This sermon is part of our Inescapable series. Inescapable is a 12 part series that studies the Gospel of Matthew and its messages. You can watch all 12 here.
Isn’t it fun to be in an argument with someone and be right? Those moments when somebody cuts you off in traffic. Those moments when you argue with a friend.
There is a layer in each person that wants to win the argument. We saw this off the charts during the pandemic. We see this today with arguments about Israel and Palestine. Just when we thought were starting to make friends again and now we can argue about Israel and Palestine.
Sometimes we might even find ourselves thinking, “I could be wrong about this” but then instead of admitting we’re wrong, we double-down on our argument. Right? It’s hard to admit when we are wrong. It’s hard to admit when we have made a mistake.
This morning we are going to be in Matthew 3. You can turn to page 23 in your devotional. This morning we are going to see God’s Word make it really clear, a part of following Jesus is admitting you’re wrong.
It’s is the most difficult part of following Jesus, even for those people who have been raised around Jesus their whole life, it is still incredibly difficult, but admitting we are wrong is central to following Jesus. Let’s look at Matthew 3:1-3:
Matthew 3:1-3, “1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’”
In Matthew 1 and 2 we see the genealogy of Jesus, birth of Jesus, authority of Jesus and in Matthew 3, verse 1, this is about 25 years after chapter 2, we see John the Baptist show up. John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist is the second cousin of Jesus.
In Luke 1, Mary, Jesus’ mother is with her cousin Elizabeth and upon hearing Mary’s voice, John, in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, leaps with joy, because Jesus is in the womb of Mary, and Jesus and John are coming near to one another, so that John the Baptist is set aside, before birth, to prepare the way for Jesus.
Listen to me, verse 3 is a quotation of Isaiah 40 in the Old Testament, one will come to prepare the way, and Isaiah 40 is fulfilled in John the Baptist.
So that Jesus’ followers don’t just claim Jesus to be God in the flesh but Matthew is pointing to Old Testament promises (Genesis 12, 2 Samuel 7, Micah 5, Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, Jeremiah 31, all written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth…Jesus is the One we’ve been waiting for. And in verse 3, oh yeah, Isaiah 40.
In addition, at the end of verse 1 we see John the Baptist is gathering people in the wilderness of Judea, which is a desert area down by the Dead Sea. This is a remote area. This is where lizards and cactus come to die.
If you were looking to gather a crowd you would have gone to Jerusalem but John the Baptist goes to the most remote place we could imagine and cries out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What does that mean?
First, the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” is an announcement. It means heaven is coming to earth. The idea of heaven and earth coming together is the idea of the most beautiful things we can imagine.
When husband and wife become one in marriage it is beautiful. People weep at weddings. When mountain tops reach into the heavens it is beautiful. When the ocean connects with land it is beautiful. When sky connects with creation at sunset or sunrise it is beautiful.
In the same way, John the Baptist is announcing, “Get ready, the most beautiful thing we can imagine is coming, heaven and earth are coming together, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” How does that happen? Look at verse 2. Repentance. Take a moment, what would you give as a definition for “repentance?”
And I get it, we’re in the bible belt, we’re in the spiritual blender of Austin, 2023, and it’s possible you hear the word “repentance” and we have a number of reactions.
There are some of us who twitch because you’ve only heard repentance used by caricatures of pastors on television talking about people who have done really bad things. It’s possible some of us have grown up in a church context our whole lives but we’ve never heard “repentance” talked about in church, so it’s confusing. It’s possible some of us are new to church in Austin, new to the bible, so you are not sure what to think when you hear the word “repentance.”
The word “repent” means to turn. It isn’t “penance” where we have to do something to make God happy. Repentance involves the mind and body turning from one direction and going the complete opposite direction. Does that make sense?
Repentance isn’t necessarily filled with emotion, although it might be, but repentance is a supernatural U-turn with your life through faith in Jesus.
Repentance happened in my life when I was 18-years old. I didn’t grow up around Jesus. I didn’t grow up around the church. Instead I had my own personal “John the Baptist” in my life named Lenny who always talked to me about Jesus, so that one day I confessed Jesus is Lord, I believed Jesus resurrected from the dead. I changed the direction my life was going to follow Jesus and the moment I did I entered into His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
This is important. Repentance is a one-time thing; theologically it is called justification. The moment we believe in Jesus we are justified and declared righteous.
But repentance is also an ongoing part of following Jesus. Does that make sense? God’s Word teaches us it is the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance, so we want to see a pattern of turning mentally, emotionally, spiritually from following ourselves to following Jesus.
Right now, our groups are sharing their life stories with one another, so that we not only want to hear about the first time we turned to Jesus in repentance but we want to share stories of repentance throughout our life, until we are face to face with Jesus in eternity. Look at verses 4-6:
Matthew 3:4-6, “4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.”
