Saturday, April 14, 2018

LUKE 3:16 - "EVANGELISM 101 BY JOHN THE BAPTIST"

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 (Luke 3:16)
Any believer in the one True God will know that He is not only His best Evangelist but also the very First One. He says in Exodus 9:16 “But for this purpose, I have raised you up. I show you My Power, so that My Name may be proclaimed in all the earth”. Jesus, the Son of God Himself, was clear in Mark 16:15 when He says “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel”.

The great Scottish missionary Robert Moffat (1795-1883) said these immortal words, which inspired his son-in-law David Livingston “In the vast plains to the north, I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been”.  These words had a profound impact on Dr. Livingston, who blazed a trail for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in darkest Africa.

These men – Moffat and Livingston – operated with the same urgency as Yochanan the Immerser (or John the Baptist), the final Old Testament prophet. The first half of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3, contains a detailed and dedicated account of the greatest evangelist in the Bible, after the Lord Jesus. The methodology of this passionate man of God is a thing to behold, thereby becoming a blueprint for us to know the basics of evangelizing.

MISSION STATEMENT:
Luke 3:3 gives us John the Baptist’s mission statement “…and he came into all the district around Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

DIRECTIVE:
God Himself had prophesied through Isaiah that He was sending John to pave the way for the soon coming Messiah – John’s actual earthly cousin (in verse 4). Here is what the Lord called John, who is called “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. His assignment came directly from heaven, which he declared with powerful proclamations. These are his orders from our Heavenly Father. God the Father gave these orders 700 years before, in Isaiah 40:3-5:
-  Make ready the Way of the Lord
-  Make His paths straight
-  Humble the proud and exhort the humble (every ravine will be filled every mountain and hill will be brought low)
-  Reveal the crooked and depravity of mankind that they may face up to their sins
-  Explain the rough roads and narrow gates will lead to smoother, greener pastures
-  Do all of this (repentance, faith, and baptism) that “all flesh will see the salvation of God”

METHODOLOGY:
John used varying degrees of heat to apply the board of divine education of their spiritual condition, to the seats of their knowledge.  He was quick to call out those who claimed to represent God because of their position in the temples and synagogues of the Land

NARRATIVE:
John understood his role and mission here during his brief time on earth. He was almost the exact age of Jesus but full of the Spirit of God. His extremely humble lifestyle (clothed in rugged natural clothes), with a menu of locusts and honey, was indeed reflective of simple Savor Himself – the Lord Jesus! John’s lifestyle and integrity gave him immediate credibility when God unleashed his fiery ministry in the desert!

Consider this – the desert was quite some miles on foot, or donkey – from Jerusalem and its surrounding towns like Bethany and even Bethlehem. When this Duck Dynasty looking man, with the beard and “desert -styled” hair started preaching, many recognized that he was a significant prophet of God! The reason is that there had not been a prophet of the Holy One of Israel for over 400 years since God shut the windows of Heaven with the closure of Malachi’s ministry. Malachi was the final prophetic book of the Old Testament.

John completely sold out to his mission. He was fearless and let the Truth fly, as God revealed it to Him. 

He let fly with what some may term the “Doctrines of Grace”, but with power, conviction and a knife straight to the heart of sin! Listen to some of the words he chose carefully:
 -  You brood of vipers (religious hypocrites and fake “believers”). (Why do you wish) to flee the coming Wrath of God (the coming Judgment of all people)
 -  Produce fruit in keeping with Repentance (stay humble, seek forgiveness from God)
 -  Don’t believe because you are children of Abraham, you are saved (God has NO grandchildren)
 -  The ax is at the root of (your) tree and one that doesn’t produce will become firewood! (This is the gist of Luke 3:7).

Note that in his modus operandi of in-your-face evangelism, he was very explicit about the sinful nature and total depravity of man. This really got their attention because they stayed and listened to him. First of all, they had to be more than interested in just who this eccentric prophet was. They walked miles through the desert to the various deep pools of water, where John was baptizing after the converts made declarations of Faith. (John kept moving to different rivers depending on where he could find good amounts of water).

