Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Nate Heitzig: Well, let's open up right now with a word of prayer. Lord God, we come before you, and as we do we come with excitement. Excitement, Lord, because we know that your Word is alive, that it is sharper than any two-edged sword, that as you speak to us through your Word, God, you cut deep into our lives, you cut through our sin, through our shame, through our burdens, through whatever it is that we bring here tonight, God.
And you want to speak to us. You want to do something awesome in our lives. So, Lord, I pray that you would reveal yourself to us through your Word, that you would show us something that we didn't yet know. And that as we leave this building we'll leave not the same as when we came, but with a renewed sense of who you are, what your will is for our lives, in your precious name we pray, amen.
I've titled the message tonight "The King's Messenger." And this is from a series we're going through right now at Renovate called Checkmate. And the book—this series Checkmate is through the book of Matthew. And we're studying the fact that Jesus Christ is the King of kings, that he is the Lord of lords, that his preeminence stretches all the way back before creation, and all the way into the future. And we've been studying the fact that Jesus puts every other king into checkmate.
And the book of Matthew was checkmate for Satan. You remember back in Genesis when God told the serpent that "You will bruise his heel, and he will crush your head." Well, from that moment there was, you could say, a chess match going on between Satan and God. And Satan was trying every move to put God into checkmate. Well, Jesus coming was Jesus putting Satan into checkmate. It was the final move. It was the last straw. It was Satan's final stand.
We're going to study in Matthew, chapter 3. We're going to look at the King's messenger. We're going to look at the man who came prophesying and proclaiming that the King was coming. And we're going to look at a very, very important truth today. And I want to ask you a question before we begin: What does it mean to repent? What does it mean to repent, to say you're sorry, to ask for forgiveness? And more importantly, have you repented? What is repentance? And have you repented as it pertains to our relationship with Jesus Christ?
And I believe the answer to this question is very important, because repentance is a prerequisite to being forgiven of your sins. I want to understand that before we go any further. Repentance is a prerequisite to you being forgiven of your sins. See, heaven isn't an option if you haven't truly repented. There's no amount of good works you can do, there's no amount of church you can go to, or verses you can memorize to somehow balance the scales for God to just call it even without repentance. Repentance is a prerequisite to forgiveness.
Now, it seems like apologizing is the new hip thing to do, especially in Hollywood. I'm sure you guys have all heard about the Paula Deen scandal. Everyone heard about that? What's going on in the news, Paula Deen? No one? None of you ever read the news? Anyone heard of Paula Deen's scandal that's going on? Okay, good. I read about it every single time, and it's like, "Oh, my goodness, what's going on here?"
Well, basically, if you don't know, Paula Deen's a racist, and apparently she said the N-word one too many times. Now, on that note, there's no amount of times that's okay to say that. It's, like, one time is not okay. And in the news it's been a big thing. This has been huge. Every time I open up USA Today on my phone, I read something about it. And CNN, on the same note, did a huge question. They said, "What's worse, the N-word or cracker?"
They seriously had this. It was crazy. It boggled my mind. And I read someone on twitter and they said, "What's worse, the N-word or cracker? Probably the one you're not allowed the spell." Okay, that's a good, you know, gauge of which one is worse there. But, basically, Paula Deen, a long time ago, some people say maybe more recently, said some things she shouldn't have said. And in this situation she got in trouble.
And the article in USA Today said this: "No one expected redemption, but for Paula Deen, Wednesday was supposed to at least be a day of clarification. Instead, the beleaguered TV chef's grammatically twisted, biblically elusive, weepy appearance on Today after having admitted she used a racial slur in the past was met with mixed reviews tipping towards the critical." And Paula Deen said in the interview, and I'm quoting her, this is a direct quote: "I is what I is, and I'm not changing."
"Clutching a Kleenex box, she also dug into the Bible, exhorting those who are sinless to 'please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me.' " That's Paula Deen for you. Well, Paula Deen isn't the only celebrity to have apologized. Now, she might be the only one with such bad grammar, but the fact is that apologizing is like a Hollywood sport.
You know, again, every time I open up my phone it seems like Justin Bieber is apologizing for something else. It's like, okay, who did Justin Bieber punch in the face this time? What public place did he pee in this time? What picture of a president did he spit on this time? And every time it's some apology and some celebrity doing something stupid and having to apologize for it. Whether it's yelling at a cop when they get pulled over for a DWI, or whether it's throwing their marijuana bong off of a roof and hitting someone in the head—it's always something crazy.
And it's like a celebrity sport to apologize in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, E! News has a top ten apologies list for celebrities, and I'll give you some of them. Number one was Mel Gibson on Good Morning America when he was trying to apologize for all the stuff that he did. And I'm sure that you guys remember that in the news. And to this day people still look at him, like, "Dude, you're crazy." Like, he's like a ticking time bomb. Like, "What are you going to do?" No one knows what he's going to do; he's just nuts.