First, John the Baptist is gone to a remote location in the wilderness, back in verse 1. If you want to start a non-denominational church in Austin or a business today you go to highly populated areas. You look for foot traffic. You do research on the type of people that are there and then you build a business or a church in Austin that will connect with those people. Not John the Baptist!
John the Baptist goes to the middle of a desert and then covers himself with camel hair and a leather belt, which means John the Baptist looks crazy.
He is eating locusts dipped in honey, and this is all language to describe an Old Testament prophet, so that the focus is clear, “John is calling the nation of Israel to turn from listening to themselves and ignoring the Lord.”
Remember, in the Gospel of Matthew the nation of Israel is living under the oppression of a foreign ruler in Rome. The spiritual leaders of Israel have turned from the Lord over and over, so that in verse 5 we see people, in the middle of the nowhere, are finding John and responding with repentance and confession of their sin.
Listen to me, the invitation to enter into the “kingdom of heaven” hasn’t changed. I know Israel is in the news a lot but the message hasn’t changed. It’s the same for the people in Palestine. It’s the same for people in Austin. Repent! Enter into His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Today!
This is why the Apostles pick up on this language and describe every person who believes in Jesus a “citizen of heaven.”
It’s not about ethnicity, it’s not about nationality, it’s not about morality, it’s about His grace, through faith, that begins with repentance, so that every person needs to ask themselves, “Has that happened in my life?”
Have I entered into His Kingdom through faith in Jesus? Once we enter into His Kingdom we are still going to see layers of our life that have yet to surrender to Jesus, therefore, under His reign and His rule, do we see a pattern of repentance?
If you haven’t entered into His kingdom, then do so today! Look at verse 7:
Matthew 3:7, “7 But 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?”
We’re thinking about including this response with our welcome team on Sunday mornings? Pharisees and Sadducees are the religious leaders in Israel.
Pharisees are like bible lawyers who want to defend the holiness of God. Sadducees are more liberal than Pharisees but Sadducees are leaders in the place of worship, but these religious leaders are the same spiritual leaders who have led Israel astray, so John the Baptist says to them, “What are you doing here?”
It’s a radical question. John is risking his life when he asks this question but these are the people Jesus says, “You’re like white-washed tombs.” You are pretty on the outside, but spiritually dead on the inside” so John is asking, “Are you here to repent?” Look at verses 8-10:
Matthew 3:8-10, “8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In verse 8-10 John the Baptist is assuming their objections, so that in verse 9 John the Baptist says, “Do not suppose you can say we are of Abraham.”
It’s confusing today. Israel is in the news. Israel are the chosen people of God, therefore, it sounds like God loves Israel a little more but that is a form of ethnic pride.
It’s why John the Baptist says in verse 9, “Do not think God won’t raise up these stones to worship Him.” What does that mean? It means the Pharisees and Sadducees were replaceable, because our relationship with God isn’t determined by titles, family background, church attendance, how much we serve others or how much we give financially.
I wish I could tell you growing up in a Christian home is all it takes. I wish we could send our kids to Christian schools and that’s all that matters. I wish I could tell you sing our songs on Sunday and we will get you close to God. I wish I could tell you memorize these verses and somehow these “accessories” will negate the death and darkness of our sin but it’s only Jesus.
Entering His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven isn’t adding Jesus to your life but receiving a completely new plan for your life. Does that make sense?
It isn’t try harder. It isn’t clean up your life. It isn’t a fuzzy warm feelings. It’s believing Jesus life, death and resurrection by grace through faith, so that we turn mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and follow Jesus.
So much so that in verse 10 John the Baptist says to the religious leaders, “The axe is already at the root.” Do you hear the urgency? There is urgency to repent. Look at verses 11-12:
Matthew 3:11-12, “11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John the Baptist is always pointing to Jesus. The sandal was the dirtiest part of a person when they entered the house, so that the lowest job was to clean feet and remove sandals yet John the Baptist says, “I am not even fit for that responsibility.”
It speaks to the holiness of Jesus. Keep in mind, this is Jesus’ second cousin. John the Baptist and Jesus grew up together and still John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” He is coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
When you believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection you are baptized with the Holy Spirit. There’s no second step. You’re living in His kingdom. You’re living under His reign and His rule.
You are forgiven of your sin. You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. You are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.
But Jesus is also coming with fire because when we refuse to repent, when we insist on doing what we want to do, Jesus will come with fire. Look at verse 12:
Matthew 3:12, “12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
These words are agricultural words. Wheat and husk grow together, therefore, the farmer will take his fork, throw the wheat into the wind so that the husk blows and the drops to the ground and the wheat is gathered into the barn, so that again we see the warning of fire and judgment for those who refuse to repent.
Listen, I get it, it’s possible some people have abused this language of judgment but the urgency for repentance isn’t just for a day that is coming of judgment, which is sure, but the urgency for repentance is because the kingdom is at hand!
