So a quick recap, we are in our series on the
book of Luke. In the last few weeks we’ve seen the Holy Spirit as a focus,
coming on Zechariah, Mary, Simeon and last week we heard how the HS has been
working through Dan & Pete Hall in their time abroad. Isn’t it great to
hear how the HS is the same HS working then through these people we are hearing
about, and now through some of us…?
but in pointing the way to him – or in the waiting for a messiah.
about John the Baptist, a prophet marking the way to Jesus.
series about the birth of JTB, and in a way todays talk is a bit like the
second part of that – as here we see JTB fulfilling his purpose. In Luke 1 we
saw the angel say of JTB before his birth ‘he will be great in the sight of the
Lord.. he will go on before the Lord… he will make ready a people prepared for
the Lord…and later his father Zechariah prophesying over his new born son says
or sings of him:
prophet of the most high, for you will
go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the
knowledge of salvation through the
forgiveness of their sins….to shine on those living in darkness and in the
shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace…’
Johns purpose, as ours is, is to point the way to Jesus.
fulfilling his calling. To prepare the way to the Lord, to point people to
Jesus, to prepare them for his coming.
‘what shall we do about it?
is a challenge to us all. What John said then, challenges us just as much now,
to live a life worthy of Jesus:
live a life that honours Jesus,
about ritual, or religion, it’s not about an act – of baptism, salvation,
conversion, whatever yours is, its about so much more than that… #thereismore !
not exactly mince his words does he? There some pretty harsh language in here:
to you, ‘you bunch of sinners, you are what are you even doing here? Who told
you to come to church?’ I’m not sure I’d be winning any friends, or
being particularly welcoming to our church!
those coming out to him in the desert.
baptised? He calls them a ‘brood of vipers’ great greeting isn’t it?! People
must have arrived thinking, we are here, we’ve made it, they would have trekked
out into the desert – found the man people were talking about, the man people
thought could be the messiah and what does he say to them? Basically he insults
them doesn’t he?!
about it. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be thrown into the
fire… The ‘chaff’ will be burned up and thrown into the unquenchable fire – I
mean he’s saying to them – if you don’t make the mark, that’s your destiny.
Being thrown into the fire.
we can’t ignore these words, reading them today? The passage said the word of
God came to John, so we can be sure he is preaching this challenging message on
the back of that. I think Johns words are harsh because they
need to be, he needed to get through to the crowds, to shake them from their
lives of living under the law. To get them beyond the ‘we’re ok because we’re
Jewish’… NO. he says. you’re not. More is expected of you…
harsh? Perhaps we need something to cut through our daily lives, to speak
directly to our hearts?
a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins
would have been familiar with the act of baptism, and of ritual cleansing, washing
clean – but for them it wasn’t just a one off, it happened regularly, according
to Torah – the Jewish law, people were ritually cleansed, purification etc for many reasons.
marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our
lives, the first step in response to God’s love.
A first step – your first step with God might
not have been baptism, it might have been something else…: making a commitment, dedicating your life to
God, saying the sinners prayer… but the point is, what is your next step, and the one after
that, and the one after that?
making – this so much more than ritual, than an action. This is more than just
something you do and walk away from, having done what is required of you. This is a step to
a new life. It’s about a heart transformation. Jewish law was full
of just that ‘laws’ and requirement, ritual cleansing, lots of ritual.
Jewish ritual cleansing. It required of those taking part ‘repentence’ and the expectation was that it would be a
transformation, that something would
change. It was no good coming to take part in this ritual and then just going
back to your old life, John says,
‘produce fruit in keeping with repentence’. ie: if you truly repent, your sins
are forgiven. Your life will be changed your actions will be changed…
guilt, and perhaps to some extent it should but the definition of the word
repentence says this:
a commitment to personal change and resolving to live a more responsible and
humane life (and we could add in a Christian
sense, perhaps resolving to live a life more focused on God.)
that God requires of us to have a relationship with him.
taking part in a ceremony, more than that has to happen. We have to come
willingly, but putting before God our wrong behavior, and as a result God draws
closer to us, he cleanses us, he forgives us and a transformation takes place.
But if you want to know more of God, if you want to be closer to him. If you
want to bear fruit for him, that is what is required of you.
anything stopping us receiving from God? Is there anything we need to lay
repeating cycle… not a one off action, but something we need to continue to do
throughout our lives…
key moment like this – a physical action – might be baptism or confirmation, or
it might be an action of saying the sinners prayer, making a commitment to God.
But then, what do we do with that?
Are we transformed? Do we go on
pattern of life that includes God, but is on our own terms. It might be – I
don’t need to go to church… I meet God out in fields when I’m walking. Or I go to church on a Sunday, what more do I
need to do? I go to a prayer group…. I wonder how many of us have found ourselves
‘going through the motions’ of being a Christian. But where is our
knowledge that we are Christians, our place is secured? Last
time I spoke I said that WE are bringers of Gods kingdom. So are we actually
bringing it? Or just sitting around, looking forward to it?
have Abraham as our father – ie: their Jewish inheritance, we’re ok. What does
he say to them? Yeah right, God can make sons for Abraham out of rocks – you
still think you’re ok?
reliant on carrying a name? And often it isn’t that we are deliberately ignoring
our inheritance, I don’t think those Jews were being beligerant I think they
actually just didn’t even think beyond themselves ….
saying “I am a Christian” – mean to us?
