Today we begin a new message series called “Following Jesus.” In this series, we’ll be studying the Gospel of Luke, the longest book in the New Testament. Gospel of Luke is part one of Luke’s writing. Part two is the book of Acts, a continuation of Luke’s Gospel about the life of Jesus.
Acts 1:1 (ESV) In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
The first book that Luke is referring to here is the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s Gospel is about all that Jesus began to do and teach. Let’s focus on the word “began” here. The Gospel of Luke ends with Jesus ascending into heaven. One might be tempted to think that after Jesus ascended into heaven, His doing and teaching would have been over. However, Luke informs us that the book of Acts is a continuation of Jesus’ doing and teaching ministry through His followers. As we study the book of Luke, we’re going to learn what Jesus did and taught.
What is the purpose of a study of the life of Jesus? The purpose according to Luke is so that we can do and teach the same things as Jesus did and taught. That’s really what it means to follow Jesus. To learn from His example how we can bring healing into our world by word and action. Many people think that we can’t do the same things as Jesus did, but that’s not true.
John 14:12 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
What are the works of Jesus referred to here? They are the supernatural miracles that Jesus did to bring healing into people’s lives. If we have faith, according to Jesus words, we will be able to do the same miracles and even greater ones. How could that happen? Jesus did all His miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended into heaven, He began to pour out the power of the Spirit through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Through this series, my prayer is that we all will grow in our faith to believe Jesus to do miracles in and through us by the Spirit.
Today’s message is entitled “How to Get Close to God.” Do you sometimes feel distant from God? You can’t seem to hear God speak to you? God desires for you to be close to Him. Close to God is where the blessing is, close to God is where healing is, close to God is where the power to do what Jesus did is. So what is the secret to getting close to God? Today, we’re going to learn the surprising solution to getting close to God. The first step is to …
Luke 3:2 (ESV) during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
John was the miracle baby born to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age. John’s purpose in life was the prepare the way for Jesus. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and God spoke to Him in the wilderness. God showed Him that the time for Jesus’ ministry to begin was near.
Luke 3:3 (ESV) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In this key verse, we see John’s purpose and mission summarized. He called on everyone to repent of their sins and undergo a baptism of repentance, so that their sins could be forgiven. As we continue with the passage today, John is going to teach us what repentance is all about. Let’s begin by looking at the Greek word that we translate as repent. The Greek word for repent means to change one’s mind about something. In this case, John’s listeners were to change their minds or to turn around concerning their sin. To turn from loving sin to hating sin. To turn from hating God to loving God. This message of repentance was how John prepared the way for Jesus.
Luke 3:4 (ESV) As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Luke shows us that the prophet Isiah prophesied about John the Baptist hundreds of years before. John came out of the wilderness with a singular purpose to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. To prepare the way for Jesus was to prepare the hearts of people to receive Jesus’ message and believe in Him. How did John prepare the way for Jesus? By calling on everyone to repent.
We’re going to learn today that repentance is the key to beginning a relationship with Jesus and to growing closer to God in that relationship. Repentance is not a one-time event, but a way of life. Why? Because we are all prone to sin and need to practice repentance on a daily basis. So the first way that we can apply these truths is to our own lives. If you’ve never repented before to God, repentance is the first step to becoming a follower of Jesus.
If you are already a follower of Jesus, daily repentance is the way you grow closer in that relationship. Not only are we to practice repentance in our own lives, we are to follow Jesus by calling on others to repent. Jesus’ message began with a call to repent. On the day of Pentecost, Peter’s call to action for the crowd began with a call to repent.
Repentance is a firm decision to change one’s life with God’s help. To change one’s life from following after sin to following after God. We also must teach the people in our lives of the necessity of repentance to get close to God. Let’s learn some more about repentance from John the Baptist. We need to better …
Luke 3:7-8a (ESV) He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.
Apparently getting baptized by John was the in thing and many crowds came to be baptized. But just getting wet for public display was not going to do any good. John called out those who were outwardly saying they were repenting, but were not bearing the fruit of repentance. As we’ll see, repentance is not just saying the right words. Repentance is not simply saying sorry, forgive me so I won’t face any consequences. True repentance is evidenced by changed fruit in a person’s life. We’re going to see examples from John shortly.
Luke 3:9 (ESV) Even 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.”
The stakes regarding repentance are very high, a person’s eternal destiny is at stake. Jesus used this same imagery of those who claimed to repent and believe, but whose lives never changed. People who do not bear good fruit will ultimately be thrown into the fire of hell. What does it mean to bear good fruit? The people asked John “What then shall we do?”
