REVIVAL LESSON 8 - Luke 3:2-3, 7-8, 16 - John the Baptist and the Fire of God
TONIGHT: We move to the NT in the gospel of Luke, chapter 3. I imagine that you're already familiar with the story of John the Baptist as the "forerunner" of Jesus Christ, but you probably haven't considered it from the perspective of modern revival. But the reality is that nothing has changed in 2,000 years: we still serve the same God, and our unchanging God is still the only One who can bring revival to you and me individually and as a body of believers in God's church.
Read Luke 3:2b-3 - A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
2b the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;
v. 2b: "the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness" - The word of God had not been heard for 400 years-400 years of blackness, without any prophetic light. Then all of a sudden this strange-looking revivalist, John the Baptist, appears out of nowhere in the "wilderness." At that particular time in history (29-30 A.D.), wilderness was an accurate description of what had once been the kingdom of Israel: a wilderness morally, a wilderness politically, and a wilderness spiritually. Does this seem to bear similarity to the United States of America we see in the year 2022?
Observation: This is an object lesson in how God brings revival. We churches tend to organize, get people together for meetings, the more the better, but God doesn't do it that way. God takes individuals, prepares them (for 30 years in John's case), and then turns them loose in the wilderness (can we agree that America is a spiritual wilderness, yes?). Are you in a spiritual wilderness right now, I mean, aimless and wandering, seeking direction? Do you want to know if you are or aren't? The answer depends on how much time you're spending alone with God. I can tell you this: If you're spending little to no time with God alone, then you are definitely in a spiritual wilderness and wandering "to and fro" without any real sense of spiritual direction.
v. 3: "And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;" - Now, for us, in today's context, this message is directed at believing Christians-those who regularly get in their cars on Sunday mornings and drive to church. It's what they do. John's message-preaching repentance so you can be forgiven of your sins-Isn't the popular, "feel-good about yourself" message that a lot of Christians want to hear today. I mean, a preacher who points the finger of repentance at a room full of saved Christians is running the risk of losing his job.
• That's because repentance is more than saying "I'm sorry." Repentance is a mental thing. It's something in my mind-I'm going to turn this way or that way, and sometimes, when I'm going this way-I mean, toward sin-I tell myself that God is in the wrong and I am in the right. I mean, my way is faster, better, and a whole lot easier, and it's really not a big deal-God probably won't even notice! Have you ever been there, done that? I have, many times, and suffered the consequences.
• Now, a true attitude of repentance admits that God is in the right about everything-even if He sends me to hell, He's still right. That's hard to say, but it's true repentance. So, it's not just about repenting of the sin itself; it's repenting about the motive that made me do the sin, by that I mean the underlying root cause of my spiritual corruptness-i.e., you know it is wrong but go ahead and do it anyway. Rooting out this kind of corruption requires some serious self-examination. You need to understand where you went wrong. Do you see what I'm trying to say?
Note: We'll skip vv. 4-6, which is a quotation from Isa. 40:3-6 about the "forerunner" of the Messiah.
Read Luke 3:7-8a - WHAT JOHN THE BAPTIST SAID TO THE CROWDS
7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance..."
v. 7a: "So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers' - The crowd that gathered to hear John preach was enormous, probably numbering in the thousands. Notice how he began his message: He called them a "brood of vipers," which, in context, was the same as calling them children of the serpent who tempted Eve in the garden-Satan.
• Can you honestly imagine a preacher today in such and so Baptist church somewhere, climbing into his pulpit on a Sunday morning and telling his congregation that they were nothing but a den of sinful snakes? As born-again believers in Christ, are we better-that is, more righteous-than the people whom John is describing? Have we become so sanctified that we have no sins left to repent from? Listen to what Paul had to say about himself: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out" (Rom. 7:18).
v. 7b: "who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" - Sometimes it seems like modern Christians have forgotten about the wrath of God. We like to think of Jesus as "meek and gentle" fellow (2 Cor. 10:1) but carelessly forget that "the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:7b-8). And the average Christian's might respond to that by saying, "I don't need to worry about that because I'll be raptured before it happens. Any Christian who thinks this way is smack in the middle of a spiritual wilderness and desperately needs to repent. It speaks of utter indifference toward the billions of lost souls who will face that final judgment.
v. 8: "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance" - Now John is talking about the result of true and honest repentance that brings real revival: God's Holy Spirit working through you and me. It will be evidenced by our fruits, which we can further define as any number of good works that are done out of selfless love for others (Titus 3:14). The word "bear" (Gk. poiēsate) is a present tense active imperative verb that means to keep on bearing. So, as long as we Christians are living and breathing on this earth we are duty bound to keep on bearing fruit in the form of good works for the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, ask yourself if you're actively doing things individually and/or as part of this church that demonstrate a fruitful life? Do you see yourself as generous in the giving of your time, talent, and resources for the glory of God? God certainly appreciates what you did yesterday, but what are you doing today, and what do have planned for tomorrow?
