Have you ever hoped for something, but no matter how hard you thought about it, wished for it, or admired the potential outcome of it, nothing happened? What if there is an explanation for that… and what if there was a way to get what you hoped for?
- What makes a commercial memorable? How can this apply to our lives as well?
- What would a life of active faith, rather than just belief, look like?
- Are there any areas of your life where you bend toward a consumer attitude? (What’s in it for me?) How does this impact your life and the lives of those closest to you?
- What is the biggest thing on display in your life? What is one thing you can do today to ensure you are displaying the thing you truly value?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So here’s something to think about, and not answer out loud, probably unless you’re with some people you really trust, if your life is a commercial, what are you advertising? Yeah, it’s kind of a disturbing question, and I work way ahead on these messages, so there’s a couple of things in today’s message that sort of just disturbed me in a good way, and this is one of them, if my life is a commercial… If your life is a commercial, and I mean, you’ve got your temperament, your personality and your gifts and your job, and you’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but when you come to mind… When I come to mind when people kinda do the one sentence saying, “Oh, I know Frank, he is… I know Trisha Trish is, if your life is a commercial, and I guess it’s where all of our lives are commercial about something.
I wonder, what are you advertising? And then I think about what are we collectively advertising and what is the church advertising… More on that in just a minute. Today we are in part two of our series investigating Jesus, how we know and why we follow, how we know there’s anything to the life of Jesus and the claims of Jesus, and if there is, why in the world do we choose to follow… And these are extremely important questions because the Christian faith is… We talked extensively about last time, and I don’t wanna redo all of last week, but last week we talked about the fact that the Christian faith, not all faith systems and not even theism, but Christianity specifically rises and falls on the identity of a single individual, Jesus of Nazareth. So when it comes to the veracity of Christianity… Specifically, the question to wrestle to the ground
Is this question, is Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, even one of these is Mathew, Mark, Luke or John a reliable account of actual events. And here’s why this is the question we have to wrestle to the ground when it comes to Christianity, because in the Bible, these four books of the Bible, they’re really just ancient documents that we call books, or we call these the gospels, because these are the four accounts of the life of Jesus.
If any one of these, much less, all four of these are actual… Are reliable accounts of actual events. Then it means that what Jesus said about Himself is true and what Jesus did are things that really happened, and if what these gospels or these ancient documents say about Jesus is true, regardless of your background and regardless of what you thought before, you should sit up straight and pay attention, we should all sit up straight and pay attention regardless of what you think about religion, the existence of God or even the Bible, if any one of these is a reliable account of actual events, game on. So what we’re doing in this series, we are exploring one of these accounts, the gospel or the Book of Luke, Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third Gospel in the New Testament, it’s name for its author, and right up front, as we saw last time, Luke, the author of Luke, tells us exactly what his agenda is, he tells us that, He tells us exactly what he’s doing, and he tells us why he’s doing it, he explains to us why he took the time… This is amazing, to document the life of a first century day laborer from Galilee that started a movement that was considered a cult, and it was crucified by Rome and rejected by His own people.
Why would you do that? That’s a good question. That’s a question we don’t think about because of the way the Bible is presented to us, but he tells us… And here’s how he begins his gospel, I’ll read this quick because we spend a lot of time with this last time, and I wanna move on, here’s how he begins his account of the life of Jesus. Many, I’m Not The Only One, many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have have been been fulfilled right here among us, this happened in his lifetime. Just as they were handed down to us by those who were from the first eye witnesses, in other words this isn’t something I read about that I’m regurgitating, I’ve talked to the eyewitnesses and servants of the word, and this is code word in the New Testament for Jesus. With this in mind, he says, With this in mind, I myself have carefully investigated. I’m not passing along information, I just got randomly from other people.
I have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, from the beginning of Jesus life as we discover, and I too decided to write, along with a lot of other people, I too decided to write an orderly account that is a sequential, chronological account for you, most excellent Theophilus. And Theophilus was probably this, best we can tell and a first century Christian who had become a Jesus follower and had heard the stories and claims of Jesus, but apparently he like many other people in the first century, and Jesus followers are like, “Would somebody please put the whole story together for us, we believe, but I mean, an orderly account would be so helpful, especially when we think about passing this along to the next generation”. So Luke wants to provide Theophilus with reliable answers. Now, here’s what you discover when you begin reading the Gospel of Luke, Luke is not writing religious literature.
Luke has no idea. There’s ever gonna be a the Bible. So he’s not writing religious literature, he’s certainly not writing the Bible, you know what he’s doing, he’s documenting someone’s life, he’s telling someone’s story, a story that took place in his lifetime. And here’s what you discover when you read the Gospel of Luke and you read his second… An ancient document he wrote is called The Book of Acts, it follows the gospels. You discover that Luke knew personally Peter Jesus, most famous disciple. He knew James, the brother of Jesus, and he knew and traveled all around the Mediterranean Basin with the Apostle Paul, who wrote about half the New Testament, and he knew other of the disciples as well. So he thoroughly investigated eye witness accounts, he’s friends with the main players, the key players in the story of the life of Jesus, and then he adds this in his introduction, then we’re gonna jump into the story so that he says the reason I put all this together he says, Theophilus is so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught. And suddenly we are invited into the story…
We are invited into the story because many of you have been taught to follow Jesus as a child or even a young adult, and maybe you’re a new Christian, and so like Theophilus is like, okay, I believe and it’s impacted my life, but I would love for somebody to put the whole thing together for me, so I know with certainty I can have certainty in terms of what I actually believe, so that we can be assured that what we believe is anchored to something… Anchored to history, actually anchored to what happened.
So we’re jumping in three chapters into the Gospel of Luke, Luke, and I’m gonna ask you a question, you can answer this one out loud, Luke actually introduces us to Jesus’s pre-game show, the warm-up act. And who was the warm-up act for Jesus? Anybody know John the Baptist? That’s right, literally, it’s John the baptizer. But I want you to listen, once again, I’m gonna go slow through this text, I want you to listen to how Luke introduces John the Baptist, it’s not once upon a time, or once upon a time during the time of the Romans, he speaks as if he’s giving us history, because he is, in fact, in these next few verses, this is what Luke’s actually doing to his readers, he’s saying… Fact, check me. Fact, check me, I dare you. Here’s how it begins, In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Not during the time of the Romans. Not even during the time of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius Caesar, is Caesar Augustus adopted son. He says, No, I want you to know exactly. I wanna put a pin right on the timeline in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.
Let me just say this, when you are writing a fiction that you’re going to try to pass off as true, you never, ever, ever pin point the event to a specific period of time, it’s too easy to check and debunk, but look at the detail he gives us. In the 15th year, of the reign of Tiberius, you know, When Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, I just want you all to know, I know what’s going on. He says, Herod tetrarch, of Galilee and his brother Phillip, his brother Phillip was the tetrarch, of ateria and trekanaitis and licinius was the tetrarch of Abilene. Are you following me? He’s like, Okay, I just want you to know exactly. When we’re talking about… Look, you don’t do that when you’re making stuff up. This reads like history. Because it’s history. He’s telling us what happened. Then he says this, in that time period, right? Then theword of God, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness. This is the famous John the Baptist. Now, I wish we could spend more time on this. The reason he has to tell us which John he’s talking about is because when you read the New Testament, there are Johns all over the place,
So he has to tell us this is John, but I gotta tell you which John it is, it’s John, the son of Zechariah, who was actually a priest at the temple. Now, John the Baptist is not a Bible character. John the Baptist is a historical character that shows up in this gospel, and in fact in the other Gospels as well, because he had a specific role to play when it came to Jesus, but John the Baptist is known of outside biblical literature, Josephus wrote three big pieces of literature, and tells the whole history of the Jews, and he writes, and he’s writing it in about 90 AD, about 60 years after John the Baptist has died. And when he gets to the piece of history that overlaps with the life of John the Baptist guess, who Josephus talks about, John the Baptist.
Why? Because John the Baptist was such a leading character in that piece of Jewish history, he couldn’t tell the story without referring to John the Baptist. So when Luke introduces us to John the Baptist, you just gotta know he’s not making this stuff up. This was a historical figure that played such a role and caused such a ripple and culture during his time that he could not be ignored. Okay.