Luke 3:11 (ESV) And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
The first fruit of repentance is to share what you have with others and not hoard it for yourself. John mentions two necessities of life, food and clothing are to be shared. So the first sin to be repented of is not sharing with those who have little. This is a sin of omission, the kind we rarely think about.
Luke 3:12-13 (ESV) Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
Tax collectors of the time were notorious for collecting more than the government required to pad their own pockets. It was an accepted practice for tax collectors, but it made them hated by the people. Rather than trying to get rich by overcharging, they were to only collect what was required The third example was that soldiers extort money from people, but be content with their salaries. In all examples, the good fruit of repentance was demonstrated in how other people were treated. So, let’s see how we can better understand repentance for our own lives.
We are beginning to better understand repentance. Repentance makes a difference in the fruit of one’s life. Repentance changes the things that we do. Repentance involves both sins of not doing what we should do, as well as doing the things we shouldn’t do. This is how we draw closer to God for the first time and how we grow closer to Him after we’re saved.
Sometimes, people tell those who aren’t saved that they can just believe in Jesus and not change their sinful lifestyle. That’s not true. The first step to become a follower of Jesus is repentance. Remember, repentance is a change of mind about our sin, leading to a changed life. Will God help you bear good fruit, absolutely. But you will need to make the decision to repent first.
For those of us who are saved, we are to confess our sins and repent on a daily basis. Jesus taught us to …Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. A lifestyle of repentance is the key to getting closer to God. Repentance leads the believer to …
Luke 3:16 (ESV) John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John now began to talk about the coming of a mightier one, speaking of Jesus. John baptized people with the baptism of repentance. Jesus would baptize those who repented with the Holy Spirit and fire Jesus began to baptize believers in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 Jesus taught that Spirit baptism would empower believers to be His witnesses. They would receive power to lead other people to Jesus.
Luke 3:17-18 (ESV) His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
John taught that there were two types of people. Those who bore the fruit of repentance were like wheat gathered into the barn. Those who did not bear the fruit of repentance were like the chaff that would be burned with unquenchable fire in hell You might think that John was too tough on people, but the final verse says that he preached good news. The good news was that you could repent and be forgiven. That you could draw close to God and be baptized, avoiding the fire of hell.
Luke 3:21-22 (ESV) Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Now, for the first time in the story of John the Baptist, we are introduced to Jesus. We know from the other Gospels that John baptized Jesus. Jesus was not baptized for repentance from sin, as He had no sin. Jesus was baptized as an example that He taught every believer to follow. He commanded that those who believe are to be baptized, to be baptized by immersion.
Believer’s baptism involves repentance, but you are also baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus as you have put your faith in Him. Not only do we see an example of Jesus to follow in water baptism, we see Jesus experiencing a second baptism. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus as He was praying at His baptism and empowered Him for His ministry. We see from the book of Acts, that often water baptism and Spirit baptism happened at the same time, following Jesus’ example. To follow Jesus, every believer should receive two baptisms, water baptism and Spirit baptism.
What we’ve learned today from John’s mission and Jesus’ example is made clear on the day of Pentecost by Peter.
Acts 2:38 (ESV) And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter explains the three steps in getting close to God in this verse at the conclusion of His message on the day of Pentecost. First of all is to repent. Repentance is turning away from our sin and putting our faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly is being water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, And thirdly is receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is Spirit baptism.
Of these three actions, repentance is to be ongoing on a daily basis. Water baptism is a one-time experience for each believer. Finally, Spirit baptism is an initial filling with the Holy Spirit, in which we must be continually filled.
If you’re a believer here today and haven’t been water baptized since becoming a believer, we encourage you to sign up to be water baptized on your Connect Card. Our next baptism will be May 29. If you haven’t been Spirit baptized and received your prayer language, I’d encourage you to pick up the free book on the table in the foyer, Power for Life. You can also come forward for prayer to be Spirit baptized at the end of every service. God desires for every believer to follow Jesus in receiving two baptisms.
Today, we’ve focused on the first step of getting close to God as taught by John, repentance. If you’ve never repented before, we’ll give you an opportunity in a few minutes to repent and put your faith in Jesus. If you’re a believer, God wants us to live a life of continually repentance. Repentance that does not just consist of words, but of actual changes in our actions in life. Jesus showed us by example and commanded us to follow repentance with water baptism and Spirit baptism. With these foundations in place, we can continue to grow closer to God every day.