Robby Gallaty May 24, 2015
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
We are starting a new series today in the gospel of John looking at the Seven Witnesses to Jesus. The ministry of Jesus, the characteristics of Jesus and the mission of Jesus. And today, it is a familiar passage, looking at a man you know well, John, the Baptizer. And the title of the message today is “Looking For The Lamb.” Looking for the Lamb.
Now before I tell you about John, let me give you a little back story on John so you can understand where he is coming from. It is safe to say that John is a unique individual. Amen? He is an unusual dresser. He speaks with an unusual authority. John has an unusual way about him. But he came from righteous parents. And if you study his parents, you realize that his father was a priest. Zechariah was a priest.
Now in order to understand the priesthood, there were 24 different divisions or orders of the priesthood. The only way a person could be a priest and serve in the Temple…watch this…was by birth. You couldn’t barter your way to be a priest. You couldn’t purchase the privilege to be a priest. You couldn’t study long enough to be a priest. You had to be born into the priesthood. And so Zechariah was in the priesthood.
What the priests would do is, they would serve two rotations a year. They were spaced out accordingly. And when your time was come or time had come for you to serve in the Temple, you drew lots as to what you had to do. And some jobs had more privilege than others. Obviously, loading salt in the storage room was not as high as burning incense at the altar, which was one of the most prized privileges to be a part of.
On this day, Zechariah walks into the Temple and he draws a lot and he is able to burn incense at the altar. And I want to show you what happens on this day providentially in his life. So if you have your Bibles, turn with me to Luke Chapter 1 and I want to just show you quickly what happens when Zechariah is at the altar.
Luke Chapter 1 Verse 5. When you are there, say, “Word.” “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”
Now immediately, because we are looking at this book through an Eastern perspective, your mind should be jogged back to an Old Testament couple that had that same situation. I am not going to tell you that now, but I will in a moment.
Verse 9, “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” He has got the choice job for that rotation. He will never perform this job again in his entire life. Why? Because they wanted to give everyone equal opportunity.
So he walks into the Temple, “And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw Him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”
Now, immediately, because we are looking at this through a Hebraic perspective, what two Old Testament couples had that same thing happening to them? That same situation going on in their life. Do you know who they are? Abraham and Sara. Do you remember? She was barren for many years and didn’t think she would have a child. God visited them and said, “You are going to have a son. His name is going to be Isaac. And he is going to be the father of all the nations. The lineage of Israel will come through him.”
But the second couple you may not be familiar with is Elkanah and Hannah. Do you remember Hannah? She prayed. She was barren for many years and she prayed, “Lord, if You give me a son, I will give him back to you.” And that is what she did. His name was Samuel. And Samuel and John are interesting because they were a lot of connections between the two.
Let me give you one. Samuel is a priest who is a prophet that God uses as the forerunner to King David. He actually anoints David to be King of Israel. John, whose Dad is a priest from the lineage of the priesthood and a prophet, is the forerunner to King Jesus. Do you see the connection there?
Another connection, and you can chew on this all week and I won’t give you the implications, but in the Old Testament, Abraham and Sara come from the Torah. Elkanah and Hannah come from the Prophets and both the Torah or the Law and the Prophets point to this forerunner who is coming and we know His name is Jesus.
And so what I want to show you today in our time together is how God predicted in the Old Testament that John would be the forerunner to the Messiah…and I am not talking about a Toyota here…I am talking about a forerunner, a messenger…some of you will get that later. But anyway, the forerunner to the Messiah so that you will realize today there are no accidents in the economy of God. There are no accidents in the economy of God. Nothing in your life…come in real close…happens by happenstance…nothing!
And I want to show you from the text. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to John Chapter 1. John Chapter 1. We will consider verses 19 and following and when you are there, say “Word.” Say it like you mean it. That is pretty puny. For the guests, I apologize in advance for that.
We sometimes get excited about studying the Word at Brainerd…sometimes, I promise you that. So, anyway, the Word of the Lord.
Verse 19. “And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah has spoken or said.’”
I want to show you three instances in this text, or three truths about the life of John and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Here is the first one, if you are taking notes.
