“The next day John 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 is preferred before me, for He was before me. I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” John 1:29 – 31
John’s life was about pointing people to Christ. In verse 31 he states “therefore I came” acknowledging that the whole purpose for everything he was about was that Christ should be revealed. He understood that the purpose of his life was to reveal Christ.
When the Pharisees asked him why he baptized, he didn’t give his pedigree. He could have pointed out that his father was a priest, that his birth was announced by an angel, that there were prophecies given of his life and ministry. He defended himself only by stating his purpose (the voice of one crying) and then announced to them “but there stands one among you”. He didn’t really need to be validated by those around him. He just need to do what God sent him to do. That was good enough for John.
John even pointed his own disciples to Jesus. He wasn’t building his own ministry or his own following. He wasn’t interested in establishing some great work in his own name. He knew that the bridegroom was coming and it was enough for him to be the friend.
In a day when so many in American Christianity have become seduced by the “destiny teachings” that tend to focus on us, maybe we could find our way back to realizing that the destiny of each believer is simply to reveal Christ. Oh that ours also may be lives that exalt our Christ!
The Old Testament verses that prophesy John’s ministry call him the “voice of one crying in the wilderness”. That word “crying” doesn’t just mean that he was loud. It means that his crying out was a manifestation of feeling; the outward expression of what was going on in the heart of the man. He wasn’t just saying some words, fulfilling some obligation to preach. But he was releasing what was burning on the inside of him.
Matthew 3:5 tells us “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him” – the people knew that there was something different about John. He wasn’t like the rabbis that they listened to each Sabbath, who gave lifeless instruction, but there was a quality present in John’s preaching that was unique. And it drew people.
If you went to hear John preach and took your notepad, you would probably come home with a blank paper. You wouldn’t have a list of five ways to be a better law-keeper, or ten ways to be a better Jew. But you would have come away with a heart on fire for this God that John preached.
All those years shut away in the wilderness seeking God had produced a man whose heart burned for God. He was passionate for God. And when he spoke, you knew it.
To be continued…..
One of the very first portrayals I saw of John the Baptist was in the 1970’s mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth”. The character was played by Michael York, whose hair was always askance and eyes wild. His voice was loud, his countenance a bit sullen and he was somewhat of a frightening character. This has always seemed to fit well with his words, which were like flaming darts aimed at the hearts of the people. John had some strong words, especially for the religious people. Knowing what we do now about the heart condition of those Pharisees, when we read about John’s strong words to those old religious hypocrites we want to cheer because there is something in us that gets some type of perverse pleasure in seeing those people embarrassed and exposed for what they really are in front of everybody. But John’s goal was not public humiliation, but repentance.
In Luke 3:7-15 John gives a flaming rebuke to the crowd and when the people respond, he doesn’t continue to pile on the condemnation. His mission was to prepare the way and when a heart had been made tender and brought to repentance, he knew his mission had been accomplished in that one. As their hearts were pierced by his words they would come to him asking “what should we do?” And John helps them by giving them instruction on how they can obey and please God. The fiery preacher turned to gentle teacher.
Even John’s rebuke to Herod was not to defame the man, but to lead him to repentance. There is no evidence that John ever publicly issued this rebuke to Herod in front of a multitude of people. Each account of this in the gospels said that John “said to Herod”. He wasn’t trying to dazzle the crowds with his speaking ability or draw their admiration by his recklessly courageous speaking. His heart yearned for these people to be ready for their Messiah. It was a longing that burned in him and through him.
A life on fire genuinely wants to help people get right with God. Whether with a harsh rebuke or tender instruction, whatever it takes, this one longs to be a minister of reconciliation.
In considering the life of John the Baptist as an example of a life on fire, I would like to move on to the responsiveness of this life. “…the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went in to all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Luke 3:2b-3
Notice these phrases – “the word of God came” “and he went”. John didn’t sit around luxuriating in the warmth of a word from God. He recognized that the word made a requirement of him. The word came…and he went. The word makes a requirement of us as well – obedience.
Somewhere after being born again, as we become more acclimated in the Christian environment, we can find ourselves receiving the word of God in a way other than how God meant for us to receive it. Consider what was happening in the day of Ezekiel the prophet:
“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.” Ezekiel 33:30-32
These were the religious folks; happy to get together for church, ready to hear a message. But they had no intention of allowing that word to impact their lives. It was just their religious form of entertainment. And it is just as prevalent in our day. How many people do you know that run from church to church, conference to conference, book to book, always looking for the latest word in religion. They aren’t necessarily just interested in the religious cotton candy that’s out there, but find an in-your-face message just as tasty. However, the word is not allowed to nourish and bring growth to their inner man. It makes its way to the belly and is eliminated without ever having affected the heart. It is spiritual bulimia.
But those whose lives are on fire by God will listen with a heart to obey, to hear the very voice of God speaking to them through the message. “Speak to me God!” is the cry of their heart, and they treasure one word from heaven over 10,000 messages from the most learned theologians. Then, and only then, can they go with something to share with the world.
Oh let us hear! Let us respond! And let our hearts burn for His speaking!
To be continued…..