Click here to watch this sermon by guest evangelist Billy Dickinson.
There are three occasions as recorded in the New Testament where the father’s voice was heard in regard to His Son. The first one was at the baptism of our Savior by John the Baptist. And a Voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And then there was the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration as we call it, where again a voice said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And then the words were added to “hear ye Him.” But there’s a third occasion that we want to talk about for a little while today. It’s found in the 12th chapter of the book of John. This was an occasion where Jesus was having a conversation with some Greeks who had been brought to him by Philip and Andrew. And Jesus was explaining to them concerning His death that the hour for His sufferings upon the cross and His eventual glorification was imminently near.
And Jesus said, “Now is My soul troubled and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? He said, before this cause came I, under this hour.” And then finally He said, “Father, glorify Thy name.” And it was at this point that an audible voice could be heard from heaven. John 12 in verse 28 says, “Then there came a voice from heaven saying, ‘I have both glorified it and I will glorify it again.'” Now the point that I want to emphasize and really build upon in this sermon today is the attitude or the response that the voice of God received by those who heard it. And I believe that this is very interesting to say the least. Listen to what the Bible says. It says, “The people therefore that stood by and heard it said that it thundered, and others said an angel spoke unto Him.”
I really believe today that this is a classic example of people basically hearing what they want to hear. And when you stop to think about it, we humans are good at that, are we not? Sometimes we hear what we want to hear, and we simply disregard what we don’t want to listen to. Now I realize that there are some commentators who suggest that on this occasion that God spoke in a way that the people simply could not understand. And I guess basically what they’re saying is, it was God’s fault. One commentator said that God spoke somewhat indistinctly on this occasion. But I want to say that I reject that explanation. And the reason is because it seems to me that it negates the very purpose for which God spoke. In other words, if God didn’t speak in a way for them to understand what He was saying, really if he didn’t intend for them to understand what he was saying, why did He cause this event to take place in the first place?
And then remember what Jesus said in John 12 in verse 30. He said, “This voice came not because of Me but for your sakes.” In other words, Jesus said it wasn’t for my benefit, but really it was for your sake, it was for your edification that this voice from on high has spoken unto you. And so, surely then on that occasion, God spoke in a way that was clear and audible enough for them to understand. So, it seems to me really that the problem didn’t have to do with whether or not God spoke in a distinct way, but it had to do with the hearts of those who were listening on that occasion. Some of them that heard this voice, they simply disregarded it. They said, “Oh, it was just simply thunder.” In other words, “We didn’t really hear what we thought we heard, but it was just simply thunder somewhere in the distance.”
And then there were others who allowed that indeed they had heard a voice, but they said probably it was an angel. And again, I say this is a prime example of people hearing what they want to hear. Have you ever been around someone who’s supposed to be hard of hearing? And maybe they are hard of hearing to some extent, and you have to tell them something two or three times before they can understand it. But then it could be with this same person if you’re in another room and you’re talking about them with someone and you’re whispering and you don’t want them to hear the conversation, it seems like they can hear it every time. Isn’t that amazing? But that’s the way it is sometimes with us. Sometimes you see, we have the ability to tune out what we do not want to listen to.
And unfortunately, that’s the way it is with some people with God’s word. This book that I’m holding right here, the Holy Bible, is God’s revelation unto us. And there are many people who are adept at tuning out the voice of God has spoken through his word. You know what? They can read or they can hear the word of God, and while they hear the sound of what God is saying, they have the capacity to disregard the meaning. And so that’s sad, because that means that the word of God is not able to move and touch them like the word of God is designed to do. In other words, to them the word of God is no more binding or authoritative than mere thunder. Or in other words, simply empty noise making. What I want to try to stress today is this, that when God speaks to us through his word, we need to take that seriously and we need to understand that we’re dealing with more than just thunder.
And I want to talk about a couple of things that really falls into this category. The first one that I want to talk about I think is a very important one and certainly essential for us to understand, and that is listen: the command to repent. When we read in the scriptures where God commands us to repent of our sins, we need to understand that we’re dealing with more than just thunder. When you stop to think about it, God’s message to every generation has always been a message of repentance. Indeed, God’s spokesmen from the Old Testament prophets to John the Baptist, down to Jesus Christ himself, and including the apostles, and the New Testament evangelists, they have always proclaimed repentance as a central part of their preaching. I remember Jesus warned one time in Luke 13 in verse 3 and even repeated it in verse 5 when he said that “Except you repent, you are going to perish.” Now you know that’s not much of a choice, is it? Either repent of your sins or Jesus said you will perish in your sins.
And then remember the apostle Paul when he preached to the Athenians on Mars hill and the City of Athens in Acts 17, in verse 30, he said this: “In the times of this ignorance, God winked at, but now He commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” I want you to notice here that Paul tells us that repentance is a command of God. And therefore, we understand that it is an individual responsibility that we have. In other words, it’s up to me and it’s up to you to repent and to respond to this divine call of repentance. It is my responsibility to obey this command just like any other command that God has given us in His word. But when you stop to think about it, in every generation preceding us, it seems like that only a precious few really repented of their sins and changed their ways. And really, it’s true today in this society in which we live. I think when you get right down to it, men will do almost anything except repent. And especially when it comes to certain sins, or certain sinful lifestyles that they don’t want to give up. Instead of repenting, you know what they do? They disregard God’s word, and they act as if it is nothing more than thunder. But listen, when the Lord says repent or perish, he wasn’t making an idle threat. He wasn’t engaging in simply making noise, He was sounding out a warning that all men need to heed. Listen, people of our generation, personally, in our own individual lives, we need to see the need of repentance.