The prophecies in the text about Jesus. I want to show you the prophecies about Jesus’ ministry particularly. The prophecies about Jesus’ ministry. All of the Jews were waiting for the Messiah to come. They believed that the Messiah would redeem them from the oppression of the Romans and the Greeks for so many years. And so they were waiting for God to send this Redeemer. They thought He was coming by force. And they were going to be cued in as to who the Messiah was by the one who came before Him. They knew from the Old Testament that God would send a forerunner who would identify the Messiah and they knew this from two Old Testament passages.
First of all, write it down, Malachi foretells the prophecy or foretells the Messiah’s forerunner. He predicts him. Malachi predicted the forerunner to the Messiah. So hold your place here and turn with me to Malachi Chapter 3. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi Chapter 3 Verse 1.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” And so Malachi says there is coming one who will come before Me and the Lord will come behind him. Malachi clarifies who he is talking about in Chapter 4 Verse 5. Look down.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah,” Verse 5, “the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Now here is a side bar for you. The last words of the Old Testament end with a warning against the people of Israel. If you do this and you don’t do this, I am going to strike you down. And then God says, I am done talking for 400 years.
And then John the Baptist is the first prophetic voice of God in 400 years as the voice of one crying in the wilderness. So Malachi predicted the forerunner to the Messiah, but you have to go back even further to Isaiah because Isaiah predicts the forerunner to the Messiah. Turn with me to Isaiah Chapter 40, after Psalms and Proverbs, before Jeremiah, you will find Isaiah. Isaiah Chapter 40 Verse 3.
“A voice cries: ’In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken..”
So what has happened up to this point is, Isaiah has said, there is one coming. Malachi has said there is one coming. And I want to make a case for you now that John the Baptist IS the forerunner to the Messiah. John is the one that these two spoke about.
Now here is the question. Where is John preaching this message from God in our text? Where is he at? This is audience participation part, by the way. Where is he at? He is in the wilderness, right? Now the wilderness is an interesting place. John, you have a message from God. Why in the world are you in the middle of nowhere?
You have to understand where John is. It is a about 26 A.D. He is on the shoreline of the River of Galilee by the Dead Sea, down in the Qumran area, the lower part of Israel. He is close to the city of Jericho in the middle of a desert. When you think wilderness, do not think lush, green plants and fruit bearing trees. Don’t think of southern Miami or the Bahamas. That is not what he is talking about here.
I want you to picture a barren desert. It would be the equivalent of being in Albuquerque, New Mexico and if you have never been there, you drive through desert and flat lands and desert and flat lands and all of a sudden, in the middle of nowhere, there is this town. That is where John is. He is off the beaten path.
Now here is the question. Why in the world, John, are you in the middle of the desert? I mean, you have a word from the Lord. Why are you not in Jerusalem? Why are you not in a city? Why are you not at the steps of the Temple? Why are you, John, waiting for people to come to you. You would almost think John would be like an evangelist going out to the people and yet, John is waiting for the people to come to him. And the reason I think John is in the wilderness is because he knows that is where God is going to come.
You see, John knows from Isaiah that when a voice cries in the wilderness, he will prepare the way for the Lord. Now, why in the wilderness? You see, the wilderness was always a place of testing for the Israelites. It was a place of trial. The wilderness is a barren wasteland. God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and He put them in the wilderness, the desert. God brought them out of Egypt and He gave them the Torah or the Law in the wilderness.
J. C. Ryle gives us a clue as to why he thinks the Messiah comes in the wilderness. Watch this. “Wilderness here could be a spiritual allusion to the barren state of the Jewish people or the Jewish religion.” You see, the Jewish people had gotten so caught up in ritualism and routine that they had negated or disqualified themselves from a relationship with God because they had gotten so good at checking boxes and filling in blanks. And they forgot that the Law was to build a relationship with the God of Israel, not just to check boxes. And so maybe the reason He comes in the wilderness is because God is showing the Israelites a deeper issue here that they are dealing with.