We bear the name of Christ – Lord of all. Saviour of the world. King.
me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in
something more than just a personal statement?
those around us?
called myself a Christian for years – expand on give example…
seen pictures of Pope Francis on the news or in the papers. Now there is a man
so obviously lives with a heart full of Love. And it overflows from him doesn’t
it? He is continually challenging the perceptions of his role isn’t he? He
lives in a small apartment rather than the Vatican palace. He makes time for
people, normal people not just dignitaries. This week I saw a really beautiful film of him, where he was traveling through a town on the way to an event and
the people knew he was going to travel through and some had stopped at the
roadside to wave. One family had a severley disabled daughter and they put up a
banner saying Pope please stop here and bless Roberta. And he did just that. He
stops right alongside them, gets out and comes forward and kisses the girl and
then spends few minutes shaking hands with those around him. It is a really
overflowing with the love of Christ.
ritual, an event a physical event, as have many popes before but it is so
evident that here is a man who is not defined by this event, his title or the
doctrine of his church. Here is a man producing fruit for the God that he
can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth
speaks what the heart is full of
around him and they are all smiling, hardened body guards an a cardinal!. And
one of them stops to pick up something a member of the family has dropped. They
aren’t just standing on duty and doing a job, I think they have all been
touched by the actions of the Pope, his demeanour, his heart…
us? Are they touched by the overflow from us? By our fruit?
a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life
that must change, not your skin……
is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on
in our lives? Where is the evidence of a life changed? Where is the presence of
God in our daily lives?
the small to the huge. Checking on your elderly neighbour to social action
projects. From offering to pray for a friend to taking part in street ministry.
From getting alonsgside someone who is
struggling to living incarnationally in an area where God has called you –
these are all things people in this church are doing.
about your faith. My husband Phil, some years ago had a colleague who was a
Christian. She didn’t shout about it but she was just open about it, when asked
what she was dong at the weekend she would say, well I’m going to church
years before we both began to really look at the Christian faith. It was at
that time when Phil had a lot of questions (we both did!) that he was able to
say to her – do you still go to church? And that opened up an amazing
conversation about Jesus and she answered so many of his questions. And in fact
the very next day he gave his life to Jesus.
relationship with Jesus, she was bearing fruit just by being open about her
faith in a quiet and unassuming way.
other end of the spectrum. I am involved in a small charity called Hope House
Haiti UK, which I have mentioned before, we support a school and orphanage in
rural Haiti, one of the poorest areas of the world. 3 years ago my friend, the
chairman of the charity and I were at the Hillsong women’s conference. At that
conference she felt God saying to her, you need to go to Haiti. She had a
contact in her family and she went for a short term trip. From that, the last 3
years have been bonkers! She has been out every year since, taking a small
group of people. Now 3 years later we have set up a charity to support them, we
have raised thousands of pounds for them, and next January she is taking a
group of about 10 people out there.
project from the people, who run the school and orphanage to those of us
running the charity, it is all based on a relationship with Jesus. Prayer is so
key, hearing from God is vital. Hope House is the fruit of a relationship with
transformed. If you’re still not sure about what is fruit, a good place to
start is Galatians 5 – the fruit of the spirit:
goodness faithfulness gentleness and self control…
relationship with God.
fruit for God…
are not talking about works here… You cannot earn your place in the
kingdom. It is a gift, a free gift for
anyone – as we see in v 6 – ‘all people will see God’s salvation’ – it is there
for everyone. That’s what Grace is – that God gives us this amazing wonderful
gift even though none of us have a right to it, none of us have earned it, none
of us deserve it. But we still get offered it.
to produce fruit in order to get into Gods kingdom. No. but what I am saying is
that you have been given this amazing gift – so what are you going to do with it? Where is your fruit?
one the crowds asked: what should we do?
light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory
to your Father who is in heaven.
and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…. But the one who looks into the
perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets,
but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
come before God and get right with him.
place with God we put ourselves in a position of being able to receive from
bear fruit for God
thinking about where is our fruit? Both individually and corporately.
of repentence back in September. It wasn’t easy, it was quite painful but it
was the things that God had brought to mind that we brought before him. And I
think since then we’ve entered a period of receiving from him, we are getting
prepared to go out and bear fruit.
corporately ‘what should we do?’
presence in Mid Sussex’. How can we be a church that is exactly that – a church
that bears fruit?
example of having repented, we are receiving from God and he is allowing us to
bear fruit. Amazing ways he has opened doors, answered prayers, created
in your area? Or to a specific need?
with him? Or are you just going through the motions? Where is your fruit?
a life that points to Jesus
it? What are YOU going to do about it?