1. The Jewish nation had gone over 400 years of silence. God had always spoken to His people through a man, but now the prophetic voice of God was silent.
2. Malachi closed out the old testament with the prophecy of another prophet coming before the day of the Messiah.
3. John the Baptist was that prophet. Matthew doesn't give the Jewish readers any background on John because he was famous. He was a Billy Graham of his day.
4. John's ministry to prepare the people for what Jesus had for them.
We begin a new year in the house of the Lord. Do you believe God has something special for us this year? I do. With that in mind, I want us to begin with a message that John proclaimed before Christ began his ministry. If we follow the message of John it will prepare us for what Christ has in store for us.
I. His message for all the people - Simple, Just like his surroundings!
1. His message was one of rebuke
a. Everything appeared fine - new temple, worship was established, the holiness religious party was in control of politics
b. Yet he rebukes them for having a shallow religion - It looked good but wasn't useful for anything
B. Get ready!
1. The King is coming.
2. Make the roads smooth and straight - servants would go before the King to make sure the road he was going to travel was smoothed out and very straight i.e. - when the pope was planning on coming to st. Louis, they planted hundreds of trees along the route he was to take one time!
3. If the King is coming into your heart, make sure the road is smoothed out!
C. It was a crisis time!
1. Would they accept the King into their lives
2. Would they reject him for their own comfortable lifestyle
II. His message for those Joiners
Thousands came to hear John preach - some came to repent and be baptized. Others came to watch and see what was happening. Others came to join without change. John challenged their hearts!
A. You snakes!
1. It's interesting that he compares them to the disguise of the devil in Eden when he tried deception.
2. You are just like your father in Eden! You are disguised with a wonderful appearance but inside you slither!
3. It's not water on a snake skin that will change you!
B. Show Me something
1. John demanded sincerity instead of shallow religion and hypocrisy
2. What are you going to do?
3. The axe is about to drop on the tree! God will chop down the deadwood!
C. His ministry challenged their thinking
1. It isn't your heritage that saves you
2. You can't stay the same
3. God can supernaturally raise children from the stones - he did it from dust in Eden!
D. His final message, get ready, the King is coming!
III. His Message for us
A. It is much like the one of 2000 yrs ago!
1. The King is coming - Get ready!
2. Repent - get some things straightened out in your life!
3. Don't think a shallow hypocritical religion will cut it!
B. A fire and fan are coming
1. Three Baptisms are mentioned - John's, Jesus & the Holy Ghost and Jesus and Fire - I believe the third one is yet to be fully realized!
2. That fire will purify the saints, but destroy the rest (II Peter 3:7-12 & I Cor 13:3)
3. Baptism signifies separation - Separation to God for the righteous and separation to judgment for the sinner, a separation between true and false religion. For those who are changed, it must be inward!
C. Get ready
1. The King is coming again, with a fan for the fire! He will burn every bit of dead wodd and empty containers! Is your heart full of His Spirit?
2. Make sure your heart is ready!
1. Do what what's right
2. Doing what is right pleases God
3. God will let you know when you please Him