Now whenever a messenger would come back then, what would happen is, he would come to the town and he would go before the King. And he would scream to the people, prepare the way for the King. And the townspeople were cued at that point to run ahead and clear a pathway for the King. They would clean the streets. They would beautify the land. They would take the uneven ground and make it plain. And they would prepare a path for the King.
John the Baptist, through his preaching, is preparing a way not for a king, but for The King of Kings and The Lord or Lords, King Jesus, right? And wouldn’t you know, he obeyed the voice of God. He goes into the wilderness and he preaches the Word. And guess who shows up? Wouldn’t you know. God Himself.
So we see in the text, John is showing us from this text that there are prophecies about Jesus’ ministry. God talked about it hundreds and thousands of years before, that His Son would come.
Secondly, we see the purpose of John’s ministry. Let me tell you about the purpose of John’s ministry. Look at Verse 24.
“(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, ’Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ John answered them, ’I baptize you with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’ These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”
Now the question is, what is John doing? John is calling people through the preaching of the Word to repent and respond to God for spiritual and moral regeneration or revival. And so, because of the preaching of the Word, people are following through with baptism.
Now here is the million dollar question. It has been debated for years. What is the Biblical mode of baptism? Was John out there with a pitcher sprinkling heads as they walked by? That is the question. Or did people actually go into the water. And if they went into the water, did they go under the water?
In order to understand this, we have to go back to John’s time and we have to look first at the word “baptizo” which is the word “baptism or baptize.” That word in the language of the New Testament Greek means to submerge, to plunge or to immerse. It is the word picture of taking a bowl of red dye and taking a white cloth and dipping the cloth into the red dye until the color infuses the very fibers of the cloth. It envelops the cloth. That is the picture here.
Now, baptism in the First Century was not something new to John. Don’t miss this. John didn’t invent baptism. The Jews had known about this. We don’t know where it came from, but they had known about this. They constantly cleansed themselves ceremonially and ritually all the time. Before they would go into the Temple, they would walk into what was called a mikveh. The mikveh was a big baptismal pool, about 120 gallons of water. There were steps that went down into the water and they would walk in.
Now this is the misunderstanding that people have bought into for years. Baptism…come in real close…baptism in the First Century was always self-administered. Always. John wasn’t out there dunking people. You know, Next. Make sure you bend your knees. Next. And there is nothing against that. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that. But what I am saying is, John was preaching in such a way where he was causing people to be baptized. So they would walk into the water. They would cross their arms and they would themselves go in the water and out of the water, right?
So look what happens. John is doing this. Look at Verse 29. “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ’Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ’After me comes a man who ranks before me, because He was before me.’”
Now that is amazing because John is older than Jesus, but he says Jesus came before him. Why? Because Jesus came before everybody, right? He created everything. He created everyone. It shows the divinity of Christ.
“I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel.’ And john bore witness: ’I saw the Spirit descend form heaven like a dove, ad it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ’He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”
Now, here is what John is saying. John is saying, prior to Jesus’ baptism, I did not know who the Messiah was. Now, we have always believed that John always knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but John is telling us that he didn’t know that. Some people say, what about when he leapt in the womb when he was a baby? How much do you remember of what happened in the womb? Nobody, right? I think that was more for Mary and Elizabeth than it was for anybody else.
So John may have known that Jesus was different. You know, Jesus was the younger cousin who never did anything wrong, literally, right? But he didn’t know exactly that He was the Messiah. And God said, this is how you will know. And the reason we know that is, Mary and Elizabeth probably lived far away. They couldn’t take the Greyhound or the Amtrak train to visit each other. It was far away. And so he didn’t actually know the Messiah.
And God said, this is how you will know. You are going to see people being baptized and when you see the Spirit of God in bodily form descend upon Him and remain, that is the cue, this is the Man.
Now what is interesting is, John goes out. He is baptizing these people and all of a sudden, it says he hears the voice and he sees the Spirit descend on Him. And John says, I bore witness to that. I have realized that this is the Man.
Now what is amazing about John…I want you to understand the humility of this man. John’s ministry at the time Jesus comes on the scene is booming. I mean, he has got a following here. Everybody loves John. John is the man! In fact, John is so popular that his profession and the process and the means by which he is doing ministry is attached to his name! It would be like Mike, the accountant, or John, the carpenter. That is how popular he is, right? So his title or his profession is attached or the process is attached to his name.
