Believe: 879. How far will you go to find the truth? He is among us.
Thank You Father for this time we have together as we study Your Word. We believe that this Book is inspired of God, written by humans but super-intended by the Holy Spirit so that we're reading the Words of God. And as we apply them to our lives, moreover as Your Spirit makes application to our lives, we are changed week-by-week, day-by-day, and we thank You for that and we pray that, that would indeed be the case with us who are sitting here. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you were to look up at the word "great" in the Webster's Dictionary, the definition would be "considerably above normal or above average." Another definition would be "remarkable."
A person who is great is someone who stands out from the rest of the crowd. I was reading a little article that said 92 percent of baseball players who sign a professional contract with a professional team, 92 percent never see a single major league game.
Now I read it in Harper's Magazine, I don't know how reliable that is but if that is the case, that would mean that only eight percent who signed the contract would be considered great baseball players. And sometimes you'll find the word "great" attached to a name as if it's a formal name, like Alexander the Great or in the Bible, Herod the Great. And I discovered in searching: 142 different people had the name "great" attached to them. "I'm so and so...the great."
Now whenever a person adds that term to their own name connoting and denoting that they are great, it also connotes that everybody else around them is not so great. I heard about a man who went to a psychiatrist and said, "Doctor, I have an inferiority complex." Doctor ran a bunch of tests on him and said, "Well, we've ran the test and it's not a complex. You really are inferior."
And most people would never think of John the Baptist in terms of the word "great." The first word that comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of John the Baptist are words like "eccentric," "odd," "strange," "out of the ordinary," "unconventional," "interesting" perhaps but not "great." And yet, it was Jesus himself who said, "I tell you of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John." It's quite a statement because John's life wasn't very long. In fact it was short. His ministry was not very extensive. It was in one small little Middle East region. But the way he lived his life and the choices that he made, this man was great.
I'm going to read to you a paragraph, it comes from a business review, the New York Insurance Company, business review, "Great men," it says, "have but a few hours to be great. Like the rest of us, they must dress, bathe, and eat. And being human, they must make visits to the dentist, doctor, and barber, and meet with their wives about domestic matters. What makes men great is their ability to decide what is important and then focus their attention on that."
That's exactly what John the Baptist does. He decides what is important and he puts all of his focus and attention on that, and it's all summed up by what he's going to say in the paragraphs that we read this morning, when John says, "Behold the Lamb of God."
Now we've already touched on John briefly in the Gospel of John. He's mentioned in verse six and seven. And when John says, the author John says of John the Baptist, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." We also read about him in verse 15 but now the prologue is over. And now we come to the real story as it is told of John the Baptist. And I think what we're going to discover this morning hopefully, the big lesson is how can we witness for Christ, or how can we represent Jesus Christ before an unbelieving world? How can we make a difference? How can our life be an impactful life? So that we're doing more than just breathing air and taking up space on earth. What can I significantly do that would promote Christ as a witness? Now to do that, we got to do two things and they're in your outline.
The first is about your identity and the second is about your activity. And we'll discover that using John the Baptist as the mirror. We get John the Baptist's identity and his activity. Let's go to verse 19 and we'll see the identity of John the Baptist.
"Now this is the testimony of John. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Messiah.'' The same idea as the word Christ.
"And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' He said, 'No.' And they said to him, 'Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?' And he said: 'I am "The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the Lord."'"
So there's John the Baptizer down at the Jordan River baptizing—we'll get to that activity in just a moment, but a delegation comes from Jerusalem to find out who this guy is and why he's doing what he's doing.
Now, the group responsible for sending the delegation was called the Sanhedrin. You've heard that term maybe. The Sanhedrin was a group of 70 rulers in Jerusalem who were in charge of the spiritual warfare—I should—maybe that is true, welfare of the nation. They wanted to protect the nation from any false messiah that might arise. The only problem with that is in protecting the nation from all of the false messiahs, they protected the nation from the real Messiah who would come.
And so, they sent out a delegation because John the Baptist was getting quite a crowd following him. Multitudes of people were going down and people were listening to him and watching him. Now I doubt if anybody went out to the Rio Grande River and started baptizing people that they would draw that big of a crowd. But because of the times they were living in and because of the amount of people that drew interest, now the religious community is interested.