And then another one: David Letterman on the Late Show apologizing to his wife and staff for his affairs that he had. Number three was Alec Baldwin on The View apologizing for what he said about his daughter. Number four was Hugh Grant on The Tonight Show. Number five, Michael Richards, or Kramer, and the whole fiasco that surrounded him. Number six was Kanye West on The Jay Leno Show. He's had several apologies. Seven is Christian Bale. Eight is Kobe Bryant. And number nine is John Mayer.
It seems like a lot of celebrities have sung the tune of Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet." And if you don't understand that reference, ask your teenager. But the question is: does it ever become too late to apologize? Again, ask your teenager. Is there a false repentance as well as a true one? And I believe there is. I believe there is a true repentance and a false repentance.
On this subject of celebrities apologizing, Toastmaster's website actually has an article called, "How to Apologize Like a Celebrity." And these are the tips that it gives you: number one, blame the other person; number two, offer an excuse; number three, use the passive voice; number five, delay as long as possible; and number six, hide your feelings. And I throw in one more on there: give a really big donation to a charity, and then you'll be good to go.
Is it possible to think that we've repented when we really haven't? Is it possible to think we've repented and realize down the road that we really haven't, that it wasn't from the heart that it was just something we said, it was just something we did. To answer these and other questions we look at our text in Matthew, chapter 3. And we look at a man who was known for his message of repentance—John the Baptist. Again, turn there with me. Matthew, chapter 3, we're going to look at verses 1 through 8.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.' "
Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance."
Stop there. Here in Matthew, chapter 3, we're going to see three things. We're going to see the messenger, the message, and the mission. Let's start with number one, the messenger. Out of these pages of Scripture comes the greatest of all prophets, and it's not Jeremiah, it's not Isaiah, and it's not even Daniel. But it's the most underrated, and yet the most important prophet of all time—John the Baptist.
John the Baptist wasn't just significant, he was incredibly significant. John was a figure of national prominence so much so that the Jewish historian Josephus wrote more about John the Baptist than he did about even Jesus. This guy was important, and that's because when he came on the scene, he stirred up the pot. He said things he wasn't supposed to say. He dressed in a way he wasn't supposed to dress. He acted in a way he wasn't supposed to act.
For all intents and purposes to the world he appeared to be nuts. They're, like, "Dude! Like, take a Xanax or something, bro. You're all worked up. Calm down." I mean this guy's way of preaching was in the desert yelling at people. This guy was unorthodox, to say the least. You know, John the Baptist was the modern-day street preacher. All right, he's the guy that when you see on street you try not to make eye contact with.
You're like, "Honey, don't look at him. Don't look at him, because if you look at him, he's going to come talk to us. And if he talks to us, he's going to ask for money. And if he asks for money, he's going to follow us home. And if he follows us home, he's going to kill us." You know, he's one of those kind of people. He's like, "Don't look at him. This guy's crazy. He's wearing camel skin." Okay.
This guy was completely unorthodox, and this shows me something—God can use anyone in any shape or size or any clothing to do a great work. I don't care whether or not you have purple hair, you're wearing spikes, or whether or not you have a clean-cut hair and you're wearing pleated khakis, God can use you in a great way. And many of us because of where we're at in life, because of what's happened, because of what we look like, or where we come from, we think that God can't use us.
We think that somehow we're out of the reach of God, that God doesn't have a plan for our lives that God is meant to use a certain kind of person. But I want you to know, that even though you might underestimate yourself, God doesn't. God sees a great work in you. God sees what could be, not what is. God sees his plan, not yours. So I encourage you no matter where you're at, no matter who you are, don't look at what you see, look at what God sees. Don't sell yourself short, but submit to the plan of God.
John the Baptist was also significant because since the death of the prophet Malachi, all the way to John's birth, Israel had not heard from a prophet for four hundred years. Now, that was really important because Israel had been in a time, before this, of the prophets. That's how they got their communication from God. That's how God talked to them, was through the prophets. And so when the prophets stopped coming, they felt like they had a disconnect with God. And so John was their first interaction with hearing from God directly for four hundred years.
They had a progressive string from Moses to Samuel to Malachi, then silence until John. Jesus said of John in Luke 7:28, "I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist." None greater? We know of no miracles that John performed, such as turning the Nile to blood, or calling fire down from heaven, or stopping the rain, or raising a person from the dead. I mean, that's some cool stuff. That's gotta give him a run for his money.
We don't have any writings from John like we do of Isaiah or Jeremiah or even Joel. We don't have any writings from John. So why is he greater? Why is he the greatest? Because he, and he alone, was the direct herald and forerunner of Jesus. Now, I want you to take notes, because this is important for you. There's a truth in here for you. His greatness was a direct result of his nearness to and his connection with Jesus. I'm going to say it again. His greatness is a direct result of his nearness to and his connection with Jesus.
