OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
We’re in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW.” We are 4 days from January 2015. Many of you may not know that the word January comes from Janus the Roman God of transitions. He is usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, one to the past and one to the future. This morning were going to do some reflecting back and some resolving forward.
Luke 3 2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
Overall Background: The passage we just read describes a period of great transition in the history of God’s people. The old order was coming to a close and a new order was about to begin. For almost 400 years there had been an eerie silence but now a voice was heard crying in the wilderness. There was a transition in God’s plan of redemption.
Although we will see this passage theologically, there are some powerful applications for our daily lives as well. Each of us are at a transition point in our lives. 2014 is ending and 2015 is about to start. For some of us, 2014 was a dark year, a year of pain, of disappointment, and of unfulfilled goals. That thought can paralyze you and leave you hopeless. But thank God for new years! It is God’s way of reminding us to start again and not lose hope and we’re not talking about wishful thinking and power of suggestion.
Application: Has this year been a year of pain, disappointment, and unfulfillment? Look to the Holy Spirit this morning. Let Him change your perspective on the past. Let Him bring hope into your life for the upcoming year. Do you know Christ as your Savior? There’s no better way to begin this year than by making Him your Savior.
There are 3 things we will see in this passage:
I. THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE
Listen once again to verse 2 “while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” In a sense the wilderness refers to the wilderness of Judea near the Jordan River. But I think it has a deeper meaning. It’s referring to the moral, political, and spiritual wilderness and emptiness in Israel. God’s people were living in darkness. To understand this, we have to go back to verse 1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee…
Background: This is quite an interesting passage. Seven different rulers are mentioned in these two verses. There is a reason why Luke listed them. It’s not just a chronological marker. Let’s look at them briefly:
- Tiberius Caesar – He was the stepson of Augustus. He was not the next in line to be the Emperor of Rome but since Augustus’s grandsons (Lucius Caesar and Gaius Caesar) had died, the lot fell upon Tiberius in AD 14. What kind of man was Tiberius? Oh he was a great general but, as an individual, he was horrible – a cruel man, a homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. The Roman historian Suetonius describes some of the heinous things that he did for pleasure. He was the Caesar who is mentioned in the Gospels.
- Pontius Pilate – Tiberius ruled through prefects or procurators who were financial officers in charge of keeping peace and collecting taxes. What kind of a man was Pontius Pilate? The little we know about him is that he repeatedly agitated the Jewish people by putting up images of the Emperor in Jerusalem (for which Tiberius got onto him), taking money from the Temple to build an aqueduct and when the Jewish people protested, he had his soldiers in the crowd attack and kill them, and the list goes on.
- Herod tetrarch of Galilee and Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis – they were both sons of King Herod. And if you know what’s coming later – Herod Antipas took Herodias his own brother Philip’s wife (By the way, he is not to be confused with Philip the tetrarch of Iturea. There was another brother named Herod Philip). He was also responsible for giving the orders to cut off John the Baptist’s head because he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter.
- Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – not much is known about this ruler but he’s the same.
- Annas and Caiaphas were high priests – Annas was the father-in-law who was removed from his position as high priest but he held onto the title. Caiaphas married his daughter and kept the family business going. The position of high priest was not about holiness and righteousness but about money, politics, and power. Remember – these were the men who condemned Jesus to be crucified.
This was a wilderness period in the life of God’s people. But remember – every time God begins to do a powerful work He always takes us to the wilderness:
- Moses was in the backside of the desert for 40 years before he led his people out of Egypt. His pride was broken down. He was very reluctant to go back.
- David had to live in caves and wilderness for about 8 years before he became king.
- Jesus spent 40 days and nights being tempted in the wilderness.
- Paul went to Arabia, probably Mount Sinai, for three years before beginning his ministry.
Wilderness may seem bad at the moment but it’s always God’s way of beginning something new. The time limit may be a few years, few months, or a few weeks. You can look at them in despair or you can look at them in anticipation of great days ahead.
Application: When you look at 2014, what do you see? Do you see wilderness? Do you see emptiness – spiritually, relationally, aspirationally? The important thing to understand is that God allows these times of wilderness to bring us to a place where all we can do is say “God, unless you bring life, there’s nothing but death. Unless you do something new, there is no hope.” The sooner you can acknowledge that, the better.
II. THE WORD ARRIVES
2 “…the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
Background: What was John doing in the wilderness? Maybe he was disenchanted or tired of trying to reach people. We’re not sure. But the word arrives! The word for “word” is “rhema.” This is not like the word for word in John 1, which is “logos.” Here rhema refers to God’s special call on a person’s life. Like Moses and the burning bush.
Do you know that this morning God’s “rhema” is coming to you? There’s something that God is saying specifically to you. The Holy Spirit is calling you to some action.
Illustration: God’s call came on my life one Sunday morning when I was listening to Nicole’s dad preach. I had heard that call when I was a young boy and again when I was in college but I thought I misheard it. But then it came again and thank God I obeyed!
God’s word is coming to some of you this very moment. Don’t think it’s always to be a preacher or a missionary. God is also calling some musicians, lawyers, business people, electricians, politicians, actors, etc.
What did John do? He did not complain about the wilderness. He did not explain to God how bad things were. Instead, listen to verse 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” John obeyed.
Sadly, some of us have lost hope. We won’t admit it but we have given up. We have been in the wilderness so long that we have lost the vision that God gave us. In fact, there are some here who think that God doesn’t care for them.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Application: Have you lost hope? Have you given up? Is the word of God coming to you this morning? Are you in a position where you are open to His voice? The real battle in the wilderness is whether God loves you. If you can answer that question with an affirmative, hope will come into your heart that very moment. If you hesitate, it’s because you are questioning the love of God in your life. God loved his people. His people were living in the wilderness. But Jesus had already come. John had hope.
III. THE VOICE CRIES OUT
4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness…”
There are 2 things the voice does:
- It calls us to prepare our hearts. Listen again to verse 4 – ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ Repentance involves turning from sin and returning to God. If you want to leave the wilderness experience, the place to begin is by turning from sin and turning towards God. Call sin by its name. Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t hide it so you can return to it later. Confess it and seek forgiveness for it. That’s the only way that you can “Prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.” Remove the clutter from your heart.
- It calls us to watch God work. Listen to verse 5 – “Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth.” What is interesting here is that in verse 4 it says, “Prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.” The task is given to us to make things right for the coming of God. But, in verse 5 it says, “Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth.” Meaning: As you are preparing for the coming of God, something supernatural takes over. Instead of you working, God begins to work. Things begin to happen. What seemed to be the valley of the shadow of death is now filled. What seemed to be an impassable mountain is now just a bump in the road. What seemed to be a crooked place is made straight. What seemed to be the rough way is made smooth.
And what’s the result? Verse 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” Meaning: People around you realize that it’s the work of God. John’s ministry was a work of God. Jesus acknowledged and complemented John.
This morning you can either look at your wilderness experience as a curse or you can look at it as a precursor of God’s arrival. You can either sit back in hopelessness or you can sit up in anticipation of what God’s about to do. The greatest thing that God is going to do is save souls. Nothing is more important then seeing lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Do you know him?