Summary of skipped verses: After John forcefully exhorted the huge crowd facing him to repent of their sins, v. 10 indicates that they asked him "what then must we do?" and John, in vv. 11-14, basically told them that they must completely change their moral character and actions in a way that demonstrated the "fruits" mentioned in v. 8, e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, and faithfulness. For these folks, after 400 years of silence and moral decline, these requirements represented a radical change. Finally, in v. 15, when they asked John if he was the promised Messiah, he answered them the next verse. Are you ready to hear his answer?
Read Luke 3:16 - HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE
16 John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
v. 16a: John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals" - I'd be willing to bet that most of you can quote John 3:16 without looking it up, but what about Luke 3:16? It's the other side of the coin and ought to be just as well known. In this part of the verse, John lays out the blueprint for this revival: (1) the "One...coming who is mightier"-Jesus Christ is the Reviver; (2) "John" is the Revivalist; and (3) "you"-the gathered crowd are the Revived. For revival to truly happen to you, me, and the rest of our church, this blueprint must be followed. There's no other way. In John's scenario, the revived-this huge crowd, which included the hated tax collectors and soldiers, were under conviction and ready to repent and seek forgiveness of their sins. If you and I, the revived, want revival to come, we must follow the example of this crowd, and it doesn't matter if you've been in church since you were a baby. You must humble yourself, repent, and seek forgiveness.
v. 16b: "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" - As saved Christians, before we can correctly understand the application of this part of the verse-to us, we need to examine how it should be interpreted. The best contemporary authorities on this (D.T.S., Southwestern Bapt. Th. Sem., Southern Th. Sem.) interpret the words "Holy Spirit and fire" as one thing, not separate workings. Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ alone by faith alone, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and fire, and some preachers even refer to it as the "Holy Spirit fire." The fire represents the cleansing power of the Spirit at both the moment of salvation and its continued working in our lives.
• So, when we "quench" the Spirit by sinning, whether by commission or omission (what we have failed to do), it quite literally pictures throwing water on our Holy Spirit fire.
• With that truth in mind, let's look at what has caused the United States to degenerate into the spiritual wilderness we see it in today. Who's to blame? We are!
• Anybody who claims to be a Christian has allowed this to happen over time. In the last 70 or so years we've seen Christians and their churches cave-in to all kinds of social pressure by "watering-down" the essence of the gospel message. All the blatant departures from Biblical truth-sound doctrine-are too numerous to mention here, except to say that the false teaching that Paul warned us about is thriving. In short, our nation is going to hell because the church has lost its Holy Spirit fire-it's as simple as that! Me, you, and every one of us have committed grievous sins of omission by turning the other way and by indifference, allowed these changes to take root in our society.
• Does that bother you? I hope so. Is there anything we can do to reverse it? The good news is Yes: As individual Christians and churches we need to re-light our Holy Spirit fire. We need to harness the infinite power of God and turn it loose. How do we do it? Revival! There's no other solution.
"if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
2 Chron. 7:14.
PLEASE PRAY WITH ME: Lord God, I pray that anyone here tonight will stop listening and pray with me right now. I pray, father, that whoever they are, they will seriously and honestly think about whether or they are wandering around in a spiritual wilderness like so many other Christians today. I pray, God, that they will seriously consider the amount of time they're spending alone with you every day. And I pray, Father, that they will discover that You're still there and have been there all this time, patiently waiting to lead them out of their spiritual wilderness.
Lord God, I also ask You to be with every member here tonight as they ponder the decision they will be called to make about the future of this church next Sunday. I simply pray, Dear Lord, that they will search their hearts and that You will invoke Your Holy Spirit to help guide them. And it's in Jesus' perfect and mighty name that I pray these things, AMEN.