Now, the same is true for us. I said there's a truth here for you: our greatness in this life will be a direct result of our nearness to and our connection with Jesus—our greatness. Remember the Bible talks about greatness far differently than we do. The Bible talks about being great in the kingdom of heaven, means you're going to be least here on earth. The Bible talks about greatness far differently than the world does today.
What does Jesus prize as greatness? Humility, selflessness, a love for others, the desire to pour into one another, the desire to give, not to get. Our greatness is judged by how we reflect Jesus. Your greatness is judged by how you reflect Jesus Christ. Greatness isn't something that can be achieved through a job. Greatness isn't something that is found in a status symbol, or how much money you have, or how hot your husband or wife is.
Greatness is related to how much you look like Jesus. And the guy's like, "Okay, that's easy, I'll just grow a beard and get some sandals and wear a robe." That's creepy, not great. Okay? Not how much you look like Jesus physically, but how much you look like Jesus inwardly. Again, God doesn't care about how you look. God doesn't care about what color your hair is, if you have a tongue ring or a lip ring, or if you've never had a piercing in your life. God doesn't care if you have gray hair or black hair or blond hair. God doesn't care what color skin you have. God looks not on the outside, but on the inside. He doesn't care how you look, he cares how you act. He cares what your life looks like.
John's story in the New Testament is found in the New Testament in Matthew, and we see it in Luke. Yet, his life and his ministry was really a part of the Old Testament. Because keep in mind the New Testament covenant doesn't really begin until Jesus inaugurates and fulfills the old. Jesus said, "The law and the prophets reigned until John." This word "until" means up until and including John the Baptist.
Now, all the prophets in the Old Testament share one responsibility, one common goal—each one in his own way wrote and spoke announcing the coming Messiah. They were all, in a sense, prophets of the future King who was to come. But John was the herald and the messenger of the King himself, uniquely endowed by God to usher in the age of the Messiah and to introduce publicly the Son of God.
What a great honor he had. What a great privilege he had to introduce people personally to the King, to Jesus Christ the One who had come to save them. The One who had been slain before the foundations of the earth was here, and John got to introduce people to him. "Here he is. Here's the King." The prophets of the Old Testament dreamed of such a privilege, but John lived it. John was a man who shook a nation. He was a radical, a revolutionary who proclaimed an uncompromising message of repentance and faith in the Messiah.
This guy didn't care who you were, he'd tell you the truth. The scribes and the Pharisees, he was blunt with them. We read it right here, he calls them a "brood of vipers." No one talked to the scribes and the Pharisees that way, because they'd go all shady and frame you for something you didn't do, and crucify you like Jesus. No one talked bad about them.
He went to Herod the Roman ruler of the day. And Herod was interested in this guy. You know, he was doing cool things. He was out there preaching. He wanted to know more, so he invites John the Baptist to his house. He's like, "Hey, John." And he's like, "Dude, you're gross. You're sleeping with your brother's sister. That's disgusting." He didn't care who you were; he'd tell you the truth. He was blunt. He was up front about what was going on. He was a radical, a revolutionary.
He wasn't scared of what people thought. He preached the Gospel with boldness and without shame. Why? Because he knew it was true. Because he knew it was true. Again, a truth here for you: Why do more Christians not preach the Gospel with boldness? Why do more Christians not proclaim the fact that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and that unless people accept him, there is no salvation? Why do more Christians not share that truth?
My opinion, they don't believe it's true. "Oh, Nate, how can you judge people? How can you say that?" Because actions speak louder than words; if people really believed that it was true, if people really believed what Jesus said, they'd do something about it. If you saw people driving towards the edge of a cliff in countless droves, would you just stand there and watch, and say, "This'll be fun to watch."
No, you'd stop, you'd run in front of the cars, you'd yell, you'd herald people down. You'd say, "Stop! There's danger! You're going to die!" Because you know that it's true. You know that that cliff isn't imaginary, that it's really coming, and that it will really lead to death. You know that Jesus Christ is the only way. You know that there is salvation in no other name than him, and that if people don't have a relationship with Christ, the end is imminent death.
So what are you doing to tell your friends and your family about that? Are you just being politically correct? "Well, I'm not going is to talk about it until they ask me, because St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words." That's stupid. Preach the Gospel with your words. Tell people that Jesus Christ is the only way. Tell people that he came to save them of their sin, and that if they accept him, they can live in eternal paradise with him. That's good news! [applause]
That's a message that should be shared, not hidden. So, if you really believe it's true, what are you doing about it? And if you're not doing anything about it, ask yourself that question: Do you really believe it is true? Do you really have a relationship with the One who you claim has saved you? Have you really repented of your sin?
