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"Speak the Word. If someone was listening to you, would they hear the words of God? Are you a voice crying in the wilderness or would they just hear one dwelling in the wilderness?" Our world suffers because believers are failing to follow the model set by John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, who prepared hearts to receive the Messiah.
The Most Quoted Verse in Your Bible
Shedding Light on Jesus' Chat in the Dark
When Christ Flips Tables, There's More Going on than You Think
The First Sign and All it Signifies: The Creator is Back at Work
Come and See. Go and Fish.
Come, See, Stay: What Followers Do
John the Baptist: A Witness to the Word, an Example to Us
The Five Words that Change Everything
Don't be a Bird Brain: Receive and Respond to the Goodness of the Word
The Word: Not What You Think... But Even Better
Lord, thank you for what we're going to get to do this week. Thank you for the way you use what the world thinks is evil and unredeemable to redeem it for great good. I thank you for faithful servants who are even in this room who have things that none of us like (job loss, loneliness, betrayal, broken relationships, absence of relationships their entire lives, addictions) and you'll even redeem those if we'll just turn to you.
We have a story to share about the hope you provide. I thank you for Nick's story. I thank you for the folks in this room who have relationships with others who they can invite and welcome that we might accomplish together an opportunity to declare to them that great truth. I thank you for friends who have made provision for this facility so we can do something like this Tuesday night. We thank you for the way we continue to be resourced by you and respond generously so we can make room for others.
May we most of all make room for you in our hearts so that as we become like you we will seek and save the lost in everything we do. We know, Father, we have some friends in this room who have trusted us to be here today, and I pray you would use tonight wherever we are in the continuum of understanding of who you are and what you've done to grow our hearts so we might come to know you or that we might respond more fully in our knowing. Would you accomplish that this evening? In Christ's name, amen.
We are studying in the book of John. It has been a great delight. We are finished now with what we call the prologue. Many folks believe when John was done writing his story of Christ focusing on what Christ was here to do and, more importantly, who he was, that he went back and maybe even wrote those first 18 verses later. It is a prologue. It is a word before the narrative. Before he tells you about the public ministry of Christ, John uses seven signs that he says he could write about many, many more.
In fact, it says in John, chapter 20, verses 30 and 31, " Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."** John says, "This is pure New Testament propaganda. I want you to know this Jesus so that he can change you."
What John is going to do is set up that whole narrative section from John, chapter 1, verses 19 to the end of that book, with a little prologue. We've studied that now for three weeks, and now we're going to get into the narrative section. What John does is say, "Because I am trying to convince you of something and I'm trying to bear witness to you, I'm going to call other witnesses, and my hope is that you will engage with this truth. This is not just a story to be read; this is a story you must respond to."
John would say, "If you want to write me off as crazy, write me off as crazy." Solomon said in Proverbs, chapter 9, verse 12, " If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone will bear it." John is doing the same thing. "Here's my witness. I saw him. I knew him."
This Word (this indiscriminate, this impersonal, divine force that rules morality and that rules physical nature, math, and physics, and the laws of science) we see that the world always sought to understand that in about 400 BC a gentleman in Ephesus where John wrote the gospel of John named this thing they saw was there that was in them and around them that brought order.
He called it the Word or the Logos, the truth, but they thought the Logos was an impersonal it, and John said, "No. The Word is a he, and the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God. Always was and always will be." John's point is, "…and we beheld his glory."" And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…"
He brought us grace and truth. Therefore, we no longer need to seek truth. Philosophy is dead. Why? Because truth has come. You no longer need to ascend to high intellectual thought, because the greatest thought (infinite, eternal, perfect wisdom) has revealed himself to you. You no longer need to pursue religion. Why? Because religion is man's effort to appease righteousness in God, and God has come that you might receive him, that you might be reconciled to him, that you might respond to him, but men did not receive him.
Men did not respond to him. Therefore, they are not reconciled, so they go back to dead religion, but John is saying, "No! You can't go to God, but the good news is the Word came to you. God came to you. There is no more need to seek just a need to respond and receive grace." That's the prologue. Now, you can scoff at that all you want, but if you are wrong, you alone must bear it, and if you are right, you are wise for yourself, and you can know truth and know grace.
