December 5, 2004: Is Your Name John?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we anticipate Your coming, we’re busy getting ready to meet You.  We know the help and comfort that You bring into our lives.  Today inspire us to reach out and share that comfort and joy with those around us.  Inspire us to talk to them about their sins, to lift them up from their hurts, and to spread Your Christmas love to those who truly need it.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Waiting For Christ:

How do people know you?  When someone’s referring to you, what do they use as a point of reference?—Your height, weight, hair color, or maybe your address?  No!  People refer to you by name.  Your name is important. It is vital.  It defines and describes exactly who you really are.  Most of us have nick-names to go along with our formal names.  A prime example of this is often email addresses and handles.

Aside from all those ways of identifying you, there is also God’s way.  He knows you intimately because He created you out of nothing, saved Your soul, and has worked saving faith into your heart.  To Him you are a Christian.  And hopefully the rest of the world knows you by that name, too.  All that being said, I have a question for you today.  As our text was being read, this question came to my mind:



Now, as far as I know we have only one person named “John” here at church.  So, he would obviously say: “yes!”  But, the rest of us should really say: “yes!” too.  For just as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, so should we this Advent season.  When Christ called you to faith in Him–working for Him, doing for Him, talking to others about Him, letting your light shine—those responsibilities were also transferred to you.

Is your name John?  Well, let’s see.  Do you wear rough clothes, eat locusts and other “natural foods,” and live in a desert?  Obviously not.  But, clothes and food didn’t make John Christ’s forerunner.  And they don’t make us Christians, either.  First off, what made John, John, was his willingness and tenacity when it came to talking to people about their sins.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Let me ask you another question:  What caused you to appreciate and hold on to Christ?  What it His love?  His forgiveness?  His humble caring heart?  I would answer: “yes!” to all those.  But, there’s something that preceded all those blessings.  You only cared about His love and forgiveness when you realized you desperately needed them.  You only cared about his compassion when you realized your life was empty.  You only came to listen to His voice when you realized you were a sinner who was in big trouble on your own.

Repentance is a lost word in our modern culture.  It’s one of those judgmental words that  people shy away from.  Repentance is a black and white word.  It is a right and wrong word.  It is a word which puts responsibility for our problems squarely upon our own shoulders.  John wasn’t afraid to use it.  He wasn’t afraid to tell people that they had problems, eternal ones with God Almighty, and if they didn’t repent their eternal souls would be lost forever in hell.—Talk about politically incorrect!!!  And yet, John was right.  His words were true.  And I submit to you that His preaching of repentance was chocked full of love!  Love for Jesus, love for God, love for hurting souls moved him to confront sin at every turn.  He didn’t preach repentance to make himself feel superior (the modern view of our culture of correctness), no, he preached—risking anger and eventually death—because he cared about lost souls.

When you see a child reach out to touch a hot oven burner, what do you do?  You shout: “No!”  Why?  Because you care.  When you see someone mistreating an elderly person, what do you do?  You say: “No!” and/or call 911.  You do that because you want to protect the innocent and get help for the guilty.  That’s what John was doing as he prepared people to meet Jesus.  And our job today really isn’t any different.


Now, I’m not advocating standing on a soap-box on Boston common and yelling at people.  I’m not advocating being totally obnoxious at work.  However, when you have a friend, a relative, a child, or someone you work with who is engaged in soul-destructive behavior, you need to remember that your name is John, too.  Say to them: “I’m concerned about you.”  And then in a polite way, tell them why.  Tell them how God has a better way of living, how He has a better plan for their life.  Often they will tell you to: “Mind your own business.”  If they do, then simply say: “I’m sorry for you and I’ll continue to pray for you.”—And then DO IT!    If they openly mock you and mock Christ—like the Pharisees and Sadducees in our lesson—that calls for stronger medicine.  So, you might want to leave them with: “Well, God’s not pleased with your behavior, and I guess you’ll reap what you sow.”  They’ll get the message.  I’ll bet the idea of hell will cross their minds without you even uttering the word.  And maybe someday, by God’s grace, something will jar them and lead them toward Christ.—Most of us have seen that played out in the lives of folks with addictions.  God eventually found a way to get through their earlier rejections and that dormant seed you planted finally started to grow.


John talked the talk and also walked the walk.  He spoke the truth about Christ, but He did it in love.  And some wonderful things happened.  God’s lost sheep heard the voice of truth.  They came to be baptized by John, confessed their sins, and when Christ came on the scene a few months later, they listened to John when he told them to embrace Jesus with their hearts, hands, and  voices.  Was John a success?  Well, the very fact that his name is more well known than almost any current world leader certainly proves that he was.  And yet, John once said of Christ: “He must increase and I must decrease.”  And John did.  John faded from the scene once Christ came to the forefront.

You and I bear the name: John. We’re part of his legacy.  Our task this Advent season is to channel people away from sin and toward Christ.  Sometimes it is a thankless task.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be working.  But, even the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents!  John wasn’t an unhappy, mean, or nasty person.  He was serious in his work.  But, he was also joyous in it.  He saw lives changed.  He saw sins forgiven.  He saw sinners made whole.  He saw people made right with God through Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  Being a “John” is rewarding work.  I can testify to that!  So, I remind you: What better gift can you give this Christmas than eternal life in Christ?   Amen