Cut to the quick, some of the new converts, once getting on the same page as John, now sought to sincerely seek how to live and bear “fruit”. This is called Sanctification. This fruit of repentance of which the Baptist spoke is no different from what the Apostle Paul taught in Galatians 5:22-23. Paul had spent three years in the Arabian desert being taught directly by Jesus Christ after his dramatic conversion on the Road to Damascus.  Therefore,  he knew, with precision, what the fruits of the Spirit were. 

The fruit of a forgiven and converted person are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These are no different from what John the Baptist taught, as a voice, crying out to the lost in the Judean Desert. Basically, he was saying….and it is still true….that “they shall know you by your fruit”. In all of the above-mentioned, John the Baptist became the first New Testament Evangelist, in addition to the final Old Testament prophet! All of this occurred in his early 30’s.

APPLIED:
Luke 3:16 fulfills the zenith of the John the Baptist’s main prophesy, and where the fullness of Jesus the Lord’s mission of earth comes completely into view:
- The One Who comes (and is now, here) is most Powerful
- This Powerful Supreme Being is overall, and even I, John the Prophet, am not even fit to be in the same room as Him or even tied His shoes. This Person is a King of which no word or action is comparable
- The King Who is coming is not here to baptize people with natural water. This is a topical testimonial of This is the job of mortal men. This King’s baptism is the Holy Spirit and "fire" (as Luke 3:16 indicates).

Knowing this, we have, who are called by His Name, have two choices. We can work for the King or sit back in the back row of the church of life, and do nothing. We can inspire our children, friends, family and the gas station clerk to be better and find peace, joy, and be healed with Jesus, or we can do nothing. We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us, but if we do not recognize and grow in this strength and power, we are just barely going to squeak into heaven.

If your neighbor's house were on fire, you would warn him/her and call the Fire Department. Christians know instinctively there is pending doom. The Holy Spirit and the Fire of God are in sync with our spirit to place that fact of eternity in our hearts. We will be held to account by the Father if, when presented with an opportunity to help someone in distress find God, we pull a Jonah and bolt in the other direction. The difference between modern western Christians and Jonah is this - Jonah actually stayed around Nineveh (now called Mosul) after we read of him and his book cuts off in Jonah 4. He taught about Yahweh, lived in the area, died and was buried in Nineveh. We know this because when the Islamic State took over Mosul a few years ago, one of the first things they went after to destroy, was the tomb of - guess who - the Jewish prophet Jonah. Jonah complained, but he did the right thing. Today, church people complain...and the majority do nothing.

Let this not be said of us. In the same beautiful journal, of which we spoke in Matthew 3:16, we recommend the following:
 - Go to Galatians 5:22-23.
 - Write down one fruit of the Spirit per day. Then, take the first one - love - and do some soul-searching.
 - With the first Fruit of the Spirit, Love, write down what your love for God means, in Jesus Christ. Be honest, and also write down where you think you need to do more work in loving God. 
 - Write down where you are at with your love for your family, and other people. How is your love for the lost and hurting? Write it down. Are you cold and need to show some TLC (tender loving care) in that area? Write that down....and so on. 
 - This first fruit (love) is probably the most important because how you view Love affects all the other fruits.  If you and I love God and the Bible and Jesus and honor the Holy Ghost, we will be so much at peace that the joy will overflow and people will see it on our faces, all the time. Because of that peace, we are patient with others, because we LOVE (agape) them...and so on.
 - Do the same exercise with EVERY single fruit of the Spirit in your journal. For instance, if you are troubled over something, journal it, with the question "why am I not at peace?" Then go to the concordance at the back of your good Study Bible or most any bible, and research the word "peace". Or simply, "google" the words "peace in my soul..." or something similar. Then find the associated bible verses and instead of just writing down the verse number, journal the ENTIRE verse....or verses...and then watch God begin to transform your cares into a state of rest in His Promises and care.

This is a major assignment and all flows from the Gift of our Salvation, from the One Whom John the Baptist said, will fill us with the Holy Spirit and fire. This One's Name is - Jesus, the Messiah. 

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