Jan. 25, 2009
Third Sunday After Epiphany (B)
Two men who were earthly cousins shared a common faith and a heavenly Father. In this passage John the Baptist is ending his ministry in the Machaerus prison. Jesus is beginning His ministry in the Galilean hills preaching. John came pointing others to the Word. Jesus was the Word. John was mighty in his preaching. Jesus was the Almighty. John called for repentance. Jesus commanded a new birth.
John was the messenger. Jesus was the Messiah. John baptized physically with impure water from the river Jordan. Jesus baptized spiritually with pure water from the river of life. John was a prophet after the order of Elijah. Jesus was the High Priest after the order of Elohim. John ends his ministry with the exclamation, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (
Repentance is a compound word that results in a complete transformation. It means “to have a change of mind and heart.” The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (
Repentance implies you are heading in one direction and suddenly you turn and proceed in the opposite direction. It is an exchange of destinations. An unrepentant person is headed for hell. A repentant person has heaven as his or her final port of call. Repentance involves an exchange of authority. Before repentance you live under your own authority. After repentance you live under the authority of Christ. This is not a reformation but a rebirth.
Along with repentance follows regeneration. It means, “born again.” Revival means “to live again.” One reason many of our churches are in a decline is that we have members who are trying to live again who have never been born again. Goodness and church membership have nothing to do with regeneration. The Bible tells us, “No one is good, but One, that is, God” (
The third part of Jesus’ evangelistic sermon involves redemption. This compound word means “to depart from and be released to.” When one repents of his sins, he departs from the enslavement of sin and is released to freedom in Christ. Paul used “in Christ” 144 times in his writings. On the road to Damascus, he departed from his enslavement of sin and was released to a new freedom found only in Christ. He stated it this way in his Letter to the Ephesians (NKJV), “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
When I was a little boy, the grocery stores gave stamps with the purchase of groceries. Our particular stamps were called S&H Green Stamps. They also gave you a catalogue filled with all kinds of merchandise. When you saved up enough stamps for whatever you wanted, you would take the books of stamps to a redemption store, lay them on the counter and exchange them for your gift. One day the Son of God stretched Himself out on the counter of humanity on an old rugged cross and offered redemption to any who would confess Him as Lord and Savior. No stamps required. Redemption is free, but it is not cheap. That which frees you also enslaves you. Redemption involves the choice to make Jesus the Lord and Master of your life. Therefore, you become His slave. No one is free. We are all slaves to that which governs and controls our lives.
Every sermon should include a well-thought-out, targeted invitation. Jesus simply said, “Repent.” His listeners knew they were faced with a decision. They were free to choose. They were not free not to choose. And they were not free to choose the consequences of their choice. The same is true today. When confronted with the claims of Christ, listeners must make a choice. They will either repent and be regenerated through the redemption of Jesus, or they will walk away. Your responsibility and mine is to be as faithful in our proclamation as was Jesus. He preached His first sermon not as a teacher but as an evangelist. We must be willing to do the same.