Summary: If we want to go God's way in life, we have to: 1. Recognize the importance of repentance (vs. 1-2, 7). 2. Examine the essentials of life (vs. 2-6). 3. Focus on a fruitful life (vs. 5-9). 4. Trust Jesus to turn our lives around (vs. 10-12).
Are You Going God's Way?
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - January 7, 2018
(Revised October 6, 2020)
*One time I heard Bill Stafford preach at a conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Bill was talking about being stubborn, and he said, "I used to be so stubborn, that if I was riding in the car with my wife, trying to get to Jacksonville. And she told me I was heading in the wrong direction . . . I would drive all the way to Miami before I'd admit I was going the wrong way!"
*Church: That's a round trip of 700 miles going the wrong way, and that's being stubborn. But the Lord helped Bill get over his stubbornness. That's good, because we all need to be headed the right way in life. We all need to be going God's way, and today's Scripture shows us how.
1. FIRST: WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF REPENTING.
*The Bible tells us to repent in vs. 2. Here, John the Baptist was preaching and said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" This is also the first thing Jesus preached in the next chapter: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'' (Matthew 4:17)
*Down in vs. 7, we see people who refused to repent. There, John the Baptist saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, and he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
*We don't want to be rebellious against the Lord like the Pharisees and Sadducees! Who in their right mind would want to be a child of the spiritual snake called Satan? Who in their right mind would want to suffer the wrath of God? And there are only two choices: Rebellion against God or repentance toward God.
*But what does it mean to repent? Well, it's not just "turning over a new leaf" or "turning your life around." TV personality David Frost was talking about another man and David said, "He's turned his life around. He used to be depressed and miserable. Now he's miserable and depressed." (1)
*Penelope Stokes said: "The trouble with turning over a new leaf is that once you've done it twice, you're right back where you started." There's a big difference between "turning over a new leaf" and turning your life over to Jesus Christ! (2)
*What does it mean to repent? Paul Decker tells us that "repentance means we have a necessary change of mind. Our views change. Our values and goals change. The way we live changes. Repentance means that we turn away from sin and turn to God." (3)
*Gordon MacDonald once said: "Repentance is not basically a religious word. It comes from a culture where people were mostly nomads, constantly on the move. And they lived in a world with no maps or street signs. It is easy to get lost walking through the desert. Then you become aware that the countryside is strange. You finally say to yourself, 'I'm going in the wrong direction.'
*That's the first act of repentance, and the second act of repentance is to GO in a different direction. We start going in the right direction." (4)
*It's like that car Bill Stafford was driving, and he realized, "Hey, I'm going the wrong way. I don't want to go to Miami. I'm going to turn around." And then you do turn around. You turn away from sin and selfish living. And you turn to God.
*What direction are you headed in these days? We are never standing still. All of us need to turn away from bad actions and bad attitudes. So, take a good look at your life this morning, and turn away from every known sin. At the same time, turn toward the Lord and all of His goodness.
*In vs. 2, John the Baptist said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Church: To me that means God's Kingdom is so close that we can reach out and touch it, if we will only turn to God.
*We can go God's way in life, if we will recognize the importance of repentance.
2. WE ALSO HAVE TO EXAMINE THE ESSENTIALS OF LIFE.
*Examining the essentials of life is crucial for us all, but we can't even begin until our spiritual eyes have been opened by the Lord. In Matthew 15:14, Jesus was speaking about hard-hearted leaders like the men here in vs. 7. And the Lord said: "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
*Then in Matthew 23:15-16, Jesus spoke to some of these Christ-rejecting leaders, and the Lord said: