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The Preacher: John the Baptist (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2022 4:00 am

The Preacher: John the Baptist (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 10, 2022 4:00 am

Why did people keep returning—and bringing friends—to hear John the Baptist preach? It wasn’t because he offered special programs or feel-good messages! Find out what made his teaching so remarkable. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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What made John the Baptist preaching so powerful?

Most churches would like to know how to keep people coming back and bringing their friends. Well, today we'll hear the answer on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg takes us to Luke chapter 3, and we look at verses 1 through 9. John the Baptist is a remarkable individual. His birth was remarkable.

He had a peculiar dress sense as well, certainly striking enough for Luke to identify it and point it out as being distinct from what others were doing. But that's not really what makes him as remarkable. What is so remarkable about him is that Jesus said of him in Matthew 11, it is recorded for us, among those born of women, there was no one, said Jesus, who is of greater significance than John the Baptist, the one who is my forerunner. Why was it that he was such a remarkable preacher? Number one, on account of divine authority. On account of divine authority.

Now, this is simply to rehearse what we've said. There was a man sent from God. When Jesus is asked about John the Baptist, and this is recorded in Matthew chapter 11, Jesus says, this is the one about whom it is written. In other words, if you're wondering who this is, just go back and read your Old Testament Scriptures, and you will discover there that there was one to step on the stage of human history, and he was to prepare the way of the Lord.

If you're wondering who he is, read your Bible, and you will discover that he possesses divine authority. And so when the crowds began to gather, and when people took their friends out into the wilderness, and you can imagine Levi, when his friend is closing down his shop for the evening, saying to him, you know, we were going to get a few sandwiches together and go out into the hot depression of the Jordan wilderness. And his friend said, why do you want to go there for a picnic? Well, he says, not so much the picnic, but we want to go and hear a preacher, and I was wondering if you would like to come and hear him too. And so they eventually get out and get seated in the grass, and eventually John stands up and says, you brute of vipers who warned you to flee from the coming wrath.

And then Levi says to his friend, what in the world is this about? How do you bring me out here to listen to this? Who does this fellow think he is? Now frankly, he had no basis upon which to say these things apart from divine authority.

And any attempt to create authority by means of our personality or the context out of which we minister is destined to crumble to dust. How do you explain all of these people making their way out into such a strange place to listen to such a strange man? When the crowds gathered, they would have said to one another, at least the religious ones, we haven't heard preaching like this in the synagogue.

Why have we never heard this kind of thing? I've been going to the synagogue for years, and I never heard anybody, I certainly never heard an introduction like this, you brute of vipers who warned you to flee from the coming wrath. I wonder what else he's going to say. Well, hang on, it gets better.

Eventually, he's going to throw you in a tub if you stay with him right to the end. Preaching exists not for the propagating of views and opinions and ideas. Preaching exists for the proclamation of the mighty acts of God. That's why preaching is worship. You don't have worship and the Word. You just have worship. The Word is worship. True preaching is worship. Because true preaching is declaring the mighty acts of God, which is to worship God. And we want to encourage our people to be those who worship in spirit and in truth.

Well, why then is this strange man in such a strange place such a fantastic and popular preacher? Number one, because of divine authority. Number two, on account of personal integrity. Personal integrity.

A simple contrast, I think, will help to make the point. You remember in Acts chapter 20, when Paul takes his leave of the Ephesian elders, and he meets them on the beach, and they pray together, and they all begin to cry because they're not going to see his face anymore, and Paul is overcome with that. And then he issues them with this great word of instruction. I want you to attend yourselves and take care of the flock of God that is in your charge. Because, he says, there will arise even from your own number, teachers who will draw away people after themselves. Individuals who will take people and make them their disciples. Now, that was the warning to the Ephesian elders. You look at the ministry of John the Baptist, and you say, did he do that?

No. His disciples were tempted to encourage him to do that. You have at least the inference, hey, John, Jesus is over on the other side. He seems to be picking up numbers, you know.

The crowd seemed to be going in that direction. I don't know whether you want to just maybe spin it in a different way or maybe just tighten your belt a little or change your jacket or something, but we're going to have to lay hold on market share here, John, because this is going down. John says, oh, don't be so stupid. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is not about me. This is about him. And the reason that many of us are less effective than we might be is because too much of what we do is about me, and not enough of it is about him. See, I cannot say he is, he is, he is when people are so familiar with me saying, I am, I am, I am. And when I trace the roots of disintegration in my own ministry, I trace it to far too much of the I am and far too little of the he is. Personal integrity. His integrity comes out not only in that, but his integrity comes out in the fact, and maybe you just need to refresh your memory of this by turning to Matthew 11, but you remember in Matthew 11, when John was in prison, and he heard what Jesus was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?

In other words, he had doubts, he had uncertainties, and he had misgivings. The same fellow who is able to stand up and say, behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sinner of the world now finds himself in the jail. The word is out that Jesus is apparently not ushering in the kingdom in the way in which John the Baptist thought it was going to happen, at least with the speed and forcefulness that John may have anticipated.

