Jan 6 2019 You Are Wholly Loved by God
6th January 2019
Lord, thank You that You love us and that we are freed, forever. Lord, our lives have been freed from so much. Help us to be grateful for what You have done for us – to know and experience what You have done for us – You have done so much for us. Help us not to be trapped by the lies that are told to us, in our hearts and in our minds. We are Your beloved children with whom You are well pleased. In Your name we pray.
Luke 3 – we will stay in Luke through Easter:
Luke 3:2 During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
John the Baptist is, in Luke’s gospel here, going to be a bridge between the Old Testament story of Israel and the New Testament fulfillment of that story of Jesus. Luke connects John with Moses and the Exodus – using two important words that are critical to the Exodus story – Wilderness – John is in the wilderness. In Exodus, the wilderness is a time of temptation.
The next thing is the Jordan. John does this very specifically. This is the place where Israel entered the land of promise – the beginning of the story we might say.
Israel has had 40 years to get their lives on track – and in John’s time, Israel has gone astray again, and he is calling them to a new entrance to the promised land. To start over where it all began. God often does that with us, doesn’t He? Taking us to a place where it all began that we might begin afresh in our faith. This ties in with the beginning of the new year.
This was a decision point for Israel. The first time they came to the Jordan, they failed – they chose not to cross the Jordan.
He is baptizing them. And it begs the question – where did baptism come from? It is not in the Old Testament, was it? How did it get there? Is this baptism like what we do now?
Let me briefly say – it started becoming something Israel did between the Testaments. Certain people – things going on in their life – maybe disease or something else – would have to go through a purification ceremony – like taking a bath – coming into the water and back up for purification. And at the temple, they would build these pools – and everyone who wanted to come into the temple had to be ceremonially clean and they used these pools to do this.
John is offering a baptism for the forgiveness of sin. And this is different from the church’s baptism. In Acts, the purpose of baptism has changed.
Baptism is our unity – united with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That is the purpose – to unite us. We are united with His death when we go into the water, and united with His resurrection when we come back out.
It is also an initiation into the community. There are some who say that believing is not enough and you have to be baptized, but I am not talking about that and I am not going there in case you were scared! Some say baptism is obedience – but that is not the point of baptism – the point of it is to be united into Jesus’ death and resurrection – and brought into the community.
We had a baptism recently. If you are interested, let me know.
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
Now Luke uses several metaphors to describe John’s ministry. Valleys and mountains – things that are obstacles and need to be made straight. Preparing us to meet the Lord in our lives. You can make your resolutions – but ask the question – are there any obstacles in my life that need to be straightened.
Tony says he has a million of them – Sue says a million and one! No. Just kidding.
It could be a habit, or sin, anything that is more important to you than God – anything that takes more of your heart. Maybe it could be a broken relationship – or a distraction! It could be an innocent thing – but it needs to be leveled, or straightened – and oftentimes, it is a wrong view of ourselves that needs to be corrected.
Work on leveling any obstacles that prevent you from having a relationship with God.
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers!
How would that go over today?! Go into church and call everyone a brood of vipers! You would not have a very large church!
Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Matthew uses the same phrase – but in Matthew’s gospel, John is speaking directly to the religious leaders. Not here. Luke expands it beyond the religious leaders. to anyone who believes that being born Jewish – was enough! You were good to go because you were born into a certain family. For us, there are so many who say, I was born in a Christian family and say that is enough. But John is saying no, that is not enough. Real faith produces genuine faith – and that produces life transformation.
It is not enough to have all the right views; our lives must change. God wants us to be continually transforming into His image. Work at making your faith real this year!
9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
More encouraging words from John!
This shows us that there is judgment. But here is the neat thing about it: Judgment is in the context of mercy. Right before that he talks about salvation. Where there is judgment – there is always opportunity for mercy.
Jonah was called to Nineveh because they were an evil people. Violent – oppressing…
We all know how that went – Jonah went fishing – or the fish went manning… (that was really bad!) take that out of the video.
They repent, and Jonah is mad – they don’t deserve God’s mercy! Guess what?! Does anyone deserve God’s mercy? We are Nineveh – all of us! We need to not confuse repentance with having your life together and in a position where God can accept you – not just for ourselves, but for others. We can never earn mercy. Do people need to earn your mercy? If you do, you are not acting like God at all – you are the opposite of God. Mercy can’t be earned.
10 And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" (it’s going to get practical!) 11 And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise."
How do you take action and change? Radical generosity and care for the needy. Okay – that’s great – but let me ask you this -when you think of someone needing to repent and change, does this come to your mind? John could have listed all these categories of how to repent. But he says, you need to do justice and mercy.