So back to Luke, here’s what Luke says. Luke writes, the word of the God, the Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And then he talks about what John the Baptist did, and John went into all the country around the Jordan River, specifically preaching, and this was his message, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Now, one of the reasons John the Baptist caused such a stir, this is a problem, because the Jewish people had an entire system built around how to get… How to get forgiven of your sin, and it happened in Jerusalem at the temple, and lo and behold, this crazy man comes out of the desert saying, You don’t need to go there, the whole thing is corrupt. You need to come to me and I’m gonna baptize you, and I’m gonna call you to repentance of your sin, so you can begin to live out what you’re supposed to live out. And his message, his message was designed to get people ready for the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus, that’s why we call him the warm-up act. And here’s what he would say, something new is coming.
Something new is on the horizon. Someone new is coming, someone new is on the horizon. And you don’t wanna miss it, so update your firmware or you’re gonna miss it, and the way you update your firmware is you gotta start living out your faith and he was very direct. One day, you may have heard the story before, he caused such a disturbance… In fact, the Gospels tell us that all of Judea went to hear John preach. That has to be hyperbole, but if only 10% of Judea went to hear him preach, it was hundreds of thousands of people in that region. So word gets back to the temple, into Jerusalem, “Hey, there’s this crazy preacher down there, he’s kind of undermining everything we’ve believed and done as Jews for hundreds of years”, so the temple leaders, the Pharisees Sadducees, they take this trip, it takes them over a day just to get to where John is baptizing, John sees them coming and he’s so excited that they’re there, he looks up and he welcomes him, he says, Welcome, you brood of vipers. This is so offensive, these are the most respected people in Judea at the time, You brood of vipers who warned you to flee from the…
It’s coming. Get ready, get ready get ready, get ready, get ready. The coming wrath, the coming change of God. And then he looks at them, and these are my words not his. He says basically , Look at me, if you wanna be right with God, if you wanna be prepared for what God is about to do, you have to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. That is, you gotta change your evil ways and you gotta walk your talk, you gotta put some wheels on it, you gotta be doers of the Torah, not just believers in and teachers of the Torah, because the day of reducing religion to tradition are over.
The days of a personalized, internalized only religion, they’re over. And if you don’t repent of that kind of approach, and if you don’t repent of your lack of compassion, your lack of generosity, you’re lack of others versus if you don’t repent, when the knew that God does shows up you’re gonna miss it because you won’t see it because you won’t be living in sync with it, and then he says this is so offensive, and do not begin to say… He knows exactly the excuses they’re gonna raise, and do not begin to say to yourself in other words, don’t comfort yourself with or don’t try to hide behind. And do not say, “Oh, we’re good. We have Abraham, we have Abraham as our father. We’re safe. We’re sons and daughters of Abraham, we’re in. That’s enough, right”? And he says, No, that’s not right. For I tell you so offensive, for I tell you, I tell you out of these stones, God can raise up children of Abraham. Now, when I’m reading this, and you know, preparing and so it was so powerful and just trying to put myself in that context here, it got me to thinking of John the Baptist were to show up, what would he say to us? Well, what’s the context? What’s the crossover? Where is the cultural bridge to us…
Well, what might he say… And I’m not picking on anybody. We all, you know, different stuff going on, but… Well, what would he say to those of us who are… If we’re honest, we’re just kind of comfortable consumer- oriented Christians. What’s in it for me? I don’t like this church, I don’t like that song, I don’t like that music, I don’t have time. What’s in it for me? Marginally committed believers. What would he say to me? What would you say to you? You say something like, “And do not say to yourselves, but I’m a Christian. I pray the sinners prayer, I’ve asked Jesus to be my Savior, I’ve asked Jesus into my heart. I mean, I’m good to go, right”? And John the baptist would rear back and say, “I tell you out of these stones, out of the stones, God can raise up Christians.” It’s disturbing. If it’s disturbing, you understand John the Baptist. John disturbed people, he was trying to disturb them out of their apathy and their self-made religion that was so off-sync with what God was about to do that they were… If they weren’t careful, rushing to the end of the story, if they weren’t careful, even though they were God fearers and God believers, they would miss what God is doing and become enemies of God.
