• April 2020
    S M T W T F S
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    2627282930  
  • Audio Sermons & Devotions

  • Recent Posts

  • Post Categories

  • Fighting for the Faith

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 582 other followers

  • Blog Stats

    • 41,405 hits

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” Matthew 3:1-12

1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

     “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

     7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume 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. 10Even 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.

     11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

John the Baptist came preaching.

He preached a message of repentance.

He called his hearers to turn from their sin and to look for another who was coming.

In fulfillment of the prophecy made by Isaiah the prophet, John was that voice of one crying in the wilderness, crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3 || Isaiah 40:3).

God sent John to prepare the way of the Lord, for the Lord was indeed coming.

The Apostles, too, preached a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, after His resurrection and before ascending into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

Jesus Himself preached repentance, as did John the Baptist.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, shortly after the account before us concerning the content of John’s message, and after John was put in prison by King Herod, Jesus “Began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 3:17).

Jesus preached what is right and true.  He preached what His Father in heaven had given Him to preach (John 14:24).

Not everyone appreciated His words, either because of what He said or even how He said them, but His words were true just the same.

Jesus spoke the truth concerning the human condition, concerning man’s corruption, even saying, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20a).

Jesus was bold to say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

In another place, Jesus says to Martha, distracted in doing and failing to be about the one thing needful “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Yes, Jesus spoke the truth, as did John the Baptist who prepared His way, and as did the Apostles after them, as we have recorded in the Gospels and in their Epistles.

They were carrying on the words spoken by the prophets, Jesus fulfilling them, Jesus who came, just as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

The prophets of the Old Testament pointed to the One who was coming, Jesus the Christ, to save sinners from their sins.

They, too, preached repentance, a turning from their sin to the Lord, who does indeed have mercy and compassion upon those who call upon Him in truth.

Like them, and like those who have gone before, the servants of the Lord today still preach that same message of repentance, that hearers not die in their sin, but turn from their sinful ways and find in the Lord Jesus their comfort and their hope.

But pastor, does this include us, too?

As God’s people, you know that you are forgiven.

You know of God’s love toward you on account of Christ.

You believe and know, by God’s grace, that the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to die your death and to pay the penalty for your sin.

Certainly there is more for you, there is more for you than just repenting of your sin.

You have heard the message of repentance before.

You have heard the Law.

You know your sin.

Can’t we just hear something different?  Can’t we hear instead only of how good things are between God and us, and how much better we’re becoming?

Why all this ‘negative’ talk?  Why such a ‘downer’ about sin and our condition and how we are by nature?

The reason is this…never in this life on earth will we be able to say that we are without sin and have no need for forgiveness.

To say such is really to say, according to what is believed, that Christ is no longer necessary.

If we are holy and upright of ourselves, we don’t need a Savior.

Additionally, if left to ourselves, we try to find in ourselves our own ways and means to please God, not according to what God has revealed, but according to our own tendencies.

As long as we live in this corrupt flesh, we will always have the pull and the temptation to go against God, small as it might to us seem to be.

So St. Paul, even after being called by God to be an Apostle while on his way to Damascus, says in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18).

In another place, he writes, “All have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God” (Romans 3:23).

Here, St. Paul includes himself.

Quoting the Psalmist, he says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 || Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

And again does he say, even after his conversion, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Alone and unto ourselves, we would believe, even as some do, that as Christians we have no need to repent, no need to change our ways, because, well, we’re Christians, saints of God.

Some even go so far as to say that as Christians, we no longer need to confess our sins, that we longer sin, that we, because we have a new nature and the Spirit within us, can easily and readily resist all temptation.

It is true, as St. Paul says, that “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

And it is also true, as he writes in another place, that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

With clarity God reveals that, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”  (Romans 5:1-2).

But the truth that God no longer counts your sin against you and that you stand forgiven before Him on account of Christ Jesus dying in your stead and paying the price for your redemption does not mean that you no longer need to repent.

All the more does this mean that you long to be free from your sinful flesh and to serve the Lord without hindrance.

But as St. John writes in his first epistle and as we confessed earlier in today’s service “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

John is not saying this as a heathen, a Gentile, or a nonChristian.

John is saying this as one who believes and trusts in the Lord alone for salvation.

If that was the case with him, with one of the Lord’s closest disciples whom Jesus loved, that he, John, still confessed his sin to God, how much also with us?

If Paul, miraculously called by God to preach and to serve Him unto death, if he acknowledged his unrighteousness and wickedness before his righteous heavenly Father, how also with us?

According to Holy Scripture, that message, that true and godly message, of repentance, calling the sinner to turn from his or her sinful ways, namely, unbelief in God’s Word and Promise, that message still sounds forth.

God’s people will hear.

They will hear because they know the words to be true.

They know the words to be true because God so reveals them to be true in His Holy Word.

“Through the law we is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

With the message of repentance is not only the call to turn from sin, but to believe in another, to believe in Him who alone saves from sin, Jesus the Christ.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is not about being converted one day and that’s it, once saved always saved.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is living daily in repentance, daily turning away from sin, and daily trusting in Jesus for salvation.

It consists of this, “drowning the old man and putting on the new,” as Dr. Luther notes in the Small Catechism.

The Christian life is that life where one’s Baptism, God’s work, is remembered, reflected upon, and not at all forgotten.

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7)

“By daily contrition and repentance the Old Adam, our sinful nature, should be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” as it is written,  ‘We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’” (Romans 6:4) (Holy Baptism, 4th Part, Small Catechism)

The life of repentance, this is the life of the Christian, confessing our sins to God and trusting His mercy in Christ for forgiveness and life and salvation.

Therefore do we confess our sins to God, all of them, believing that in Christ, all are forgiven.

We do this because we are God’s people, who follow, not what we feel, or what we think we know, but because we believe wholeheartedly what God says, whether we agree with it or not, whether it makes sense or not, and whether the majority accept it or not.

If we confessed our sins before God with dependence on the sincerity or the intensity of our confession, comparing ourselves with others, or on how we feel at any given moment, we would be unsure that such confession was ‘enough’ and would therefore be unsure of God’s mercy.

As it is, God’s forgiveness is not determined on the merit of our confession, but only upon His grace in Christ Jesus.

If it were otherwise, we would always be wondering, was I sincere enough?  Did I confess all my sins?  Was I in the right state of mind?  Was I wholeheartedly serious?

Yet, the Psalmist comprehensively states, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults” (Psalm 19:12).

Instead of forgiveness being based upon our confession, forgiveness is of God, and has His Word and promise as the foundation, and not anything we contribute.

What’s left for you is to only believe His Word declared and announced, His forgiveness preached, and His mercy given.

It is yours.

God forgives your sins in Christ. In His Word, God’s kingdom comes to you. In Word and Sacrament, God’s very Means of Grace, your Lord gives to you what you cannot obtain for yourself, life and salvation, in Christ alone.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of my sin against you.  Forgive me, and help me to live the life you have called me to live, by faith in Your Holy Word.  Amen.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: