How do we respond to changes in our life?
All-In. All-In has been our theme. I’ve had a chance to use John the Baptist. As I mentioned, he is going to be the focus for the first three weeks. After this, we will take a little bit of a break. We’re going to be hearing from a few others sharing in the coming weeks. Then I picked back up five weeks leading into Easter, actually March. I’m going to push into the study of John and just watch how he had to wrestle with his identity and with God and try to learn from that to get us ready for the Easter season. I don’t want to rush past this moment, because I truly believe there’s a lot of life in what we’re about to share here. I want to start by reading from John 1. The first chapter of John may be some of the most, I hesitate to call it the greatest chapter in the Bible, but if you were to consider what chapters stand out, it certainly holds its own with any, in many ways. John 1 is a New Testament mirror of Genesis 1.
Watch how it begins. Watch the panoramic movement of God. Watch how God goes from the outside, from ages past, where there was no time, entering into time, and His scoping it out beyond time. Watch the movement of the scripture. Just in the first five verses of the opening chapter of John’s gospel. In the beginning, you recognize that immediately, don’t we? In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything that was made. In Him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
For all of us who are here, listening to this word, for all of us who are connecting right now at the live stream, we’re all together at this moment, and John 1 is speaking to us. Do we see how the word with no beginning was life, how that life became light – the light was the light of men? It’s shown in the darkness, and the darkness was unable to overcome it. That’s the sort of panoramic exposure that’s going on.
What’s amazing is as God opens up the gospel with this expansive description, all of a sudden, as it hits the sixth verse, it narrows down very tightly. We’re introduced, in a sense, into an account of one man. Like the man we’ve been looking at, look what it says in verse 6, “there was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about this light, about the light that all my beliefs through him. His purpose was that all my belief through him. His job was to show people the way to the true light.”
From verse 8, “He was not the light, but he came to bear witness about the light, the true light, which gives light to everyone, every man, every woman, was coming into the world.” John’s the vehicle of introduction. Now we ship back to Matthew’s account. Again, if you have your Bible, your Bible app, or you just want to follow the hand out there in Matthew 3:4. Now John, we’re told, wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. I talked about that. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him. They came out. Remember, we mentioned how the Word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah when he was in the wilderness. He shoots out of the Judean wilderness, like a spiritual comet. John started challenging people, like a prophet of old, to get themselves ready for the coming of the promise of God. He started challenging them to open up their hearts and change their ways. He says, “You need to be baptized under repentance. Make a change in light of what God is about to do. Open yourself up.”
That’s how we got the name, John the Baptist, by the way, because people would say, “Are you talking about John? The one who’s baptizing people by the Jordan?” “Yes, that John, John the baptizer.” That’s what he was doing. It says in verse 6, “and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” The common people responded to his message to such a degree that the religious leaders felt compelled to understand it. Jerusalem leadership did not usually come to the Judean wilderness. Because this was such an amazing thing that was happening, the people were just coming from all over the land to hear John. Many were being baptized. They felt they needed to go minimally to check it out because there was so much energy around it.
When the leadership came, verse 7, “but when he saw, John saw many of the Pharisees and the Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, you brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” The language was startling. It caught everyone off guard. The field was being completely leveled. Listen to the language, to the appeal, “you also, you who would stand on the outside, criticize and evaluate. You also need to hear what God is doing. You also need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” In verse 9, “do not presume to say to yourselves, he already knows what they’re thinking, do not presume to say to yourself, oh, we have Abraham as our father for, I tell you that God is able from these very stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
John was himself, the son of a priest, he understood their worldview and their presuppositions. So he hit them with force, right? Basically what he’s saying is don’t think that you can hide behind your pedigree and your bloodlines. I tell you, I tell you they are not enough. Don’t be proud, don’t be so proud that you miss this moment or the one that is about to welcome him because I tell you that God is not impressed. He can raise up the children of Abraham from these rocks. The time has come for you to humble yourselves, to humble your hearts ahead of what God is about to do. In verse 10, “for I tell you even now, the ax is being laid to the root of the trees, and every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit, and that includes you is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water under repentance. But the one who is coming after me, he’s mightier than I am. That whose sandals I’m not worthy even to carry. But he will baptize you with the holy spirit and with fire.” Now this is a statement, right? I tell you that the one who follows me is the one, and he is far greater than me, mightier, he’s closing in, I can feel it. He’s near. Listen. He said it to the whole crowd, I’m not even worthy. Do you understand what I’m saying? I am not even worthy to carry his shoes. It would be an honor to carry his shoes. His sandals on my fingers would be an honor. I tell you, I am baptizing you with water. He shall do more.