John came at a strategic time in human history. He came when the kingdom of God was about to dawn. He proclaimed the coming King. And we have a lot to learn from John's life, his philosophy, and his ministry, because we, like John, also live in a strategic time in human history. We stand as heralds for the coming King as we eagerly await his return. You, like John, have an opportunity to introduce people to the King, to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.
God has given you that opportunity. Are you, like John, seizing that opportunity and sharing the love of Christ? Luke chapter 3:2 tells us, "The word of God came upon John," and it burned in his heart. John said, Jesus said that he was the "messenger set before his face"—literally that he was immediately before him, that being God. Like Elijah, John lived his life in continual awareness of the presence of God, and that's why his heart burned.
Something else I want to point out, and this is for you parents, and also for you kids. John came from a godly heritage. John's father and mother were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord, but they had no children. And like Sarah before Isaac was conceived, Elizabeth, John's mother, was beyond normal childbearing years.
And one day as John's father was performing his priestly duties in the temple, in Luke 1:11 it says, "An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." John was named by God himself, and set apart for greatness before he was conceived. John would, according to Luke, "be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb."
"And the child continued to grow, and he became strong in spirit, and lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance." How we need parents who realize the value of a godly legacy. Like John's parents, realize the importance of a legacy of Christ, a legacy of a relationship with him, parents who aren't scared to take their kids to church. And not just take their kids to church, but ask their kids after church, "What did you learn? What did God show you today?"
Your kids, no matter what age, aren't too young to grasp a concept of someone loving them. How do I know that? Because they know that you love them. Because they know that you provide for them. How do I know that? Because when they're hungry, they come find you and scream at you. They know you provide for their needs. And they know that when you provide for their needs, that's a sign of love.
And so at a very young age your kids can understand that there's a God who loves them, there's a God who provides for their needs, and there's a God who they can go to in any time of need, and he's there for them. How we need parents that share that message with their kids, that don't see their children as excess baggage that we haul around in our personal quest for happiness, but who see their kids as precious gifts, the gifts that they really are.
You know, we live in a time again where children, unfortunately, aren't viewed as precious gifts. Children every day are being murdered in the womb, because: "They're just that excess baggage." "They're going to get in the way." "They're going to inconvenience my plans for my life." Children are a gift from God. But children, it's not enough to just have godly role models, at some point John had to decide for himself what he would do. He had to make a decision.
Understand this: there's no getting saved by proximity. Doesn't matter how godly your parents were, doesn't matter how godly your friends were, they can't save you. You're either for Christ or you're against him. Your parents can't get you to heaven. Your friends can't get you to heaven. Your pastor can't get you to heaven. Only Jesus can get you to heaven. But you have to accept him, and you have to give him your life. [applause] It's a decision you have to make. Have you made that decision? So, I ask you again: What is repentance? And have you repented?
The second point we see is: the message. Look at verse 3 of Matthew, chapter 3. "For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, when he said, 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness.' " Crying in the wilderness—literally crying out or howling. John wasn't a quiet one, was he? He would have fit in well with us. But John realized that he had a significant and short-lived work to do. There was no time to waste.
There wasn't any whispering in the halls. "Hey, Jesus loves you." No, no, "Jesus loves you! He died! He came to this earth to die for your sins! He's the Messiah! He's the prophesied One!" It was important. There was urgency to it. His role was to be like the messenger who went before the royal procession to make sure the roads were ready for the king. It was John's task to prepare the nation for the Messiah and present the Messiah to them.
Now, the message of John was simple. It wasn't long; didn't take a bunch of words; didn't take a theology degree. It didn't take understanding all of John MacArthur's books. It didn't take listening to the entire 729 series. It was one message. It was simple. It was so easy it could be summarized in one word—repent. Repent. You know, I've tried to make this my message as well. Repent, repent because Jesus loves you. Repent because you don't have to waste your time anymore. You don't have to live a life that is aimless and wandering. You can live a life of meaning.
The message of the Gospel is repent, not try to be a better person, not change yourself, not go to church and find whatever religion will help you sleep better at night. Repent, come to Christ with all the stuff that you have, the things you can't deal with. You know, a lot of people think that they have to deal with the "stuff" in their life before they come to Christ.
And I hear people say it all the time, "Well, I've got to get my life right first before I go to church. I've got to get things in order. There's some stuff in my life that I know if I come into church that I'm just going to be judged, and God's not going to like that, and so I gotta get my life right." The church isn't a place for good people to come and talk about how good they are. The church was meant for broken people. The church is meant to be a place for those who are lost, for those who are bad, for those who are hurting.
The church is meant for people who can come and say, "I don't have it all together, but I know that I need Jesus." And the message of the Gospel is that we come with all the stuff that we have, and we give it to God. We come to Christ with all the junk that we have, the things we can't fix, because there's someone who can fix it, and he's in this place tonight. [applause] And he's speaking to some of you. He's calling some of you, and he wants to deal with the stuff that you don't want to deal with anymore.
