If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry. You can bookmark this to check out the other free written sermons on my blog.
Last week we talked about God breaking into the world and making Himself known after a 400 year absence. He broke in by sending an angel to lunch at the senior center, to announce to senior citizens Zacharias and Elizabeth that they would have a baby and name him John. Only then did an angel come to tell Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God. It seemed an appropriate Scripture to study as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus.
And now, one week later, the Scripture we take up is a full grown John – John the Baptizer or John the Baptist as we know him. Chapter 3 of Luke begins by telling us that the word of God has come to John in the wilderness. Notice that he was already in the wilderness. I could have easily stopped here and preached about God meeting you where you are – About how there is one path to God, but how God can moce down any path to reach you. But I keep moving along. The word that came to John appears to have instructed him to preach repentance, because that’s what he is preaching. And he is doing so to prepare the way for Jesus. My purpose in preaching this Scripture today is also to prepare the way for Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon says we must remember that John was by no means an inferior man. John was the subject of many prophecies, his dad was a priest, he was the morning star of the gospel day, but he counted himself no light in the presence of the Sun of righteousness, Jesus, for whom he prepared the way. He was the one who acknowledged that he was was unworthy to unloosen the sandals of the Son of God. And he was bold for his Master.
When the crowds came out to the wilderness, John says, Brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? I am assuming that you, like me, do not know the meaning of “brood of vipers”. The word brood is gennemata, a good translation of this word is offspring.
Offspring of vipers – no different that offspring of saints. We’re all in need of a personal relationship and a decision for Christ, no matter what the past, no matter where we come from.
The thing that occurred to me when thinking about John preaching repentance, and this certainly holds true for Jesus as well because Jesus also told people to repent and turn from their sin, the thing that occurred to me is the more important, well to do, respected, and self-righteous that people are or see themselves, the harder it is to convince them of their need to repent. “Good people” are the hardest to convince of their need for a Savior, hence the harshest warning. The more down and out someone is, the less you have to smack ’em up side the head. We’re all in trouble from our sin, but there is a way of escape. The way to escape the punishment of sin is admitting your need for forgiveness and your need for a Savior, whether you live at the mission or in a mansion. The more we have people fooled, the more difficult it is to admit that deep down we’re a sinner in need of repentance.
John the Baptist comes face to face with the most respected people of his day and they are not going to be easy to convince. So he gives it to them with both barrels, to use an old West Virginia term – you offspring of snakes, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Don’t even give me that, “Do you know who I am” garbage. Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
The people basically ask, what does this look like? John gives a different answer to everyone who asks – first, he says to some – when you have extra, give some away. Generosity if a fruit (or byproduct) of repentance. Do you see the difference? Generosity is not to earn salvation, it is a result of salvation. To the tax collectors, he says, “Do not cheat people”. To the soldiers John says, “Don’t strong arm people.”
And as they are trying to decide who this strange bird is, John says, I am only one who prepares the way for the One you need. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The Message says of this verse, “He will change you from the inside out”.
John says, and there’s gonna be fire. You will burn or be burned. Either you will receive the fire as a blessing from God in verse 16, or you will be burned with unquenchable fire through God’s wrath in verse 17. And it’s up to you.
To hear John the Baptist say this seems harsh, but why is he being harsh? It’s out of love. It is to help them see their need for Jesus. Notice what He doesn’t say – he doesn’t say – go on living however you want. He doesn’t say, whatever makes you happy – do that. No, he says turn or burn. Our society thinks that’s too harsh today. Jesus was all about love. And I remind you today, so was John the Baptist.
Who do you think said this?
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look—something greater than Jonah is here! Matthew 12:33-41
This sounds a lot like John the Baptist, but it is Jesus. The cue I take from John and from Jesus, is that sometimes, like the woman caught in adultery, He says “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more.” And sometimes He says, “Repent, you offspring of snakes”. And they are both said out of love.
Earlier I said, Offspring of vipers – no different that offspring of saints.
What do you think I meant by that?
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from
Your societal status doesn’t matter, you finances don’t matter, even the severity of your sin doesn’t matter. You and me and everyone here and everyone in the world needs a Savior. How each of us is reached takes something different. Some people are going to be reached through hearing “turn or burn” and some are going to be reached through soft words. But nobody will be reached through lies like, you need not repent of your sin, but go on living however seems right in your own eyes.
Proverbs 15:10 – The one who hates correction will die.
John the Baptist some to make the way for Jesus, and to make known the way to Jesus. And once we have Jesus, we bear fruit. The fruit I am to bear is to make known the way to Jesus. And I would argue that is the bottom line fruit we are all to bear, as commanded by Jesus Himself. Go and make disciples – that is a command to us all. How we do that will be different for each of us, and it will be different for each person we meet. Some need a hug and some need a kick in the pants, and God’s wisdom will reveal who needs what to come to Jesus.
Love God and love your neighbor. I hope you realize what love is and what love is not. It is loving to tell people of their need to repent of and turn from their sin and in doing so, they will receive forgiveness. It is not loving to mislead people to believe they can live however they want and still be on good terms with God.
2,000 years ago, John the Baptist lovingly said, repent. And today, the message has not changed.
I lovingly call you to repent and believe the Good News and receive forgiveness.
Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”
Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 10:13 – “…for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9 – “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”