And there's a term I want you to notice in verse 19. You'll need to notice it now because you'll see it a lot in this book. It's the word "Jews." Jews. It's used 71 times by John in this book. More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. But when John uses the term "the Jews," he is not speaking racially, he's speaking formally or legally. He's not referring to nationality, as much as John is referring to the group of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were hostile toward Jesus. After all, everybody around them in the baptism were Jewish. But "the Jews" here occupies a specific meaning of those hostile toward Christ.
You'll notice also in verse 19, "priests and Levites." Those are the people in the delegation to find out who John was. They were priests and they were Levites. Now that makes sense because John's dad was a priest, Zacharias, who worked in the temple. John was of the priestly line. This makes John the Baptist a PK, do you know what a PK is? It's a priest's kid, in this context. He was the son of a priest. He was a PK, a preacher's kid.
But John the Baptist was a preacher's kid gone rogue. He had left Jerusalem and he's now a preacher out in the desert and Levites and priests never preached. They just performed rituals, not John. They want to find out what his deal is. So they asked him a question, "Who are you?" And it's interesting that they asked him the question and John answers it by telling them first who he's not before he tells them who he is. He answers it negatively and then he goes positively.
So he wants to immediately set their minds at rest and he says, "I am not the Messiah." You know why he said that, because they thought he was the Messiah. And the reason they thought John might be their Messiah, their Christ, is there was such a high level of anticipation that the Messiah would come imminently in their generation.
And here's why. For years, the Jewish people had suffered at the hands of those who enslaved them: the Greeks, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, and now the Romans. Before that, they had been taken captive in Babylon and Assyria. And so, they had for generations suffered the enslavement of people over them. They were crying out for a deliverer. And historians tell us that just about this time in history, Messianic expectation reached fever pitch.
I'm going to quote to you a book that I found, a little book called The History of Messianic Speculation in Israel written by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver. Listen to this quote: "Prior to the first century of the Christian Era, the Messianic interest was not excessive. The first century, however, especially the generation before the destruction of the second temple [that's right here, right now] witnessed a remarkable outburst of Messianic emotionalism. And when Jesus came into Galilee, spreading the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, 'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand,' he was voicing the opinion universally held that the age of the kingdom of God was at hand." Listen to this closing statement. "The Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century of the Christian Era right at this time."
So he says, "Just to, just to clear the air, I am not the guy, the Messiah." So they asked him another question, "Well, are you Elijah?" Now why would they ask him that? Well, one reason is the way he looked and the way he acted. He was so bold in his confrontation and the way he dressed. I don't know if you remember Elijah's description in 2 Kings chapter eight. It says he was a hairy man who wore a belt, a leather belt around his waist. So that was Elijah, hairy, with a belt around his waist.
John the Baptist comes wearing camel's hair clothing with a leather belt around his waist. So they go, "Are you Elijah?" Well Elijah has been dead. Why would they ask a guy now if he's Elijah. And here's why. The last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament predicts that Elijah would come before the Messiah. The last paragraph, God says, "I will send my messenger, Elijah, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord." That is why even to this day, you can't go to a Passover feast, a Seder feast, but that you won't see an empty chair for Elijah, just in case he shows up at your Passover which would indicate the Messiah is here or coming.
Now, he says, "I am not Elijah." "Are you Elijah?" "I'm not Elijah." Well now we have a problem. And if you're a Bible student, you know what that problem is. Because in Matthew 11, Jesus said of John the Baptist, "This is Elijah who is to come." So you got Jesus saying of John the Baptist, "That's Elijah," and you got John the Baptist saying, "I'm not Elijah."
Moreover, before John the Baptist was ever born, his father Zacharias got a message from an angel saying, "You're going to have a son named John and he will come in the spirit and in the power of Elijah." So how do we resolve it? Well, let's see how. Let's go, turn back to Matthew chapter 17 briefly. Keep a marker where you are and go back to Matthew chapter 17.
I wanted to bring this up because I knew I would get questions about it afterwards. So to avoid that, I'll just answer them right here. Matthew chapter 17, verse 10: "And his disciples asked him saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?'" Now watch this. "Jesus answered and said, 'Indeed Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.'" That's future tense. He's saying, "Elijah as predicted by Malachi is going to come." That's what the prophecy says. "'But I say unto you [verse 12] that Elijah has come already and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise, the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.' And then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist."
