Disregarding The Voice?

Text:  John 1:19-28

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness…”

Those words should have been enough to tell the Jewish priests who this John guy was.  After all, their own beloved Moses had told them long ago that the Lord would raise up a prophet from among them who would be just like him.  And like Moses, the Lord would put His words in this prophet’s mouth, and the people were to listen to him as they would listen to the Lord Himself.

So along comes John.  Now it is not that they doubted the Lord would do this, in fact, they had been waiting for quite some time for this promised prophet to show up.  It was more that they were looking for someone or something a little more mainline, more acceptable to the masses.  Someone like Moses, respected and honorable, good looking with a nice smile and a great resume.

And John was none of this.  He was the Wildman Preacher who gave up a life in the temple to live in the desert.  He cut his clothes from a dead camel’s back.  His hair was probably as wild as he was.  This prophet had grasshoppers stuck between his teeth and honey on his breath. 

And then there was the message that John delivered.  It cut like a chainsaw and everyone, no matter how holy they thought themselves to be, was considered timber when John spoke.  John was not what the people had in mind when it came to their promised prophet!

Most mothers do not want their babies to grow up to be John the Baptizers.  To tell the truth, John really is not the kind preacher we would like to have in our pulpit because he is offensive, he cuts, and he hurts our sensitivities. 

He is not politically correct because John points to our sins, especially those favorite ones we do not want to let go of.  And he tells us the demands that we must repent of, or else.

In fact, with a pastor like John, we would probably be afraid to invite our friends to church because they would be offended by his message if not only his appearance.

But remember what the Jews forgot, John’s message was not his own.  John was only the voice.  The words and the message are those of the Lord crying out in the wilderness; that is why they cut so deeply; that is why they point to our sin and condemn us for it.

Dear friends, it is the Holy Spirit who points to our hidden faults and demands that we repent of all our sins and iniquities with which we have ever offended God and justly deserved His punishment now and forever.

Even now as then, people manage to ignore the pain and offense of the Holy Spirit’s words.  We simply disregard the voice that gives them sound.  We write off the man God chooses to speak through as though he is eccentric and out of touch with what is happening in our times.  We disregard what is said because we choose to believe something else more mainline, more acceptable to the masses.

Even now, we still like to pretend that the Scriptures are multiple choice and we believe the devil when he tells us we are free to pick and choose which parts of God’s message we will accept and believe.

And the result of so many years of conveniently disregarding the message by dismissing the voice?…a host of pastors who stand in a pulpit too ashamed to speak the whole counsel of God, too shy to point to our sins and proclaim God’s righteous and eternal wrath on unrepentant sinners.

Indeed, we do not have to go far to find entire churches so concerned with offending the people that they conveniently tuck away the politically incorrect parts of the Holy Spirit’s message.  They hide anything that would dare to point out the sin in our hearts.

We do not need to listen long to hear would-be Christians countering God’s eternal judgment and wisdom claiming that God has changed His mind and now things like abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and casual sex outside of marriage are all acceptable.

Dear saints, we can see that when the message of the Holy Spirit though the Word is ignored, when the Scriptures are rewritten, toned down or tucked away so that they no longer cut and kill by pointing to our sin for what it is, then we are left with nothing but a bunch of feel-good mush.  And mush will never get us to heaven.

That is why John stands so prominently in the Scriptures that even Jesus says that among those born of women none are greater than John.

From the time of his conception, John was set aside by the Lord as the one sent to prepare the way of the Savior.  John was the cultivator who went before Jesus ripping and tearing, cutting and killing.  His job was to preach God’s Law in all it’s terrible glory, to prepare the hearts of God’s people to receive the grace and forgiveness that Jesus was coming to give.

John was about the Law.  He preached a message of repentance.  And through him, the Holy Spirit convicted the people of their sin and showed them how very much they needed a Savior and the forgiveness that He brings.

If we dismiss the voice of the servant through whom God speaks, and disregard the message of the Spirit, then we will never see our sin for what it is—an offense against God, an offense that must be forgiven.  That is why the Holy Spirit speaks such harsh cutting words of Law at times.

Because only those sins that are confessed as sins and repented of can be forgiven.  That does not mean you need to remember every single sin, only that you do not have the option to hold your favorites back to enjoy them later.  It means coming clean and knowing that we are poor miserable sinners who sin in thought, word, and deed. 

The reason why this is so important is because Jesus came only to forgive and save sinners.  All those who are too proud to admit they need Him and His grace and instead decide to stand on their own merits and their invented holiness, well they will always stand alone, condemned eternally.
So, when you hear the Law preached to you, remember it is the Holy Spirit speaking to you.  Do not disregard the voice, lest you lose the message.  And do not start thinking to yourself about who of your neighbors needs to hear it, instead think of how the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, to show you your sins and your need for a Savior.

Because that is who Jesus is—your Savior!  Jesus came for sinners; the Gospel is for sinners only.  Jesus came to bear the full weight of God’s judgment on your sin.  He came to endure those harsh punishments that cut like a chainsaw.  He came to shelter you from the wrath that God’s law pronounces over you and your sinfulness.

And today He comes again in His Word and Sacrament to fill you with His life and grace.  Your Jesus comes to you now to soothe and comfort your troubled conscience, to heal those wounds that the Holy Spirit has made by His message of Law. 

The Law has made you dead, but Jesus and His forgiveness delivered to you through Holy Baptism, the Word, and the Sacrament of the altar make you alive.  Alive today, alive tomorrow, and alive for eternity. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

This sermon is indebted to Rev. Joshua Reimche.

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