Summary: This is a message about Repentance. John's Message of Repentance is a Message of Hope. It's a message of Hope because it reminds us that: 1. God is For Us 2. God wants to Work in Us 3. God wants to Work through Us

Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12; Isaiah 11:1-10 and Psalm 72:1-7

Title: The Hope of Repentance

John's Message of Repentance is a Message of Hope. It's a message of Hope because it reminds us that: 1. God is For Us 2. God wants to Work in Us 3. God wants to Work through Us

Also - Advent #2 - Year A


Grace and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ His Son who came to take away the sin of the world

Is there any greater message of hope this morning in what that statement we just shared? Grace and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ His Son who came to take away the sins of the world.

This morning, I want to invite you to take a trip with me. We are going to travel down to the Jordan River where John the Baptist is preaching. If we are coming over from Jerusalem it's going to be about a 20 - 25 mile journey. If we are coming down with Jesus from Galilee it's about 70 miles and if we are coming up from the area of Beersheba it's about 80 miles. So, go find your sandals, grab some food and water and let's go.

25 miles, 70 miles and 80 miles. It would be easy for us here this morning to hop into a car and make those distances in less than an hour and a half. However, in Jesus day most people had to walk from one place to another. A few people rode a donkey and even fewer had a camel or a horse. So, if we were walking from Jerusalem to where John was preaching and baptizing it would take us about two days. Coming from Galilee and Beersheba would have taken us a minimum of five or six days and that is just one way. We have to get back home so we need to factor in a return trip as well. That means in order for us to go and listen to John preach we need to carve out a least a week of our time if we are coming from Jerusalem and about 2 to 3 weeks of our time if we are coming from Galilee and Beersheba.

Suddenly, we see the passion and dedication that these people had in coming to hear John the Baptist preach. Matthew 3 verse five tells us that people all around Jerusalem, Judea and the region came out to hear John, to confess their sins and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River.

So, what caused people to pack up days worth of food, take off from work and set out to camp out underneath the stars for an extended time in order to hear John the Baptist? I mean how many of us would really travel five or six days one way to hear someone preach? How many people including yourself do you think would travel that far to hear someone tell you that you need to repent of your sins, be baptized in water and then live out a transformed life? What made John and his message have that much magnetism?

It certainly was not his appearance or the sharing of his diet. Wearing a coat of camel's hair with a leather belt was not high fashion in that day especially not out in the wilderness. Munching on a diet of locusts and wild honey wasn't the reason people traveled for weeks at a time to get to be around John. Added to this anyone going in those days couldn't send back a selfie of them and John standing in the River Jordan together. It also wasn't the added attraction of a praise band, some family friendly blow up inflatables or even comfortable chairs because there were not any around.

We find the answer in the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel. It has to do with John's birth and God's anointing on him. Luke shares with us the stories of the angel Gabriel and the barrenness of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He shares how God supernaturally enables Elizabeth to bear John. Luke shares how the Holy Spirit reveals that John will be a man "full of the Holy Spirit and a Prophet of the Most High." Luke lets us know that John will be anything but normal.

For a moment, let's focus on those words "Full of the Holy Spirit and a Prophet of the Most High". Here was a man who was filled with God's Holy Spirit. A man who had been given the anointing of being one of God's Prophet. No wonder those people were drawn to put aside their jobs and their everyday lives and travel out to the wilderness to hear and respond to John's Message of the Hope of Repentance. They were drawn by the anointed power of the Holy Spirit in John. They were drawn by the Hope they heard in John's message of Repentance, Baptism and Spiritual Formation.

In our passage John shares with us this amazing and wonderful message of Hope - the Hope that we can experience in Repentance. It's a message of Confidence, Confession and Commission. It's a message of Power, Redemption and Transformation.

It's the same message that we see Jesus preaching about a few weeks later - "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14). It's the same message that Jesus instructed his disciples to preach - "So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent." (Mark 6:12). It's the same message that the Apostle Paul preaches after the Day of Pentecost - "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). It the message of the Early Church - "Repent therefore and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the LORD, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago." (Acts 3:19-21). It's the message we need to hear today.

What then do we exactly mean by saying that John's message on Repentance is a Message of Hope?

I. It's a message of Hope because it reminds us that God is For Us

The LORD used John to remind His People that He was on their side. The LORD wanted His People to know that He was breaking into history once again on their behalf. He was going to bring about the New Age of Salvation that had been spoken of by the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. The Holy Spirit was working through John to announce the coming of the Messiah, the Age of the New Birth and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritually, at this time the LORD's people were in a mess. Without the clear voice of a prophet the people of Israel had divided themselves into a myriad of various spiritual parties and factions. Three of the largest of these parties were the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. Each group claimed the high ground of orthodox spiritual authority while dismissing the others. Alongside them were the disciples of the schools of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai who claimed their way was the true and orthodox way. The waters of the theology of that day was as muddy as the Jordan River.

