Monday, September 21, 2009

John the Baptist and You

The Voice Crying in the Wilderness
John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

2000 years ago there came one John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. He preached saying, ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:1-2 paraphrased)
( Are you preaching in the wilderness the world calls civilization? Does your mind run continually to the thought that lost souls will be eternally separated from the love of God? Is your heart breaking for loved ones and friends who will not hear the message of salvation? )
John had a job to do. He was to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his path. (Matthew 3:3 paraphrase)
(Isn’t that the job of every Christian today? Aren’t we supposed to point others to Jesus Christ?)
John was the first prophet Israel had had in hundreds of years. He was the last prophet the world will see until the time of the tribulations when the two witnesses will come.
John preached the Word of God with power and humility. Preaching the gospel was more important to John than his appearance or his food. He wore camel skins and a leather girdle. That was probably out of fashion even in those days. His food doesn’t sound good either. I don’t mind ‘wild honey’, but locusts??? John was single minded. His purpose in life above everything else was to do God’s will.
(What is your purpose in life? Your purpose in life is also to do the will of God who created you. If you don’t know what that is - I’ll give you some ideas. First - be saved. Study the Bible so you don’t remain a baby Christian. (By the way - those who remain baby Christians turn into useless brats.) Then actually apply God’s rules to your personal actions. Whatever you do must always be within the boundaries of behavior that is acceptable according to the word of God. God doesn’t make exceptions. THEN - follow your heart. When your heart is obedient to God - God puts the right dreams and desires in your heart. I am sure that John WANTED to preach. You know - it really isn’t much of a sacrifice for us to do something we want to do with all our hearts anyway. )
John’s success is recorded in the Bible. Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (John was the greatest on earth - but in heaven the least is greater than John was as a mortal man.)
That’s interesting. John - the one called to make straight the way of the Lord was greatest.
Moses - the mighty prophet who led the children of Israel out of Egypt was ‘very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Abraham - father of Israel - was called the friend of God. (James 2:23)
Daniel - was a man ‘greatly beloved’. (Daniel 10:19)
(What title would God give to you today - if He were describing you to those around you?)
Moses, Abraham, and Daniel were obviously great, but we have to wonder what made John the greatest? He certainly had a shorter career than Moses, Abraham, and Daniel. I am guessing that it was just something in John’s heart that only God could accurately measure.
(Only God can accurately measure what is in your heart.)
It is often thought that John - the voice crying in the wilderness - had few listeners. After all, he was preaching in the middle of nowhere. It almost seems like he was shouting into the winds of the wilderness. Who would be there to hear John? A few shepherds or travelers? The truth is a lot of people heard John preach.
Matthew 3:5 says, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan.” It sounds like John had a huge listening audience.
Verse six tells us that “they were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Still, John is called the voice crying in the wilderness. Could it be that many of these repented with their minds, but they did not repent with their hearts.
This is very important today. Christians tend to measure church growth by numbers. Mega churches are supposedly the churches doing the best job of spreading the gospel. The Christian with the most perfect church attendance record is the most spiritual Christian. This is not the standard by which God measures holiness in the individual, or in the church.
(How would God measure the holiness of your heart? Are you one who takes to heart what your ears hear and your eyes see? Or are you one who is outwardly acceptable as a Christian - but inwardly - your heart is far from God?)
John said, “I am not the Christ, but I am sent before him.” John did not fall into the sin of Satan. He didn’t decide that HE (John) could do a better job than Jesus. Even though great crowds followed John, he didn’t fall in love with his fame. Instead he said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (John 3:30)
(Do you love your fame or recognition more than you love Jesus? Can you set aside your own career if it will allow Jesus to increase?)
John was able to say that his joy was fulfilled because of the joy of Jesus Christ. John 3:29 says, ‘He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegoom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.’ John’s joy was in the voice of the bridegroom (Jesus). I suppose John didn’t even care what the bridegroom said. Just hearing His voice was enough to give John joy.
(Do you find joy in the voice of the bridegroom? Or do you only find joy in His voice when He says what your itching ears want to hear?)
John’s job was to prepare the way of the Lord. He did a good job, but John was still a human being just like we are. Given John’s clothing and diet, we can guess that he wasn’t a wealthy man. Yet he was highly respected by many disciples. He was a busy man. You can’t prepare the way of the Lord by preaching just three times a week. Then suddenly John was thrown into prison. He had time to think over the events of his life. He needed reassurance that he had not spent his life in vain. In prison, John heard the about the works of Jesus. He sent two of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, ‘Art thou he that should come, or de we look for another?”
Jesus reassured John by telling the disciples, ‘Go again and shew John those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleanses, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5)
If Jesus had answered, ‘YES - I am HE!’ it would have only provided an answer. Jesus provided evidence that was the Messiah.
(How often do you wait for a ‘word’ from the Lord? Or a ‘sign’ that He is indeed the Messiah? Or that He is with you? You have all the signs you need in the record of Jesus’ life given to us in the Bible. Study the signs Christ ALREADY gave us in the Bible. We have evidence that Jesus is who He said He is, and that He will fulfill all His promises.)