When we reject Jesus. Listen to me, when we harden our hearts and deny Jesus the whole of our life, we are living outside of His kingdom. The judgment of fire is already upon you.
That probably doesn’t make any sense to you because you’ve never lived in His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. You’ve never lived with peace that surpasses all understanding.
If you’re outside His kingdom you’ve never received the love of the Father to its fullest measure. You know the love of the Father in His grace but you just know a percentage. You’ve never felt the love of the Father entirely.
If you’re outside His kingdom you’ve never known the wonder of hiding from God the whole of your life, and then turning to Jesus and knowing the joy of following Him.
It’s why Jesus will actually teach us in a few chapters, “Blessed are those who are pour in spirit, blessed are those who admit they are wrong.” It’s because you receive the joy of living in His kingdom today. Look at verse 13:
Matthew 3:13, “13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.”
It’s almost like you should get to verse 13 and exhale. Jesus’ genealogy has been addressed, Jesus’ birth, Jesus’ authority, John the Baptist announces the way, and verse 13, Jesus is here! Look at verse 14:
Matthew 3:14, “14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”
When John sees Jesus coming, the lamb of God, god man, why would Jesus do this? John knows Jesus is without sin. Therefore, in Jesus’ baptism, Jesus is identifying with humanity. Jesus is identifying with those who are broken. Look at verse 15:
Matthew 3:15, “15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.”
There are two key things here really quick. Jesus fulfilled all the law. Jesus lived a perfect life, so that Jesus becomes a suitable sacrifice to stand in our place at the cross and take our judgment upon Himself.
It’s why Jesus can offer forgiveness. Everyone knows that offenses in life carry consequences. God’s Word doesn’t just tell us we are forgiven. The consequence is our sin and Jesus steps in our place at the cross, as a suitable sacrifice, so that we might be forgiven and enter into His Kingdom.
In addition, I want you to see how John the Baptist is still in process in verses 14-15. Sometimes we think we need to have faith in Jesus figured out 100% and then turn to Jesus but John didn’t. John is asking Jesus in verse 14, “What are you doing?”
I need you to hear this, you don’t have to have all your questions answered. You don’t need to be 100% convinced. You don’t need to have your life in order. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
No, John the Baptist still has questions, therefore, this morning you might be in a place where you say, “What if I only have 1% belief in Jesus?” Then, repent! The kingdom of God is at hand! Turn to Jesus, trust in Him, follow Him and watch Him fill up that 99%!
Even as we talk to friends and family about Jesus, let them know they don’t have to have it all figured out. They don’t have to have every question answered. They just need to believe.
You’re here this morning because the God of heaven is drawing you to Himself. You’re wanting to be around God’s people because the God of heaven is drawing you to Himself. Turn to Jesus and follow Him! Look at verses 16-17:
Matthew 3:16-17, “16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Do you know Jesus? I am not asking, “Do you go to church in Austin?” Did you come from the right family? Do you have the right titles? None of those things matter. Do you know Jesus? Do you know repentance? If not, turn to Jesus and follow Him today.
When you speak to friends and family, invite them to trust in Jesus. Today people are inviting people to believe in Republican, Democrat, Libertarian. Why not Jesus?
Let’s lower the lights. Let’s invite the worship team to the front. It’s possible some of might be wondering, “Have I trust in Jesus?” Have I entered into His kingdom on earth? How do you know?
You know you are indwelled with the Holy Spirit because you will want to obey Jesus and His Word. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean you see perfect obedience, none of us have that, but you see an attitude of wanting to obey Jesus.
You will want to sing to Jesus. We will want to serve others. You will want to confess and turn to sin. You will want to admit when you’re wrong. You will want to extend compassion toward others. You will want to memorize God’s Word. You will want to grow in boldness of your faith. Therefore, if you see those things in your life, rejoice, the Spirit of God is at work in you!
But, if you don’t see those desires in yourself, it’s possible, like the religious leaders of old, you’ve just been around religious activity. Don’t stay there. Trust in Jesus today! We will have people at the back to pray with you and pray for you. Will you pray with me?
North Village Church
This sermon is brought to you by North Village Church, a non-denominational church in Austin. established in 2009 and built around Jesus and Bible teaching.
Are you looking for a church in Austin? At North Village Church we put Jesus at the center of our church family. We worship together every Sunday at 10:30am, encourage Christ centered fellowship through groups, and host special events such as Bible studies and Theological Training, to ensure that we are rooted in in God’s Word. We also serve our local community in association with several Austin based organizations.
North Village Church is made up of professionals, married couples, singles, and families who are wanting to experience the life-transforming power of Jesus. If you are a family with children or teens, we can support you with either or both our Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry.
You are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.
Unable to attend this Christian Church in Austin? Don’t worry, because, through God’s provision, we have created NVC online, an Online Church streaming a worship service every Sunday from 10:30am Central Time. You can also watch our short, powerful sermons on demand and follow us on Instagram for daily Christ centered content.