Study # 8
Thesis: The joy John was to bring was the joy of being deeply connected to the gracious God.
Introduction: [Read Luke 1:15-17.] As we have moved through some of the details of Luke's record of John's coming into the world, we have noticed a specific focus on the issues of fear, joy, and grace. Zacharias, who was a fearful man, was promised a coming joy because he was to have a son named Yahweh is Gracious. Last week we considered the specific identity of grace and saw that it requires of us that we cease looking for ways to leverage our wants and settle into a realization that Yahweh is already committed to meeting our needs -- if He can do so without setting disaster in motion. Our greatest need is a love/faith heart/mind reality that is focused upon Truth. If God meets any lesser need without meeting that need, disaster is lurking around the corner. This morning we are going to begin to look into the angelic rationale for the promise of coming joy. Zacharias was promised that he would have great joy, and that it would become a characteristic of his life so that fear would become a diminishing commodity in his experience. This would happen at a fundamental level because he would come to grips with the reality of Yahweh's gracious character. But, it was going to happen at a methodological level because Yahweh's gracious character was going to produce a son for him who would have four major characteristics. Our text tells us that John was going to be great before the Lord, that he would abstain from wine and strong drink, that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb, and that he would be a divine instrument for the conversion of many in Israel. Our question is this: how does having a son who will be all of these things bring a man out of an abiding fear into a consistently joyful heart?
October 19, 2003
- I. It Wouldn't Work for Just Any Man.
- A. There is a principle in the Scriptures that ties grace to grace.
- 1. Exodus 33:13 -- if I have found grace...that I might find grace...
- 2. John 1:16 -- grace upon grace
- 3. Romans 8:32 -- freely given...freely give
- 4. Hebrews 4:16 -- draw near by grace to obtain grace
- 5. James 4:6 -- He giveth more grace
- B. If Zacharias was not already drawn by grace (as evidenced by his righteous standing before God and his daily practice of God's instructions), having a son by grace would not bring him to joy.
- II. It Will Work for Zacharias.
- A. The greatness of the son.
- 1. John was predicted to be "great before the Lord".
- a. This greatness was very great according to Jesus' words in Luke 7:28 and context.
- b. This greatness consisted in being the one who would prepare Messiah's way into the core of Israel's theological center (Luke 7:27).
- c. This greatness was the result of sovereign grace that would lay the foundation for grace upon grace.
- 2. This greatness would impact the father as a grace upon grace reality in that the father would enter into the fulness of joy as 3 John 1:4 says.
- a. Joy is tightly tied to having a valid love/faith heart/mind reality.
- b. Once the right values and methods have been embraced, joy comes when the sought-after objective is realized by the truth-directed methods.
- c. One cannot wish for life for others without rejoicing when others live.
- B. The discipline of the son.
- 1. John was prophesied to be a teetotaler.
- a. On the face of it, this means that he was to be a Nazarite -- one of the company of those under a special loyalty covenant to Yahweh.
- b. Below the surface of it, this means that he was to be so committed to the Truth that he would diligently refuse to permit anything to fog up his perception of that Truth.
- 1) Wine and strong drink were "deceivers" that lead people to think what is not true: Proverbs 20:1.
- 2) Wine and strong drink were to be given to those whose troubles were so great that they needed to be disconnected from their reality: Proverbs 31:6.
- 2. This intense dedication to Truth would impact Zacharias in multiple ways as he lived in a household with a son who would not vary from the truth.
- C. The provision for the son.
- 1. John was to be filled with the Holy Spirit all his days.
- a. This raises the question of what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
- 1) A cursory examination of the records of people that were filled with the Spirit leads to one conclusion: the Spirit's fulness results in spoken truth.
- Luke 1:41 -- Elizabeth was suddenly "filled with the Spirit" and she spoke inspired words.
- Luke 1:67 -- Zacharias was suddenly "filled with the Spirit" and he prophesied.
- Acts 2:24 -- the upper room disciples were "filled with the Spirit" and began to speak in tongues.
- Acts 4:8 -- Peter was "filled" and "spoke unto them".
- Acts 4:31 -- they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and "spoke the Word of God".
- Acts 13:9-10 -- Paul was filled "and spoke".
- Ephesians 5:18-19 -- being filled with the Spirit is immediately tied to "speaking".
There is this connection in all of these references: fulness of the Spirit leads to speaking true words. The prophecy of John was not a prophecy that he would be a perfect person, but that he would utter true words. However, James says that if a man utters legitimate speech consistently, the same is a perfect man -- implying that truth speaking only consistently occurs when a person is spiritually mature.
- 2) This gives focus to the command to be filled with the Spirit: it means to be willing to be sufficiently involved with the Word of Truth so as to be able to speak truthfully.
- b. This also posits the reality that no one can be consistently involved with the Truth who has not made the grace-based decision to turn loose of the issues of control and pursuit -- I want to be in control -- I want to chase this.
- 2. Zacharias, again, was to be led into joy by a life with a son who was a constant example of grace-based God-direction without all of the underlying manipulations and plots.
- D. The impact of the son.
- 1. John was predicted to be the one who would turn many to the gracious Yahweh.
- 2. Zacharias was to be one of those whose turning to Yahweh was occasioned by John.
- III. It Will Also Work, in Principle, for Us.
- A. What is the principle?
- 1. The principle is grace upon grace.
- 2. The issue is not a miraculous son, but, rather, the input by the gracious God.
- B. How does it work?
- 1. The outworking of the principle is the fellowship of the saints as we are influenced by Truth in others.
- 2. The command for us to be filled with the Spirit so that we speak to one another in categories of Truth implies that the outworking can be hindered by non-grace -- as carnality and untruth are sown in our experience.
- 3. But, the bottom line is always going to be Yahweh, not our fellow-saints, so hope is not lost because of the slide into error which surrounds us.