Something very important that we can all learn from John’s life is that he never gave up. He is called the voice crying in the wilderness. Do you ever feel like YOU are just a voice crying in the wilderness, and no one is really listening? Maybe you are a preacher preaching to a huge congregation, but you still feel like no one is taking the gospel message to heart. No matter who you are or to how many people you tell the gospel story, the truth is that most people aren’t listening with their hearts. But two things are really important here. John’s main concern was to do what he was called to do. Because John did do what he was called to do, SOME heard the message with their hearts.
(Is your main concern to do what you are called to do? Or do you care more about the outward results of what you are doing? The end result of the individual believer preaching the gospel is up to Jesus and the hearts of men. To change the gospel message to anything less than the Bible teaches - is to trade real and eternal success for the mere appearance of success today.)
John’s success as an evangelist could be questioned by those looking at numbers as an indication of a successful ministry. We already covered that John really did preach to a lot of people. He was well known - even in the palace. But what about his lasting legacy? He is mentioned in the Bible, but not a lot is said about him. He didn’t personally write any of the books of the New Testament. We know that two of his disciples left John to follow Jesus. John 1: 35-37 tells us ‘again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.’
I can see John telling these two - ‘LOOK - there He is - the One for whom we have been watching - the One you seek. And then shooing them down the road after Jesus.
One of the disciples is named Andrew - who became one of the twelve apostles. I know John rejoiced to have been a part of sending two disciples to Jesus - sort of like his personal gift to the King. It would have been human nature for John to be a little sad at the same time; because when the two disciples followed Jesus, John was left behind.
From this we know that John trained at least one of the twelve chosen by Jesus. It is very possible that John trained some of the rest of them - maybe even all twelve heard John preach. Andrew is named, so it is certain that he was from the teachings of John the Baptist.
So - the voice crying in the wilderness trained (at least) one who became one of the twelve apostles. From the apostles, the gospel was spread. And, here we stand as Christians today.
At times, every Christian will feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. It seems the gospel is fighting with the wind, and that it never even reaches the ears of the people we want to hear it. Sometimes we are left behind when our students or piers go on to what may appear as greater success or fame.
John continued preaching as long as he could - even though he was a voice crying in the wilderness. We should do the same thing.
John had results that will reach into eternity. So will all those who do the will of God above their own will. If we ‘cast our bread upon the water’ it won’t return empty. We may not always see the results, but good works done by faith bring good results.
Years ago my brother Dane worked on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico. The captain was an alcoholic drug addict. Because of working conditions, it was a very dangerous job. My brother left the job after an incident where he almost drowned because no one on the boat was sober enough to throw him the flotation ring. Before he left, he gave the captain a Bible - thinking it was a waste of money. About five years later he ran into the captain in Houston. He tried to avoid him - but the captain chased him down. Dane was surprised to hear the captian say - “I got saved because of the Bible you gave me!” Then he told Dane about how wonderful his life as a Christian was - and how wonderful being clean and sober was as well.
Now, the captain was saved and living a life for Jesus long before Dane heard about it. Dane could have lived the rest of his life and never heard about the captain’s life changing experience with Jesus. I think God let Dane know about it that day just to cheer Dane up.
India is a land of idol worshipers. But the number of Christians there are growing daily - in spite of persecution. This is due to missionary efforts - but those efforts began many years ago. The early missionaries probably felt like voices crying in the wilderness, but they laid the ground work for the successes of today.
South Korea has a Christian population that is growing by leaps and bounds. Even more amazing is the number of missionaries sent out by South Korea. The United States sends out the most missionaries of any country. But South Korea sends out the second most!!! The early missionaries to South Korea probably never dreamed of this kind of success. But they were necessary to plant the seeds for this kind of growth.
Our job is to speak the truth of Jesus Christ with grace and humility. The power of the gospel is what speaks to the hearts of people. We have no control over any one’s heart but our own. If we feel as though no one is listening, we are to speak up anyway. Truthfully, the devil can duplicate any feeling. The ‘feeling that no one is listening’ is just that - a feeling. We don’t know how many ARE listening. We don’t know how many who receive Christ will carry on the work of spreading the gospel. We can only know if we are obedient to live by the rules God has given us.
I think there was no greater than John the Baptist because he more fully gave his heart and mind over to God. That is the standard by which should judge ourselves. Am I more fully surrendered to Christ today than I was yesterday? Am I more obedient to His teachings than I was yesterday? Have I even studied the Bible enough to know what God’s rules are? Do I know enough to spot false teachers? Am I doing what God asked me to do today? Am I more thankful today than I was yesterday? Will I do what God asks of me even when I don’t see the relevance of it?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to questions like these, then you are living a successful Christian life. What God does with your obedience is up to Him.
When eternity comes, you will not be sorry that you weren’t as great as John the Baptist, or Moses, or Daniel, or any other great leader. You will be sorry that you weren’t the greatest and best that YOU could have been.
The song for this article is ‘Have Thine Own Way’. If you allow Jesus to have His way in your life, you will be the best you can be.

Thanks for reading my article. God bless you.

Barbara Henderson
--------------- (Have Thine Own Way)
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.
Another really good theme song for this article is “His Way With Thee’