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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Advent 2 – Mt 3:1-12- Thoughts and Meditation

Invitation to you Sermon Writers or bible study prep's!


A Politically Incorrect Sermon or AKA... You'll Burn in Hell!

One phrase in this passage stuck in my head as I was reading: '...and with fire' v11. As a Lutheran (...please don't leave!!!), I knew all about the "water together with the word", and the "Holy Spirit living in us" aspects of baptism, but never had I heard this. Jesus would baptize with fire? Maybe I skipped that confirmation class. I knew that this statement was not an idle add-on to this passage, but an essential part of understanding what John is stating.


Fire is most commonly used as a reference to destruction of something morally corrupt. John also refers to the 'coming wrath', which is also coupled with the idea of judgement. John would make a lousy modern day PC preacher. No-one told him that when you want to bring people to confession and true repentance, instilling fear in the listener, by mentioning fire and brimstone will produce a 'false faith'. One in which the idea of grace is not fully comprehended, but one lived out of fear of a God who supposedly will destroy us for stepping out of line at school. John was the atypical preacher of his time that is for sure. He goes out to the desert, and expects people to come to him. He dresses poorly, and eats even worse. What attraction did this Nothing have?


The message of doom.


There is no way to escape the content of v2 - "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." John was not saying, "Come and get your ticket - God's coming to get you!" Instead he says, "Repent - it is what you need to do, otherwise God's coming will burn you up." If you still are not so sure, then look for the answer in this passae to the question - "What is impending?" You'll find this list: 'kingdom of heaven' v2, 'coming wrath' v7, 'the ax' v10, 'the fire' v10, 12, 'the clearing of the threshing floor where a seperation of wheat and chaff will take place' v12. That to me sounds like judgement.


John was enraged by the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming down to watch the goings on at the Jordan. Reading between the lines, it appears that they may have even wanted to be baptized by John. His statement in v8 seems to point to the possibility that they were "repenting" in some way - why otherwise would John say, "Who warned you to flee..." v7 (repentance being the act of fleeing), as well as, "produce fruit in keeping with...". It could refer to their repentance at the temple through sacrificial atonement. Either way, the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees were not right - there was no fruit v8.


There were two kinds of people coming down to confess at the Jordan. There was the person out of Jerusalem, Judea, or Jordan itself. Then there was the Pharisee and Sadducee. Both parties professed to be followers of God. Both had some measure of apparent repentance v6, 8. However, the Pharisee and Sadducee were claiming birthright (v9) as their way to salvation. John states that they are vipers - which essentially adds up to, "You are evil". The 'fruit' on their 'tree' was apparently bad -

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit
will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Matt 12:33

The leaders of the church were being held accountable. They were the people who should have had it right with God. Instead they were being shown up as corrupt.


Bonhoeffer wrote in, "The Cost of Discipleship", about cheap grace and costly grace. The Pharisees and Sadducees were advocates for cheap grace. Their faith was shallow and misdirected. Thinking that faith in God meant 'law-abidingness', they missed the deeper reality of faith in God - that it would cost them their lives. Their nature was still an evil tree producing bad fruit. They had not been transformed into trees that produce good fruit which is the essence of costly grace.


My wife and I have been looking for a church to join. we have settled on a major church in our area, which suits us fine. Yet one thing that has bothered me about this church, as well as with others that we have attended is the lack of confession during worship. As a Lutheran who grew up with this liturgical component every week, it is puzzling why it has been left out of the modern worship services that predominate the landscape in non-traditional churches. I long for a church with excellant preaching, a strong confessional foundation, and modern worship... oh, and it has to be Lutheran!


1. Structural Diagram
2. Surrounding Context
3. Key Cross References
4. Key Questions
5. Thoughts and Meditation

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