Here is the story. What John's going to do is introduce another John. In fact, this John, John the baptizer or John the Baptist, we'll call him, is an individual who has a major, major presence in John's gospel. No less than seven times in the first five chapters is this John introduced. We already saw him in chapter 1, where it says that God sent a witness. Now, he's going to come back and tell you more about him.
Who is this John? He is the next guy John the apostle brings to the witness stand so you might hear him testify, and he has a very significant testimony because of who he is and what he was brought onto this earth to do. John, the gospel author, knew you should not make a judgment based on any one single witness.
The folks at Auburn hope the single witness (the Mississippi State) is not worthy to prosecute one Cam Newton to get them kicked out of the national championship race. Let's bring forth a few more witnesses before we just go on this one maybe not so credible story. That comes from Deuteronomy 19:15. "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."
Guess what John is going to do as a good Jew. He's going to bring you not two or three witnesses to confirm this matter about who the Word is but he's going to bring you a march of witnesses, a march of signs, a march of narratives, a march of works, and a march of testimony, and you are judge and jury, and you will either be declared not guilty or guilty depending on what you do with this story. You must respond.
John, chapter 1, verse 19: " This is the testimony of John[the Baptist]…" "I'm not just John the apostle, but I'm going to give you another witness. Listen to him.""…when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'""How are we going to fit you into our system?"
What is going on right here, as John is being approached by the Jews, is the Jews in the book of John are a significant little phrase right there. It's not enough just to think of them as the nation of Israel. When you read Jews in the book of John, they represent the religious establishment that is trying to find holiness apart from Jesus. They are a dogmatic orthodoxy that does not want to see that their way may not be the right way, and you'll find it is very representative of us today who think, if you will, religion represents disbelief.
Let me say that again. Religion represents disbelief. In other words, our effort to approve ourselves before God through works and through our own building is a sign that we don't believe God himself has come to us and given us grace, because if you've been given life and if you've been given forgiveness and if you've been given reconciliation, you don't need to earn it.
But guys who like to control people say, "No, no, no. You have to stay rightly connected to us. You have to do what we tell you to do, because we hold the keys, and if you don't do what we tell you to do, then you are in trouble." God said, "No. Listen to me. Listen to the Word." The religious establishment that tries to establish itself separate from Jesus came to him. Who? To John. "Who are you?"
John starts with, "Let me tell you who I'm not. I'm not the Christ." Christos is just the Greek way of saying Messiah which is the Hebrew word for Anointed One or Deliverer. "I am not the long-anticipated one who is going to come and bring about the deliverance you've wanted." I love what John did all throughout his ministry. He was very humble.
There's a time later in his life…we're going to look at it and study it…when they come and say, "John, aren't you concerned? Everybody is following this other guy!" and John said, "Good! I must decrease. He must increase, because all I was was a witness. The reality is here. I am just a voice. I am not the Word. I gave voice to the truth of the Word, but now that the truth is here, let's let the truth draw people. You can ignore my voice and you can ignore my witness, but if you do, you alone must bear it."
What John the apostle is going to do is say, "Listen to these witnesses I'm going to parade before you. There is a case here. You're going to be forced to respond." I have to tell you I have zero tension in my heart this morning that I have to convince you that Jesus is the Christ. That's not my job. My job is just to be a voice. My job is to be a witness and to lift him up, and if you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone must bear it.
I'm going to love you and I'm going to let this shake out on its own. Either Malachi is correct that John is the forerunner and John knew what he was talking about and John the apostle knew what he was talking about and Jesus is the one whom you must reckon yourself with or we're crazy and we'll see one of these days. All I want to do is be a faithful voice and love you with the truth.
I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4. He said, " Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." I told you if you want to put something on my tombstone, put John, chapter 1, verse 8. This is speaking of John the Baptist." He was not the Light, but he came to [bear witness] about the Light." You can put 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 1. "If a man wants to regard me, let him regard me in this manner, as a servant of Christ who steward the mystery of God."
John had no need to be the show. John was just the stagehand. All he wanted to do was pull the curtain and bring back the revelation so you could see the star. What sickens me about so much of America is you don't need Nick Vujicic to tell you about who Jesus is. Nick doesn't want you to look at him. You will because he has no arms and legs. You'll look at him. That's why Nick says, "I'm glad I have no arms and legs. If I had arms and legs, I'd just be another Australian with a beard and a funny accent, but I'm not. I have no arms and legs so you look at me."
