John the Baptist 1 The Promise of the Preparer - Luke 1
but not very successful artist went to asked the gallery owner, who was
exhibiting his art, if there had been any recent interest in his paintings on display
Well, I have good news and bad news, the gallery owner replied. "The good news is that a gentleman inquired about your work and wondered if it would appreciate in value after your death."
"Really, well what did you say?" questioned the artist.
"When I told him it would. You were a well-respected artist and all you needed was a break and one day you would be famous. After that he bought all 15 of your paintings."
"Wow, really? That's wonderful!" the artist exclaimed. But you said good and bad news. What was the good new?
"It turns out that that man, was your doctor...."
You know we all want to fulfill our potential, to find and meet our purpose in life and in all the world I believe that the people with the greatest potential to do great things are people just like I see in this sanctuary. Christians have the potential to change the world and to touch eternity. But it is also true that those same people often waste that potential. Our sermon and new series this morning is about John the Baptist and the potential and purpose we find in him and in all those who a part of his birth.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Background of the announcement.
This was Zacharias first and only time to serve in the Temple. Many Levites never got this chance as they were chosen by a lottery and only a few of the many thousands of Levites could ever hope to see the inside of the Holy Place. This is why the family all waited outside the Temple for Zacharias to come out, they were going to share in this once in a lifetime event.
Little did they realize it how momentous it was going to be. While in the Temple the angel Gabriel spoke to him and gave the first prophetic word, the first new revelation from God since 487 BC, around 500 years had passed in silence without God speaking directly to his people. But now that time of silence was broken.
And oh, how it was broken, with the Angelic prophecy that the forerunner would be the child John, born to a Zacharias and Elizabeth, a couple too old to conceive. God never seems to get tired of that miracle does He.
Look at vss Luke 1:13-17 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Only three other births are so announced, Samson, John and Jesus. Now let me throw a high theology, high dollar, highbrow phrase at you to fully describe the birth of John the Baptist. Are you ready? You might want to write this down somewhere for future reference. Here it is. The birth of John the Baptist was a really big deal! (Make sure you get the exclamation point.) The first revelation directly from God in 500 years was about John the last prophet of the old Testament and the first prophet of the New Testament. And he would be called the greatest of the prophets because his birth would prepare the way of the Messiah. He would prepare the way, that the heir of David’s throne, would walk in this world and into the hearts of those who heard John message of, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
What potential for God’s grace and goodness and it was going to be wrapped up in the birth of this baby boy. He was to be a Nazarite from birth, like Samson, he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth and his God given name, showed what God was purpose was for his future. John is Ἰωάννης Iōannēs in Greek and comes from the Hebrew, Yohanan and it means "Jehovah is a gracious giver or Jehovah gives grace.”
As I was thinking about John, this unborn child that God had instilled with so much potential, I couldn’t help but also think about us. I know we can’t be John, with one foot in the OT and one in the NT, but I have to believe that if we trust and look to God, that God’s plan for us, the potential He plants in us thought the Holy Spirit is something we don’t full appreciate or fully fulfil.
The world under the influence of sin and Satan tells us all the time, “You can be anything you choose to be. Follow your dream. Just believe in yourself.” Now some of that sentiment is necessary to be successful in anything in life but taken to their logical end they aren’t really true. I can’t be anything I want cause then I would choose to be 25 years old and with a full head of hair. Following your dream can make me selfish, self-centered and make you leave your family, your responsibility and put you in places you never dreamed you’d be. Believing in yourself can make you miss believing in God. Instead I need to believe in God and what God has purposed for my life.
Our Potential In Christ. This world can only make false promises to us, but in Christ there is the potential to be more and possess more than this world can ever falsely promise.
True Lasting Peace - John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.The gift of joy
Abundant Full Life - John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.A new life John 3:5
New Birth and Eternal Life - John 3:15-17 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Heaven’s Authority - Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Kingdom Authority - We even have the potential to rule the world. Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 1 Corinthians 6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?
Just think of it. We have the potential to be reborn, to be forgiven, to experience the blessings of God in our family, our life, our church. You even have the potential to change the lives and eternity of others through the Gospel of God’s grace. No, we won’t be a John the Baptist, but I can be the Kris the Christian and that means I have the potential of God’s power, providence and peace to do great things in my life, my family and my world through Him.
My 5th grade teacher Mrs. Trojonovich,
"Kris, you have so much potential, when will you begin to live up to it." Well, to this day I don’t ever think I lived up to Mrs. Trojonovich’s ideal for my potential but I think of her words every time I try. And you know I may have missed Mrs. Trojonovich’s mark for my full potential, but I am so glad that I found my eternal potential in Jesus Christ my Savior.
Realizing we have potential through the Lord is only the first step. Potential is only a goal, a possibility until it is proven. So, how is that done? In a way you probably would not think. Look at vss. 18-23
Aged Zacharias is serving in the temple, his lottery draw was to burn the incense as he entered into the Holy Place of the Temple. It is an amazing honor and privilege to be able to carry that censor with coals from the brazen altar into the Holy place and light the altar of incense. The family and relatives are outside the Temple praying and as Zacharias enters the first veil to light the “sweet incense” made of rare fragrances and pure frankincense. Then suddenly standing by the altar of incense is the angel Gabriel, one of only two named angels in all the Bible. He tells Zacharias that he will be the father of the forerunner, the preparer of the way for the Messiah. And Zacharias is stunned. He cannot believe what he hears. And so he asks for proof.
Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
The angel then sets things in perspective. Luke 1:19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. It would seem that Gabriel is a little surprised that he has to prove his word to Zacharias.
