Let Your Large-heartedness Be Known To All Men

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Audio Version of this Message
Isa 2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD'S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. 3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
 4 He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

 Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 Joh 1:19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22 Then they said to him, "Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said: "I am 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Make straight the way of the LORD,"' as the prophet Isaiah said."
24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26 John answered them, saying, "I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.  27 "It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

I don’t think we can fully fathom how “far out” this baptism of John’s was to the religious leaders of his day. That it was a radical departure from the practices of the Jews is made evident in their  question found in v25. “If you aren’t the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet, then where do you get off instituting this crazy idea of baptizing Jews?

You see, the Jews practiced baptism, but it was only for the heathen. It was only for those who desired to become Jews. They needed to be ceremonially washed of all the uncleanness associated with idol worship and so all converts (including their infant children by the way) were baptized.

A pagan was accepted as a Jew after doing three things. Males had to be circumcised, an offering had to be made to the Lord, and they had to be baptized. But John comes along and starts baptizing Jews! The nerve! As if being Jewish wasn’t good enough! So you’d better have some credentials buddy before you start turning our religion upside down!  Who are you?

“Well first of all, I am not the Christ.” “I am not the Messiah, as many people are speculating.”
 Lu 3:15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,

“Well, if you are not the Christ, are you Elijah?”

This was an important question for the Jews in light of Mal. 4:5

 Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

They believed that Elijah would appear in bodily form before Judgement Day. But John assures them, “I am not.” This answer has always puzzled me. In light of the words of Jesus in Mt 11:14, “and if you are willing to receive it, he (John the Baptist) is Elijah who is to come.” John almost seems deceitful here.

But he’s not, he could technically say he wasn’t Elijah in the expected physical form that the Jews were looking for, but he did know that he was sent forth in the spirit of that Elijah just as the angel had told his father before his miraculous birth in Luke 1:17,

 Lu 1:17 "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Now, John’s denial of being Elijah was not a matter of deceit, it was a matter of expedience. In order to understand this one must understand the depth of the reverence that the Jews held for this coming Elijah.

Some, like these Pharisees were wondering if John was this Elijah. Others wondered if Jesus was Elijah as we read of in  

Mt 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

 Remember that even Peter wanted to build a tabernacle for Elijah when he saw him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and when Jesus was on the cross many mistakenly thought He was crying out to Elijah to deliver Him.  You get the idea.....Elijah was greatly revered and his arrival greatly anticipated in Israel.

Imagine what happens here if John says, “Yup. I’m Elijah!” You’d have instant worship, defeating the very purpose for which John came into the world. He was not to be the light, only to bear witness to that light.

 Joh 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

Remember something else about John the Baptist. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.

 Lu 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.

The nature or character of the Holy Spirit is that He does not call attention to Himself. His ultimate goal is to direct the attention or turn the spotlight on Christ for the glory of God!

 Joh 16:14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

This is a good lesson for all of us. Who or what are we directing people to. If it’s not Jesus Christ, then we likely need a good dose of humility, for as we humble ourselves, we make room for the Holy Spirit to do His thing....point the way to Jesus....for there is salvation in no other name.  

This is what the prophet Isaiah is saying in our OT lesson today: It shall come to pass in the latter day, (the days that we are living in right now, the days of the NT church) that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow to it.”

Flow to what? Flow to the mountain. Flow to Calvary!  And so we point people to the cross. In so doing we lift up Jesus and His great love for the world.  

 Joh 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."
 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

So the Holy Spirit’s job in each one of us is to point the world to Calvary. Point the world to the cross.  There is no self glory in the cross, it’s all about Jesus!

 Ga 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

The next question for John is, are you the Prophet. This question was based on Dt. 18:15

 De 18:15 "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,

Linking John to this “Prophet” was natural, given the fiery sermons of John. What the Jews didn’t understand was that Jesus was this Prophet. There were some indications that some of the people were making the connection and identifying Jesus as this Prophet.

For instance in Luke 7 after Jesus had raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead, the people exclaimed, “A great prophet has risen up among us; and God has visited His people.” Also in John 7 after hearing Jesus speak many from the crowd said, “Truly this is the Prophet, others said, “this is the Christ.”

Unfortunately, while some of these people identified Him as the prophet, they forgot the last part of the prophecy:  “Him you shall hear.”

As this prophecy is further expounded on in Dt 18:18,19 we read:

 De 18:18 'I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 'And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

You and I will be judged by what we do with the words of this Prophet.

And Jesus often affirmed that His Words came directly from the Father. The Father’s words were put in His mouth just as this prophesy stated.  
 Joh 17:8 "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me;

 Joh 8:28  I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.