He said, "That is fine. In looking to me, let me lift up truth, so I can be his witness." How do you view yourself? In America, so much of who we make ourselves out to be is that we try to impress people. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when I was first starting to speak a lot going to a bunch of junior high FCAs around town and doing different things… You try to figure out how to be impressive and all of that different stuff.
I'll tell you one of the greatest stories. I was asked to go speak at Waxahachie for their football banquet one year, and as I was down there, I got a late phone call. It was the year they won the state championship. They knew they were going to have a good year, so they lined up a big speaker for the football banquet. They did. His name was Tom Landry.
Tom had leukemia, and he could not get his strength back, so at the end of the season he couldn't make it, so they called Tom Nelson, who can bring it. Tommy was supposed to speak, and at the last minute, Tommy couldn't do it, and he said, "Call Todd Wagner," so they called me. I kid you not. This is the way I was introduced.
"Well, we had a great year here of football at Waxahachie. Has been a good year for our team. We won the state championship. We have had a lot of excitement toward our banquet because we all knew we were going to have Coach Landry come speak. Of course, Landry couldn't make it tonight, but that's okay. I've been to a lot of national coaches' FCA things and I've heard a lot of speakers.
One of the best speakers I ever heard was a guy named Tom Nelson. When Coach Landry couldn't make it, he told me to call Tom Nelson. Tom Nelson is one of my favorite speakers. I listen to him. I have his tape. I'm going to encourage you guys to listen to him. Tommy is a great speaker. He was coming. I told y'all that. Well, Tommy couldn't make it, so we have a Tom Wagner. Tom, come on up here."
I walked on up there and apologized. I went back in my mind. "What do you do when you're asked to speak at something like that?" God said, "Here's what you do. You tell a joke and you run to Jesus. That's what you do." That's basically what I did. I told a joke. I told a story they could relate to, and I ran to Jesus as fast as I could, because I didn't really care what they thought of me. I just cared that I was a faithful voice.
Who am I? I don't need to be this Hall of Fame coach. I don't need to be a failed quarterback from the University of North Texas. He won four games in four years. Tommy did. You tell him I said that. I wish I could speak like him, but anyway… I just need to be a faithful voice. That's all I want to be.
Who are you? He said, "Well, I'm not the Christ. I'm not that one." Then, he goes on in verse 21. It says, "They asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?'" In other words, "Are you the one who is going to come before him?" Now, this is interesting, because John goes, "I am not." Why did he say, "I am not"?
When we were told by the angel Gabriel that he was going to come in the spirit and power of Elijah… Why? Because he was going to come in the spirit and power of Elijah. He did, but he was not Elijah. They were looking for a physical entity that was just like Elijah. If you know your Old Testament, Elijah was caught up by God in a whirlwind, and they thought Elijah himself would come back.
It's interesting when you read the book of Revelation before the lion comes back as a lamb, guess who comes before him? Two prophets: Moses and Elijah. There was this foretelling. In fact, Jesus was asked a little bit later, "Is John the Elijah who was to come?" and Jesus' response was, "He is if you're willing to accept it."
Here's what happens. They were looking for a national deliverer just like us. They wanted a president. They wanted a general. They wanted someone who was going to renew their economy. They wanted somebody who was going to take down Caesar. I told you what John was going to do. He was going to call them out of the corruption and take down sin.
The Word who became flesh was filled with grace and truth, and if you go back and look at the prophecies about the prophet (the Messiah), he was going to do two things. He was going to give up his life as a sacrifice, and he was going to establish his kingdom. Now, if you're looking in an oppressed time for one of those two things to come…
Let's just fast forward to the kingdom part. I don't want to focus on the fact that I'm a wicked guy who needs to be reconciled to God, especially when I'm part of an established religion that I think has it going on. What do you want? You want to be rightly associated to a great power so you can have freedom.
Guess what. God wants you to be rightly associated to a great power so you can have freedom. Here's power. Not money and position. We know guys who have money and position who are slaves to materialism and the flesh, and they just screw up their lives. You want power to free yourself up to do what is right and true and good and pure and lovely. The Word came to help you do both, but he wasn't going to make you a king until he straightened out the corrupt kingdom that was in your heart. They didn't like that much.
