Doug Batchelor - The King's Ambassador
- Amazing Facts Store
Did you know, most baby mammals, birds, and even some fish instinctively identify and bond with their parents in the very early stages of their lives? But if the parents aren't available, well, some strange things can happen. In the 1930s, Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz conducted some of the first experiments on the imprinting of precocial birds, those that leave the nest soon after hatching. When he presented himself to a newly hatched group of mallard ducklings and he quacked softly to them, they recognized him as their mother, and consequently followed him everywhere. Cross species imprinting has been observed many times, even among some species that are naturally enemies, like cats and squirrels, or lions and antelope. Did you know that in a spiritual sense, we humans can also be imprinted? We tend to become like what we look at, and that's why it's so important that we fix our eyes on Jesus. So join me today as we explore the Bible facts about how we can be imprinted by our Heavenly Father and have a life-changing experience with Jesus.
We've come to learn that prophecy in the Bible is more than just the books of Zachariah, and Daniel, and Revelation, or Ezekiel. Prophecy encompasses the message of the prophets and the message of the prophets can be found all through the Bible, a number of books.
Our study tonight is dealing with the subject of the king's ambassador. And I really could say the king's ambassador is because he's calling all of us to be ambassadors for him. We're thinking more particularly of someone who was called by Jesus the greatest of the prophets. You know who that is? John the Baptist. He said, "Among those born among women there is no prophet like John the Baptist."
You know if you look in Matthew, you can read here in Matthew 3, it tells us about John the Baptist. I'm going to read the first few verses for you. "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight."
Now often when kings traveled in Bible times, they had a team that would go before them. A very powerful, wealthy king would have a big team. And when the king was traveling they would inspect the road, not only for spies and booby traps, but they would prepare the road. They would take the rocks out of the road. If there were low spots and potholes, they'd fill them in. If there were high spots, they'd cut them down, and they'd smooth the path.
And the Bible tells us in Isaiah that this was the work of this messenger. He was going to cut down the high places and fill in the low places. And someone said, you know, that's sort of the work of a pastor, is that he is supposed to comfort those who are humbling themselves, that are unhappy, that are struggling, and he's supposed to take those that are too comfortable and make them uncomfortable. And so John the Baptist went out and he would prepare the way of the Lord.
Now John himself tells us that he lived a very holy austere life. "John himself was clothed in camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." And we're all hoping that was carob pod. And "Then Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region around Jordan, they went out to him."
Here's this man that some would probably ascribe to be a maniac out there in the wilderness by the Jordan River, he's preaching that the Lord is coming, that they needed a repent of their sins, they needed to turn back to God. And the people were so moved by the Holy Spirit that not one or two came, but it seems like everybody came out to hear this man preaching with eloquence and power. He didn't talk like a madman, he had great courage and great force to his speech. "And they were baptizing them in Jordan, confessing their sins."
And so there was this great revival that was caused by the preaching of John, and he was giving specific information about how to repent and how to live holy lives to everybody. Even the soldiers came to him and they said, what shall we do? And he said, do violence to no man. And what he meant by that, he didn't say you couldn't be a soldier, he meant, sometimes they would rough people up and take their property. But he was telling everybody what they needed to do to follow God.
Now I'm going to have you jump with me to Revelation. This is a message that goes to the world just before Jesus comes. We talked about the 144,000. This is a group that has the seal of God and we know they're preparing others who receive that seal. "Then I looked, and behold, a lamb standing," Revelation 14:1, "On Mount Zion, and with him 144,000, having his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice like the voice of many waters and the voice of a loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps, and they sang as it was a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one could learn that song except the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth."
But listen how it describes them. "These are the ones who are not defiled with women, for they are virgins." What does that mean? I've heard some people preach that and say in the last days, all people saved need to practice virginity. Now, you read in Revelation, that's telling us that you get two women. One of them is a mother of harlots, the other one is pure. And it's saying they are not defiled with women, talking about Babylon and her daughters, they're not defiled with the false teachings for they are pure. That's what it's dealing with there. It says, "They follow the lamb wherever he goes."
How many of you want to follow the lamb in heaven? Do you know, if you want to follow him there then, you need to follow him here now first. "They follow the lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and the lamb." They're not the only ones, but it's a special group in the last days. "And in their mouth was found no guile", no deceit, "For they're without fault before the throne of God."
