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Dec 13 2020 Advent through John - Baptism Gives Identity

For Christmas Eve this year, we will put together a recorded singing, Dick will be doing – and I’ll give a short devotional.25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."
What we see in John- true humility- to really know who we are in God’s world and our calling- we must be willing to have this same sense of humility.
This, tying of the shoes- and later, footwashing- feet play a role in this gospel- when they walked around the world, their feet would get dirty- and a humble person would untie their shoes and would wash their feet- taking away the dirt of sin and the world.- and this would be the role of a servant.
John says- I’m not even worthy to hold that position in God’s world.
This tells us that all of our service- we only have because God gives us the grace to do it. We are unworthy of the service He has given us.
This humility is very much like the humility Paul talked about in Philippians 2- as witnesses, we need to think- where does God provide me opportunities to exhibit this type of humility?
In all of our service, we must be humble.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
This tells us why we are unworthy. Jesus died on the cross for our sins- and His grace and mercy have come to us- and it is by His grace and mercy that we can continue to serve Him.
If you want to serve God from your worthiness, Good luck! It is so hard to match up to the standard that we set for ourselves to even feel worthy enough to serve Him. But if we can see that no, the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world- MY SIN- I am always worthy, not worthy, but able to serve Him in whatever position He has put me in to serve.

30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel."
John himself is a witness.
When we hear the word witness, we think of witnessing. A witness is who we are. Witnessing is something we do.
In my early days of campus ministry- we used to go witnessing- and that meant going out and taking surveys- would you be interested in taking a spiritual interest survey- and we would ask questions that lead to sharing the gospel. There are many ways of doing this. You can’t always go witnessing- but you ARE always a witness. When you are on your job- you are a witness- the question is- are you?
You are! If you are a follower of Jesus. But we need to ask ourselves- how am I doing? As a witness? By living out our following of Him.
32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."
So Jesus is identified through John the Baptist. We witness through our baptism. Baptism is a way we witness and continue in our witness. It talks about baptizing in water and the spirit, but I won’t get into that- but in the spirit of being a witness. When one is baptized, it is a public proclamation of the gospel- the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The one being baptized is an actor on the world’s stage of the gospel- proclaiming Christ’s death when they go under- and when they come back up, they are performing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But then through, and because of our baptism- we might say- we are to perform daily, the gospel through our lifestyle.
Romans 6: 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.
So Paul tells us what baptism is- and how it makes a witness. It starts with a self-sacrificial lifestyle. Jesus gave up His life for us. And it is a witness to the world when we live for others. That is the power of testimony- that God has transformed us that we might live self-sacrificially in our jobs and in our communities and with our families.
The second thing we see- it is a death to sin. When we think of witnessing by dying to sin- it might be easy to think- if I could just never sin- the world would see WOW! And believe in Jesus! But that doesn’t go so well- because the never sinning part is so hard.
There are guys in our men’s group who are amazing evangelists - here is why I think they are effective: they are just out there with their dirt! It is the opposite of what you would think! You would think- when they see how Christian and holy I am - … no, it doesn’t work that way.

We are in the 3rd week of Advent.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to worship You – God became Man – that we might live with You and enter into fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. – You made us a part of Your family.

John 1: 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

This is a different John from John the Baptist.

The Advent candle lighting was that of Baptism. The first time we do advent – the candles represented certain things, and that gets sealed in your mind as the ‘right way of doing it’ – but there are many traditions of how Advent is done. If you go way back, the advent was much more like Lent – a time for repentance and preparation through repentance – the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas would be fasting and repentance – and then Christmas Eve – a time of feasting and great celebration.

Baptism as a candle-lighting thing might not be what you are used to, but it is exactly how John approaches Advent!

John …

7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

John’s purpose was to be a witness to Jesus – to point people to Jesus . He did that through his ministry of baptizing. We do the same thing in Advent, but we are looking BACK to His coming- back to the incarnation. It is a witness. We are looking back, but we are also looking forward – pointing people to the direction of His second coming.

