kule jangwani! In the wilderness!

 

Where does the Word of God find a home today? Maybe in Nairobe. Maybe in Mombasa. Maybe in Kitale or Bungoma.

  • Does the Word of God find vantage ground in Kiminini? Yes it does!
  • Does God’s Word speak in Eldoret? Yes it does!
  • Does the Word of God live in Spokane, WA, USA? We have heard it! Yes it does!

 

This is what qualifies someone to preach. Yes, we need to prepare. We need to go to Bible School. We need to read, to study, God’s Word. We need to pray for God’s wisdom.

But what qualifies someone to preach God’s Word is when the Word of the Lord comes upon him!

The Word of the Lord came upon Johnin the wilderness.

Luke is careful to tell us that this was of world-wide significance! All of time is measured by the events immediately following this story! And Luke tells us exactly when it happenedthe 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor, during the reign of Herod and Philip and Lysanias, and when the Jews had two High Priests – Annas and Caiaphas. This event was the beginning of everything!

 

Tell me if the power of the Word of God, nguvu za Neno la Mungu, has come upon you! Shout out to me if you have ever experienced God’s Word – living, alive, in you! Everything was changed for you!

What does John do when he hears the Word of God? Listen: he came into all (F)the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, (Isaiah 40)

(G)The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.
(H)Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be 
[a]brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
(I)And all [b]flesh will (J)see the salvation of God.’”

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “(K)You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and (L)do not begin to say [c]to yourselves, ‘(M)We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so (N)every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The Word of God came upon John in the wilderness, and the people recognized something about him that was different, something that was worth listening to, something that intrigued their minds and their hearts.

John’s mission, to prepare the Way for the Lord, was Baptism of Repentance! And his opening words, his greetings to the people who came to him was, “You brood of vipers! You offspring of snakes!” These people knew the Bible stories, they knew the Creation stories of Genesis. What was the creature who slithered to Eve and lied to her about eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? – The Serpent! It was Satan. The Father of Lies. John was calling his audience a “Litter of Liars! A Society of Deceivers!” John was not trying to make friends! He was trying to save souls!

One of the lies the people believed was that it was good enough to simply be an Israelite! Belonging to a family that was somehow connected to Abraham was good enough. Having parents or grandparents who are active in the Church makes me a Christian. Being a Church Member gives me God’s favor! That is a lie! All of that is a lie!

God never called us to simply be good Church Members! What does God call us to? He calls us to be Blessing Bearers, to the world – to our families, to our neighbors, to neighboring clans and tribes and nations. Luke tells us in the Book of Acts that Jesus tells us to be Blessing Bearers in Jerusalem (or Spokane, or Eldoret), in Judea (or Spokane County, or Uasin Gishu County), in Samaria (or Washington State and the USA, or Kenya, or Uganda, or Tanzania, or all of Africa), to the ends of the earth! Jesus does not say, start at home and eventually move farther away, when you feel ready to do more. He says, start at home, and start in the region, and start with your neighbors, and start all the way across this planet we call Earth, all at the same time!

Be Blessing Bearerscarriers of God’s Good News! Growing in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit every day. When we stop growing and bearing God’s Fruit, He will prune us and cut off the branches that are dead and take an axe to the root of the tree that bears bad fruit!

What does John tell his listeners after the Word of the Lord came upon him? God’s Word for his audience was “Repent! Today! Before it is too late! See the log in your own eye, and turn your life toward God! Repent!”

 

Jesus comes to be Baptized by JohnJesus, the Son of God comes to a Baptism of Repentance! What does Jesus need to repent from? He has not sinned. He has never stopped loving the Lord His God, or His neighbor as Himselfthe Law is fulfilled in Him, not broken by Him. Why does Jesus come to be Baptized for Repentance?

Listen to the story:

21 (AB)Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was (AC)praying, heaven was opened,22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “(AD)You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

 

I believe Jesus was Baptized by John for three reasons:

  • Submission to God’s authority
  • Example to God’s people
  • For the public display of the Holy Trinity – the Father spoke words of love and affirmation, unearned praiseMy beloved Son, in You I am well-pleasedno miracles yet, no water into wine yet, no lame given strength in their legs yet, no blind given their sight yet, no dead raised to new life yet, no Gospel Words preached to crowds or even to individuals yet; but the Trinitarian Father expresses His oneness and love for His Son, and the Holy Spirit makes a visual appearance in the form of a dove.

This Baptism shows the world that Jesus, while completely human, and tempted in every way, is truly Godin the flesh, incarnate, who was to live and die and conquer death and ascend to heaven – and to one-day return!

In fact, the very next set of paragraphs tell of Jesus’ genealogy, all the way back to Adam, whom Luke calls, “son of God”.

 

And what does God do with Jesus as soon as He is Baptized and OrdainedGod sends Jesus into the wilderness – the same wilderness where John received the Word from the Lord! And Jesus doesn’t go to a Wilderness Resortnot a Hilton Hotel or even a lovely Guest House. Jesus goes into the Wilderness for 40 days of Prayer and Fasting!

John heard the Word of God, and he was sent out of the Wilderness into the populace to preach repentance and to prepare the way for Jesus to come and offer salvation through faith alone in God’s grace alone by way of Jesus’ death and resurrection alone.

Jesus heard the Voice of God, and He was sent INTO the Wilderness – for time alone with His Father, to strengthen His resolve, to give muscle to His trust, to add credibility to His testimony.

 

The Word of God, Neno la Mungu, is still active and alive today! God calls your name! God gives you charge. Because God loves you, and wants you to serve in His army against evil and on the side of Grace and Justice.

Do not be like a brood of vipers – be children of God! Serving in His Kingdom. Today – because today, God’s Word is for you! Amina! Amina! Amina!

 

Resources:

Morgan, G. Campbell; The Gospel According to Luke; Revel; Tarrytown, NY; 1931; Pp. 47-56.