So I think you're getting the message that John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, the 144,000, and people that are preparing for Christ's first coming or second coming, he's calling them to lives of dedication and holiness. You know, we're living in a day and an age where it's really hard to tell Christians from apart from everyone else in the world. And I believe that people should know there's a difference in the way that we conduct ourselves.
I was in a restaurant with a friend, and the young lady that was serving our table, as she walked away, I said to my friend, she's a Christian. He said, how do you know? I don't know, just her smile. There's something about her appearance, there's a simplicity, there's a peace. She came back to the table, I said, now, I don't want to embarrass you, but are you a Christian? And she blushed a little bit and she said, well, yes I am, I go to church, and she was clearly from her answer, a practicing Christian. And I don't know about you, but I've been able to spot that before. I think that you can sometimes see a difference. People have this inner joy, they've got this competence, they've got this peace. And it's almost like, you know, once you are a Christian, you've got this Holy Spirit radar where you can spot each other. But it shouldn't just be with Christians, I think the world ought to see that there's a difference.
We're going to find out what the Bible says. Was there something different about John the Baptist? Clearly there was. What was one secret to John the Baptist's Spirit filled life? If you look in Luke 3:16, "John answered and said, I baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." And of course here he's talking about Jesus. One secret of his life was you notice that he's self-defacing, there is a humility there in his life. One of the keys for Christian is there's going to be humility.
I think it was C.S. Lewis that wrote in his book, "Mere Christianity", a chapter called The Great Sin. And he talks about the devil, the great sin of Lucifer was putting himself in the position of God. And pride is the mother of all sins. Pride is a handle that fits every other sin. And John the Baptist had humility, even though he was brave, and he was bold, and audacious for God. He also said in John 3:30, he said, "He", speaking of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." As John introduced Jesus and he said, this is the Lamb of God. People began to follow Jesus and soon Jesus had more disciples than John. And John's disciples began to resent that, you know, there's a spirit of competition. Hey, you know, he's getting more disciples than you, and what's with that? You know, you're the great prophet. And John said, well, this is the way it's supposed to be. He must increase, but I must decrease.
You know, that's something that all of us should really be saying in our hearts every day. When it comes to who is on the throne in your life, he must increase, but I must decrease. Would you like to say that with me? And every day that you walk with Jesus, you're going to find out that it's more and more about him, and that's where your joy comes from. Christ said, he that seeks to save his life will lose it, but he's willing to lose his life for my sake, he will find it. We take up our cross, we lose our lives, that's when we really find our lives, when we give it all to him. Number two, did John the Baptist read the scriptures? This is another example in the life of John that I think that every believer should emulate, did he? How do we know? When they said, John, who are you? This is Gospel John 1:23. "He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said."
Does it become clear that John read what the prophet Isaiah said? So just because he's living out there in the wilderness in the desert doesn't mean he did not read the scriptures. In fact, if you go visit Israel, you'll find that there was a whole group of very dedicated Jews called Essenes that lived in the Dead Sea area, and their whole job was writing out and copying the scriptures. Later when the Romans were coming to invade, they hid a lot of them in caves. They were discovered then as the Dead Sea Scrolls. So there was a whole community of people that were dedicated to the scriptures, living just down the river from John the Baptist. He knew his Bible, he read his Bible, he prayed. There are three disciplines in the Christian life that are the keys to your success.
Now, what I'm about to say is so simple, but it is so true. You do these things and you will not backslide. Read your Bible every day, and even if you read your Bible just 15 minutes, read your Bible 15 minutes, pray for 15 minutes, and it might be seven minutes in the morning and seven minutes at night, and spend 15 minutes talking to someone else about God. Read the Bible, talk to the Lord, share your faith.
Number three, was John the Baptist willing to witness for Jesus? When he saw Jesus come to the water, he boldly said, "Next day", John 1:29, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world." He pointed people to Christ. If you believe in Christ, do not be ashamed of your faith. Be bold in your faith. John was so bold and he was so courageous that he would not only rebuke the Pharisees for their sins, he talked to the Roman soldiers, he told king Herod that you shouldn't be living with your brother's wife. I mean, he called sin out wherever he saw it, and he was not very popular, it ultimately cost him his life.