Baptism does the exact same thing - Baptism – when one goes under the water, they are looking back to the union of Christ’s death – and when coming out of the water, looking forward to our unity with Him for eternity.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

There are two kinds of people in the world. When John was writing, there were two categories – Gentiles and Jews. But within the Christian world, Gentiles – and those Gentiles who became Christian – Category 3 – Jews – and 4 – Jews who became Christians – and they don’t know how to relate to one another because they have related differently their entire lives.

They have always been in separate categories, and God has thrown them all together.

There are now 2 – those who believe in Jesus – and everyone else.

Those who were in that Church – were those who believe in Jesus, and everyone else was everyone else.

We have so many categories today, and those categories hinder us from seeing the light and the darkness. God says there are 2 categories, those who believe in Jesus – and everyone else.

Our primary identity is Christian. Anything after that – is not so important. It is okay if you identify as a Browns fan or a Steelers fan – but that is not so important. And every other category – is secondary.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No."

The gospel’s purpose – one of them – is identifying who Jesus is – and this is identifying John.

When it comes to John’s identity – he knows who he is NOT! That is critical to understanding our identity as followers of Jesus. John does not have an over-inflated view of himself. His identity is totally tied to Jesus.

Jesus will later say, “He was Elijah” – but John says no, nothing about me – but about Jesus.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No."

22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said.

John views himself as a faceless voice crying in the wilderness. There may be some comedy in being a voice to the wilderness – no one would be there to hear him.

Metaphorically – he is taking this from the book of Isaiah – they were in Babylon about to return – straightening the path and making a highway – back from Babylon to Jerusalem.

John brings it to the coming of the Messiah – and that is his identity – a voice proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.

What is our identity? We are not the heroes of our own story! Advent is the story – about the coming of Christ – and our purpose is to live out Advent and make that our story – our reality.

25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" 26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."

What we see in John – true humility – to really know who we are in God’s world and our calling – we must be willing to have this same sense of humility.

This, tying of the shoes – and later, footwashing – feet play a role in this gospel – when they walked around the world, their feet would get dirty – and a humble person would untie their shoes and would wash their feet – taking away the dirt of sin and the world. – and this would be the role of a servant.

John says – I’m not even worthy to hold that position in God’s world.

This tells us that all of our service – we only have because God gives us the grace to do it. We are unworthy of the service He has given us.

This humility is very much like the humility Paul talked about in Philippians 2 – as witnesses, we need to think – where does God provide me opportunities to exhibit this type of humility?

In all of our service, we must be humble.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

This tells us why we are unworthy. Jesus died on the cross for our sins – and His grace and mercy have come to us – and it is by His grace and mercy that we can continue to serve Him.

If you want to serve God from your worthiness, Good luck! It is so hard to match up to the standard that we set for ourselves to even feel worthy enough to serve Him. But if we can see that no, the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world – MY SIN – I am always worthy, not worthy, but able to serve Him in whatever position He has put me in to serve.

30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel."

John himself is a witness.

When we hear the word witness, we think of witnessing. A witness is who we are. Witnessing is something we do.

In my early days of campus ministry – we used to go witnessing – and that meant going out and taking surveys – would you be interested in taking a spiritual interest survey – and we would ask questions that lead to sharing the gospel. There are many ways of doing this. You can’t always go witnessing – but you ARE always a witness. When you are on your job – you are a witness – the question is – are you?

You are! If you are a follower of Jesus. But we need to ask ourselves – how am I doing? As a witness? By living out our following of Him.

32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

So Jesus is identified through John the Baptist. We witness through our baptism. Baptism is a way we witness and continue in our witness. It talks about baptizing in water and the spirit, but I won’t get into that – but in the spirit of being a witness. When one is baptized, it is a public proclamation of the gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The one being baptized is an actof on the world’s stage of the gospel – proclaiming Christ’s death when they go under – and when they come back up, they are performing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But then through, and because of our baptism – we might say – we are to perform daily, the gospel through our lifestyle.