Do you see what's happening? John the Baptist came not as the person of Elijah but as the angel said in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was an Elijah-like forerunner of Christ. And so, Jesus is saying, "Yup, he partially fulfilled that, but he didn't totally fulfill it." The real person of the prophet Elijah is going to come. And when is he going to come? Well the prophecy says in Malachi four, "before the great and dreadful day of the Lord."
Now, that's future. That's the great tribulation. And I submit to you my opinion that one of the two witnesses recorded in Revelation chapter 11 is Elijah the prophet. You just read what he does and what he says and it's very much like what Elijah said and did in the Old Testament.
So John denies it, "I am not the Messiah," back at John chapter one. "I am not Elijah." They ask him a third question, "Are you—," verse 21, "Are you the Prophet?" What prophet? Answer: the Prophet. I don't know which one it is. "'The Prophet,' and he answered 'No.'"
Now I say I don't know who it is but I can give you a couple guesses. According to some of the ancient Jewish writings, there was this idea that right before Messiah comes, Jeremiah the prophet or Isaiah the prophet would be resurrected and show up in Israel and restore the ark of the covenant to its proper place of worship in the temple. Maybe they were referring to one of those prophets as the prophet.
Here's another stab at its meaning. Deuteronomy 18, verse 15, Moses said, "The Lord God will send another Prophet like me, him shall you hear." Now we believe that and the disciples knew that meant the Messiah Himself, the Prophet who would be the Christ. But these Jewish leaders thought "the Prophet" was some other prophet who would come before the Messiah.
So by this point, they're just frustrated at John's very short negative answer. "Are you the Messiah?" "Nope." "Elijah?" "Um-mm." "The Prophet?" "Nope." And so they press him a little bit. Verse 22, "They said to him, 'Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?'" Now he'll answer their question. He won't tell them who he's not; he'll tell them who he is. I love his answer. I love it. Verse 23, he said to them, "I am—." And they probably move forward like, "Yeah? Yeah?" And he gives them the answer, "I am the voice." "That's it?" "Yup, I'm the voice. I'm not the Word, He's the Word. I'm just the voice of the Word. I'm the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I'm a nobody. But I'm telling you about a Somebody. I'm the voice of one crying in the wilderness," quoting Isaiah chapter 40, reaching back 700 years. "Make straight the way of the Lord." Don't you love that? "I'm just a road worker," John said. "I'm, I'm helping get that path straight that you need to walk on, to get your lives straight with God. That's all I am."
Well, John could have answered that question in a number of ways, couldn't he? Based upon what we know about him or what Jesus said about him. He could have said, "You want to know who I am, I'll tell you who I am. I am the son of the great priest Zacharias whom you know." They would have gone, "Wow, that's pretty cool." He didn't say that. He could have said, "I'll tell you who I am. I am the child who was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb; none of you can say that." And they would have said, "Wow!" John could have said, "You want to know who I am? I'm the greatest guy who ever lived." And he would have been right. Jesus said that about him. "I'm the herald of the Messiah." But in humility, he says, "I'm just a voice. I'm not the message. I'm just the messenger. The message, the Word is Jesus. I am the messenger."
Now, I want to give you a quick thumbnail sketch of John the Baptist so we can get background so we can just move on in this book. Let me just tell you about his early years. His dad was a priest, Zacharias. His mom was named Elizabeth. Both of them were old and childless and beyond the capability of bearing children. It was a miraculous birth.
When Zacharias, his dad, was performing his ritual in the temple of burning incense, as he was doing that one day, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, the big dog angel, and says, "Zacharias, you and your wife Elizabeth are going to have a son, and he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers," and gave a prophecy of John the Baptist.
Well, Zacharias sees the angel Gabriel, hears the words, and he goes, "I don't believe it." Isn't that interesting? "I want a sign." "You want a what? What is an angel talking to you?" So he says, "You want a sign, I'll give you a sign." And he struck him dumb so that he couldn't speak for nine months while his wife was pregnant. So he gets out of the temple. He's all excited as what he's seen and all he can do is go, "Mmm-mmm-mmm."
Meanwhile, and months later when Mary, the Virgin Mary, now conceived by the Holy Spirit with a little baby growing in her womb, goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias. As Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, as soon as she calls out her name and comes into her house, Elizabeth, who would be the mother of John the Baptist, she's now five to six months pregnant at that time, said to Mary, "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ear, the babe leapt for joy in my womb." That was John the Baptist. Little John the Baptist in the womb, "Yahoo!"
