Sunday, April 15, 2018

November 18, 2018 Sermon
“The One More Powerful Than I”
Matthew 1: 1-8

Starting today, we will begin reading through the Gospel of Mark. I've brought up one chapter from Matthew at a time in my sermons, and last time, we finished on Matthew chapter 28.
I pray that we can all hear and listen to God's message anew together by reading from the beginning the Gospel of Mark, which is the second gospel.
As you all know, there are four gospels that record the life and words of Jesus Christ. In those four gospels, there are many verses that record the same thing.
In particular, the three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels (synoptic meaning taking a common view). Much of what is recorded there is the same.
In contrast, the Gospel of John is a bit of a unique gospel. That is because it has things recorded there that aren't found in the other gospels.
 There being four gospels does not mean there are four different gospels. There is only one gospel of Jesus Christ. However, there being four gospels compiled in the Bible means that “there are multiple ways of communicating the gospel.”
God spoke the gospel through a man called Matthew, and through a different man called Mark, and also through Luke and John. Also, I think that every single one of us Christians today is capable communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ each in our own way.
 “Jesus Christ is the true god,” “the God that created this earth became a man and came to earth to save us humans,” “every single one of us is greatly valued and loved by God.” We all can convey this gospel to the rest of the world.
However, the following is very important in order to correctly communicate the gospel. And that is 1) reading the Bible often and thinking about the meaning of the messages of the Bible.
And, 2) obeying the messages and teachings and standing firm in the words of the Bible. The Word begins to show its true power and meaning when it is applied in our daily lives. Simply reading and comprehending is not enough.
In Mark, there is no story about the birth of Jesus Christ written like there is in Matthew and Luke. There is no so-called “nativity story.” The same is true for the Gospel of John.
In Mark chapter 1, instead the birth of Jesus, focus is placed on that fact that “there was a man that would prepare the “way” for Jesus before He began His public ministry.”
 The man that would prepare the way for Jesus is John the Baptist. As is written after verse 4, John the Baptist preached “a baptism of repentance” in the wilderness.
 “Repentance” here means more than just simple regret and remorse. Repentance means changing from a self-centered lifestyle to a lifestyle directed towards God.
John preached to people “stop living a self-centered life and direct yourselves towards God!”
 
According to verse 6, John  “wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”
Forget about living an austere life, it sounds like the man put himself in such a severe environment on purpose.
 Also, the Gospel of Mark teaches that John's ministry was to “prepare the way for Jesus who will come later and preach the kingdom of God.”
 
 John's ministry (administering a baptism of repentance) was what you call “groundwork” for Jesus's ministry which came later.
In this is shown the fact that “God's only son Jesus Christ really did make an appearance in human history.” It shows that at some place and at some time in the history of humanity, God Himself, Jesus Christ, was born on Earth.
Wherever we are born, whatever it is we do, we become connected to the history of that place, we become connected to everything that happened there in the past.
This is also true of the fact that I'm currently serving as pastor of Beppu International Baptist Church. Even before I was assigned to this church, the work of spreading the gospel was taken up by the previous pastors. Through them, history was made.
I myself am built on the history made by these men. Nothing you do is built upon nothing. Nothing you do is started from scratch.
I believe that whenever we humans start something somewhere, most of the time, the preparations have already been done by someone else. Also, I believe we can trust God to prepare the most important things for us.
The Old Testament is quoted in verse 2.
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”
This is a quote from Malachi 3:1.
Also, verse 3 quotes Isaiah 40:3
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”
As per Isaiah's prophecy, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness and preached a baptism of repentance so that people could receive forgiveness for their sins.
 
 This act was making paths “straight” for Jesus Christ. “Repent and come back to God,” John was straightforward in delivering this most important detail.
 From this verse, we can understand that we too must be straightforward in conveying the gospel. We must not let our own thoughts and opinions mix up the gospel into something different.
 The gospel of Jesus Christ, the truth that the Bible teaches is very straightforward and simple. “Jesus Christ is savior and the Lord God.” “God loved the world and sent His only Son Jesus Christ to save the world.” This is the gospel.
We have been given life through this simple yet immeasurable grace of the gospel. It is indeed a joyous thing if we are able take this joy funnel it into telling other people about the gospel.
John says the following in verse 7.
“After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
 I think that “complete humility before God” and “feelings of hope for Him that is to come” are flowing from John's words here.
  “One more powerful than I...”  This is Jesus Christ, of course He is perfect and infinitely more powerful than us.
Today, we too can say with confidence “my path is always made straight for Jesus Christ” while we live out our faith. After all, we have the hope of Jesus Christ someday coming back to this world during His second coming.
When we live with the hope of Jesus' second coming, we discover great hope and meaning in living out our faith daily.
In this way, through gathering every week for church and receiving faith for our everyday lives, we come to know that “Jesus is preparing for the day He will walk that path.” And when we come to know this, do we not get great joy in our spiritual lives and church lives?
Also, remember that our church theme this year is “Respect Each Other.” Therefore, I think that we should all consider others “more powerful than me” (a better person than me).
We all have our mission in life, but wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to live while hoping and knowing “later someone else will come and do a much better job than me?”
The famous Protestant Reformer Martin Luther during his life taught the Bible in college. In the last 10 years of his time as a professor, Luther continued to lecture on Genesis. After he finished all his Genesis lectures and at the end of the last lecture of his life, Luther said the following.
 “And this is the beloved Genesis. I pray that God send someone after me to explain it better. I can do no more than this...” Martin Luther
Having done all you could, the hope that somebody better, more powerful than yourself would come after you and do an even more wonderful work... the hope that God would send somebody like that... we can have that kind of hope through our faith.
Before I conclude, I'd like to talk about “John appearing in the wilderness.” Why did John go out into the wilderness? Instead of the wilderness, wouldn't it have been better to go and preach in a town full of people? Would not have more people gathered there?
 I believe that this “wilderness” is representative of the state of man's heart. Wilderness, in other words, means “parched earth,” “a place with no water.”
Water here means “water of life,” “God's word.” Our human hearts dry up without God's word. We are in need of God's word, that life-giving water.
John 7:37-38
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
 
The reason John preached in the wilderness is because it was the place in most need of God's word and repentance.
It wasn't a case of “there are many people there” or “that place is most convenient for me.” God's word was most needed in the wilderness, and so John went there.
 John preached in the harsh wilderness and all of Judah and Jerusalem flocked to him. Through John's preaching, people understood “how important it is to come back to God.” People were drawn in by that message.
Does this not mean, as long as God's word is spoken correctly, that people will gather for sure?
If the church just looks “straight” to Jesus Christ and preaches only Jesus Christ, those that are searching for truth will gather for sure. I believe we can receive this kind of hope from this passage.
Whether or not a church has charming members, or has programs to spark the curiosity of nonbelievers is not what really matters (though it is important). Rather, whether a church stands or falls hinges on whether the gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Bible is preached correctly and is actually being applied.
I would like everybody here to be strict in testing whether or not Jesus Christ is present in our church service, and whether or not I, the pastor, am preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ correctly.
 
I believe that John the Baptist joyfully lived out his mission of preparing the way for “the one more powerful than him.”

 “One more powerful than I.” We all know just how filled with love this “One” is, we know that this “One” is the God of true love.
 Let us Christians walk this new week with hope and humility, let us walk in such a way that our daily lives would prepare the way for “the one more powerful than us” who will one day come.