Romans 6: 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

So Paul tells us what baptism is – and how it makes a witness. It starts with a self-sacrificial lifestyle. Jesus gave up His life for us. And it is a witness to the world when we live for others. That is the power of testimony – that God has transformed us that we might live self-sacrificially in our jobs and in our communities and with our families.

The second thing we see – it is a death to sin. When we think of witnessing by dying to sin – it might be easy to think – if I could just never sin – the world would see WOW! And believe in Jesus! But that doesn’t go so well – because the never sinning part is so hard.

There are guys in our men’s group who are amazing evangelists - here is why I think they are effective: they are just out there with their dirt! It is the opposite of what you would think! You would think – when they see how Christian and holy I am - … no, it doesn’t work that way.

Our small group is going through a book called Unoffendable - How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better By Brant Hansen

“My friend Michael is a very evangelical Christian. He decided to open a coffee shop in the downtown of a city with a large university, in the middle of a thriving arts scene. He opened it right in the middle of the usual assortment of feminist bookstores and hipster apartments. He planned to bring in big-name Christian musicians for concerts and feature evangelical speakers.

The local paper wrote about him and his wife and their purchase of one of the most significant buildings in the downtown area, as well as their evangelical plan for the coffeehouse.

I winced when I saw the article. I had other friends in that neighborhood and knew none of them would welcome this development. In fact, before Michael bought the building, it had hosted the community’s biggest arts event of the year. It was an exhibition to benefit AIDS research and it featured local art – some of the very intentionally “transgressive” variety.

We could see the culture war coming.

One of the exhibit organizers saw Michael on the street and asked how things were going with the remodeling of the building. He also mentioned to Michael that, of course, he and his team would be looking for a new place for their exhibition this year.

Michael said, no, they wouldn’t need to do that. They could still have the event in his building. They were welcome.

The guy was stunned. “Really,” he said, “that’s not necessary.” He knew Michael wouldn’t want this kind of crowd in his coffee house.

Michael told them that not only were they welcome, but he’d pay for all the catering. He’d buy the wine and hors d’oeuvres.

They couldn’t believe it. What about the art that Michael would surely find offensive?

Michael said they were welcome anyway. And they were.

My wife and I went to the exhibit and, sure enough, we didn’t like some of the art, but for a variety of reasons, though much of it was stunningly thoughtful and beautiful. But Michael had told the event organizers that he didn’t need to appreciate the art. He just wanted to make them feel at home.

Instead of being evicted, by Christians, form the best location for the exhibit, the artists were welcomed. Michael and his wife met everyone at the door. He dressed in a tuxedo and offered everyone chocolate-covered strawberries. Live music filled the room. It turned out to be the best exhibit the group had ever had.

That was Michael’s style. He hugged everybody. He talked freely about Jesus, but people didn’t mind. He told me he would just talk to people about the goodness of God, because he knew, deep down, that everyone is yearning for a God like that.”

Galatians 3: 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female– for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Think about that – we need to go out and put on our Jesus clothes. That sounds silly. But I have a grandson who loves superheroes – and when he puts on his spiderman outfit, he IS spiderman – jumping from couch to couch.

When we put on Jesus, we are. We have been clothed in Jesus. We can do this. Not because of who we are, but because of WHO Jesus is. We can do this. It will be different from the guy in the story. We’ll have different feelings about how – we are built differently and we will have different opportunities – but we have opportunities to witness in our lives about Jesus all the time, just by going about, putting on our Jesus

John 13:34 – A new commandment I give you – love one another. By this everyone will know you are My disciples – by your love for one another.

And if ever the church needed to hear that – it is now. Because we are not doing so well. Not our church – but the Church – in loving one another and being seen as that.

Let’s pray – heavenly Father – help us – this Advent – to point to Jesus – not to our cause, not to our church – not to our views – and not to our theology – but to the one who died on the cross and was raised from the dead and gives life – to the light of the world - that they may not see us, but the Light.

My prayer for you is that you would have that opportunity this week to go out and be clothed in Christ where you go in your context. Thank you.


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