TEEN TREE              OF LIFE

THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Part 6

October 25, 2020

 

 

Before you begin, ask yourself a very important question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins? If you answered yes, you will need to be sure that you are filled with The Holy Spirit. How do you do this? You name your sins to God The Father in His Son’s Name. This is called Rebound. As a Christian, you must rebound any time you sin. This is taught in 1 JOH 1:9: If we confess [name] our sins [directly to God], He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins andto cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now, if you have never believed that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins, all you have to do is say to yourself that you believe in Him and you are saved! The Bible verse which teaches us this is ACTS 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

 

Last week’s study focused on John the Baptist’s message of repentance. His message in a nutshell is that in order to change your mind about Jesus Christ and believe the truth about Him, then you have to also change your mind and believe the truth about yourself and your sinful actions and attitudes. You have to understand and believe Who He is and what He has done. Repentance is a change of mind.

 

Many people accepted John the Baptist’s message and many were following his call: People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life. MATT 3:5-6 (The Message Bible) It’s HUGE that people from all around the area were coming to John at the Jordan River because this wasn’t a journey to be taken by people who were merely curious. It was quite a hike! From Jerusalem to the closest location on the Jordan river, where John was preaching, was over 20 miles with a 3,000 foot elevation drop. That’s a long and difficult walk for someone who simply wants to check out what’s happening. In fact, coming from other areas of Judea included climbing over the mountain range on which Jerusalem sits and then trekking down into the Jordan valley. Those making the journey there had to have a serious desire to hear more about what this man of God was saying.

 

Another thing you should pay attention to in MATT 3:5-6 is that the people were baptized as they confessed their sins. Ritual baptizing for ceremonial cleansing was a common practice in Judaism at that time. There were many pools for it just below the southern end of the Temple Mount so that people could be prepared to go up to the Temple. However, John’s baptism was not a ceremonial cleansing in that sense. It was closer to the practice of the baptism of Gentile converts to Judaism, except John was baptizing Jews. They were baptized as a sign of their repentance and conversion to follow The Messiah – The Lord Jesus Christ. The outward washing with water was to signify what had already taken place inwardly. They were confessing their sins and their baptism was a public announcement that they were willing to obey The Lord, place their trust in Him, and forsake everything ungodly. They were looking for the coming of The Messiah and were baptized in preparation for entering His Kingdom.

 

             But other things were happening in the wilderness, as well. When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin! And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire. (MATT 3:7-10  The Message Bible) You can clearly see that John the Baptist was not afraid to speak his mind. He wasn’t a sugar-coating kind of guy! But then, John was not trying to win friends. He was calling people to repent in preparation for the coming of The Messiah. John could be very abrasive and blunt with the truth.

 

Remember that the Pharisees and the Scribes were the ones that were leading the people astray from the true worship of God. The Pharisees did this by promoting self-righteousness through a hollow religion of rituals. The Sadducees did it by their no-nonsense approach to life in which they denied the supernatural aspects of Bible doctrine and promoted living for the present.

 

Both groups, but especially the Pharisees, were experts at keeping all the outward rituals, and in doing so they thought that they were better than the common people. So when they heard that there was a prophet of God in the wilderness and his message was to come and be baptized, they also traveled out to participate. It wasn’t a problem for them to add another ritual to what they were already doing – especially if it might make their standing with the people better. They were good at appearing to be spiritual so they could pretend that they were leading the people out to where John was and that they might even gain the prophet’s approval at the same time.

 

So, the Pharisees and the Scribes came to John for baptism but he was keenly aware that they had the wrong motives. That was a strong scolding when he called them a brood of vipers. The desert viper was a small snake that seemed harmless because it looked like a stick, but it was quite deadly. Like the desert viper, the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ outward appearance seemed harmless; but, they were full of poison and deadly to true godliness.

 

When John the Baptist said in MATT 3:7-10  (The Message Bible): “And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen.” – he was warning them that their trust in being descendants of Abraham was a false hope. He was telling them that the reality was that the axe was already swinging at such false hopes and those, who did not bear The Fruit God was looking for, would be cut down and thrown into the fire. Judgment was already at hand. John told them that if they really were going to escape the wrath to come, then there needed to be a change in their hearts (thinking) which would be demonstrated by the fruit of repentance.

 

What is the fruit of repentance? It’s simply the acts of righteousness that are the natural result of a changed heart and mind. LUKE 3:10-14 (The Message Bible) records John the Baptist’s answer to the questions of those who came to hear him preach: The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?” “If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.” Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?” He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.” Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”

 

The fruit of repentance includes sharing what you have with those in need. It’s being honest in your work, being content with what you have and not stealing from or lying about others. You should be able to think of many other examples for yourself in your own life because the fruit of repentance is simply the outward works of righteousness that result from a righteous heart. It is what results in having the Mind of Christ.

{to be continued}

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