I love that message—"he wants to." He wants to deal with your junk. It's not a burden to him. He doesn't see you coming, and like, "Oh, man, here's this—he's coming again. He's dealing with another sin. It's always the same thing. Why is he coming?" He doesn't listen to your prayers with a stopwatch and say, "This is going to be a long one; I can tell. He started out with the same thing he always says. I just can't wait till he gets done so I can go eat some falafel."
It's not what he's doing. That might be what we do. You know, I'll be honest, I'm a pastor and I love ministering to people, but there are days when I am tired. And there's days when I have a counseling appointment come in, and I'm like, "This is going to be a long one." And I can just feel it. And the reason why is because I'm a man; I'm sinful. Sorry. I gotta repent of it every time that happens. And I still listen to them, I still give them good advice, but there's days when it's just burdensome.
It's not the case for God. Never feel sorry for bringing your stuff to God. You could never come to God with all your junk and make him feel stressed out. He never looks at your problems and says, "Man, I've got something better to do." You are exactly what he wants to spend his time on. You are exactly the person he wants to talk to. You're exactly the person he wants to help, so don't feel bad for coming to God. You're never inconveniencing God. You could never give too much to God.
Now, what does this word mean—repent? Again, it's of incredible importance, because it's the prerequisite for salvation. Acts 3:19 says this: "Repent and turn back, that your sins maybe blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of Lord." The first statement that Jesus ever made as he entered public ministry in Matthew 4:17 was this: "From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.' "
Now this word "repent" means more than just saying sorry. It means more than just regret or feeling sorrowful. It means to turn around. It means to change your direction, to change both the mind and the will. This is really easy—it means to not do what you used to do. So here it is: What did you do before you were a Christian? Do you still do that? If you do, and if your life is marked by that, you have not truly repented. You might have said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry God," but repentance isn't just saying I'm sorry, repentance is changing and not doing what you once did.
Repentance leads to change. So the question is: Is your life different because of your relationship with Christ? Is your life different? Has there been a change? Are you progressing or are you regressing? Or are you just in neutral? Because that's just as bad; that's called being lukewarm. And God said he'd rather have you be hot or cold, but if you're lukewarm he's going to vomit you out of his mouth—strong language. Have you repented? Is there change?
Now, this doesn't mean any change, any change you want it to mean. "Yeah, I've changed—for the bad." But it always means a change from wrong to right, a change from sin to holiness. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, "The sorrow that is according to the will of God that produces a repentance leading to salvation." Leading to salvation—this shows us there's a right way and a wrong way.
Verse 8 of Matthew, chapter 3, says this, "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance," or literally "fruits in keeping with repentance," fruits worthy of repentance. After Jonah's reluctant but powerful message to Nineveh, Jonah 3:10 says that "God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, and then God relented concerning the calamity which he had declared he would bring them. And he did not do it." Nineveh brought forth fruits worthy of repentance.
David, after confessing and expressing great remorse for his sin against God, determined that with God's help he would forsake that sin. He said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Here's the first step of repentance—the first step in repentance must always be the recognition of personal sin. We have to recognize we're sinful. We have to recognize we've messed up. Now any married couple can tell you this is true. The first step to repentance and mending a fight is admitting that you're wrong. Now, ladies, stop elbowing your husbands; their side is hurting by now. So, this is a big part of repentance, admitting that you're wrong. You know, there's some people that are so prideful, they're never willing to admit when they're wrong or when they've sinned. They're not willing to do it.
"No, well, you know, it wasn't my fault." "I'm a product of my environment." "I did it because they did it first." There's always an excuse and there's always a reason—they're never wrong. Let me tell you something: there is freedom in admitting that you're wrong. There is freedom in admitting that you've sinned, because you're acknowledging that you're not perfect. You're acknowledging that you're not judged on your works; because if you're perfect, then you get to be judged on what you've done. I don't want to be judged on what I've done. So, when I admit I'm wrong, I'm acknowledging that I can't get there on my own, that I need someone else to do it for me.
But to only do that, to only admit that you're wrong can be useless at best and dangerous at worst. See, the problem with recognizing your personal sin without taking action can be self-deceiving, because it makes a person think that the mere confession is all that is necessary. "If I just confess, I'm okay." This is why when people come forward and they say a prayer to accept Jesus Christ into their lives, we let them know, "Hey, that was a big step, but it's just the first one."
We want to encourage you and help you walk in your relationship with Christ. That's why we do follow-up counseling. That's why we have Step by Step. That's why we have New Believers classes, because we want to encourage people to walk with God, not just take a step. It's about a progress of moving with the Lord. It's dangerous if all you do is confess.
Some people go to church on a weekly basis just to get their spiritual fix, to apologize to their priest, to say sorry, so they can go back and keep sinning, keep living their life, so they don't have to change anything, thinking that that's enough. There will be a rude awakening for those people when they stand before God and they realize that repentance is more than just justification, it's sanctification.