  Joh 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  49 "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.

Only the Prophet spoken of in Dt 18:15 could make such claims and only the Prophet could back them up with such mighty and miraculous deeds. It seems during the Christmas season that many have no problem identifying Jesus as this Prophet, as the Son of God, as a Babe in the manger, as they make their semi-annual trek to church, but many fail to remember the second part of the prophecy. “Him you shall hear!”

How about you? Have you identified Jesus as the Prophet? Do you see Him as the Christ? The Messiah? The Son of God? Then do what Moses said you should do..........Hear Him! Respond to what He says in His Word, the Bible in ways that show you have heard!

 Mt 7:26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
As Isaiah 2:4 says, “He shall judge between the nations and rebuke many people.” On that final day, many will find that they have built their eternal hope on sand. They knew Jesus was the Prophet and were content to leave it at that, forgetting to heed His Words......oh how great their fall will be....many will be rebuked on that Day.

 Mt 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Don’t you want to be found in Christ on the Last Day. Don’t you want to be in a place where there will be no more wars? Don’t you understand that even now you are living in the midst of a war?

Then take heed to the Prophet! Hear Him and believe Him that it may be accounted to you as righteousness and you will spend eternity in a place where, “neither shall they learn war anymore.”  Understand the depth of that statement.

It’s not only about wars between nations, but it’s about war in your household, your neighborhood, your church, your workplace. This side of Paradise we will experience war! Our flesh continually in conflict with the Spirit. What is the root cause of war?

 Jas 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

In heaven, there will be no need for war. Lusting and covetousness, the marks of the flesh,  will be gone forever!

Understands this about heaven:

 Isa 57:1 The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.  2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.

Glory! The dearly departed believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is taken away from everything evil for eternity!

No wonder Paul tells us in the epistle lesson to Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord when? Always! It’s so important, he says it again. Again I say rejoice! Don’t go walking around like a great big sourpuss! Better days are coming! Full-time peace, no more conflict with your flesh and the flesh of others! The (day of the) Lord is at hand. It’s nearer than you think!

Since it is so near,  “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” What does that look like?
The idea of gentleness here is that of yielding to others. It is being large hearted toward all men.  It is the idea of not insisting on your own way. The large hearted are forgiving and giving people. It ties in beautifully with our mission statement here at Living Word.

To glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves. I have been praying that God will give us vision and creativity for reaching out to “all men” with the large-heartedness” of Christ.

Listen to me. It starts first in your own home. It doesn’t do any good to reach out with this kind of love if your own home is a war zone.  Practice “large-heartedness in your home. Seek ways to live for the sake of others in your home! To be large hearted toward others and not large-hearted in your own home is hypocritical.

But also, practice large-heartedness here in the congregation. Learn to be giving to others and forgiving toward others here in this place. To neglect large-heartedness here in our midst while being large-hearted to the community, is also hypocritical.

You say, well, I don’t know if I can be that giving and forgiving. You can’t! You need help. Your flesh rebels at the very thought! And so Paul concludes with this beautiful piece of advice.

Be anxious for nothing connected to large-heartedness. Give without angst. Freely forgive with a large heart. Freely, be large-hearted with your time, talent, and treasure to all men. So often we hedge our forgiveness and our giving because we are worried about what we will have to surrender.

How do we overcome this problem? By prayer and supplication. With thanksgiving for what you have been given.....and you have been given large-hearted forgiveness from God. He has also blessed you with material goods, time, talent, etc, be thankful for these gracious gifts from God!

And with thankfulness as your base, let your requests be made know to God.

In other words, in thankfulness to God for His large-heartedness toward you, ask God to help you to be large-hearted toward others. God will answer that prayer because it is in His perfect will. Knowing that He hears that prayer and will respond to it will be a source of great peace for you.

Oh, by the grace of God, let’s become a “large-hearted” people at Living Word. May God open our eyes to the opportunities before us in our homes, in our congregation, in our community, and in our world to be large-hearted.  May He give us the ways and means to show the large-hearted ness of Christ to others.

In so doing, the Holy Spirit will work through us, doing His job.......pointing the world to Calvary where the large-heartedness of Christ was demonstrated on the cross. But we can’t just point. This large-heartedness must be evident in our personal and congregational lives.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, you and I are to be epistles, (letters) known and read by all men, clearly we are an epistle of Christ.” And what should these letters read? I love you, I lay aside my life for you,  and I forgive you. It’s what the cross states, and it’s high time we started stating it to others not only in words, but in deeds.