He will baptize you with spirit and with flame, like a holy flame, and the very real presence of God will begin to burn in you. I tell you like the very bush that burned in front of Moses, so will come the presence of God into your midst. Do you understand what God is about to do? “Listen, all of you, his winnowing fork,” verse 12,” is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff, he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John had a second image he was using, you’ve never seen a winnowing fork, it is like a pitchfork. It has prongs that are used to lift up the wheat, throw it into the wind. The chaff blows off, and what is left is the wheat itself, right? The grain settles down and is collected, but the other is just burned away. It was a great image. Do we see the imagery that he’s using? He’s using two things. The ax and the winnowing fork. Both of them, basically what he’s saying is, it is decision time, which one of you will be open? Which side are you on? God is on the move, and you’re either going to get it, or you’re not. It’s up to you. That was the word.
Then the Bible switches. Verse 13, a shift. Then the moment comes, you see it? Then Jesus came from Galilee. Now it begins. Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan, to John, and he came to be baptized by him. And many people have pondered this for generations because, oh, by the way, there was nothing to indicate that John had ever seen Jesus, met Him, or had identified Him. Even though in a certain way they were relatives, there was not a sense of connectedness. John has no recognition of Him at this moment. But it is the moment when the public ministry of Jesus officially begins.
Jesus is now 30 years old, John of similar age. John’s been preaching now for six months about the coming. When the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness, he began preaching. He’s been preaching, now it’s going to happen. All of a sudden, Jesus makes the journey from the north, from Galilee, almost 60 miles down to where John would have been in the Judean wilderness near, Jerusalem and the Jordan. Jesus comes to John for a purpose. Jesus comes to be baptized. When we might ask, “Well, why did Jesus need to be baptized under repentance? He had nothing to repent of. What’s the purpose, what’s the point?” For Jesus, this is the beginning of a movement. A movement that will take them ultimately down the streets of Jerusalem, carrying a cross. He understands this. He knows what is going on. He understands very clearly, from the beginning, the cup that He will have to drink. He’s under no illusions. He knows that the baptism He will ultimately have to endure, as He will later tell to His ambitious disciples. He says the baptism that I will be baptized with.
Jesus understood it was the baptism of His suffering and separation from His father. He could see that one coming, but that was still a few years ahead. For Jesus, this marks the beginning of the journey that will take Him to the cross, through the cross, and into life, and secure for us the path. It was previously impossible. Create the ability for us to connect to what was before an un-walkable gap between God and humanity. God himself, as the son, will bridge the gap through the cross. The verification of its sufficiency will be the resurrection.
That is why Paul will later say, “If there is no resurrection, then the cross is meaningless.” Everything depends on Jesus rising. If he rises, we too rise. There is the promise of life, not just in this present life, but also to come. Depending on where we are in our lives, either of those things can have great meaning to us. His presence in our life can be significant and meaningful at a profound level. There are times, listen loved ones, when the promise of this is not the end. This body, which cannot last, will ultimately be renewed in a very different way, in the very presence of God, is secured in Christ. Jesus knows His moment is now beginning. He will do His baptism for a reason. For him, it’s the start, for John, this is also a life-altering moment.
It represents the moment that he has been spending years preparing for it. We have to understand it. For Jesus, it’s the beginning of His ministry. For John, it’s like the very purpose of his ministry is now culminating right before his eyes. The very purpose of John’s work is now right in front of him, upon him, standing there in front of his eyes. John knew from the day of his birth, the Bible says, that there was a calling in his life. His parents were aware of the fact that he had been born in a way that was unique. John was aware of that. He understood, he understood his purpose.
