There was a time when different States had different mottos on their number plates

Different local councils had different mottos: Sutherland shire is "the birthplace of a nation". Botany Bay is where Captain Cook landed. Nothing like a few years to make us realise how insensitive that sounds to first nation people. 

But for Israel, her birthplace was the wilderness and the river Jordan. In the wilderness, God entered into a covenant at Mt Sinai. It was in the wilderness that Israel was tested and found wanting. From there they crossed the Jordan River and entered the promised land.

So, it's not surprising that John the Baptist came crying out, in the desert and baptising in the River Jordan. Here was Israel's birthplace. The last of God's great prophets came to renew the

Covenant with God's people. Calling on them to start again in preparation for the Messiah, God's King.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” ~Matthew 3.1-2 (NIV)

It was a message of repentance, turn from your sin and turn to God. Like the prophets of old, it was a call for Israel to come back to God. You cant start the new life unless you turn from the old life, it was a word to begin again, it was not just to the ratbags of Israel

People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan ~Matthew 3:5 (NIV)

To God's own nation, John came saying, ‘You have got it wrong start again! Repent!’ Repentance is not just remorse, take Peter and Judas, both sinned, both felt bad. Judas betrayed Christ and he was seized with remorse, Peter denied Christ 3 times and wept bitterly but only Peter repented.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. ~2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)

Repentance brings salvation and leaves no regret. John the Baptist is like the sign on a ramp on the expressway that says

"Go back, you’re going the wrong way" The message from this prophet was bringing Israel to her knees.

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. ~Matthew 3:6 (NIV)

John was calling for Jews to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. He is telling those who thought they were in that they were out and had to start again. They came confessing. To confess your sins is to stand with God and agree with you, I have failed I need your mercy. But not all came to repent

… he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, ~Matthew 3:7 (NIV)

They represented the two big elite sections of respectable religion. They didn’t think they needed to confess and get baptized. So John hammers them with a barrage of judgment.

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. ~Matthew 3:7b-8 (NIV)

You can't fake repentance, good works will never put you right with God but good works will always be found in the one who is right with God. Faith will always bear fruit. Faith and good works are like conjoined twins who share the same heart. They must not be confused, they must not be separated. 

You try to have faith without works or repentance without fruit and you will die! It's why at MBM our vision is to see lives transformed not just informed. So why won’t these Pharisees and Sadducees repent?

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Matthew 3:8-9 (NIV)

They had trusted in their national religious identity, they say to themselves, ‘I am a Jew, son of Abraham, therefore I am a child of God’. John had exposed their misplaced trust.

What conversation do you have with yourself? Because I am an Anglican, a Catholic, Orthodox, or Baptist; because I am Assyrian, an Arab, or Argentinian; I have been baptized, confirmed, ordained, I'm ok with God.

You are not born into a faith, you need to be born again.

What lies are you telling yourself right now? Stopping you from repenting? Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” And the Kingdom has come near because the King has come and his name is Jesus. God is beginning a revolution.

In Jesus, God has come to reclaim the world that has turned its back on him. From Isaiah 40 John the Baptist's job is to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord - Yahweh.

The message is not simply repent, it's repent or die, to those who want to play religion the warning is severe.

The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ~Matthew 3:10 (NIV)

No fruit = No salvation.
No repentance = No Rescue.

It is not a popular message to preach repentance. 

A guy at church who smoked dope, understood it was wrong and felt remorse, he understood Jesus' death for his sins but smoked with guilt, morning, noon and night. His last minister told him he should stop it but he said, ‘we all battle with sin’. I see no battle so I see no fruit of repentance, I suggested he consider stop calling himself a Christian until he does repent. He walked away, slightly dumbfounded, 2 days later he came back and thanked me for drawing the line. He was a man with a weak will in a society with a weaker will. He confused remorse and regret for repentance. Produce fruit for repentance

The one who will bring this judgement will not be John but Jesus, not so meek and mild

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. ~Matthew 3:11 (NIV)

And for those who do not confess and bear fruit

His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~Matthew 3:12 (NIV)

For those who don’t repent Jesus will cut down and cast out and they will be consumed in the fire of judgment, Jesus is not to be fooled with.

There was this Christian woman who went on Tinder, engaged in a series of sexual relationships, married one of the men she was sleeping with who claimed to be Christian and together they attend church. They never missed a beat at church, he didn't feel any guilt or shame, she had no problem with it. No confession, no remorse, no repentance, she has no idea that the axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Christianity is not a religion it is not even a relationship with Jesus. Christianity is a relationship with Lord Jesus on his terms.

John twice says No to baptism. He says ‘no’ to those who don't want to repent and He says ‘NO’ to the one who doesn't need to repent. The amazing thing is that Jesus wants John to baptise him. You see the problem? Why would the sinless Son of God, the judge of all the earth, need to be baptised for repentance?

What sin would he need to confess? There is none! He knew no sin.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” ~Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV)

When everyone else is baptized what happens? They confess their sins, when Jesus is baptised the Spirit descends and anoints Jesus as Messiah. He is what Israel never was and in him God will start again.

If you have repented and put your faith in Christ I urge you to be baptised as a mark of repentance. When we each are baptised and confess our sin, the heavens remain silent,

God says you will get no argument with me!

When Jesus is baptised God tears the heavens apart and declares “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Finally someone who did it right and kept the covenant.

Have you noticed that when people are prepared to confess their failures to each other we are so quick to rescue people?

You’re not that bad, You’re being too hard on yourself, You’re only human. When what we should be saying is You’re much worse than you can imagine, You’re more loved than you can ever hope. 

But why does Jesus allow himself to be baptized? As St Paul put it ‘He who knew no sin...became sin’. He is the Servant of the Lord from Isaiah 42 who stands with us before he dies for us, Jesus identifies with the sin of the people he came to die for.

The ministry of Jesus begins by not just with a call to repent and a word of judgment but instead Jesus standing in your shoes allowing himself to be baptized so that he can bear your sins.

This is the logic: you sin, He dies, He dies you live. Sinless Jesus not only plunges into the waters of the Jordan, He plunged into the judgment of God at the cross. Without Jesus' death, the call to repent is impossible and unbearable. With it, repentance is a joy and privilege.

When I became a Christian I was convicted by the Spirit in whom I was baptised into. I had prior lied about my Dad's income so I could get a government allowance, I knew I needed to confess the theft to the government and pay it back. Restitution is part of repentance, I got a job and paid the government back $5000 over a year. Repentance is a Spirit-given gift, I loved paying that money back, I was so glad to know Jesus and enjoy his mercy and be in his kingdom.

After what Jesus did for me it was the least I could do. 

Our good works confirm our election. There are a lot of Christians who lack assurance because they have an intellectual faith not a faith with the fruit of repentance.

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