Now the reason we're talking about this message of the king's ambassadors. The Bible tells us, last prophecy in the Old Testament, Malachi 4, "Behold", well, first he says, this is Malachi 4:4, "Remember the law of Moses, my servant, which I gave unto him for all Israel with its statutes and judgements. Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord." Now the great and terrible day of the Lord was not Jesus's first coming. That's the day of the Lord when he comes the second time. "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
Now this is not just talking about there being family reconciliation. The fathers is talking about the teachings of the fathers. A lot of the young generation have rejected the teachings of the fathers, but before Christ comes back, there's going to be people turning back to the sensible teachings of the fathers, and the fathers will begin to make sense to the children, and there's going to be a revival as a result of that.
So how did Elijah come? Well, when they came to John the Baptist and they said, are you Elijah who is to come? John the Baptist said, no. Why did John say, no, I'm not Elijah. And Jesus said, yes, he is. When the Jews were asking John, are you Elijah, they were wondering, are you Elijah reincarnated? God does not teach reincarnation. He said no. They were asking a different question, you see what I'm saying? Jesus said, is he coming in the spirit and power of Elijah? Yes, he did come in the spirit and power of Elijah. That's what the angel told his father, that he would come in the spirit and the power of Elijah, just like Elisha got the spirit and the power of Elijah. But Jesus said, if you can bear it, Elijah has come. This is after John was put in prison and beheaded, and they did unto him whatever they wanted, and Elijah will come.
Christ was looking down to the end of time when there's going to be a great revival movement and people are going to return to the Word of God the way that John the Baptist brought a revival movement. There are going to be some last day Elijahs before Jesus comes back that are going to be sharing this message of holiness and living godly lives.
Number four, was the straight preaching of John popular among the political and religious leaders? No, and Bible tells us the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. It kind of makes you shudder to think, you know, here God was calling them to repent of their sins. They could keep their jobs, but they needed to repent and be washed, and baptism was part of that. When they rejected that, they were rejecting the counsel and the will of God for themselves.
And there are some of you who are listening to the sound of my voice, you could be here, you could be listening through some electronic media right now, and maybe he's calling you, if you've not given your heart to Jesus, to repent of your sins, to be baptized and to follow him. Listen, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, you want to follow that. And repent of your sins, he'll give you a revival. And then you read on the Luke 3:19, "But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him", by John the Baptist, "For all of his evils that Herod had done, he shut up John in prison." Later, because of the intrigue of his illicit wife, Herodias, John the Baptist was beheaded. And Jesus said, here he is the greatest of the prophets, but he did not go to heaven in a fiery chariot.
You know, Jesus said, if you're persecuted for Christ's sake, you should rejoice. John actually had the privilege of dying for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the truth, and he's going to be greatly exalted in the kingdom. Do you believe that? Was there a connection between John's spiritual life and his simple diet? You can read in Luke 1:15, "For he", John the Baptist, "Shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit."
You see there's a distinction between being filled with wine and being filled with the Holy Spirit. You've probably driven down the street and you've seen these stores, it says liquor, beer, and spirits. What do they mean, spirits? What kind of spirits? If you drink the liquor, and the beer, and the wine, you get spirits that come with it. Have you noticed that before? Yeah, and you know I'm speaking from firsthand experience, friends, I used to drink, I know what happens. Says, you'll say things that you regret, your eyes will behold strange women.
I don't know how many people have said, you know, I was at a party, and I had one too many, I'm so sorry, I violated our marriage, I wasn't thinking, it wasn't me, it was the alcohol. Well, you chose to drink the alcohol. And people do, and utter, and behave in ways that, you know, it just takes you away from being spirit led. John the Baptist would not drink wine or strong drink, why? Because he wanted to be filled with a Holy Spirit. So which spirit do you want to be filled with? You want to be filled with the spirit of vodka, and whiskey, and gin, wine and beer, or do you want to be filled with the spirit of Jesus?
Why is God concerned about what we eat and what we drink? Judges 13:7, so the angel meets with Manoah and his wife, and he gives clear instructions on this child they're going to have that's going to be filled with the spirit of God. Why would it matter what a mother before the child is born eats and drinks? Well you know, now they know that the mother's care for her body while she's pregnant does have an impact on the child. "Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son." "Now drink no wine or similar," in the word there, strong drink, "Or eat anything unclean for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from his womb to the day of his death." Through his whole life he was to be dedicated to God.