I stood up on the stage of history. I said, here's Jesus. Jesus is going to come and usher in the kingdom. But what do I hear he's doing?

He's doing all of these things, and they don't seem to be the plan and the expectation that I had. And so he sends word out, and he says, could you just go back out and ask him? Just go quietly. I mean, don't make a big fuss about it, but just go to him and say, excuse me, John the Baptist had a question for you. He just wanted to know, are you the one who was to come, or should we expect somebody else?

Don't you get fed up with people that know the answers to every question? John the Baptist needed this reply, go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight.

The lame walk. Those who have leprosy are cured. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The good news is preached to the poor. And blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. And then as John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about, John, what did you go into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?

That wouldn't be very much, would it? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes?

There's no chance of that. They all live in king's palaces. And what did you go out to see? A prophet, yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Isn't it amazing the grace of the Lord Jesus, that just having received such a question from this guy, John the Baptist, he supplies the reply, says, go back and tell John this, and then he turns around and seizes it as an opportunity to extol John the Baptist as a prophet sent from God? So his integrity is seen in the fact that he doesn't draw people after himself but points them away to Christ. His integrity is seen in the fact that he's prepared to ask an honest question on the basis of the context in which he finds himself. And his integrity is seen in the fact that he's prepared to call sin, sin. In Mark chapter 6, in the encounter with Herod, he is pretty straightforward. For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested.

He had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, it is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife. There goes any possibility of a nice big church somewhere close to the chapel.

Somewhere close to the palace, I should say. He's not about to become the chaplain to Herod's Senate with this kind of talk. It's not lawful for you to have your brother's wife. And don't you think that's personal integrity? He has to say what he has to say. He's not sugarcoating it. He's not looking for issues.

He's simply calling it as it is. Why is it then that such a strange man in such a strange place would have such a vast following? One, because of divine authority. Two, because of personal integrity. Three, because of genuine humility.

Genuine humility. John the Baptist was self-effacing. He wasn't a mouse. You could never say that John the Baptist was a wimp. The John the Baptist is not a weenie.

He's a lionheart. But he wasn't preaching himself, nor was he trying, as we said, to create a personal following. Now you say, but he did create a personal following.

Yes, he did. So is he to be condemned for the fact that God used him as an effective preacher? What was he supposed to stand up and say? Oh, I'm a lousy preacher.

Go down the street. There are better preachers down there. That would have just been self-deprecating nonsense. He was God's man with God's Word for God's time. And so he stood up and he exercised his ministry with a boldness that was divine, with an integrity that was real, and with a humility that was tangible. I think if we'd been around John the Baptist, you could have almost tasted his humility—a genuine sense of setting himself back clearly in relationship to Jesus. And indeed, when he builds a significant following, as we said, he directs them to the Lord Jesus himself.

And indeed, I love the little search committee that comes to him in John chapter 1 and verse 19. Now, this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. We're thinking about having you for a conference, and we don't really know you, and we want to know just a little bit about you.

We want to get a CV, a little bit of background, something we can put in the brochure, throw up on the screen, so we can make a fuss about you in the town, and everyone will come because of how remarkable you are. So he did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, I am not the Christ. And so they asked him, Then who are you? Are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you the prophet? He answered, No.

Things are not going particularly well, are they? We've come here in order that we might get something to say about you, and so far you've given us, I am not, I am not, no. Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. Now, here's the question that we all love.

What do you say about yourself? Oh, well, why don't we get a coffee and a muffin and sit down? Let me just, in fact, do you have time for dinner? Oh, what a wonderful question. Let me just get to that immediately. Honey, could you bring me those pamphlets and books and videos and things? He wants to know about me. John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, there's a good lesson for us, isn't it?

You don't know what to say? Quote the Bible. And the voice of one calling in the wilderness makes straight the way of the Lord. I baptize you with water, but among you stands one you do not know. And he is the one who comes after me in the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

John understood his role. Prepare the way and get out of the way. Self-forgetfulness, I think, is probably one of the keys to effective pulpit ministry.

Prepare yourself and forget yourself. Why then would the crowds go out to such a strange man in such a strange place? Well, on account of divine authority, personal integrity, genuine humility, and finally, on account of his helpful simplicity. His helpful simplicity.

No one was in any doubt when they heard John the Baptist preach. What is he essentially saying to these people? Jesus is coming, and I want you to give him a great welcome. Is that your message?

That's my message. What should we do in light of the fact that Jesus is coming? Well, I think that you ought to turn from your sins and get straight in the bath. The same thing that a mother says to her son when he comes home all covered in mud, now you go straight to the tub.

And that's essentially what he's saying. Jesus is coming. You're about to meet him. I want you to turn from your sins, go straight to the tub, and get ready to meet him. So Mr. Levi, who took his friend, and they went down.

When they went home, they made their journey back up to sea level or wherever it was they were going. Whatever else he knew, he knew this, that his friend had not misunderstood the message of John the Baptist, because he was marked by total simplicity, even when he addresses the issue of sin in the life of Herod. He doesn't couch at home, does he?