He was called to prepare the way. That was his purpose in life. It’s why he pulled away from culture and society. Now, as he had gone out to preach, “he’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming,” now he had come. I try to imagine that moment. Many people have, or as the years have gone by, pictures and people have written about it. Was it like the first time that John and Jesus looked at one another? In front of the Jordan. John, maybe he was standing in the Jordan. Jesus, possibly on the shore. At that moment, when he looked at him and peered into his eyes, and the other peered in his, they both understood. For Jesus, the beginning. For John, the moment.
Look what happens. The singular moment of his lifetime. What does it say Jesus asked? To be baptized. By John. It must’ve seemed incredible, and even for someone as perceptive as John was, it must have caught him off guard, the emotions of the moment. First, to recognize something there, you’re him, you’re him, you’re him. You are here. Then, to hear the words of Jesus. It would have been hard for him to initially process because Jesus had come and said, “Will you baptize me?” John’s processing that through.
Look what he says, John would have prevented him. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I need to be baptized of you, not you by me. You are the one that should baptize me. You are far greater than me, right? You’re the one. John, without knowing anything about Jesus, almost instinctively peers into his eyes and intuitively comprehends that he is in the presence of one who is greater than he is. Almost like when Peter says years later when Jesus is saying, “I want to wash your feet.” He goes around the table, in the stunned silence out of their arguments, as to who was the greatest of them all. He washes their feet, and he gets to Peter, and Peter pulls back. “Washing my feet? I can wash your feet, but you cannot wash my feet.” Jesus says, “If you do not let me wash your feet, you are not of mine. This is powerful, very similar, right? I’m not baptizing you, you can baptize me. But I should not be baptizing you.
Look what Jesus says. Jesus answered him, “let it be so for now. For thus, it is fitting, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all that is right.” All righteousness. No, you need to let this be, that is the right thing to do. Finally, John relents, and he consented. Jesus as the representative of humanity, the second man, the last Adam, is accepting the mantle of our human condition. He will bear as the Lamb of God, our sins once and for all. This baptism symbolizes all that he has come to do for us. The full identification of Jesus with us, the utter humility of God. Do you see that? The humility of God to submit Himself as our representative.
Jesus was baptized, verse 16, and immediately he went up from the water. Again, try to imagine our mind’s eye, Jesus is baptized. He comes up from the water, and the water is streaming down him. Then two phenomena occur. John had not, would never forget it. Whoever else was there would not forget it, because it says at that moment, there was something like a dove. The spirit of God descended like a dove. Historically, people have pictured a dove flying onto Jesus in the moment of his baptism. Whether It was a literal dove or something that was like a dove it came upon him. You could see visually, it appeared Jesus. On top of that, simultaneously, there was a voice that caught everyone off guard. Where did that come from? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
The two phenomena, visual and verbal signs. Here’s how I’d like us to take this. There’s a couple of things that are deeply connected in terms of being all in for God. One of them, I just need to put as a beginning sort of thing to say, because it’s important. Remember the importance of baptism. To anyone who is serious about following Jesus, we should not pass by this too quickly, because if Jesus submitted to baptism as an adult, who among us is exempt? If he who was without sin, did it, are there any of us who really should not? I want to encourage everyone, anyone who is a believer, who has come to faith in Jesus, who has not been baptized to be baptized. If you actually want to be baptized in our church, it’s not that hard. You just go through the journey class. We have one starting up in February as part of our larger orientation. One of the things that is discussed is baptism. You can sign up for that and be baptized. In my mind, it’s not only a statement of affection for Jesus, it’s a public declaration. It’s also a point of obedience. For Jesus said, “the one who is who believes and is baptized.” It’s a statement before others and the community, that I am committing myself to follow Jesus in His death, burial, and His resurrection.
It’s one of the few symbolic things we’re commanded in scripture to do. But there’s a second thought. This one really connected, and I want to submit it to you. We too must begin, right? Be open to bending our approach. There are going to be times when the Lord is going to stretch us out of our comfort zone. I’ll add to that, and ask us to align with His purposes in a spirit of humility. A surrendered humility. What am I talking about? For a moment, John thought Jesus’s request was inappropriate. Do you know why he thought it was inappropriate? He’s taken aback. Why? Not because he thinks it’s below him. Why? Because he thinks it’s above him. He Feels, and I understand totally why he feels unworthy, “I am not worthy to baptize you.” It got me thinking that there are times when what we struggle with is not about our pride. I get it, there are times when we do. But there are times when what we’re really struggling with is our sense of unworthiness.