Well eventually, John was born. And when he was born and they asked the dad, "What are we going to name him?" They expected to hear Zacharias (you name him after the father) Zach, Junior. He scribbles out on a tablet: John. That's what the angel said, "Name him." He's not going to mess with the angel anymore. John. Well as soon as they named him that, he could speak, and this is what he said, Zacharias said, "And you my little son will be called the prophet of the Most High because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins." That's quite a unique upbringing.
Now, that was John as a baby. Later on, he grew up and he became a teenager, and things began to change as a teenager. Now, I can just hear the conversation. I like to just sort of humanize it and modernize it. Can you just hear? One day Zacharias and Elizabeth are having a conversation. "Honey, have you been watching how John is dressing? I mean camel's hair, come on." "Oh honey, don't worry about it. All the kids are doing it. It's just the way it goes. Leave it alone."
But John became more eccentric and was drawn toward the deserts of Judea, not the priesthood like his father, but the deserts. Moreover, we believe that John took a special vow outlined in the Old Testament book of Numbers, you can look it up later, called the Nazirite Vow, a vow of dedication. Under the Nazirite regulations, John had to let his hair grow. He could never cut his hair, so you can imagine what he would look like as he grew up never cutting his hair. He could never touch anything that would defile him like a dead person. So if his dad died, he couldn't even go to the funeral. And he couldn't have anything from the vine. He couldn't drink wine. He couldn't eat raisins. He couldn't eat grapes. It was a strict vow of separation. John lived an uncontaminated life and he wanted to do that because he wanted nothing to hinder the message he was going to preach. And if there was ever a reason for any preacher not to do certain things that are questionable, that's the reason: to live an uncontaminated life so the message can be preached in a very clear and undiluted manner. That was John, a voice crying in the wilderness. That's his identity. Let's look at his activity.
Verse 24, "Those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' And John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, [or exists or has existed before I did, even though John was older] whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.' These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing."
So we're told about his activity. He was baptizing people. He was putting them in the water. And here's what you ought to know about this background of baptizing. Baptism is not a Christian ritual. It didn't originate in Christianity but in Judaism. And when a Gentile wanted to become Jewish or they proselytize into the Jewish faith, so let's say you're a Pagan Gentile and you've come to believe in the God of Israel and you want to worship him, that's called a proselyte, a convert.
Three things were required: Number one, instruction by the scribes. They give you truth, Bible studies. Number two, you had to be circumcised if you were a male, and number three, you had to be baptized in a ritualistic cleansing that spoke of the moment you were baptized, leaving the old way of life and becoming a citizen of the Jewish community.
Well now, that's the problem. Because John the Baptizer is at the Jordan River and the people around him are not Gentiles but Jews, and he's baptizing not Gentiles coming into Judaism, but he's baptizing Jews. "Who are you? And if you're not the Messiah, why are you doing this?" And I love John's answer. He just sort of dismisses the whole water baptism thing. "I'm baptizing with water. But there's One standing among you whom you don't know." And later on, he says He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. You'll see that.
So what John was doing was an outward sign of repentance, preparing the hearts for the Messiah. But this is what he was really doing. He was pointing people to Christ. Verse 29, "The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him. And he said, 'Behold!'"
Now every time you see the word "Behold," it just means "Hey, look" or "Hey, check it out." So here's John going, "Hey, you guys, look, check it out."
"'The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, "After me comes a Man who is preferred [or existed] before me, for He was before me." I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.' And John bore witness, saying, 'I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.'" So you get the scene?
These representatives are shocked to see this crazy guy baptizing people and they demand to know "who you are" or "What are you doing?" and "Why are you baptizing?" And John beautifully points the spotlight away from him and puts it on to Jesus saying, "Look, who I am is not the issue. And this water baptism isn't the issue. The issue is the One who is coming and is here among you. Behold the Lamb of God!"
Now, John says two things about Jesus in his words, two things: one about His person and one about His mission. About His person, John unmistakably is declaring Jesus is God. When he says, "He is preferred before me," if you follow his language, the verses previous to this, that's what he said. Now he repeats it, "He existed before I ever did. He existed before He came to this earth."