John said, "I'm not the Elijah you're looking for, but I am telling you to get ready, because the King you're looking for is coming, and he's going to come as a lamb, and he's going to reconcile you to God, but if you don't want to be reconciled to God, he will come as a lion, and when he comes to bring judgment on the earth because you did not respond to me who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, you will not be in his kingdom."
They ask the next question. "Are you the Prophet?" which is an interesting question, because if you know your Bible, if you were a Levite or a priest and if you were sent by the Pharisees, the prophet in Deuteronomy 18 was the one who came from God. It really is a different way of asking, "Are you the Messiah?" Again, let me just tell you they didn't think of it that way. They thought the prophet Messiah was going to be this governor.
I'm going to insert this right here. I'm going to show you specifically in Deuteronomy 18 why this matters. I've talked to a number of you after the election of two weeks ago, and you made a big deal over the fact that a certain party had regained a majority in a certain house. When you talk to our nation and you ask folks what they think our nation needs, they'll talk about a new president. They'll talk about a new economic system. They'll talk about new trade relations.
You don't find people on TV and you don't find people speaking out in the public square saying, "Do you know what our nation needs? We don't need a Tea Party. We don't need the Republicans. It doesn't need independence. It doesn't need Democrats. What our nation needs to do is to reconcile itself to God." That's what it needs, but that is not a very popular thing.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah… Reconcile yourselves to God. Let's just get the economy turned around! Let's get peace with our enemies. Let's figure out the dollar!" Don't you know a lot of guys who have a very strong dollar whose lives are screwed up? You bet you do. Some of them sit here every week. Gary made reference to one this morning he just buried because he took his life.
What I want to tell you guys is that God is saying, "Look, country! You don't need a strong dollar. You need a strong, righteous relationship with me. You don't try to figure out how to have a relationship with me your way. You listen to the prophet who is the Messiah who is going to come in a humble way to offer himself for you." Now, we have to move quickly. Watch this. Deuteronomy 18… I'm going to jump right to verses 15 and 16.
Basically, when Israel was going into the land, God told the nation of Israel, "You don't try and figure out truth the way they do through sorcerers and witchcraft and divination and all of this nonsense. You can't move into the metaphysical world (this world that is outside the physical realm you're in) to find out what this ruling divine force is," which they hadn't labeled a word yet in those Canaanite countries like they did in about 4 BC in Ephesus with the Greek Stoic philosophers, but they were still looking for how they could have some touch with that which is transcendent over them.
God said, "You're not going to do it the way the wicked do. Don't get your Ouija board out or your Magic 8 Ball out. Don't call Sister Cleo. What you need to do is listen to my prophet. Listen to him." Deuteronomy 18:15: " The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you…" This is Moses. "…from your countrymen, you shall listen to him."
Don't tell God what he's like. "You can't figure out what I'm like. You are so completely affected by sin and so broken and corrupt. You are finite. I am infinite. You are fallen. I am perfect. You are temporal. I am eternal. Quit trying to tell me who I am! I will reveal myself to you. He said, "This is according to all that you asked…""I'll give it to you, but you listen to him."
At his baptism… "This is my Son. Listen to him. John? Listen to him." At the transfiguration when he pulled his veil (the flesh) back and they saw his full glory, Peter, James, and John hit the decks. "We want to hang out here with you." "Shut up and listen to him," God said. We don't have to continue to seek truth through philosophy. We have to listen to the Word become flesh.
He has told us what is right and true and pure and lovely. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he'll make your paths straight. Reconcile this way. Forgive this way. Seek righteousness this way. We don't have to rely on religion. Why? Because grace has come to us. We beheld his glory full of grace and truth. It's here!
"'Are you the prophet?' And he answered, 'No.'""I already told you I'm not the Messiah! I'm not the forerunner you're looking for in a physical body, but just like there were physical men who called people to repentance, I am a spiritual forerunner who is going to call you to a spiritual repentance."
I really believe that had the Jewish people responded to the ministry of John the Baptist and the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, there would have been another Elijah, maybe the physical Elijah (the one we see in Revelation) who would have also come and said, "I'm going to tell the rest of the world, 'You'd better follow the Jews,' and then you would have seen the lion and the lamb right there together," but they didn't.
