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John the Baptist was one of the greatest preachers of all time! He was a very bold preacher, who got results, as well as being the greatest born of woman! His unorthodox appearance and bizarre-to-our-day sermons brought many to salvation back then. (He also introduced water baptism.) Though his classic and noteworthy message is filled with power, the rampant and influential ear-ticklers of our day have generally discarded it for one reason or another to the harm of many SOULS. The same ones who might say something like, his holiness preaching was before the cross, don’t tend to tell us that Jesus preached some of the same precious truths, and grace and truth came through Jesus (Jn 1:17)! Ponder and act upon John the Baptist’s Spirit-led sermon (Luke 3:7-18) and you will be spiritually blessed. Don’t let today’s false teachers rob you of this blessing.
Spirit-Led Classic Sermon
by John The Baptist
● In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’” (Luke 3:1-6)
Luke cites the historical time and some background information about John, who was given his name by God, via the angel Gabriel (Lk. 1:13-19). After John got his message from God, he went forth to declare it. A true preacher’s message is not really his own. It is God’s because it is Biblical. He is only declaring what it says, regardless how popular or unpopular it may be.
● John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Luke 3:7)
John’s opening statement, you brood of vipers, is the opposite of how up-coming preachers are taught! [Paul’s open statement at Athens was that the people there were religious to DEMONS (Acts 17:22, Greek).] John called those repentant people a brood of vipers, that is, offspring of a poisonous snake. [Jesus also called some unrepentant people vipers (Mt. 23), for that was how God saw those religious people and not any better.] John wanted them to know reality. For people to come to initial salvation, they must first know their desperate spiritual condition—that they are in serious trouble with God and they deserve hell because of their sins. John helped them recognize their real condition and didn’t waste time getting to the point!
John the Baptist also mentioned the coming wrath. The coming of God’s wrath is a concept found elsewhere in the New Testament:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Col 3:5,6)
So how can a person flee, successfully, from God’s coming wrath? John tells us and the crowd:
● Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:8)
The key is to produce [good] fruit, which goes with repentance. Paul taught similarly:
I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)
Since one of the prevalent satanic strongholds back then was the delusion that the Jews were God’s people merely because they were descendants of Abraham, John had to address that religious deception and demolish it. He did that by telling them:
I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
John was a Jew himself, yet fought that dangerous religious myth. He preached for the sake of his audience—not to gain their favor, respect or praise. John was a true man of God, who made his short life count for God, as all Christians should. He did that by holy living and delivering fearless sound preaching. He wasn’t trying to build a kingdom here for himself, but simply preached God’s truth, which is always disturbing to sinful people.
● The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:9)
John told them in essence, this is urgent. DON’T WAIT! The time is NOW. Your SOUL is in the GREATEST DANGER NOW! Act NOW while you still can. The ax is already by the tree to cut it down.
Again, he repeats the basic point of his sermon: every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. No one is exempt! It is fruit or fire. Dear reader, that applies to YOU too, regardless of your money, power, influence, background, accomplishments, friends, job, etc.! (Where are you NOW with God?)
John’s sermon was a classic example of a hell-fire and damnation message. It was filled with love and mercy, but not in a way readily noticed in our day. It was based on God’s truth. John had love and mercy for the deceived and hell-bound spiritual vipers he lived by. He wanted them to get the pure truth and a valid warning, which might turn some around for their own good. John was merciful enough to fearlessly give the disturbing truth to them, for that alone was the strong medicine they needed. Anything less wouldn’t work. Just another candy-coated sermon filled with spiritual arsenic (doctrinal lies), which is common in our day, would not bring about the needed results. He told them fruit or fire! He wanted them to know they were on the road to hell. (John was a preacher who believed in hell and warned others of it from the pulpit, unlike many in our day.) It was now their choice to produce good fruit. God would not do that for them apart from their will. They would have to decide, and change, if wise. Regardless what the crowds did with the truth, their blood wouldn’t be on John’s hands, for he warned them about sin’s destructive powers:
When I say to a wicked man, “You will surely die,” and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself. (Ezek 3:18-21)
Many preachers/teachers/authors today have blood on their hands, for they are not giving the needed Ezekiel-like warning to the wicked and righteous that sin brings forth spiritual destruction.