Now, if you know anything about John so far, you know that's the premise of John chapter 1, the apostle John, the author John is beginning the story by saying, "Okay, I'm going to tell you about Jesus who is the Word. He was with God and He was God. And that Word, God, became a human. So Jesus Christ, I want you to know from the get-go, is God. And I call to the stand my first witness, John the Baptist." And John the Baptist gets up to the stand and he witnesses. He goes, "Yep, I agree. He is God. He's called the Son of God, [That's a term for deity as we'll discover in this book] and He is preferred before me."
Now, there's something that's marvelous here. I don't want you to miss it. If, if Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, were cousins, what does that make Jesus and John the Baptist? Cousins, like second cousins. So they were related.
Now to me, this adds more weight of integrity and testimony to the words of John the Baptist, because how many of you would ever say of your cousin, "My cousin is God." How many of you had a family reunion when your cousin walks in and would say, "Hey, look, my cousin. That's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." You won't do that, because you know them. Ain't true.
Well Jesus and John grew up together and interfaced from time to time, no doubt, they would go together at least in part up to Jerusalem and shared the festivals together. Families did that. Family reunions. John and Jesus would no doubt be playing and conversing. And yet John the Baptist is convinced, "My cousin is God. Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Verse 29, that's what he says.
Now what does he mean when he says "the Lamb"? Because from just an animal perspective, a lamb isn't an impressive animal, and the Jewish nation was looking for a king, a lion-like king, a lion of Judah. They wanted a king; God gave them a lamb. "Look, the Lamb!" "A what? a lamb? That's the one, the lamb?"
You know, people don't use lambs to protect themselves. You've never seen a sign, have you? "Beware of lamb." "Watch out, I got a lamb here. Lambo!" It doesn't exude strength: the idea of a lamb. And that's not what it's meant to exude or speak of. John was the son of a priest and priests sacrificed lambs in the temple. And to say "Behold the Lamb," all of the Jewish people would know what that means: Here is the One who would be sacrificed and John says, "For the sin of the whole world."
Maybe John, when he introduced Jesus, was thinking back to Isaiah 53. He had already quoted Isaiah 40, maybe he was thinking back to what Isaiah said: "He will be led as a lamb before the slaughter." Or maybe he was thinking back to the Passover when a lamb was killed and the blood put on the door post and lintels of the Jewish homes, and they were protected by the blood of the lamb.
Now to me this is significant. I sort of want to close before we apply this, this whole concept of the lamb. Because you know, people will say things like, "Well I believe Jesus was just a good teacher." Well you're right. He's the best. He's the best teacher. But He's a lot more than just that. And that's not the reason He came. He didn't come to earth just to teach nice things to people. Others will say, "Well, I believe Jesus was a, was a miracle worker. He made so many people happy by the miracles. Well, you're right, He did, but that's not why He came to earth. Others will say, "Well, I like to think of Jesus as the ultimate example of love and acceptance." Well He certainly was that, but that's not why He came to earth. John nails it: "Look! The Lamb who takes away sin and it's the sin of the world." He is first and foremost a Lamb. Israel wanted a king; God gave them what they needed: a Lamb.
Now I want to close with this thought. I asked a question at the beginning, "How can we be witnesses, representatives for God in this world? How can we make our lives count so that we're not just breathing air and taking up space? We're actually representing God faithfully, being a witness?" And now I want to make these four quick application points and if you're taking notes, note-take this.
Number one: be aware. Be aware. That is, know who you are. Know who you are and in knowing who you are, it means knowing who you're not. John could say who he's not and then who he is. "I'm not the Messiah. I'm not Elijah. I'm not the Prophet. I'm a voice." And that's the first step in being a witness is being aware, knowing who you are. And knowing who you're not is a good first step. And just as John said, "I am not the Messiah," I am now going to tell you something, I know it's painfully obvious, but you're not the Messiah either.
Do you know what a load that will take off anybody in the ministry, anybody who counsels somebody else, anybody who has care and compassion and wants to fix problems? Because people come to us and we think, "I got to be the answer to this person. I got to fix that person. I, I—" No, you don't. You're not Jesus. You're not the Messiah. You know Jesus. You know the Messiah. You can take people to the One who has the answers but you're not the answer. Keep that in mind. Be aware. Know who you are. What gifts God has given you. What callings God has given you.