He said, "You think you had it bad with Babylon? You think you had it bad with Greece and Rome and Persia stuck in there? Wait till I give you what's going to happen in AD 70 when the nation leaves me." We've been about 2,000 years into this great travail. In 1948, they come back together, but they still suffer and more suffering is to come until they recognize the one who has already come to them, their Messiah.
We are dancing with their date. Here's the question. In our little religious establishment, are we practicing righteousness without Jesus? Are you walking with him? Are you listening to him? Do we look like we should look if we know the Messiah? They're not impressed, and I don't blame them.
Verse 22: "Then they said to him, 'Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us?'""We can't just go back and say, 'No, no, and no.' Give us something!" Watch this. " He said, 'I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, "MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD"…'""All I want to be is a witness. I am not the Word. I am a witness to the Word. I am not the sign. I am a voice that points to the significant one. I have signs. I have words, and I have a work."
What's the work? The work was baptism. Again, I just want to tell you, gang, this is what you want to be. You want to be a voice. You want to do what Paul says in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 2. "… preach the word…" That's what you do!"…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
You know what makes me crazy is there are so many people who say they know the Word (God, Jesus, and his Scripture), and I'm with them on golf courses. They quote more Caddyshack than they do Corinthians. They quote more Holy Grail than they do Hosea. You quote more Borak than you do… What book of the Bible starts with B? I don't know. The Bible! There we go!
You give witness to the hilarity of Hollywood and its creativity, but I'm telling you to speak the Word. When you look at the life of Christ, over 80 times he quotes the Old Testament. He pulls some books all through the Pentateuch and all through the Prophets and all through Proverbs and Psalms. He keeps quoting what he already said. Listen to him!
If somebody listened to you, would they hear the words of God? Are you a voice crying in the wilderness or are you in the wilderness just flapping your jacks and people have no way to get back to God through you? John the Baptist is both a witness to who Jesus is and a reminder of what you and I ought to be. He'd better increase and you'd better decrease.
If you're more concerned about impressing some little girl at a bar than you are about declaring Christ, let's just be clear about who you are a missionary for. Insert your joke about being more concerned about the missionary position than being a missionary for Christ there. That is the church, and it's a bastardized church, and it's a shame. That's why the world suffers, because we aren't like this.
Verse 25 says, "They asked him, and said to him, 'Why then are you baptizing…'" That is an act of the Messiah. If you go look at Ezekiel 36, Zechariah 13, and Isaiah 52, when the Messiah comes he would sprinkle them and make them clean. What's interesting is John says, "I'll tell you why. Because I have a sign for you. I am a physical man baptizing physical men into physical water, but there is one coming who is a man full of the Spirit. He is a man, but he's a spiritual man who is going to baptize you in the Holy Spirit and with fire. He'll make you pure."
By the way, John wasn't calling them into a mikvah. He wasn't calling them into a ceremonially cleansing, which is what Jews would do when they would come up against a corpse or some other act that would make them ceremonially unclean where they would just dip in and dip out to living water. He was calling them to baptism.
Baptism was something you only did if you were a Gentile who was being converted into the Jewish faith (if you were a proselyte coming into that faith). What he was saying to the Jews was, "You'd better start over, boys." Now, this did not fly well with the religious establishment. What I want to say to you and your little attendants and the thinking is, if you are trying to plug in Jesus or…
How shall I say this? If you're trying just to move along with some shadowy reference to Christ in your religious life, you, my friends, are lost. There is nothing but Christ that can reconcile you to God. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. If you don't know Christ, you know nothing. He is the Word become flesh. He is the highest thought in philosophy. He is the greatest provision in religion. He is grace. Respond to him.
John says this about him. "I'm calling you to this little act, but it's a sign. He's the significant one. When he baptizes you, it won't be a sign baptism." By the way, when we baptize people as we do here, it's just a sign. Do you guys know that? We don't baptize you into salvation. You have salvation, so you go through the sign.
The religions establishment today… You guys know that. A lot of folks will tell you, "If you aren't baptized, you aren't saved." I have to tell you. True, if the baptism you speak of is the baptism by faith into Christ where you identify by faith with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb.
If you're here and you have trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and if you are solely identifying with him, then give the sign. Get baptized, but that sign doesn't make you saved. That sign is evidence that you have already been baptized by the Holy Spirit and purified by the fire of judgment that was poured out on his cross.