Maybe some of us really struggle with that. Some of us have that right now. It could be connected to the shame of our past. It might be a lack of confidence, it goes back to our earliest exposure points. It’s possible a self-image in which we struggle with real feelings of inferiority. We are aware of our flaws, and some of us are very aware of our grooves. We have spirituality, we have habits, we have vices, and we have issues. We have areas of real struggle. Even though we believe in Jesus, some of us may profoundly love Him, that sense of inadequacy or unworthiness. If I can say it in a different way because some of us also struggle in this regard, that some of us have, and it goes back to things that we may be aware of, and sometimes we’re not, some of us carry with us deep-seated insecurities.
I’m talking about deep things. It shows up when the heat is on in life. It shows up in our critical relationships. It comes out of us. These places where the Lord is trying to, over time, heal. Yes, that’s what He does. The gentle healer comes to touch any infection in our life. He can heal it. He will heal it. There may be certain things we carry with us for a long time. It’s true. It may be that we will always have a struggle. I am not saying that there are some things that will not be the case. There are some things so deep into us, that barring a miracle of God’s, like removing it, the real healing is going to occur a little bit over time, and we get better and we grow stronger. Actually, it becomes a source of grace in our lives, that causes us to rely on him.
What I’m trying to get at, is that a lot of times in these places, it’s our damaged cells that pull back from God. For some of us, it’s a lack of confidence in our ability to follow through with it. It is that moment where we’re challenged to trust God’s Word over our lives. If He’s calling us to something that we need to work with Him, I look at that and I think there are going to be times when God’s going to stretch us past our comfort zones. In a lot of ways, that’s what He’s doing with me and all of us, here at Riordan. When it says stretching, of faith and trust, to push beyond something that is comfortable for us. It involves risks.
It touches on different insecurities. One of the things I’ve come to understand, and it’s hard to say this, but all of us are different. Something that you might be, you’ve heard me say it, very secure in, I might have a very strong sense of weakness. We have to always be careful around being too hard on one another because it’s not always easy to know where someone else is struggling, just because it’s easy for us. We might have an area that’s very hard for the other person that we can handle very easily. Some of us struggle a lot with insecurity and feelings that are deep inside of us.
There are going to be times when the Lord is going to challenge us too. I mean this in the best way. He’s going to call us to work with Him in ways we didn’t envision. Where we might even push back and say, “Lord, not that way, not that way.” There might be times where God will push into something that we would have preferred not to do, right? He’s going to kind of move us in that direction, and it can be scary. It can be hard. It could be intimidating to hear the Lord’s voice calling to us because you know what He’s sometimes going to say, let it be. What did He say to John? John says, “You can’t, I can’t do this.” Jesus says, “Yes, you can, let it be so.”
The older version says, suffer it to be so. You need to work with me. Let’s do this. Work with me here. Work with me here. You need to trust me. Here’s what He was saying. Basically, Jesus was saying, “I need you to let me lead you by letting you lead me.” You want to talk about a kingdom paradox, there it is. I need you to submit to my leadership by allowing you to lead me, into the place that you’re uncomfortable going. That’s a trust issue. God wants us to trust Him with our weaknesses, our flaws, our past, our fear, and our insecurity. It’s in there. We all have something. The last, don’t fight me, Jesus saying, “Don’t fight me on this. Don’t fight me on this. Trust me. Work with me.”
Then I was thinking, are there areas where God is calling us to yield? Even our sense of limitation or damage? Sit with that for a moment, to align with a purpose that is different than the one we envisioned? Is the Lord saying something there? Think of our damaged selves at times, yes. Can we work with Him? Can we move with Him? Can we trust Him, even when it doesn’t make sense or seem appropriate? Surely you can find somebody else. No. Can we say, in this area of our life, I don’t know what it is? I know what mine is. A couple of them. Your will be done. Can I surrender it all to Jesus? I surrender my freedom, my liberty, my will, to the kingdom? The last thing, the one that resonated most with me, was this. They’re going to be times when we’re going to need to wrestle with life questions and be open to seasonal adjustments. Okay, I’m going to give it my best shot. Listen to this.