And then Jesus comes on the scene and guess what John does? He hands the baton to Him. Think of the humility here. He builds this entire movement up, gets it going and then he says, Jesus, it is all Your’s. He is not trying to start John the Baptist International Ministries, Incorporated here as some have done. He is not trying to build up his own kingdom. John says on one occasion, I am going to decrease or I must decrease so that He increases. If you can learn that, that is profound. Think about this.
He says, “I must decrease so that Christ would increase.” It reminds me of the great symphony conductor Arturo Toscanini. He may be familiar for those in music. He was an amazing conductor. And he had performed Beethoven’s Symphony Number Nine or the Ninth Symphony many times. But this time, there was something different. And for those who know about music, all the notes were hit and all the cues were responded to just at the right time. And at the end of the performance in that concert hall, everyone after the crescendo, jumped to their feet and began applauding. People were stomping their feet. They were whistling and yelling. They couldn’t believe what they just experienced. And Toscanini, in the midst of this eruption of clapping and applause, he turns around to his men and they bow. And then he turns around and he bows. And they bow again. And in the midst of this, he says, “Gentlemen,” in a whisper, (come in close). He says, “Gentlemen, I am nothing.” Now that blew them away because normally Toscanini was pretty egotistical, so they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. But then he went on. He said, “Gentlemen,” he kept whispering, “Gentlemen, YOU are nothing.” And they were kind of taken back. And then he finished up with these words, “But Gentlemen, Beethoven, he is everything! He is everything!”
You see, I think that is the mentality of born-again Christians, right? We are carrying out a play that God had prepared before the foundation of the world, we are carrying out, conducting, a symphony that we didn’t write and we are participants where He gets the glory. Amen? He is everything, not us. That is what John is saying, “I must decrease so that Christ would increase.” When people see you, do they notice Christ in you? Do they say, I don’t know what is different about this brother or this sister, but I know something is different. I see Jesus in them.
Wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t even know our names anymore. They just said Jesus. Who is preaching at that church? I don’t know, but Jesus is there. Who is leading music up there at the BX? I don’t know, but Jesus is there. Who runs that restaurant or that business? I don’t know, but Jesus is there. Do you see the point? We must decrease so that He would increase. That is the purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry.
But I want to show you finally the providence over John’s ministry. And in order to get this, we have to go to another Gospel. Go to Matthew Chapter 11...I am sorry, Matthew Chapter, yeah, 11. Matthew Chapter 11. In Matthew Chapter 11, we read what happens to John the Baptist. This is the end of John’s life.
Verse 1. “When Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in the cities.” Verse 2. “Now when John (that is John the Baptist) heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, (what Jesus was doing), he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?
Now does this strike anyone as odd? I mean, John, come on. If anyone knows who the Messiah is, it is you! You are the forerunner that was talked about in the Old Testament. You are the messenger of Malachi. You are the voice of Isaiah crying in the wilderness. What do you mean, are You the one to come? I mean, John, you are the one who said, Look, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! John, you are the one who said, “I bore witness that the Spirit of God descended upon Him and remained on Him.” John, you even said this is the Son of God! You said, “I heard the voice from heaven.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I am ever baptizing here and I am baptizing someone and as they go into the water, we hear from the rafters, THIS IS MY SON. And all of a sudden a ghost-like figure comes through the roof and lands on them, folks, I am done preaching. Okay. I am just going to be honest. They have center stage because we realize who that is, right? John knows exactly who Jesus is.
So, John, what are you asking? It almost seems like John is asking this when he is saying, are you the One to come or should we look for someone else? Jesus, should we put our trust in another person?
Now before I answer what is happening here, let me give you the back story of where John is. John is in prison. And the reason John is in prison is because he has called out Herod Antipas. There are two Herods that rule over Israel; Herod Antipas and Herod Philip. It is kind of confusing. But Herod Antipas fell in love with his brother, Herod’s wife named Herodias. So he divorces his wife in order to take his brother’s wife in this incestuous affair, if you can imagine.