Now, as we near the last days, if we're wanting our minds to be clear, especially when Satan has come down with great wrath and the world is just filled with his proliferation of deceptions, why would we want our brains to be fuzzy so that we can't distinguish between what's right and wrong? Why would we want to weaken our perceptions so that we are not able to discern what is good and what is evil? The real prayer of Solomon, when God said, what do you want from me? He said, I want wisdom, that I might have an understanding heart to know the difference between good and evil. What does the Bible say about worldly behavior? James 4:4, "Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
Now, Pastor Doug, I thought the Bible said God so loved the world. Here it says you're supposed to love the world, and then the Bible says, friendship with the world is enmity with God. Which is it, love the world or hate the world? Well, God loves the people in the world, and we should love the people in the world, but worldliness is what he's saying that we should shun. And I think we all know what that means. Just all the distractions with the here and now. If you're a Christian, you're thinking about eternity, you're thinking about another world, you're passing through this world.
Someone once said that a Christian is something like a ship in the water. A Christian has to learn how to be in the world without the world being in us. A ship belongs in the water, but as soon as the water gets in the ship, you've got serious problems, right? "Come out from among them", the Bible says, 2 Corinthians 6:17, "Be separate, says the Lord, do not touch what is unclean." This is the New Testament, it's not some Old Testament Levitical law. He says, "Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you." Come out, be separate, we're to be different from the world.
We're calling people to a high and a holy standard of following Jesus. How can we tell them to do that when we're living like everybody else and nobody can tell the difference? If anyone loves the world, Bible says, 1 John 2, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that's in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but the world. And the world is passing away with the lust thereof. But he that does the will of God will abide forever." Can you say amen?
If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. "Do not be conformed to this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Don't become like the world, don't let the world shape you. Be shaped by the word, not the world. The word ought to be shaping our lives. And the renewing of your mind. Now with that in mind, what should a Christian choose to think about? "Whatever things are true", these are the things to think about. "Whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there's any virtue and if there's anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things." Think about those things that are good. Bible tells us in Psalm 101:3, "I will set nothing wicked before my eyes."
Now, based on that standard, what should a Christian watch? If we believe murder is a sin, why would we be entertained watching other people murder? If we believe adultery is a sin, why would we be entertained watching other people commit adultery? It's almost like we're enjoying the sin vicariously. You say, no, I'd never kill, I'd never lie, but I like this program where they lie. I'm going to watch this, you know, "Daytime As My Stomach Turns", whatever it's called, you know, and they got all this intrigue, all this lying, and all this adultery, and this espionage, and this murder, and I'm going, wow, I wonder what's going to happen next. I'd never do that, because I'm a Christian, but I sure enjoy watching them do it. And it's like we're sinning vicariously.
You know, the Bible tells us, let me see, I think I've got that, maybe in the lesson, I just don't remember. Romans 1:32, "Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they that commit such things are worthy of death", the penalty for sin is death. "They not only do the same, but they have pleasure in them that do them." Do we have pleasure in watching other things? Watching other people's sin? Being entertained by the world? That makes you who you are, it shapes your thinking.
The Lord wants us to think pure thoughts, but it's hard to think pure thoughts if we're filling our minds with typical American media. I mean, I know there are occasionally good things that are on television, there may even be the occasional movie that has something historic or edifying. It is a very rare exception, most of these things are rated R, they use God's name in vain, they're full of violence. You've got all these warnings before it comes on, drugs, violence, sexual content, profanity, nudity, and you get all this and you're thinking, okay, Lord, hope you can bless all this, I'm going to watch this now for the next two hours, but I'm going to worship you 10 minutes later. It affects you.
What type of music will a true Christian enjoy? Oh, this is a difficult one. Well, let's look at what the Bible says. Psalm 40:3, "He's put a new song in my heart, praised to our God." The music ought to be music that praises God. You know the story in the Bible where king Saul, he had evil spirits that would trouble him, and David came in, of course, David was a great musician and a songwriter, wrote about 70 of the Psalms, 150 Psalms that are in the Bible. "And it was so, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that day would take a heart and play with his hand. And then Saul would be refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit," there would be an evil spirit was tormenting Saul, "Would depart from him."
So if good music can drive an evil spirit away, would it make a sense the devil's got music that would invite the evil spirits in? Now everyone, we all agree to this point. I mean, how many of you will raise your hands now and say, we agree that there's some music that is inappropriate for Christians? And we all agree. How many of you agree that your music is good? See, everyone said, yeah, God hates bad music, but I like only the good stuff. Everyone draws the line though in a little different place. There are Bible principles that need to guide us in these things. What should be the aim of God's people today? Very simple friends, "We keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." And notice, "His commandments are not burdensome." When you love somebody, you are happy to serve them. You're happy to make changes to please them, because you love them.