We forget John’s humanity. We forget John’s humanity, right? I mean, this is the moment he’s been preparing and waiting for. It represents as far as we can tell his entire purpose for his life has been wrapped up in this one thing, to introduce the Messiah. He is the forerunner. It has been his consuming passion. He’s given everything to it, and now the moment arrives, and he’s staring it in the eyes. He’s looking at Jesus. He’s touching Him. Here are his words, watches as he comes out of the water in some way, the heavens open, and the word of God echoes. Then, as Jesus rises up and starts to walk away, it’s not like they have this long discussion. It’s one of those interesting moments, where what is described is Jesus rises and begins to move on.
John is there. That picture of John, just standing, because Jesus starts His walk. He’s got a three-year walk to Calvary. As Jesus walks away, you understand what’s happened? John’s life, as he knows it, has come to an end. What do I do now? The one purpose I had has been accomplished. John’s life, his work, is complete. He’s prepared the way. He is a man at 30, he’s early 30. John does it, with no sense of what he’s supposed to do next. Maybe some of us think, “That’s me,” right? Or maybe we’re at a different place in our life. Where a season shifted on us, and we don’t know what to do next. John’s identity had been getting ready for Messiah. Now what? He’s going to get tested even more. We flash forward a few weeks ahead, there’s going to come this moment where John is going to say to all the people who loved him and followed him, some of whom ended up being Jesus’s most intimate circle of disciples. He’s going to say to them, and you can say, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” Oh, it’s huge. Because they’re all saying, “John, you’re the man, God’s anointed you, you are the one, you’re special, the Lord has been blessing you. God’s called you. You know, we love you. We’re devoted to you, right?” Then there’s going to come this moment where John is going to say, “Don’t follow me anymore. Follow Him. All of you, follow Him.” It’s powerful. Sometimes letting go of areas where we have found identity is so incredibly difficult and so scary. Many of us will know, yes, it’s the Lord’s will, and still struggle with it. It’s so hard to let go sometimes. If we feel our identity is connected to something, again, I tried to imagine how hard this would be, because some people say, oh, John, he knew He was. Jesus was the Son of God. So it was easy, no, he was a human being. It was hard. What should I do next? This is my purpose, I don’t even know who I am anymore. He’s a great man and loves God. John is going to struggle with his identity because he’s not sure what to do. It’s real. This is where we’ll leave it.
In the end, you and I, we must always remember, and I know this was the word that God spoke over Jesus, the Father spoke this over the son. But it’s the word that the son then speaks over to us in the name of the Father if you will. For you are His beloved son, and you are His beloved daughter. To those who have come to follow and love Him, you must understand. We must understand where our real identity needs to lie always. We are His beloved son, and we are His beloved daughter. You must hear the voice of the Lord. You are His beloved son, and you are His beloved daughter. Does our identity need to be there, right there, because of the other things? We can lose them. We will let go of everything. But that identity can not only shape us, it’ll carry us all the way through.
We understand that. How much that means. So on this first day that we’ve celebrated Jesus on a Sunday like this, in this way, launching this site, here in this place, I just remember that day as a day when we were reminded. To anchor our identity in the one who loves us, and calls us “My beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well-pleased.” I seek to live up to that, knowing there will be times where we will buckle and not always get it right. But you’re still His beloved son, His beloved daughter, that’s your identity. Everything else, let it go, it’s secondary. Core identity. One loved, by God, in Christ. Let’s pray.
Lord, thank you so much. Even now, as we get ready to close the service out with the song, our giving time, the offering that we’re just going to give unto you Lord, and just focusing on the Riordan, all these good things that you’re doing, I just want to ask that you would just be with us again, as we close this out, and just let this message resonate. Right now, I pray for any of us here who may be feeling either inadequate, bound up in insecurities, afraid, have somehow tied our identity to things that cannot ultimately be relied upon, or find ourselves in a season of transition, whatever it is, God, I ask that you would send a wave of healing and courage into us, to trust you and work with you. This is my prayer. Help us all to trust you and work with you. Jesus, in your name, I praise. Amen.