Number two: be vocal. If you're going to be a witness for Christ, at some point, you're going to have to open your mouth and tell people the gospel. John said, "I am a voice crying in the wil—." Not, "I'm a good example. I'm a lifestyle." See, a lot of people think, well, I can't really tell people about Jesus, I'm not really good at that, but I can live the Christian life and live an example, and they will look to my example. Well that's good and I hope for all examples. But if you're a wonderful, exemplary, changed person, but you never tell people how you got that way, you're not going to help them out. They're just going to think, "Well that guy is like one in a million. He's so sweet and forgiving and loving." And then you tell them, "Oh, the reason I got this way is because of Jesus Christ who changed my life." The Word, that's Jesus, needs the voice. The message requires the messenger.
So be aware. Number two: be vocal. Number three: be filled. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. John, or Luke chapter one, verse 15, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. No wonder he was so bold. No wonder he was so faithful to keep preaching what he was preaching week after week, month after month at that Jordan River. Do you think John cared if the priests and Levites liked what they heard? Do you think John the Baptist really lost any sleep if they said, "I can't believe you said that. We're going to leave and go to another baptismal hole down the block where there's another preacher preaching"? I don't think he cared. He was filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Number four—so here's the first three: you are to be aware, know who you are, you are to be vocal, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Number four: we're to be a sign post. We're to point people to Jesus. That's what John did. As they made it all about John and all about water baptism, John said, "It's not about me or what I'm doing here. My whole life and it's all about Him, that One. I'm a nobody. He's the Somebody." So be a sign post.
Here's what you're going to discover. If you start talking to people about Jesus, they're going to want to shift the conversation away from Jesus and away from them and Jesus onto something else. They'll want to say things like, "Well how come there's so many religions in the world?" You can spend hours dealing with that issue. And then when you cover that issue, they'll go, "Well how come there are so many dominations even in the Christian faith? I don't know which one to believe." "Oh gosh, okay, give me another five hours. I'll work on that one."
They want to take you away from the heart of the issue which is Jesus, His claims, His person, and how they relate to Him. So be a sign post. Point it to Him: "Hey look! The Lamb." And by the way, as you point people to Jesus, would you please point them to the real One? I mean, there's a lot of false Jesus' out there. People have—"Oh, I believe in Jesus." I always say, "Well, tell me about Him." And I discover it's not always the biblical Jesus. The biblical Jesus is first and foremost the Lamb who died on a cross for their sins. That's what John knew. "Behold the Lamb of God!"
So if you're going to talk and we should, if you're going to live and we should, if you're going to be a sign post and we should be that, point them to the real Jesus Christ and focus on His death on the cross and that's what can forgive people of their sins.
Now I've been accused and you've been accused and the whole Christian church has being accused of espousing a bloody religion. Have you ever heard that? "Oh, Christianity, such a bloody religion." Absolutely, we are. Amen! It is a bloody religion. The very heart of our faith is the blood of Jesus Christ which can cleanse a man or a woman from all sin. And if you remove the blood out of Christianity, you don't have Christianity. And John nailed it that day!
I want to close with a Christmas card. Remember a couple of weeks ago? I said I collect Christmas cards if they're really outstanding. Well, here's one. It said, "If our greatest need was information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need was technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need was money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need was pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness. And so God sent a savior." That was John's testimony: "It's not about me. I know who I am. I know who I'm not. It's all about Him, the God-man, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world." He can take away your sin. He can wash away your sin and you can have a brand new guilt-free, fresh-start life, but you got to let Him do that.
Don't let Jesus this season just stay a little baby in the manger. He grew up to become the Lamb to take away sin, and that's what He wants to do.
Heavenly Father, as we close this service, we pray that we, Your people, might be those loving, forgiving, embracing, yet bold and uncompromising, voices that gives a voice to the message, to the Word. That we would be aware of who we are, be vocal about the message and the truth, and we would do it in a way, Father, that we're always pointing to Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain. Lord, I pray also for those who may be here today, invited by a friend or visiting from out of town or just out of curiosity, came, just seeing the cars out on the road and coming in and maybe their life's just at that place where they need to know they're forgiven. They have a brand new start. They can have that. They can have a new life. They can have eternal life. They've been beat up by this world and enough is enough, and everything they've tried up to this point has not ended the loneliness, has not satisfied the heart, and I pray, Lord, I know that if they come to Christ—as thousands, as millions have discovered through history—Jesus will fill that empty void and give eternal life because He forgives sin. And I pray, Lord, that many today would make that decision to follow Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.