Well, John the Baptist, we know how John is, he is not afraid to call a spade a spade. And so he calls it out. He says, Herod, brother, you keep doing this and God is going to judge you and Herodias, you are out of line, as well. That is my paraphrase, but probably how it happened. Herodias did not like that. She goes back to Herod and she says, we have got to get rid of this guy. And so Herod tries to kill John, but realizes that the popularity of John would be more of a problem, so he pushes him away in prison. He basically hides him in prison.
John is hanging out in prison, Matthew Chapter 14 says that Herod has a birthday party. And so Herod is at this birthday party and now his wife, Herodias and her daughter, Siloam is there. She is kind of teenage year old girl or early twenties, probably a teenager. She is there and she is the entertainment for the night. This young teenage girl dances for Herod and the text says in this perverted, crude way, he was pleased with this young girl who is his niece.
He calls the young girl to himself and he says, because of what you have done, I am going to give you anything you want. You have one wish, anything you want. The girl wisely consults her mother before responding with the request. She goes back and she says, I want John the Baptist’s head on a platter. I want him beheaded.
When John sends this word to Jesus, folks, get this, John is between a prison and a platter. Some of you will get that later, but you get the point here. He is between a rock and a hard place, right? He is in a predicament. And so when Jesus hears this message, are You the One to come or should we look for someone else, what John is probably saying is, Jesus, I am in trouble. And you have to be honest. Jesus, why don’t you drop everything and just go help him? I mean, don’t you know all the things John has done for You. I mean, do you know John is the forerunner to Your whole ministry! I mean, Jesus, this preaching thing is fine and you are healing people you don’t know, but this is a family member here. Let’s go help John. Let’s go rescue John. Don’t you realize John is in big trouble? Or maybe, maybe You are not even the Messiah. Is that what John is asking? Not so much.
In order to understand what John is saying, we have to put the saying that he asked back into a Hebraic context. And in order to understand what John is saying, we have to know the two Old Testament passages that talked about the Coming One. You see, there were two Old Testament passages that were prophecies as to the One to come. You see, when John is asking Jesus, are You the one to come, this is what he is asking. Are You the coming One or are you not?
The two passages are Malachi 3 and Zechariah. So hold your place here. We have already been to Malachi. Lets go quickly back and I want to show you quickly these Old Testament passages that talk about the Coming One. Malachi 3 Verse 1. See if you can pick it out.
“Behold, I will send My messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you will seek will suddenly come to His temple.” Do you see it? Suddenly come. The Lord (hi adone in Hebrew) is the Lord Himself will come. He is the coming One. Do you see it.
Go to Zechariah Chapter 9 Verse 9, just back one book. Verse 9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you.” Do you see it? He is the Coming One. “Righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Behold, the King comes to you!
What John is asking here is simply this. John is saying to Jesus, are You the fulfillment of the two Messianic passages? This is what John is saying, when is the Messianic agenda going to start? See, because in his mind, his agenda was destruction, his agenda was to conquer the enemies. And what he is saying to Jesus is this, when the Messiah comes, based on the Old Testament I know, the wicked will no longer prosper. And Jesus, everywhere I look, I see people prospering that are evil. I see wicked men getting ahead. When are You going to call down fire from heaven, that is what I want to know. Jesus, when are you going to send the Holy Spirit? If you haven’t realized it, I am in a bad position here, Jesus, and You better hurry up. And I think what he is doing is, he is spurring Jesus along. Jesus, you need to get this thing started. Lets get about the business of this Messianic agenda. Jesus, we need to get this thing going.
And Jesus responds to him this way. Look at Verse 4 of Matthew Chapter 11. “Go and tell John what you hear and what you see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
Now, at first glance you have to admit, it is almost like Jesus is trying to inspire him. And you have to admit, the dead coming back to life and the lame walking again and the deaf hearing and the blind seeing, that is pretty inspiring, right? And you almost wonder, John, how could you even have asked that question in the first place? I mean, it is like John caught it in prison and said, oh, wow, I hear about all these things going on. Maybe I misunderstood Jesus. Here is the problem with that: John knew all those things before he asked the question.