John says this about him in verse 27. "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." What John is saying is, "You guys think I'm really somebody. Let me just tell you something." In Israeli servanthood, a servant would do whatever his master asked him, but a disciple who had a rabbi or a master as a teacher would do anything the master asked that a servant would do that a master would ask except untie his sandal.
Why? That would make him ceremonially unclean, and no good teacher would ask his student to dishonor God and become ceremonially unclean. If you were a slave or a servant because of debt in indentured servitude, then you'd do whatever you'd do for those seven years. What John is saying is, "He is so different than me I'm not even worthy to be his slave. I'm not good enough to be his slave. We are so unlike one another."
Why? "Because he is God; I am not." Have you figured that out yet? That's why we follow him and lean not on our own understanding. If you don't, it's because you have not come crystal clear on that truth. In verse 28, this is what John does so well. In verse 28, he says, "I want to remind you I'm telling you about this truth because I have met truth. Truth is a person. It is a he who lived in space and time."
What John's going to do now like no other of the gospel writers is he's going to walk you through the first seven days of Christ. We're just going to catch day one and two here. Day one is right in verse 19 and following. He says, "It happened in Bethany," which is a geographical location. God came to a place.
In verse 29, it says, "The next day…" Which means time. "He was here. Love has come." When John said, "I saw him," day one was him telling it. "I'm not worthy. Day two is me seeing him." This is what he says. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Wow! If you were a Jew and you heard that, this would stop you in your tracks.
Because everything about your patriarchal history, your deliverance from Egypt and the Passover, your prophetic history… Everything about that little phrase (Lamb of God) was the most significant thing in each of those little sections. It fit everything about your paradigm about who the Messiah was, because you want your Messiah to be a king not a sacrifice.
What's so great is God said, "He'll be a sacrifice. He'll claim his own life because he's sovereign over even death because he's perfect, and death has no claim on him. Then, he will establish his reign in righteousness as he redeems those he loves. He is a King who will not only clean the clock of Caesar but who will remove the captivity of sin you are in."
Watch this. Genesis 22. You go back to patriarchal history and you know Abraham was up there with his son Isaac, and God was saying, "You're going to walk with me, and you're going to do what I tell you to do, and you're going to trust me. Abraham, you take Isaac, the son of promise and the blessed one, the one who life will come through, up to Mount Moriah and you offer him as a sacrifice to me."
All Abraham did was say, "Okay. You're God; I'm not." He had that right, so he went up. Isaac, being the observant young boy that he is, got up there and said, "Dad, I see the wood and the fire and the knife, but where is the lamb?" That's an excellent question if you are Isaac. Abraham in verse 8 said, "God himself will provide for us the lamb."
"I don't know how it's going to happen, son. All I know is God is good. You are the son of promise, and he has told me that great things will come through you, so if I kill you, I'm sure he'll bring you back to life." He raised that knife, and God said, "Whoa, Abraham." Then, he looked over in the thicket and right there was a ram that was caught. He said, "You take that. That's the lamb."
That happened on Mount Moriah. If you go today to Jerusalem, on the temple mount inside the Dome of the Rock, there is that rock there that the Muslims believe. People think that's why the temple mount is there. That is where the sacrifice was brought by God to take away the blood that Isaac should have shed that God himself brought forth the sacrifice.
What God would not let Abraham do God did himself right there on that same mountainous region of Mount Moriah which is also known as Golgotha. God sent his own Son, and he did not stop the knife, but he dropped it so that Abraham and Isaac and all of the other sons of promise could be saved right there on the same spot in the same region.
How about this? Let's move from the patriarchs over to the Passover in Exodus, chapter 12. You have the people in bondage in Egypt. They're there, and God said, "I'm going to deliver you not out of the oppression of Pharaoh but something even greater is going to happen with you." There they are in Egypt.
He says, "I want you guys to know I'm about to bring judgment on Egypt and all of the wicked who are in Egypt. By the way, Israel, you're part of the wickedness that is in Egypt, but here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to make provision for you that know me (the children of promise). You all take an unblemished lamb."
Every family was to take a lamb into their house. They had a personal relationship with that lamb. That lamb lived in their house with them. As they were there, after a said number of days on the night of Passover (it wasn't called Passover yet) on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, all of Israel was to take their lamb they had a personal relationship with, and in front of the house they lived in, which, obviously, didn't have doors like this, but it will do for illustration purposes, they were to slit Fluffy's throat right there in the well of the door.