Added to all of this was the fact that the office of the high priest had become corrupt. Shortly after the time of Malachi, it had been bought and sold to whomever could most afford it. It had lost its spiritual integrity. The Levites and priests were also seen as fraudulent as they failed to interpret the scriptures according to the Law of Moses and interpreted them for their own personal gain. Spiritually. the people of God were in massive trouble.

In the midst of all this trouble and turmoil the LORD comes speaking through John the Baptist. John is here at the Jordan River anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord is using John to call his people back to Him. The Lord is using John to sound forth the message of the Hope of Repentance. The Hope that lets them know that God is on their side bringing forth His Kingdom into the World and into their lives.

II. Secondly, Repentance is a message of Hope that reminds us that God seeks to be In Us

The Greek word used in our passage to describe repentance (metanoeō) is a translation of the Hebrew world Teshuvah . While metanoeō is a great alternative word it fails to capture the full meaning of the word Teshuvah. Metanoeō refers to repentance being a changing of the mind or the choice to possess different thoughts. It's from that change of thought that one would then experience repentance. Metanoeō focuses more on repentance being a process of the mind rather than of the heart, mind and soul.

For the Jew, the word most used to express the idea of repentance was the word Teshuvah. Teshuvah means to "turn completely back to God". Teshuvah involves a man's whole heart, mind and soul. Teshuvah involves every aspect of what it means to be a human made in the image of God.

Teshuvah is comprised of three essential ingredients:

a. To repent - to Teshuvah meant to have great regret for the misdeed/sin - it meant for one's heart, mind and soul to experience great sorrow for the sinful act

b. Teshuvah meant that a person was making a decision of change that originated from their heart, soul and mind. It meant that they wanted to be transformed from the inside out/

c. To teshuvah (repent) was to mean that a person would verbally confess their sins to the LORD. One would open up their heart and not attempt to hide anything from the LORD.

Teshuvah therefore takes on a divine dynamic. Teshuvah is said to allow a person to come back to a state in which God's Shekinah glory is once again visible in their life. The Jews saw Teshuvah as one of God's greatest gifts to humanity. Teshuvah allowed a person to once again be at peace (shalom) with God, with oneself, with others and the world.

Think for a moment back to Psalm 51. This chapter is sometimes called the Great Chapter of Repentance. After King David was confronted with the truth of his sins we see him turning to the LORD for cleansing and forgiveness. David knows that all he can do is to repent - to teshuvah - to have regret, to commit heart, mind and soul to never again commit those sins and to openly confess his sins to the LORD. As you read Psalms 51 you are captured by David's open and honest humility. In repenting David does not hold back but acknowledges and confess his sins. David is not concerned about keeping up any false image of himself or protecting himself. He acknowledges his sin and his brokenness. He experiences great sorrow and he vows to never again to repeat that same sinful behavior.

David's teshuvah (repentance) reveals that all of us can return to the LORD on the basis of His abundant compassion. David's teshuvah and what John the Baptist tells us here is that the LORD seeks to not to be with us but to do a work in us.

What David prays for in Psalm 51 is radical. He goes beyond merely seeking God's grace, mercy and love. He takes the prayer one step forward. He prays for God to work in his life. He prays for the LORD to make teshuvah an inner work. He asks the LORD to purge him and to wash away his sins. David seeks more than grace. David wants to be made whiter than snow. David wants the LORD to remove and to purge his sin away.

What David sought was exactly the message that John the Baptist was preaching. John was preaching a message of Hope - the Hope of Repentance. The Hope that the LORD would not only be on our side but that God would do a work in our hearts, minds and soul.

The Repentance that John was talking about was not a stale or static experience. It was not some type of mental exercise. John was saying that when we seek to repent - to do teshuvah we too:

+Are realizing and acknowledging the powerlessness of our lives and the brokenness of our sins

+Have decided that we no longer want to live under the penalty and power of sin - we no longer want to be enslaved to sin and be separated from the LORD. We are drawing a line in the sand and are no longer wanting to be the same person.

+Are confessing our sins to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. We confess holding nothing back. We confess and believe in the hope that the LORD will not only forgive us but that He will wash away our sins. He will purge our hearts and make us whiter than snow.

All of humankind from the time after the Fall in the Garden of Eden to this present moment have been born into a life of sin (Luke 13:3). All of us have sinned individually and corporately and have come short of the glory of the LORD (Romans 3:23). Left to our own devices we will choose sin over righteousness every time. Sin is a part of our fallen nature.

Oswald Chambers writing in My Utmost for His Highest reminds us that we take to sin like a bird takes to flying or a fish takes to swimming. Sin and sinning are a part of our fallen nature. We don't have to be taught to sin. Sinning comes quite naturally. Dr. Chambers states that "There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride and foolishness."

Today, the powers of evil are trying their best to counteract those words of Oswald Chambers. The powers of evil are doing their best to convince us that "sin" is an antiquated concept. It is a concept we need to leave behind as we enter into the Age of Enlightenment. Sin is a concept that should not take seriously by anyone with a rational mind. The more one comes to a full understanding of what it means to be human the more one understands that sin and even perhaps evil simply does not exist.