A hardened Pharaoh confessed his sin in Exodus 9:27. A double-minded Balaam confessed his sin in Numbers 22:34. A greedy Achan confessed his sin in Joshua 7:20. An insincere Saul confessed his sin in First Samuel 15:24. The rich young ruler who asked Jesus how to have eternal life went away sorrowful, but not repentant. Even Judas, sorry for his betrayal of Jesus, said to the chief priests and the elders, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."
All of these men recognized their sin and felt bad, but none of them repented. None of them repented. None of them will stand with Jesus on that triumphant day. They were experiencing what Paul called the sorrow of the world that produces death, instead of the godly sorrow that produces repentance. True repentance will include a deep feeling of wrong doing and of sin against God.
David began his psalm of confession with the words, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions." He not only clearly saw his sin, but he felt a deep need to be rid of it. In another psalm he declared, Psalm 32:3, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." The sorrow of true repentance is like David's.
It's the sorrow for an offense against a holy God, not simply a regret over the personal consequences of our sin, like Pharaoh, or like Judas, or like Achan. Not just a regret, but it is a sorrow based on the fact that you've offended a holy God. The sort of sorrow that those people like Pharaoh and Achan and Balaam and Judas had. That sort of sorrow is nothing more than selfish regret, really, a concern for yourself rather than God. And that just adds to the original sin.
Even the acknowledgment of your sin, and the feeling that we've offended a holy God isn't necessarily true repentance. We're getting there, but we don't have the full scope yet. It's still a part of it. Simply put—if your repentance is genuine, it will change your life. You will bear fruit. You'll feel sorry because you've offended a holy God. You'll apologize for that offense. You'll feel broken because of it. But then at the end of it, once you've repented, it'll change your life. Your repentance leads to change.
I want to ask my buddy Stuart to come out here, because I want to illustrate something to you on what repentance is all about. Stuart, can you come out here, buddy. Hey, let's give a round of applause for Stuart. He's a great worship leader, isn't he? We love him. [applause] How you doing buddy? Good. You gotta talk in the microphone.
Stuart: Check, check. Hello?
Nate Heitzig: Good. Can you guys hear him?
Stuart: Hello, hey.
Nate Heitzig: Yeah.
Nate Heitzig: Stuart, you did a great job tonight, man.
Stuart: Thanks, man, I appreciate that.
Nate Heitzig: You're welcome. [slaps Stuart]
Stuart: Ow! [laughter] What was that for?
Nate Heitzig: I'm sorry, buddy. [hugs Stuart] Hey, I love you. I'm sorry. You forgive me?
Nate Heitzig: Okay. [slaps Stuart]
Nate Heitzig: Hey, I'm sorry, Stuart.
Stuart: Are you sure?
Nate Heitzig: Just come here really quick. I just want to say— [slaps Stuart]
Nate Heitzig: Stuart, I'm sorry. One more?
Nate Heitzig: One more? No?
Stuart: I don't know, man.
Nate Heitzig: I'm really sorry. I promise, I'm sorry. [slaps Stuart]
Nate Heitzig: Okay, get out of here. By the way, that was planned. I'm not that mean. I didn't just call Stuart out and slap him without him knowing, that was planned. But the point is, is that many of us do that with God. "I'm sorry God"—slap him in the face. "I'm sorry God. I really am sorry"—sin again. Do the same thing over and over again. And it's a process. At what point of doing that over and over and over again do we realize that's not true repentance?
Until Stuart comes over to me and I don't slap him, I haven't really repented. If I keep slapping him over and over and over again, I've never really repented even though I've said sorry so many times. If you've really repented, it'll be more than just sorry, and it'll be a change within your life. A lot of people are in this spiritual wash cycle; they're stuck in it. They are stuck in this process on a daily basis.
It seems like they can never get out of these sins. They're always doing it over and over again. "Sorry"—sinning. "Sorry"—sinning. "Sorry"—sinning. It's like the children of Israel; they're wandering in the wilderness. They go to church so they can keep on sinning. So the question again is: What is repentance and have you really repented? Has your life been changed by the blood of Christ?
Look at verse 8 once again. "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Now, question for you: Who was this message directed to? Was it directed to the prostitutes? They're pretty bad. The thieves? Nobody likes them. The tax collectors? They make everyone angry. No, look at verse 7. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?' Bear fruit in keeping with repentance."
It was directed to the people who went to church. It was directed to you and me. It was directed to the people who looked like they had it all together. Often those who think they need to repent the least are the ones that need to repent the most. We can come to church high and mighty thinking we have it all together, thinking we're better than everyone else around us, when really it might be us who need to repent the most.
And what's scary is we can get into the habit and coming to church and admitting sin, but never repenting of it, so that we have, in essence, deceived ourselves into thinking everything is okay, but below the deck there's a leak and we're sinking fast. Unless we catch it, and unless we repent, unless we let God come into our lives and truly change us, we're in for a rude awakening.