Now let me ask you this. What is repentance? What did Jesus mean when he said, “You either repent or you will perish”? Well, literally, it means to change one’s mind or purpose for the better. In other words, it has to do with the change of heart that leads to a change of conduct. Now you see before repentance, you say, “I will not” to God’s will. That is your will or what you want to do. But after repentance you say, “I will” to God’s will. And it is at that point that you begin to allow God’s will to have control over you and it becomes your will. And you know what? It all begins with a change of heart. Well, let me ask you this. How does repentance come about? Well, let me again emphasize that this is an individual responsibility that we all have.
Remember on the Day of Pentecost there in the second chapter of the Book of Acts that Peter stood up and proclaimed the lordship of Jesus Christ and Peter told those who were gathered that day that, “God has made the same Jesus whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ.” And there were many of them in the audience that day who were pricked in their hearts, and their consciences, and they cried out men in brethren, “What shall we do?” What did Peter tell them?
In Acts two in verse 38, he said, “Repent…” Notice that! “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.” I want us to realize the fact that Peter commanded them to repent shows that it was in their power to do so. In other words, they had the ability to repent, and they made a conscious decision as to whether or not they would repent. So let me make this observation. Listen, repentance is not something that takes a miraculous act to bring about. In other words, repentance is not a direct work of God that is wrought unconditionally in the heart of the center. I think that should be obvious, because as we’ve already said, only a few repent. But the Bible says that God is no respecter of persons and He would have all men to come to repentance. We’re told that in second Peter 3 and verse 9.
Now you know it is true that the Bible says that God grants and God gives repentance. There are passages that state that, for example, Acts 11, verse 18 and 2 Timothy 2, verses 24 and 25. But, these passages do not teach that God gives repentance unconditionally. No, he doesn’t do it unconditionally, but what God does is, he gives us the motives and the incentives that we need to repent. You know what? Really that’s one of the purposes of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we proclaim the good news of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ, it is revealed unto mankind, the grace of God, the goodness of God as manifested through the sending of God’s Son. And what did the apostle Paul say in Romans 2 and verse 4? He said, “It is the goodness of God that leads you to repentance.” That’s why we should repent.
When we come to understand how much God loves us, God wants to have that relationship with us and this life and he wants that relationship to even continue in eternity, in heaven. That’s why He sent His Son to come and to die upon the cross and shed His blood. And when we think about that grace, and that mercy, and that kindness in Jesus Christ, what greater incentive do we need to repent? But you know what? There’s another incentive and that is God warns us about the consequences of sin. And I want you to get this connection in Matthew 3 verse 7 and 8. Here was the message of John the Baptist when he said, “O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Now listen: “bring forth therefore fruits which are mete for repentance.”
When we realize that there is going to be a judgment day and we’re going to give an account one of these days of the way that we have lived, then that should be an incentive for us to repent and to bring our lives in line with God’s will for our lives. Let’s go back to Acts 17 and verse 30, where again Paul said, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now He has commanded all men everywhere to repent.” But we might ask ourselves, “Why should I take that seriously? What difference does it make?” I’ll tell you why it makes a difference. He went on to say, “Because…” In other words, “Here’s why we’ve been commanded to repent. Here’s why we should have a change of heart and want to live for the Lord.” He says, “Because God hath appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, in that, He has given him this assurance in that He has raised Him from the dead.”
Paul would say, “We’re all going to appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. We’re going to give an account unto God for the things that we have done while in this body, whether it be good or whether it be bad.” Let me ask you the question again. When you consider what the Bible clearly says that you need to repent, that I need to repent, we need to have a change of heart and decide to live for the Lord, do we take that seriously, or do we just simply consider that as thunder, as noise making, and we really don’t consider the consequences of what we’re doing?
Let me ask you another question. When the Bible talks about obeying the gospel, is that something that we take seriously? That’s an expression that’s used in the Bible several times. Obeying the gospel. It’s interesting to me when I hear denominational preachers, I don’t really hear them using that expression much, have you? I haven’t. I don’t hear them talking about the idea we need to obey the gospel. You know why? That doesn’t exactly fit their concept of how salvation comes about. Many of them of course say, it’s all by faith alone. But the Bible talks about obeying the gospel. What does that imply? That implies that there are commands. There are certain things that we need to do in order to be saved. In Second Thessalonians chapter 2, there the apostle Paul would write about what’s going to happen when Jesus Christ comes again and he says that, “He’s going to take vengeance on them who know not God and who obey not the gospel.” Have you obeyed the gospel?
Place your faith in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins as we’ve already given some emphasis to. Confess that Jesus Christ is the son of God and then be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins. Do we really take seriously what Jesus said in Mark 16, verses 15 and 16? “Go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” And then he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned.” It’s obvious that Jesus made baptism a command of the gospel unto salvation. Remember Peter said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” Let us take seriously all of the commands of God that are found in this book right here. We’ll be glad that we did in the day of judgment because Jesus said, “the word that I have spoken unto you the same is going to judge you in the last day.”
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