You can imagine. A little girl goes, "Daddy, what are you doing to that perfect little lamb we love?"
"He must die."
"Because we will be sheltered underneath this sacrifice, and when death comes through the camp…"
Watch this. They were told. This is beautiful. "…take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it." Watch this. A lentil is a beam of stone or wood that goes over the door and the two doorposts. "You slaughter the lamb. You take a hyssop branch. You dip it in the door basin right there. You take it up and put some blood right there. You take that blood and you put some over here on this doorpost. You put some over here on this doorpost. Then, you go inside."
Thousands of years before there was ever such a thing as a cross as in instrument of death, do you know what every single person of faith hid behind? The blood of the lamb in the sign of a cross. That may not have meant much to Israel as they walked out, but there's a cross. At the cross, you took the blood up. You took it over. You took it that way. You think God is a good teacher? In case you missed the object lesson, he sent the prophets.
In the Prophets, he said, " All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." Who is the him? The him in Isaiah 53:7 was the one who was"…oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers…"
That is a messianic passage talking about Christ. Pilate says, "Speak up! Don't you know I have the power to deliver you?" I love it. Jesus just looks at him and says, "You have no power unless my Father in heaven gives it to you. This is not your cross, and this is not your program. It's mine. Now, I'm going to sit here quietly and be slaughtered, but make no mistake. I will take my life back up again. Carry on, soldier."
So he went. That's who he is. Do you know what John said? "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" That's the next verse in John. Wait a minute, John. He's your cousin. He's six months younger than you. "Yes, he comes after me chronologically, but he existed before me. He was from the beginning. Why? Because he's very God of very God."
John says, "I did not recognize Him…" In other words, "I knew it was Jesus. I just didn't know that was the guy until when the Spirit revealed it to me." This is why I feel no pressure before you today. Until the Spirit of God reveals to you that, unless you hide beneath the blood of the Lamb you can't be righteous with God, you can't have any wisdom or love for knowledge until you love God as he has revealed himself. You just won't, but that's going to take the Spirit revealing it to you as he has to me.
We ought to be the most humble people on the face of the earth if we understand this. We didn't get this by study and intellectual assent. We got this as a gift, and we've humbled ourselves before the revelation. God gave you a heart that has a ticket to the show of grace and truth. What you're supposed to do is go and compel them to come to the show. "You won't believe it! It's free! Come! You won't believe what this guy says! You won't believe what he does!"
We're not the show. I'm not the show. Jesus is the show. That's the show. He loves you, and he sacrificed himself for you. John says it again right there. "I saw the Spirit descend on him and life rest on him." "I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'" He says right there in verse 34, " I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."
"All I am is a voice. I'm just a voice." I want to tell you Jesus is the Son of God. I'm trying to be a life. Like John had a voice and a work, I'm trying to have a voice and a life, so you can go, "Okay. Todd, I see something happening in your life." I'm not calling you to baptize and repent or get ready for it. He has come. I'm telling you to believe he has come. Let's get baptized and then walk in newness of life and spur each other on with direction and love. That's the sign.
Do you guys understand the story? Let me just close with this. I'll tell you a great story. It's such a powerful illustration of how we ought to respond to this Lamb of God. There's a guy named Scott O'Grady. Scott worships here with us when he can. He lives in McKinney right now. If you were alive in 1995 and old enough to turn on a television, you knew Scott O'Grady.
In June of 1995, Scott O'Grady was shot down while he was basically on a peacekeeping mission for our government in what we would know as the Balkan States. It was the former Yugoslavia. There was some ethnic cleansing that was going on from those who had the majority of power and the weapons at the time (the Serbians). They were doing systematic murder and rape upon Albanians and Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and all of those different things that are vaguely familiar to you. They were under a lot of horrors.
Our government went over there to try to restrain some of that evil. They figured out a little bit later that they were just kind of saying, "When the cops were around…" They wouldn't necessarily come, but they fired our cops. Eventually we had to go ahead and be a little more assertive. That led to peace agreements in Dayton a number of years later that brought an end to some of that genocide that had not happened in Europe since Hitler.