Do you know what he was really doing for them and what he’s doing for us, if we listen, He’s reminding us of what our lives are supposed to be advertising. He’s reminding them, Torah followers, of what their lives were supposed to be advertising. Produce fruit, he said. Fruit, not belief. Fruit, not you got it worked out theologically, fruit and keeping with repentance. Here’s our version, produce fruit and keeping with what you say you believe and who you claim to believe in..
And if this makes you wanna find a kinder, gentler preacher than John the Baptist, or you wish I would not talk about this and talk about prayer, or how to get your prayers answered, how to be comforted in times of sorrow and grief, and you get John the Baptist, if you want more comfort than requirement, you get John the Baptist, you get Jesus, you get what Luke is about to unleash on us because it reflects with God unleashed through Christ in the world. And here’s the thing, John wasn’t discounting being related to Abraham, his point was, that’s not the point, that being related to Abraham, that’s not the finish line, that’s actually just the starting line. And what he would say to us is, “Hey, I’m so glad you put your faith in Christ, and I’m so glad Jesus as your savior. Way to go, but that’s not the finish line, that’s just the starting line”. And his point, his audience was, what’s coming is gonna change everything, and if you aren’t ready, you’re gonna miss it, and you may find yourself at odds with God. Because the new that was coming, the new that was about to be unleashed on the world would be filled by, and animated by and characterized by doing for others. The internalized vertical only religion was out.
And here’s the thing, John’s audience, they got the message. In fact, we know they got the message because of the question they ask… It’s a question that we should all ask. In fact, at the end of today’s time together, I’m gonna challenge you to begin asking this question personally. It’s a question honestly, that if we were to ask this question corporately, if we were to ask this question as families, if we were to ask this question as teachers and community leaders, if we were to all together begin to ask and answer and act on this question, it would change things. And the reason I believe it would change things just because once upon a time, it changed things, it’s why we’re here. Before I show you the question, I just wanna say something to those of you who are maybe unwinding your faith, deconstructing your faith, you’re reaching for the door about to walk out, or maybe you already have… My hunch is this, and I don’t know your story, and I’m not being critical, but I just wanna challenge you with something.
If you listen to the end of this message. It could be that one of the reasons it was so easy for you to discount faith and walk away from faith is you were never challenged to ask the question that John’s audience asked him. Here’s what they said. What should we do then? Not what should we believe? What should we do then, the crowd asked, What should we do to prepare for what God is about to do among us, what should we do so that when it happens, we recognize it. What should we do that when we see it we understand this is God’s work in the world.
We don’t wanna miss it, if God’s about to do something new. How can we best prepare ourselves? And they are, of course, waiting for some religious answer, if you’re gonna prepare, if you’re gonna get ready for what God’s about to do, you know you gotta do something difficult, you gotta do something unusual, you gotta do something religious. And John’s answer surprised them, and it will surprise us as well, they’re ready… Like, What should we do? John’s like, Alright, you’re ready? They’re, “We’re ready. “Alright, John answered. Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none. Like what?
Yeah, anybody’s got two something that if somebody needs one, you should share, but you had us all worked up, you just dissed the entire temple establishment, you’ve criticized everybody, you’ve baptized everybody, and you’re saying to get ready, all we gotta do is share? That’s not very religious. You can do that anywhere. John’s like, “Exactly.” See, you’ve gotten yourself all wound up in something that isn’t even all that important to God, and you’ve missed the fundamental. Because when God does what he’s about to do in the world, you’re gonna discover that he is sharing with the world what is most important, he said and while we’re talking about sharing and anyone, he goes a little deeper, anyone who has food, do the same. Food sometimes was scarce. Food sometimes was expensive. Food didn’t keep… It was hard to transport.
And again, they’re looking at each other like, so we just need to share? John’s like, Yes, if you see a need you can meet, meet it, when you see a need you can meet and it costs you? Meet it. When you have more of what you have, when you have more of what somebody else has and they need it, then you step in, whether they’re Judea, Galilee and Samaritan, it doesn’t matter. When you see a need, you step in and you meet it, because the thing that God is about to do is exactly that. He is about to meet the need of the entire world, a need they can’t meet on their own, and if you’re not living that out you’re gonna miss it when it comes. Wow. To the tax collectors, which is amazing that they’re there, ’cause everybody hates these guys, And they’re there on the outskirts and one of them raises their hand, says, “What about us? What should we do?” John looks over the crowd, and He says, is simple, don’t collect any more than you’re required to.That’s it. That’s it. Stop stealing. This is basic stuff. Stop stealing. If you see a need, meet it, stop stealing. Quit and look,tax gatherers, don’t settle for what’s legal and permissible, we know that’s the way it’s done, the way it’s always done, that’s how you guys enrich yourself, nobody’s gonna arrest you, you’re never gonna get in trouble, everybody has come to expect it. Stop being so normal. Stop being so predictable. Do something extraordinary, don’t settle for standard operating procedure, do something noteworthy and notable, stop and stare, oh my goodness, that’s brand new. Do what’s just, not what you can justify.
Because there is one coming into this world who is going to choose not to exact justice, but to grant mercy and to allow His Father in heaven to take out on Him what He could justify taking out on you, so prepare the way. Now, this teaching of John the Baptist, I know it’s like. It was so good. They thought he was the Messiah.
They’re like, “I think, we think the Messiah has come.” John’s like, “No, no, no. Don’t get excited. Not even close. We are just getting started. Okay, I baptize with water, and you think my words are powerful, there’s one who’s gonna be more powerful than me, and will come. The strips of his sandals, I’m not worthy to untie. Which meant to them, I’m not even worthy to be his slave, much less his follower or his disciple. So get ready, get ready, get ready. How do we get ready? Go do something noticeable, notable, noteworthy. Stop and stare. Which brings me back to the original question. So if you’re a Christian, you believe Jesus is Son of God, Messiah and you’ve accepted Him as your Savior, if your life is a commercial, and by the way, read the New Testament, your life is a commercial, Jesus said, Hey, let me just brand you, he said, You’re the salt of the Earth, you are the light of the world, you are to let your light shine in such a way that people see your, wait for it, good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.
We don’t even get to decide if we’re gonna be in a commercial, the only thing we get to decide is what are we advertising. If your life is a commercial, what are you advertising? What version of faith are you advertising? The internal vertical,”What’s in it for me?” Comforting and comfortable version that requires very little of you ’cause you’re gonna go to heaven when you die, or is my life, is your life, are collectively our lives advertising the John the Baptist version of what we’re about to discover, beginning next week, the Jesus version, the one another version that do for others version, the do for one version. The version of Christianity that does stuff. So I wanna challenge you to begin asking the question that they asked John, it’s the right question, it prepared them for what and who was coming, it ensured that their eyes were wide open and they wouldn’t miss the King, and here was their question, “What should we do?”
Wherever God calls you out to do something, it’s gonna cost you and it’s gonna infuse, there’s gonna be so much joy, and you’re gonna feel like… And most of us can point to a season in our life where this was true, you’re gonna feel as if you’re walking in tandem with God and the work of God in the world. But if you continue to be a hearer only and a consumer only, as I said earlier, you’re in the danger zone because whether you recognize it or not, your faith is wilting and it is dying, and you’ll eventually become so consumed by yourself for yourself, that you may lose your faith.
It’s why you lost your faith, you were introduced to, surrounded with, “What’s in it for me Christianity.” It’s not even the real version, listen to what Jesus said, and I’m gonna close… This is what He said. I’m jumping way ahead. This is an amazing statement, Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven… Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and my sister. Whoever does the will of my Father this is why that was the perfect question. “What should we do?” And John says, I want you to do in your world what God is about to do for the world. And if you do, you’ll recognize God when he does it. John knew that if the people listening to him would do compassion and do generosity and do others first and do for one, they would recognize God’s work in the world, they would recognize the selfless other first Lamb of God. That was about to step onto the pages of history.
Believers didn’t change the world. Doers change the world. Followers changed the world. The men and women, the men and women whose lives advertised the Kingdom of God, the men and women whose lives advertised, thy kingdom come, thy will be done right here right now in my world. So will you ask it, Heavenly Father, what should I do? If you do, your eyes and your heart will be open to what God has next for you and what God has now for your world. And we will pick the story line up right there next time in part three, investigating Jesus, how we know, and why we follow.