Summary: The condition of hearts in the wilderness determines their readiness to receive
“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’ ” 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
What is the worst thing you can think of that could happen to you?
Isn’t that a terrible question with which to begin a sermon? You’re probably thinking something like, “Oh, boy, this is not going to be an upper”
Now I’m going to cut right to the heart of the issue and say that the worst thing I can think of is being cast into Hell. However, since I am a born again believer in Christ and have His Holy Spirit dwelling in me and giving me assurance of my everlasting acceptance with God through faith in the finished work of His Son on the cross, I do not fear death or Hell. And if you are a believer – a Christ-follower – also, you need never fear that fate.
If you are not a believer then you should be very afraid indeed, and being cast into Hell and suffering everlasting torment should be thought of by you as the worst thing that could ever happen; because it is your destiny and it will happen if you go out of this life without Christ.
Now I am certainly not trying to be glib about this most solemn topic and I hope my opening words of this sermon will cause some among you to sincerely take stock and examine where you stand in relation to a Holy God.
But getting back to my opening question, ‘what is the worst thing you can think of that could happen to you’, my own answer to that question would be that God would be silent. I believe that the very worst thing that could happen to mankind and to this world is if God would stop speaking and His Word would not be available.
Well, that happened once. For one 400 year period in all the history of the world since Creation, God was silent.
Through His prophet, Amos, in response to His people’s repeated and continued rejection of His warnings and His word through His prophets, God made this announcement:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” Amos 8:11-12
That declaration of the Lord was brought to pass at the end of Malachi’s ministry. When that last prophet stopped talking, God stopped talking.
For 400 years the world kept turning. The Greek empire arose. Alexander the Great came and went. But God was silent.
Rome came to power and ruled the world. Julius Caesar lived and died. Names we all know such as Mark Anthony and Cleopatra had their glory days and they came and went. But God was silent.
There was no preacher, there was no prophet in all the land of Israel; no, not in the world. Oh, there were, no doubt, teachers. There were those who taught the history of the Children of Israel and there might even have been those who studied and picked apart the messages the prophets left behind. But there was no one to say “Thus says the Lord”, for the Lord was silent.