The religious Jews felt that because of their birthright, because of their upbringing and heritage, because of their pedigree, if you will, that was all they needed to be right with God, observing the ceremony of the law while missing its intent and purpose. They were self-deceived, self-righteous, and they needed to repent.
So, we've seen the messenger and the message, and we're going to close now with the mission. Look at verse 11. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, and he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Verse 11 tells us that he came to baptize. He came to baptize people, to signify repentance. Now, why is there such a great importance placed in John's ministry on baptism?
Well, first of all, it's important to note that baptism isn't a New Testament thing. Baptism is found all throughout the Old Testament. There were rituals of purification, ceremonial cleansing used on different occasions that included baptism. Most important was the rite that was proselyte baptism, proselyte baptism, which was reserved for Gentiles alone. So, here's the question that the Jewish people posed to one another: How can a Gentile become a Jew?
Well, there's three things: number one, they had to embrace the teachings of Judaism and make a confession of faith in that, much like we have to embrace the teachings of Christ and make a confession of faith in that. Then, number two, they had to be circumcised. There had to be an outward change and a symbol of their relationship with Christ. And then, third, they would undergo the right of proselyte baptism, because the Gentile was a foreigner.
The Gentile was a stranger to the covenant, and he needed to be cleansed because he was unclean. But does John come and direct this baptism toward the Gentiles? toward those who needed to be cleansed to become a Jew? No, he's not even talking to Gentiles; he's talking to Jews. He's telling those who thought they were clean, who thought they were good to go, he's telling them, "You're unclean. You can't trust in your heritage or your pedigree. A whole new ball game is beginning."
In the same way it's possible that some of us, because of our upbringing, or because of our involvement in activities at the church, feel that we too are acceptable to God, feel that we too have pleased God because of something that we've done. Look, the question isn't are we religious or are we good, it's have we repented?
Look, I don't care if you come to church. I'm happy you're here tonight. I don't care if you read your Bible, even though it's a good thing to do. I don't care if you sing the worship songs, even though they have powerful messages. I don't even care if you have five "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, and you're wearing a "Not of This World" T-shirt—it's not enough. It was never meant to be enough. It was never meant to save you. Jesus is all that will ever be enough. [applause] Not by anything that man has done, but by what God has done. It is only God who saves.
In the book of Samuel is the story of the conniving King Saul who felt that he could appease God with a few offerings while blatantly disobeying him, to which the prophet Samuel replied, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king."
To obey is better than to sacrifice. If your life isn't right with God, if your life isn't clean before the Lord, worry about that before you worry about serving. Worry about getting your life right with God before you worry about helping other people get their life right with God. Again, David hit the nail on head when he said to God, "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
May God help us to see what true repentance really is. May God help us to see if there's anything in our lives that needs to be dealt with, not merely be sorrow for, but repent of. Repent because we've sinned against a holy God who loves us more than you could ever know. I want you to understand tonight it's not too late to apologize, but there will be a day when it is. There will be a day when you stand before a holy God and the only question he has for you is: "What did you do with my son Jesus Christ? "
Not, what do you think about him, or what do you have to say about him, but what do you do with him? How did he change your life? And if you die without having a real relationship with Jesus, then it will be too late. There won't be a redo. There won't be a second chance. There will only be that question: "What did you do with Jesus?" What have you done with Jesus? How has he changed your life? If you were to die tonight, and you were made to answer that question, how would you answer?
"Well, God, I went to church." Golf clap. "I read my Bible sometimes." "I said a prayer once." Look, I'm not here to ask if you've ever said a prayer in an altar call. You might have, you might have even done it here, but that doesn't mean you're saved. Did that prayer lead you to a change in your life? Did that prayer lead you to repentance? If not, God's calling you tonight. The question is: have you repented of your sins, and has that repentance led you to change? Because if it hasn't, then you haven't really done it.
I believe God is speaking to some in here tonight, and I believe that God wants to have a relationship with you. I believe that you might be here, and you're caught in that spiritual wash cycle. You say, "Nate, I'm caught in sin, and it seems like every time I repent, I just fall back into it again. What's wrong? What's going on? I need something else. I need something different." God is calling you and God is letting you know that you don't need to do it on your own anymore.
You have an advocate who loves you. You have a God who came to this earth and died for your sin. And if you accept him into your life, you can feel the fulfillment that you've been searching for. You don't have to cry yourself to sleep at night. You don't have to feel depressed and alone every day as you walk around like a zombie. You can have life and life abundant, if you'll only receive it.
Lord, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for the truth of your Word. We thank you that you came to this earth, you lived a perfect life, and you died for our sins. Lord, we don't deserve it. We deserve condemnation, we deserve death, and yet you offer life. Lord, I pray if there's anyone in here tonight who hasn't truly repented, maybe they've pretended for a long time, maybe they have all their friends fooled, maybe they have their spouse fooled, but they don't have you fooled.