I mean really. I don’t know about you but I think if I was in the presence of an angel in the Temple of God, I wouldn’t even be able to say or ask anything. I’d just meekly nod my head in agreement and wonder. But it has been 500 years since God has spoken and Zacharias needs some confirmation. And so God, through Gabriel, give the proof. But I think it was not what Zacharias was looking for.
Luke 1:20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb (mute), and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
God's proof is in striking Zacharias silent. He has been completely removed from any possibility of saying anything. He can’t walk outside and give glory to God, he can’t tell those who were waiting for him why it took so long to come back out. He is speechless and powerless.
When he does come out the people realize something has happened. Luke 1:21-22 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
He remains silent, and yet in his silence he will now better serve and be able to believe in the God who sends an angel to bring good news. His path to God’s purpose for him is through humility and his handicapped.
For us to find our own path to Potential in Christ. There are some basic things that must always take place.
First, Believe In God's Word
Not just reading but respecting, honoring, trusting and acting through the revelation of God to us. God's word should change me, motivate me, bring me to action, inspire me, stand me on my feet one time and then knock me to the floor another time. God is speaking and it must affect me.
1 Kings 19:11-13 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
Secondly, I must trust that my weakness, my inability, my handicap, will be how God's strength is seen.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.c) Many have quit because they couldn't stand in their own strength and never learned that God wanted their weakness not their power.
God's power replaces our weakness and it shows God instead of us.
Finally, you must listen for God in the quietness and solitude of life.
"There is strength in numbers but vision comes in solitude." And for almost all the great heroes and servants of the Bible, like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Jacob, Mary, Paul or John the Apostle. When God spoke to them it was during time of quietness, and solitude. God most intimate conversations are always when we are alone with Him.
A small sickly six year old boy was sent home from school with a note from his teacher. "Your son is too stupid to learn." The boy's mother refused to quit believing in the potential of her son and began to train him at home. That boy was Thomas Alva Edison. His failure at school provided the opportunity for his true potential to be fulfilled.
You know who know you better than your mother? God. And God knows our full potential, after all He placed it in us. Now all that is needed is for me through faith in God’s word, my humility and weakness and my listening to God’s voice in the solitude of my soul, to see the path to God’s providential purpose and potential in me.
Understanding our potential and seeing it is still not enough we must fulfill it. Look to vss. 39-45
Zacharias and Elizabeth go home and Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Luke 1:24-25 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, -- Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. Elizabeth accepted the blessing and the mission that God gave her with a child born late in life.
Then once again Gabriel is sent, this time to Mary, the mother of Jesus. He tells her she will give birth to the Messiah and also that her aged cousin Elizabeth is 6 months with child through the power of God. Luke 1:36-37 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Mary then visits her cousin and something amazing happens, just in case there haven’t been enough amazing things up to this point. Luke 1:39-45 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
John the Baptist Baby, still in the womb of his mother, leaps for joy. If anyone ever tells you that a baby is not a human being until they are born then that person has never read what the Bible says about God and babies in the womb. John only about 6 or 7 months old and he leaps for joy because he has come into the presence of his Messiah and Jesus is in the womb, no more than a few weeks old.
The Bible without a doubt proclaims that a baby in the womb is fully a child in God’s judgment and that judgment is the only judgment that we will be responsible for now and in eternity.
Mary goes back home to await the fulfillment of her own purpose through the power of God and Elizabeth bears her promised child. Luke 1:57-64 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
Elizabeth, Mary, and Zacharias all find their full potential fulfilled by faith in God's word and promises. When Zacharias takes that wax tablet and writes down, “His name shall be John” all the praise and glory he couldn’t give when he came out of the Temple is now amplified by the Holy Spirit and he himself becomes an oracle of God, prophesying about his son.
Luke 1:76-79 And thou, child, shalt be called the
prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to
prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God;whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
We might wish an angel would visit us and tell us exactly what God’s purpose is for us as his servants, but again we aren’t John the Baptist and we are not living at a time of God’s plan for the ages intersecting our own times. And yet God does have a purpose for all of us and though it was not given through the visitation of an angel, it is given through the work of the Holy Spirit to the writers of scripture.
Our God given purpose has not been left to guesswork, or emotions or our own visions. Instead, we have been given a concrete, understandable plan and purpose for our life. Too many times we are wasting time trying to figure out God's will instead of simply doing God's will.
God has clearly told us this is how it will be for all of his people. Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. The question is not what is God's will for God has revealed it in His word, the question is will I submit to His will?
Throughout the Bible people are not called upon not to figure out God's will or purpose for them but to simply get busy and do it.
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD
I Kings 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I can only fulfill my potential, my purpose in God, if I know God’s will written in His Word word and then surrender myself to His will. I must surrender my strength for God will only use my weakness. I must surrender my pride for God will only use my humility. I must surrender my fear for God will only use my faith. I must surrender my future for God will only use me now.
An American evangelist asked William Booth if he would disclose the secret of his success. Tears came into his eyes and began to steal down his cheeks, and then he said, "I will tell you the secret. God has had all there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, men with greater opportunities; but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart, I made up my mind that God would have all of William Booth there was, and if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."
The evangelist walked away and later wrote, "The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender."
We have so much potential, so much promise in our relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Yet we too often miss that potential, that power, that purpose because we do not know it, believe it or will not act upon it. Now is the time to begin to fulfill our potential by simply believing in God's promise and then acting in that faith.
It starts with a personal relationship with Jesus. Is He your Savior, your Lord, your master, your teacher, your friend who gave his life as a substitute for you on the cross?
And then it continues as you yield yourself daily to the will of God. Will you do that this morning? Will you accept His promises and simply believe and act in faith according to what God has said in his word?
One of the saddest realizations in eternity will be the fact that so many settled for the loose change of this world when they could have had the eternal riches of God.
It often starts with a walk up a church aisle or a single prayer from the heart. Take the first step this morning.