Look at Verse 2, “After John heard all the things that Christ was doing, he sent his disciples with a word.” You see, what Jesus is saying to John is simply this. He is saying, John, you thought I was coming to set Israel free form her enemies, but I have actually come to set sinners free from THE enemy. John, I am not coming to get you. That is what He is saying. John, I am not going to rescue you. I am not going to spare your life. I know I have done that for other people and I know I have done many things more for others, but John, I have a plan and a purpose for your life and you are going to stay in prison and you are going to die. Oh, and by the way, don’t fall away because of Me, because if you stay and remain, you will be blessed.
How in the world can we wrap our minds around this passage? Let me give you one walking point as we close. As believers, we need to trust God…don’t miss this…in the good times and the bad times. You need to trust God in the good times and the bad times.
This is going to be an encouragement for some people in here today. Somebody needs to hear this because what it says in this text and it shows us, is that God ever promises to free us from trials and tribulation as a Christian. But He has promised to work it all together for the good for eternity. That is what He has promised.
And the sad fact of the matter is, and I don’t know why this is the case, but the sad fact of the matter is, there are some people who will suffer their entire Christian life. You are just going to suffer. You are going to never be able to get ahead financially. You are never going to be able to get ahead emotionally. You are never going to be able to get victory in relationships. Your marriage may not always be what you always dreamed it to be. Your kids may not turn out the way you expected them to be. Your family members may not get saved and that may bother your entire life. And I don’t know why that is, but I do know this, there are no accidents in the economy of God. Do you believe that? There are no accidents. There is nothing that happens in your life by happenstance.
You see, if you can wrap your minds around this, God is not interested as much in your happiness as He is interested in your holiness. He tells John, I know you are not going to be happy in prison, but stay holy, brother. Focus on Me. Don’t fall away.
You see, Romans 8:28 is a great scripture to quote but it is hard to apply to our lives, right? “And we know that God works all things for those who love Him together for the good according to His purpose,” right? And what He is saying in that text is this, He works everything that is good in your life altogether for the good and He works everything that is all bad in your life all together for the good for His glory. And some of us may not understand the implications of that until we step into eternity.
And friends, listen to me, if you are hurting right now, don’t miss this. God has a reason for that. If you are struggling right now and you don’t understand why, God has a reason for that. If you are downtrodden and in despair right now, God has a reason for that.
Joni Erickson Tata said it this way. “Sometimes God permits that which He hates to accomplish that which He loves.” Sometimes God permits that which He hates to accomplish that which He loves.
Here is a motto that Kandi and I have lived by for years and here is the motto. When you are down to nothing, God is always up to something. Do you believe that? When you are down to nothing, God is always up to something. And if we look in hindsight, we can see it better than it we look in the future.
In 1994, I got a scholarship to UNC Greensborough to play basketball, but God divinely changed the course of my life and sent me to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to William Carey College which was a Southern Baptist College. I was a Roman Catholic. And you know the implications of what that was like. I was an alcoholic who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. I was a burnt out basketball player who wanted to go out to the clubs and get loaded every weekend. And I heard the gospel in 1995 from Jeremy Brown. He was the only guy, I think, brave enough to tell me the gospel. And I would reject it. I would say, Jeremy, I am not interested in that.
But when you are down to nothing, God is up to something. I got out of college in 1998. I started a computer business that went upside down. I ventured in the world, doing different things, odd jobs. And then in 1999, November 22, an 18-wheeler 65 mph rear-ended my car into the guardrail. My seat broke off the hinges, hurt my back, went to the doctors. They sent me home with four things, four different types of pain medication. My drug addiction spiraled out of control. I was eventually addicted to heroin and cocaine for three years. I robbed my own family for $15,000. I lived on the streets without gas and electricity for almost three months. If I would have died back then, I would have been separated from my family and I would have been separated from Christ for eternity.
If you would have looked at my life back then, you could have said, how in the world could anything good come from this? Anything? But when you are down to nothing, God is up to something.