And, God, you're calling them tonight. You want to have a real relationship with them. Maybe there's someone in here who's never said that prayer to receive Jesus Christ, and you realize that you need to get your life right with God now. Now is the acceptable time. If God is speaking to you here in this place, if God is pulling on your heart, and you want to have a real relationship with Jesus, maybe you want to accept Christ for the first time, or you want to rededicate yourself to him.
You want to start fresh, start new, and really live for him. If that's you, I just want to you raise your hand. If you're either one of those people, just say, "Nate, pray for me. I need Jesus Christ." Several of you to my back, to the left, in the center. Anyone else? Just raise it up high. Over here in the front, to my right. Several of you over here in the front to the left. God's calling you, and like a person drowning you just have to lift our hand up and say, "Save me." In the back, several of you to the middle, lots of hands over here in the front. Amen. God is doing a great work.
Lord, thank you for how you're speaking into lives right now. We love you. And, Lord, I pray that these hearts will now give way to feet, and that they will show with their lives that they belong to you, in your name we pray, amen.
I'm going to ask you to stand up and we're going to close in a song. And as we do, I'm going to ask that if you raised your hand up just a second ago acknowledging that you need to either get your life right with Christ for the first time, or for a second time, or a third time, or a fourth time; we serve a God of a thousand chances. I'm going to ask you, if you raised up your hand, in just a second to come down here to the front and say a prayer to receive Jesus Christ.
You say, "Nate, hold on a second. I'm all about the quick hand in the air with eyes closed and heads bowed. I'm all about that. But you want me to actually take a step of faith? You want me the walk forward where people can see me?" I do. This is why: If you can't stand up for Jesus Christ in a room full of people that love him, how are you going to do it when you walk out those doors and you're in a world that hates him? [applause] These people love you. These people are here for you. We're excited for you.
And you might say, "Well, what's the person next to me going to think?" I don't care what they're going to think. They don't determine where you spend eternity, only Jesus Christ does. Stop trying the live your life to please the person next to you or behind you or in front of you, and start living your life to please God. So we're going to sing this song now, and if you just raised your hand up, you come now, and I'm going to lead you in a prayer to accept Jesus Christ. Come now.
[worship music plays]
I believe God is still speaking to people here in this place. And I believe that there's some right now that you're on the edge of your seat. You see these people making this profession of faith and you know you need to do this. You've been holding off for too long. What's holding you back? What's holding you back from a relationship with Christ? What's holding you back from fulfillment and joy and peace and love?
Don't go home tonight and feel the same way you do every night. Don't go home and feel guilt—feel the redemption of Jesus Christ. Feel the love that only he can bring. Stop running from God and run to God. We'll wait for you. If you need Jesus Christ, you come now and you get your life right with God. You come, we'll wait for you.
[worship music plays]
Amen. Let's give these guys a round of applause who have come forward. [cheers and applause] God is doing a great work in your hearts, and we're excited about that. And we're not going to sing this song through anymore. We're not going to drag this out till nine o'clock. Although, I'm sure if we did, a lot more people would come to Christ. We're not going to do that. But I love giving that last chance, throwing that net out one more time; because there's always that person that holds out to the very last minute.
You might be that person; you always wait for the last minute. Doesn't matter if you're the first one up here, or the last one; the only thing that matters is that you're up here. And if you were to die tonight, are you positive that you would spend eternity with Jesus Christ in heaven? Because if you're not, we're not promised tonight, we're not promised tomorrow, we're only promised now. And if you got hit by a drunk driver on the way home, and you went to meet God, what would your response to that question be?
And so, again, we're not going to sing this through anymore, but is there anyone else before we pray that you need to be up here with these people? Anyone at all? Amen! Amen! Praise the Lord. Amen. [applause] We'll wait for you. I see a couple more people coming. It doesn't matter where you are; we'll wait for you. God's been waiting for you for a long time; another minute's not going to do anything. [applause] Praise the Lord. Amen.
Well, those of you that have come forward right now, it's my privilege to lead you guys in a prayer to accept Jesus Christ into your life, to ask him to be the Lord of your life, to be the Ruler of your life, to not just be someone that you say you serve, but to be someone that you show you serve. So I'm going to ask you to say this prayer out loud. I'm going to ask you to repeat it after me. But you're not saying it to me. You're not saying it to the person next to you. You're not saying it to anyone here. You're saying it to Jesus Christ, and so mean these words from your heart.
Repeat after me: Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. I know that I've done many things that have hurt you. But, Lord, I believe that you died for those things, and I believe that you rose from the dead. So, Lord, I ask you to come into my life, forgive me of my sin. I turn from my old life and I turn to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to live for you, in Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen.