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THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

5 DECEMBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Luke 3:1-14
1 Peter 3:8-9
2 Peter 3:8-13

When there is a serious problem, have you ever heard someone say, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” Yet most often that very person won’t do anything himself or herself.

But then someone will step forward to do something, and the others begin to find fault with what they do, even though they themselves were unwilling to do anything.

Such a person who does something with unconditional love and compassion is like a voice crying in the wilderness.

The conditions they saw were in an unloving and uncompassionate wilderness, for there were no others to help the oppressed.

And once they begin to extend their love, they often find the wilderness expanding because of so many disinterested people.

But hidden in and among the wilderness are those who themselves would like to help; but because they, too, feel alone they do nothing.

But when they hear the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, they respond.

John the Baptist was one of those crying in the wilderness, as we should be today.

Listen to what we are told in Luke 3:1-14.

1. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

2. in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.

3. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;

4. as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.

5. 'Every ravine shall be filled up,
And every mountain and hill shall be brought low;
And the crooked shall become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;

6. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

I know you have heard me talk about animals several times – about how they were created very much like us; and here in verse 6 is one of those verses that emphasizes my cry in the wilderness.

We are told that “all flesh” shall see the salvation of God. The Greek word that is used here means the flesh of both animals and people.

God’s message of salvation is for them, too; because God wants the animals’ pain and suffering to end, just as He does ours.

John came forth proclaiming the coming of Jesus Christ; but at the same time, he was preparing the way through his call to repentance – a call to people to change their “heart condition.”

7. He [John] therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John is so sensitive to the feelings of sinners, isn’t he?

He’d rather speak harshly, and keep someone from going to hell, than to speak softly and get no response.

So, with this harsh beginning to attract their attention, he proceeds to tell them what they must do:

8. “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

If the Israelites were unwilling to repent and change their way of life, and if the Christians of today are likewise unwilling, then God Himself is able to raise up for Himself children from the rocks; for the rock will be softer and easier to mold into His children than the hardened hearts of the unrepentant people.

9. “And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

What John is saying is that no one should feel so secure in their position with God simply because they were born into a Jewish or a Christian family, for they can be cut off.

Those who are true Jews, or true Christians, are those who bring forth the repentant fruit of their belief in their everyday lives.

10. And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?”

11. And he would answer and say to them, “Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise.”

12. And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”

13. And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”

14. And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”

This is to bring forth the fruit of our belief.

This is the proof that our repentance is at least sincere in part.

Listen to what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:8-9.

8. To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;

9. not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Our blessing is our salvation.

And a life deserving such a blessing will bring forth this kind of fruit.

Just as we must prepare for Christmas, so must we prepare our lives for the day of the Lord.

Peter amplifies that fact in his second epistle: 2 Peter 3:8-13.

8. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

10. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

11. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

12. looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

13. But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

This is the ultimate advent.

This is why there always seems to be one crying in the wilderness, calling people to repentance, calling for them to soften their hearts and to bring forth a life of unconditional love and compassion.

But within their cry, they speak of two advents: that of destruction and that of everlasting life with peace and righteousness.

So, where is your hope?

Is it in the worldly things you can acquire now?

Or is your hope in the return of Jesus Christ, which ushers in a new age where there will no longer be any death, or pain, or suffering; but where all will live with the Lord in love and peace.

I pray your hope is in this kind of a Merry Christmas!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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