On November 12, 2002, after two rehab treatments, I remember what Jeremy Brown told me in college seven years before. And I got on my knees and I cried out to the Lord Jesus Christ. I was ready to get serious with God and God, by His grace, had seen enough. He said, it is time! The time had come! He stepped from the eternal, invisible realm into the temporal, visible, natural realm and He called my name! For the first time, I heard the voice of God. People say, Robby, was it an audible voice. No, it was louder! It is the same voice He called Noah to build the ark. It was the same voice He called Abraham to leave his home town. It was the same voice He spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. That is the voice I heard.
And I surrendered my life completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, when you are down to nothing, God is always up to something.
I met Kandi a year and a half later. My life turned around, if you can imagine. The most amazing woman God entrusted me with to marry and He put us in ministry. What an opportunity we had to travel around. On the weekends, I got the opportunity to be discipled by two men, David Platt and Tim LaFleur. It changed my life forever.
Kandi and I at one point said, she was working at the seminary, I was in seminary. We were traveling on the weekends preaching the Word. We had great friends on campus in New Orleans and we looked at each other and said, Could life get any better than this! We thought we had it all.
And then August 29, 2005 happened in our life. Our life intersected with a hurricane named Katrina. We evacuated with four pairs of clothes for both of us in one suitcase and when that storm finished going through our hometown, we had eight feet of water in our house, twelve feet of water in the home I was raised in, fifteen feet of water in my sister’s house. We lost every single possession we owned. And I said, God, how can You do anything good with this? But when you are down to nothing, God is always up to something.
After Hurricane Katrina, Kandi and I made a pact. We were going to praise God in the storm, no matter what happens, we were going to be faithful to continue giving to the Lord and praising the Lord. And what happened was, my parents who moved to Houston, who were unbelievers at the time, watched us live out our Christian faith before them. And God provided a job for me and God gave me an opportunity to serve on staff at a church and He gave me an income and He blessed us abundantly. And I will never forget the day we went back to see my parents for the first time after the storm. My Dad and I were in a vehicle together for a divine appointment that God had planned before the foundation of the world. And I looked at my Dad and I said, “Dad, you could have died in the storm. If you would have died, do you know if you would have gone to heaven for sure?” And he said, “Son, I don’t know.” And I said, “Dad, how does that make you feel?” And he said, “It bothers me.” I said, “Well, we can change that today.” And because of the kindness of God, I got to pray with my Father in the car to receive Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Amen. Praise the Lord.
A few months later, I got to pray with my Mom. She came to Christ. I got to pray with my sister. She came to Christ. It all would have never possibly happened without Katrina. Friends, I want to tell you, when you re down to nothing, God is up to something. The storm clarified the call in my life. I thought I would be an evangelist, an itinerate preacher. And God said, No, I want you to pastor a church. And so we began praying and a small church in South Louisiana in a town of 12,000 65 people, Emmanuel Baptist Church called me to consider to be their pastor. We accepted the call. It was some of the greatest times in our life. We experienced revival in that small church.
God began to do an amazing work in our life. And I got a phone call in 2008 from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and they asked me to do something that they had never done before and that was to preach the Seminary Revival as a student. They had never had that before. I thought it was a joke because the day I was preaching was April 1. I thought it was an April Fool’s Joke, but he said, No, I am serious. You are going to preach April 1, 2 and 3.
And friends, don’t miss this, I prepared for months in my study to preach those messages to who I thought would be seminary students. But little did I know, God was preparing a committee of seven folks in Chattanooga, Tennessee who were looking for the pastor of their church. Little did I know, those would be the sermons they would go online and listen to and be the reason that God would call me to Brainerd Baptist Church.
Listen, when you are down to nothing, God is always up to something. Now, I don’t know what you are going through today, but I know God has a reason for it. And I don’t know how bad you are hurting today. I can’t even probably empathize with how bad your are hurting, but God has a reason for it. And I don’t know how bad you are struggling today, but God has a reason for it. And aren’t you glad we can trust in a trusting God? You can say Amen to that, right?
Friends, if you leave with nothing else, leave with this. There are no accidents in the economy of God. Would you trust Him today? No,. No. I mean, will you REALLY trust Him today because He is trustworthy. Amen?