Essentially, it's what happened in the Congo and the same stuff that's been happening in Rwanda and the same stuff that's happening in Sudan and Burundi. It happened right there in 1995. It was going on in Europe again, and America tried to stop it. Anyway, Scott was over there doing that. He was shot down by a Serbian fighter. His plane was hit because of the rules of engagement. He was not allowed to do that.
He ejected. He went down. The movie Behind Enemy Lines is based largely on Scott's story. We didn't know at the time, but the Albanian people who knew America was there trying to stop some of this stuff had prayer vigils all over that region for this young American airman who sought to save them.
Scott was saved miraculously. He lived on insects and leaves for a number of days and eventually was extracted by a Recon Marine team and brought back. Then, he became a hero. When Scott first got back, we saw a picture of him in the Rose Garden with Willy who celebrated him. President Clinton and others…
Our country forgets, but Scott said, "They don't forget in other lands like we do." Scott is a revered individual. There is a large Albanian community specifically here in Texas. Every time they celebrate in February their national independence, Scott is the most sought after attendee. Why? Because they know what he has done for them. He put his life on the line for them.
A friend of mine was spending some time with Scott in around 2001 or 2002 when he was back as a student at Dallas Seminary. They one night went out to dinner up in Denton, Texas, and they sat down at an Italian restaurant unbeknownst to them that was run by some Albanians. They walked up to the table. They said, "What can I get you guys to eat?"
He looked over and he saw Scott O'Grady, six years after Scott had been there laying his life down. You could see the scars on Scott's face where he was burned from being shot down. He said, "You're him. You're the one." He backed away. He went in the kitchen. He got every Albanian in the kitchen.
They all came out and stood around the table. They just said, "What are you doing in Denton?" They said, "You're Scott O'Grady. We fled Albania, and the one who fought to save us is here." Then, the door kicked open. There was another one who came in with a camera. They said, "May we get our picture taken with you?" My friend said, "Sure!" "No! Not you, fool! Him right there!"
They stood up and took a picture. Then, they all kind of left, and one guy hung back. He said, "My son lost his life over there. I know…" He just stopped. He got choked up. He kept saying three words. He went, "What you did… What you did…" Then, he just walked away in reverence and awe at this one who came to lay his life down to free his people from death and judgment. That is an appropriate response to Jesus. You ought to just say, "What you did… You laid your life down. What you did… The Lamb of God…"
Father, I pray we would be people who say, "What you did…" and we'd never get over it, that we would live to serve you, and that we would say, "Living you loved me; dying you saved me; risen you carried my sins far away." You have not covered our sins like the sheep that are sacrificed in the temple. No. You have taken away the sins of the world because you are the perfect, eternal Lamb of God who can forever take away our debt to the perfect, eternal God that you yourself are.
What you did, God… What you did… I pray we'd never get over it. Father, I confess I'm a voice, I'm a witness, and I'm still too flippant. I don't get my arms around it. I see the scars, and I see by faith the things you've done for me, and I just don't have enough reverent awe, and I need it more, Lord. I know all wisdom is found in you. Religion finds it end in you because you have brought grace to me. I need not seek to be made righteous in your eyes. I need to receive that which you in your kindness provided for me.
I pray today for individuals in this room who have never, ever hid behind anything but themselves. Maybe even they've hidden behind the delusion of their own hope that there is no God and they're here by some cosmic accident, though they know the Word in them, the eternal conscience you've set in all of our hearts that says, "No, you fool! You know this is no accident."
There is a God who is holy and right and true, and you must reconcile yourself to him, and that can only be done through the ministry of reconciliation which the Lamb of God, who has intervened in this war-torn world which rapes us and murders us, has provided salvation for them. I pray they'd come. Like never before I pray they'd come. If they would just humble themselves, your Spirit right now would reveal the truth of that statement.
For those of us who know, I pray we'd back out of here in reverent awe with hearts that want to seek you this week in response to what you did. Here we go, Father. We're living and holy sacrifices. We give you what is the only appropriate and right response to what you have done for us. May we not be conformed to the world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds so that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. In the name of Jesus Messiah, amen.
Well, if you do not know this Jesus, would you come? Would you at least check that box that says, "I want to know more about how to have a relationship with God through him"? If you know him, will you go in reverent awe and worship him? Have a great week. We'll see you.
Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.