● “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. (Luke 3:10)
John’s sermon was over. Now the dialog with his audience begins. They wanted to do what was right, but they sincerely wondered, what exactly must we do. How do we bring forth good fruit in keeping with repentance in our situation? John’s preaching stirred their hearts. They wanted the truth, even if it meant making serious changes. (That is always the case for unsaved people.) They were ready to change because they finally heard the truth of God and accepted it. They wanted forgiveness more than their sins.
● John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
John’s answer was something all could do, if they were willing. Their rampant poverty and material lack in that society was apparent by John’s answer. (Even poor people are to bring forth good fruit or be damned.) When a person gets saved he changes his views about his material possessions.
● Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” (Luke 3:12)
Tax collectors were notoriously wicked and dishonest people back then. John’s fearless hell fire and damnation preaching was even bringing them around!
● “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. (Luke 3:13)
Greed was their primary problem. They were in a political position where they could squeeze the people for more money and personally profit by it. They did that very thing. Their corruption was openly known and detested. Tax collectors were generally hated people because of this, but were wicked and uncaring enough to hurt others in that way for personal monetary gain. Even such people could find eternal life and did! Jesus said:
I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Mat 21:31,32)
The most wicked people (tax collectors and prostitutes) turned from their sins through John’s hell-fire and damnation preaching, but the religious hypocrites and false religious preachers (Pharisees) were remaining unrepentant, even through they heard the same sermons and saw people’s lives change, according to Jesus.
● Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14)
John reveals indirectly what the typical Roman soldier was like, that is, they were extorting money, were false accusers and greedy. That needed to change, if they wanted salvation. They couldn’t have both (and you can’t either). The choice was theirs (and YOURS)—fruit or fire.
John preached other truths to them too, which are not cited here:
● And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. (Luke 3:18)
● Powerful preaching, like John’s, will usually cause the audience to repent or kill the preacher. John lost his life over his teaching!
● Repentance (turning away from wickedness) always (then and now) includes a change in the way people view material possessions and money. Each time John answered the people, this is reflected. There were do’s and don’ts in John’s repentance message.
● Soldiers wouldn’t have to leave the military and tax collectors wouldn’t have to stop collecting taxes, but both would have to drastically change to have salvation also. Take it or leave it, change or remain on the road to hell. It was their choice.
● Jesus preached the exact message John the Baptist did (fruit or fire):
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mat 7:19)
● John water baptized (immersed people in water) who were repentant. It was the repentance, which brought about the needed forgiveness of their sins—NOT the water baptism. ALL needed to be forgiven. Therefore, all needed to repent. Repentance was the only solution for their sin problem. Their sins were dragging them to hell and John gave them the only remedy. John was always narrow-minded and dogmatic, even as he pointed people to Jesus (John 1:29-31). Those who denied that repentance was needed to get forgiven wouldn’t change its necessity. It was still repent or perish—fruit or fire. The message is always the same. There is no such thing that one can be forgiven without it. Denying it won’t change the facts.
● If John had told the crowd that he himself was a hypocrite and not living it, Holy Spirit conviction and resulting repentance would not have followed. (Sadly, that is how some preaching vipers, in our day, do it! One such serpent resides in Pittsburgh! He is not a servant of God, but instead a serpent. Who needs another license for immorality teacher like that? Only the devil whom he is serving!)
● Since John was 6 months older than Jesus, and Jesus was water baptized by him at the age of 30, then John was about 30 1/2 years old when he preached that sermon. He didn’t live much longer. His public rebuke to Herod, about his adulterous illegitimate marriage to Herodius (his brother Philip’s wife), eventually led to his early violent death. John’s Holy Spirit-led preaching angered the unrepentant to the point where, at least one person, wanted him [the preacher] DEAD and succeeded! This is still the case. (God’s truth angers unrepentant truth-rejecting people.)
● John was one of the greatest examples of a bold fearless servant of God and preacher. He was filled with the Holy Spirit.
● He also had no jealousy of Jesus because of his increasing popularity and his own decreasing popularity.
● The world today needs more preachers like John the Baptist. Such are its best friend, though they and the so-called church of our hour, remain blind to this fact.
GOD BLESS YOU.
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