He didn't give him some great book or diatribe on the psychological analysis of the impact of marital infidelity on the psyche of a king, you know, or something like that. Don't do that. You're wrong. This is right. Here he is. Go there. Believe this.

Follow him. Total simplicity. I've come off the pulpit many times on a Sunday. I can even understand what I just said. And I know the people that, I don't know what that was about at all. First of all, their eyes are staring straight ahead. Then they're blared. Then they're crossed.

Then they're closed. It's a lesson for us, and we'll come back to this throughout the course of these days. Because it's easy to identify it in John.

It's hard to implement it ourselves, I find. Well, let me just wrap it up. Once again, my brothers, we are confronted by silence and by darkness. There is a famine in the land. There's a great absence for the voice of the Word of God being proclaimed. There is a darkness that seems to be almost all-pervading.

And we're asking God to prepare the way and to provide those who will point to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I just came from the Cove in North Carolina, Billy Graham's training center. I'd never been there before. And on Saturday afternoon, I went down into the lower hallway, as some of you will have visited there. And I looked at these dramatic pictures of stadiums throughout the world. An amazing picture of the Twin Towers of Wembley Stadium, which was my favorite in London.

Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, just literally around the whole world. And I stood in awe and looked at all of those crowds. And I said, how honestly do you account for this? Here's a farm boy. His dad's a dairy farmer. He has one earned theological qualification, and kind of not quite, by his own testimony. And yet God has picked him up in the darkness and in the silence and has used him uniquely and profoundly throughout all of the days of each of our lives. And whatever we might have to say about the various intricacies of theological formulation and everything else, I think that I would want to say that the only explanation I have for the way in which God has done that is because He is a man who has understood the Bible's authority and has always said that the Bible says this, and the Bible says that, and the Bible says the next thing. I've never ever heard Him, except that He's been marked by total simplicity. And no one can find a thing on Him—moral, financial, anything on Him—that would blot His copybook in 60-plus years of teaching ministry.

He's a man of complete integrity, and He is possessed of a palpable humility. And then you know what I thought next? Then the devil came to me and said—not literally, of course, because my wife was with me—and I said, oh, I said, it's you. No.

I'll introduce my wife to you tomorrow, and you'll know that she does not have horns. But then the insinuation was this, you're doing nothing. You're doing nothing.

How many people have you preached to? What are you doing? Who do you think you are? This is where it's really happening, you know.

You might as well chuck what you're doing. It's nothing. See? And we have to remind ourselves, what after all is Paul or Apollos or Cephas? Only servants through whom you came to believe. It is God who gives the work, and it is God who gives the increase. So then we can together say, Lord Jesus Christ, will you make us at least in this sense, like John the Baptist, we're not interested in his diet, we're looking forward to the barbecue. We're not interested in his clothes, frankly.

The gap will do us fine. But we are tremendously interested in his authority, his integrity, his humility, and his simplicity. John the Baptist was God's man with God's Word, at God's place and time. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg encouraging pastors to prepare the way and get out of the way.

Alistair will be back to pray with us in just a minute. Our study today has provided both instruction and encouragement for pastors, and there are plenty of books written for men in ministry. But there is an essential partner who is upholding many pastors, that is the pastor's wife.

And there are far fewer books written to offer instruction or encouragement for the women who play such a vital role in serving the church and the Lord. So we want to recommend a book called Partners in the Gospel. This is 50 Meditations for Pastors and Elders' Wives.

The author is herself a pastor's wife, and in this book she presents a collection of daily readings that reflect on both the joys and challenges that ministry leaders' wives can face in their own hearts, in their homes, while they're at church, and in the community. You can request a copy of the book Partners in the Gospel when you make a donation today. To give, simply tap the book image you see in the mobile app, or visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate.

Or you can call us at 888-588-7884. Now if you're a regular listener, you know that our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance. We do it so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established in the faith, and local churches will be strengthened. And as this mission relates to the local church, we want to encourage and equip pastors for the work of the gospel. So if you lead a local church, or if you lead young men pursuing a career as a pastor, we want to invite you to check out the four module online study titled The Basics of Pastoral Ministry. This is a collection of 30 sermons and lectures from Alistair that draw on his experience leading a congregation for more than 40 years. In this study, you'll hear Alistair teach about church leadership, expository preaching, and things like how to handle opposition to change. Each module in this study contains between five and nine lessons. There's a corresponding downloadable study guide to help you apply what you've learned.

All four modules and the corresponding online study guides are accessible for free. When you visit truthforlife.org, search for The Basics of Pastoral Ministry. And now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, I pray that right at the outset of our time together, you will drive these things and other necessary truths home to our hearts, that we may not be dispirited, but rather energized by remarking on the way in which you choose to use strange people in strange places to do remarkable things. To this end, we commit ourselves to you in Jesus name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. We're glad you've joined us today. Is it possible to be spiritually malnourished if you attend church regularly? We'll find out tomorrow. And on behalf of Alistair and the entire staff here at Truth for Life, we want to wish all of our Canadian listeners a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-23 13:25:07 / 2022-12-23 13:34:13 / 9

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