Set Me on Fire, God!
*Today’s church needs a good dose of Holy Ghost fire!
Text: Luke 3:1-17
– v. 16 – “I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Introduction: If we intend to come out of this conference with anything more than we came in with, we must experience Holy Ghost fire. Witnessing it will not suffice. We must experience that fire burning the crud out of our inmost being if we intend to leave with any change whatsoever. The world is headed towards hell fire because the church has lost Holy Ghost fire!
Between Malachi and Mathew you’ve got four hundred years of complete blackness – no prophetic light – no prophetic voice. And then suddenly, dramatically, unexpectedly out of this blackness, out of this stillness appears this strange man, John the Baptist. John calls him a “burning and a shining lamp.” Jesus said, “There was no man comparable to John Baptist.” He was a remarkable, one-of-a-kind character.
Scripture tells us he appeared in the wilderness. You must understand this was not only a geographical wilderness. He stepped into a moral wilderness, a political wilderness, a religious wilderness. John appeared at a time when the world was in complete chaos and turmoil. Our world, in all its technology, all its religiosity, all its free-spiritedness, is truly a dark, bleak wilderness.
A key point to understanding John and his effectiveness is in understanding his individuality. The church wants to organize a bunch of people together to carry things out. When you spend all of your time with a group, you never get alone with God. Consider: God took Moses to the backside of the desert to prepare him. He took David out on the hills with his sheep to prepare him. If you ever intend to do anything powerful for God, you must first get the power from God and the only way you do that is by getting alone with God! John was in the wilderness alone until the day God gave him the message to proclaim. The wilderness experience created a wild man out of John – he became wild for the cause of Christ because he’d gotten alone with his Creator and been baptized by the fire of the Holy Ghost.
Consider, if you will, the:
I. The Religious Wilderness John Was Born Into
– vv. 1-2 – “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
A. “during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” –
1. This is an illegal scenario.
2. God’s design was for one man, chosen by Him, to serve as high priest.
3. God’s design was thrown out – man’s design was taken in.
B. The church of today is not the church God established in Acts.
1. Today, man sets the rules, man determines what is right & what is not, man determines what he will allow God to do & not do.
2. We are no longer the Church – we simply go through the motions of playing church.
3. The church-world has become a dark wilderness –
a. the Gospel message is diluted;
b. true repentance is overlooked;
c. total transformation has become a rarity;
d. preachers, pastors & teachers rarely speak about sin, judgment, & hell – these are now big no-no’s.
* Light a fire, Lord! Burn away the crud; burn away the hardness; burn away the immorality; burn away religion; burn away anything that hinders!
Application: Until we as the true Church get tired of playing church, we will never break out of this dark wilderness we find ourselves groping in. You have to get tired of it all. You’ve got to get tired of the ritual – the games – the carrying on – all the traditional junk. We’ve got to come to the place where we find ourselves crying out in the wilderness for the fire of the Holy Ghost to bring a mighty change.
John came out of his wilderness experience proclaiming:
II. A Wilderness Message
– vv. 3-6 – “He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make His paths straight! Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be made low; the crooked will become straight, the rough ways smooth, and everyone will see the salvation of God.”
A. The message heard in most churches today is a watered-down little feel-good ditty proclaimed with just enough punch behind it to give a slight indication that Dr. Pastor PhD might still be breathing just a little.
1. There is little or no life in way too many pulpits.
2. Until the pulpit wakes up, the people will never wake-up.
3. This wilderness wild man came out of the wilderness proclaiming a radically new, revolutionary-challenging message. There was no watering down here. He’d been set on fire by the Spirit of God and that fire burned in every message he proclaimed!
B. Hone in on that phrase in verse 3: “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew records the words of John as: “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Jesus declares in Mt 4: “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
1. Repentance! This is radical! This is revolutionary! This is a very important step in our lives. What exactly is repentance? Not the byword we have created out of it but the true meaning of this term.
a. One dictionary defines it as “sorrow for anything done or said.” We tend to like that one – it makes us feel good!
*We aren’t supposed to feel good about repentance – if we are truly repentant we will feel horrible. WHY?
b. Because true repentance indicates a deep grief for sin, because sin is an offense to God, sin dishonors God, sin violates His holy law, sin – yours & mine cost Jesus His life!
c. The word is derived from the same Greek word that we get our word metamorphosis from – true repentance begins deep inside and doesn’t stop until a complete change has come about.
*True revival is not the Church going out and trying to change or convert the world. True revival is the Church repenting, changing from the inside out and becoming a true light in the dark wilderness all about us.
d. John preached repentance; Jesus preached repentance; Peter preached repentance; Paul preached repentance!
*Man does not simply need a feel good experience – man needs a life-changing, life-transforming experience! Mankind, especially the Church, needs this experience! We need change!
When a wilderness message hits fertile, prepared, desiring soil, it is then that:
III. True Revival Springs Forth
– vv. 7-15 – “He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father, for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. What then should we do? the crowds were asking him. He replied to them, The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same. Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, Teacher, what should we do? He told them, Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized. Some soldiers also questioned him: What should we do? He said to them, Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages. Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were debating in their minds whether John might be the Messiah.”