The powers of evil are also doing their best to convince our world that there is no absolute truth. There is no Supernatural Being called God and if there is no God then everything is relative. It is mankind itself that has chosen what it labels as evil or sin. The acts in and of themselves are amoral. Therefore, if society wants to re-label certain acts that were once thought sin or evil to make them good and virtuous it can and it should.

The people who believe that way point out that just a few years ago most of society would have labeled abortion, sex before marriage, living together, drinking and drug use as "sinful and evil." People who were caught doing those things would be shunned and encouraged to repent of their sins. However, over time our society has decided that all of those things are not sin or even evil. They are simply ways that we human live out our lives. It is up to each of us to choose how we want to live. It's up to us to decided what is right or wrong. It is our bodies and our choice. What once would have been declared as a sin that would condemn a person straight to the fires of Hell is no longer is seen that way.

Our friend John the Baptist would have a few words concerning all of this. He would remind us that we need to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. He would remind us that the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY has declared some things to be sin now and forever. He would remind us to read our Bibles and live according to them and not according to the philosophies of our world. Just because suddenly society believes that living together is appropriate does not make it right. Just because a few people believe that there is no God and therefore no absolute truth does not make it so. Today, more than ever we need to help people experience the hope of repentance - asking the LORD to forgive them of their sins and to cleanse their hearts, minds and souls. Asking the Lord to do a cleansing and redeeming work in their hearts, minds and souls

III. Finally, the message of the Hope of Repentance reminds us that God seeks to work through us renewing us into His Image

Look again at verse 8 where John challenges everyone to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. John believes that when we experience repentance we will also experience life changes. We will no longer be the same person, nor will we live like the same person.

What John is saying is that God not only forgives us, God not only cleanses us but that the LORD wants to transform us from the inside out. The LORD wants to make it possible for us to live a different life altogether.

If you ever notice the people who want us to no longer believe in sin or in evil or in God very often want to lead us down a path where we begin to live more like animals than human beings made in the image of God. We all have heard where some mama cats will eat their young. They will take the very thing that they are suppose to give life and instead kill them. Bonobos, a relative of the chimpanzee are known for their promiscuity. Bonobos do not form long-term, intimate partnerships. Instead they live for multiple partners regardless of gender. They see sex as a means of greeting or as a means to resolve conflicts.

It doesn't take us long to realize what some people call enlightened is really just a desire for man to give himself over to his more animalistic nature. It's the same thing that got mankind in trouble with God in the Garden in the first place. Like Esau we traded our spiritual birthright for a bowl of physical red lentils. We gave away our higher spiritual self to appease our lower physical self.

John in this passage shares with us that our LORD has another way. Our Lord wants us to be redeemed, renewed and restored. It is the LORD desire that we allow our spiritual side to uplift and transform our physical and emotional side.

Jesus points us this direction when he reminds us that we are to first seek the Kingdom and the Father will take care of all our physical, social and emotional issues. Jesus reminds us that we are to always choose the Bread of Life over the loaves and fishes. Jesus reminds us over and over again that it is not that which goes into the physical body that will everlasting harm a person but what goes into our hearts.

John wants us to know that the LORD is on our side. John wants us to know that the LORD wants to work in our lives and that the LORD wants to work through our lives. God breathed into us His breath. He breathes into us His Holy Spirit when we surrender our sins and our lives to Him.

It is at that moment we are no longer earth bound creatures. It is at that moment that as Born Again People we no longer dedicated our lives to obtaining earthly things but we begin to focus on things that are above where Christ dwells. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we put to death the sins that make us look like and act more like the animal kingdom - "sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness." We cast off the sins of anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene language. We no longer allow ourselves to be taken over by sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, dissensions, divisions and drunkenness.

Instead, in Christ we put on the garments of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. We put on the garment of forgiveness and peace. We begin to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

This is what it means to live out a life of repentance. This is the Message of Hope that we see in John's call to repentance. It is not some type of eternal fire insurance as it is an invitation to walk as one of God's holy people.

We may never experience a perfect day or we may never experience a day without a stumble or two but it will not be because we are not surrendered or committed to trying. Some people fail because they predispose themselves to fail. They don't believe that they can live a holy life so they shoot themselves in their own spiritual foot.

It is true that we can't live a holy life without the infilling power of the Holy Spirit. We can't live a holy life without being surrendered to the LORD heart, mind and soul. We can't live a holy life but God can live one through us if we give Him a chance.

When Israel surrendered herself to the LORD she witnessed amazing things. She walked through the waters, she heard the voice of God and she received the Shekinah glory of the LORD. When individuals like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Peter and Paul turned their lives over to the LORD they did some amazing things. They parted seas, they called fire down from heaven, they saw dreams and visions, they stood fearless before kings and they walked on water and brought thousands to Jesus.

This morning as we closed the LORD is here to give us the Message of Hope - the Message of Repentance. He is here to:

a. Be Beside us,

b. Be In us

c. Work through us

This morning will we allow the LORD to do that for us on this 2nd Sunday of Advent? Will we allow the Lord to make real in our lives the Message of Hope - the Message of Repentance?

Close with an altar call or with the call to the Lord's Table