He has shown you, O man, what the Lord requires of you – to love justice, do mercy – and walk humbly with your God. We’ll talk about that in the high school Sunday school today!
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" 13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do."
Justice. Equity. Greed, and the abuse of power.
14 Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."
Greed and the abuse of authority and power! Wow, does that ever need to be spoken today! Aren’t these things that need to be repented of today? Greed and the abuse of power.
John is speaking this to an oppressed people.
The prophets are always speaking against these things. We don’t hear that as much today as maybe we ought!
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.“ 18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Doesn’t exactly sound like good news! But when there is judgment, there is always the opportunity for mercy – so we can’t know the good news if we don’t recognize the bad news.
John acknowledges his humility there. He knows he will lose the crowd.
Remember the old statement – it is not about you. It is not about me. A simple phrase to keep in mind.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Luke does it a bit different. He doesn’t actually have Him getting baptized, he just says that He was baptized. Matthew and Mark – when He comes up out of the water, the Spirit falls like a dove. Here, Jesus is just praying. Luke talks a lot about Jesus praying. Luke makes prayer an emphasis. There is a newsletter that goes out from our church – a prayer warrior newsletter.
Every Sunday morning – a prayer warrior tells me he is praying for me and our church. He never misses – even when I am not here!
Even today – “Praying that you and your church continue preaching the Word of God, the Bible, which is the truth, and salvation through Jesus Christ alone.”
We need to be faithful prayer warriors.
There is some great insight into the very nature of God. What I do, when I read this – I like to read to get to “This is my beloved Son” –
Verse 22 – the Spirit descended upon Him in BODILY form! What in the world? If you are waiting for an answer – I don’t have it.
We probably think that it was a dove that landed on him! But the gospels all say, LIKE a dove. What is this all about? What is going on here? There are three being seen here. We have the Father (His voice), The Spirit, in bodily form – and the Son – and we have the triune community.
We are being initiated into that relationship when we are baptized. One person I am reading – Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves –
“A diverse unity – a unified community of distinct persons, Who are the One God.”
What we learn about God that is so important: When the Father says, You are My beloved Son – seeing what the three are like at the core of His being – the most essential l thing about God – God is LOVE.
When John says God is love in the 1 John, this is a noun. From what I understand – this is the only time God is described with a noun. We like to think God is LOVING. It is way beyond that. But He is literally LOVE. His very essence! And we see it in this relationship.
In this book – He asks this question – what was God doing before anything else existed? And then he says – your answer to that question reveals your deepest understanding of Who God is. And what WAS God doing for all eternity before Creation? Well, it just so happens that Jesus tells us in John 17
John 17:24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
What was going on for all eternity before there was Creation – was this community of love. That is what was happening – forever backwards – and we are being invited into that.
God, at His core – is a being who is eternally giving and receiving love.
The Bible project guys were talking about this book -and that is what got me to read this book. But what they said – when you talk about the trinity, and all this stuff – you get to a point where there are no longer words in the human language. When we think about God, Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened – our brains can’t take it all in.
Faiths that don’t believe in a trinity – cannot believe in a God who is love. It is impossible to believe that – because in order for God, at His core, to be love, there has to be more than one from the beginning – there has to be the ability to give and receive love. God has to be three. He has to be a unified community of distinct persons who are one God who have loved one another forever.
And we are welcomed into that. That is why He created us! That was the purpose! You hear the old stories – God created people because He was lonely! Absolutely not! He is never lonely! He doesn’t need us! He wanted to share what He is beyond WHO He is – and we are the recipients of that.
So, in closing – let me just – 3 final things –
First, learn to live as one who is wholly loved. You are wholly loved by God. Learn to live every day as one who is wholly loved by God. Spend time trying to comprehend the amazing love God has for us.
Second – because you are God’s beloved child with whom He is well-pleased – understand that this year, God is satisfied with you – because of what Jesus did on the cross. He is not up there saying you don’t measure up! He is pleased. Not just pleased, but well-pleased.
Third – we need to learn to love others as God loves us. Take all that love! In another book I read, just last night: We become what we behold. The kind of God you behold – the kind of God you enter into the presence of is what you will become. If we really understand that God is love – and begin to comprehend that and behold that, you will learn to love in the same way.
Thank You, Lord. Help us to behold You as You are – to keep You in our sights and minds. This triune community – unified community – love going from one to the other, round and round. And us being ushered into that. Thank You in Jesus’ Name – Amen.