By definition, a Christian is someone that has repented. Now repentance, in the Biblical sense of the word, is not simply to change one’s mind, but it combines both the Greek sense and Hebrew sense of the word. In Greek, the word was more technical meaning to change one’s mind, intellectually. In Hebrew, it meant more of the sense to be sorry for one’s sins. When we combine these two understandings we have the Biblical definition- Repentance is to be sorry for one’s sins and turn from them, but we have to turn to something. We will get to that at the conclusion of this sermon.
So being a Christian, by definition, means that you have said that you are sinful, you are poor in spirit, bankrupt before the eyes of God, you have genuinely fallen short of the glory of God. That is how the Kingdom of God came into this world- the preaching of repentance. And it was John the Immerser that inaugurated the kingdom. He was the precursor to Christ, the one who “Prepared the way of the LORD and made His paths straight.”
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
I. Verses 1-3A. “In those days” seems to not concern itself with strict chronological accuracy, but Matthew means to say that what he is about to write is historically true. So, sometime after Jesus’ family moved back to Nazareth John, His cousin, came preaching.
B. John was a common name in Israel at that time and even dating back to around 100 B.C. This John was set apart, though, by his ministry of Baptism. Thus he was called “John the Baptizer” or we could call him “John the Immerser.” He called on people to repent of their sins and be baptized in water. This is the same practice that Jesus and His disciples carried on in their ministry. And we will see in just a few minutes that this was just a precursor to what baptism would soon come- baptism with the Holy Spirit.
C. John immersed those who came to them, but the call came through his preaching. He came preaching in the desert of Judea. This seems to be a phrase that refers to prophets. The word of his message came from the desert and all came out to him to hear and be baptized. Much like the key point in Israel’s history thus far, the Exodus from Egypt, the people are found once again in the desert. Moses declared the Word of God to those of the Exodus and it marked a crucial time in the history of the people and now John is found preaching the Word of God in the desert at the verge of a new beginning in their lives and in their history.
D. What did John the Immerser have to say? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The preaching of the kingdom was about repentance from the onset. There is no doubt that what people needed to hear was a way out of their sins and a time of the restoration of all things. This message came by the word REPENT. And in John’s preaching, repentance was based on the kingdom of heaven being near; “at hand.” Matthew leans toward the phrase “kingdom of heaven” which is the same as “kingdom of God.” This kingdom is marked by repentance and when entering into it one enters life. I think a simple definition would be what Jesus had to say in His prayer during the Sermon on the Mount, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” The coming of the kingdom is the coming of God’s will and we know that His will is for people to turn from their sins and into life eternal.
E. The nearness of the kingdom was at the crux of the message. The people in Israel were constantly looking for the inauguration of the kingdom and looking for the Messiah King of the kingdom. In John the Immerser’s preaching both were announced. That was a good reason for repentance.
II. Verses 4-6A. John’s preaching was no doubt stern and so were his surroundings, clothes, and diet. Can you picture a man standing out in the desert wearing camel’s hair and a leather belt? This is the dress of a prophet. It was also widely known that he ate locusts and wild honey.
B. It is said that many people attempted to disguise themselves as prophets by dressing like this so that they could gain a following, but John was the complete package. He withdrew to the desert, dressed in camel’s hair, ate locusts and wild honey, baptized, and preached daily. He was the one that Isaiah spoke of in 40:3 when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘ Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.”
C. The whole region came out to him. Now, in my mind, this took place because people earnestly are seeking for more. The Scripture tells me “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” Yet, though we do not seek after God, I think that there is a sense of urgency in the hearts of people. They were ready for a message of repentance. And, by acceptance of the message, the people admitted that they did not seek after God, but had sought out their own sinful desires.
III. Verses 8, 10A. John told the legalistic, hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” and then “do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.” There is no room in the kingdom for those who rely on themselves or the help of tradition. The fact that they were physical descendants of Abraham meant nothing to John and it means nothing to God for God seeks fruits worthy of repentance. If God wanted children of Abraham, He could raise them from the stones. Their heritage meant nothing only repentance from their sins because the kingdom was coming with full force.
B. Fruit is what comes from true repentance. Our actions must be in harmony with our oral repentance, and if we are intellectual repentant then it will show in our behavior. Are you sorry for your sins? Then demonstrate that in what you do before the eyes of the Lord. Do you say that you have turned from your sins? Then display that before the eyes of the Lord by what you do. “Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
IV. Verses 11-12A. John only baptized with water, but he promised that One would come after him that would be mightier than him. We know that Jesus is the One of whom John spoke. John promised that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and we know that word come to pass.
B. The coming of God’s reign through the person of Jesus in the kingdom of heaven either demands repentance of brings judgment. That’s what is meant by the stern, almost harsh, phrase “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The message of the kingdom is the same today, Repent or Face Judgment.
Repentance implies that there is something wrong in the world. Christians call that problem sin. The cross of Christ demonstrates that truth most clearly. Sin had to be dealt with by God. This is what we turn to when we turn away from our sins. We are sorry for our sins and turn from them to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
“The reason the death of Christ is the heart of gospel—the heart of the good news—is God was doing it. Romans 5:8: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ If you divide God’s activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel. This was God’s doing. It is the highest and deepest point of his love for sinners, His love for you…”
God shows His love for us…Christ DIED!!!
If you try to separate God’s love from the death of Christ, you have NO gospel. When we repent we must turn from our sin to something, most specifically some One- Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of repentance and it was not just inaugurated by repentance, but is marked by it even ‘til today. We are Christians: those who admit that they are wrong, sinful, broken, poor in spirit, and utterly helpless. This morning, whether you have known Christ for many years or you have never committed your life to Him, repent and turn to Him for the Kingdom of Heaven is here and will be known more fully when He soon returns.