Tag Archives: John the Baptist

It’s Not About Me… John 3:22-30

Several of the churches in my area send postcards by mail advertising the latest sermon series or newly launched program. I’m always curious when the pastor’s picture is featured prominently on the card, sometimes to the point of dominating the message. What is church all about, really, and who takes center stage?

(John the Baptist’s words): “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30 ESV

After Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, Scripture tells us that He and His disciples went into the countryside. People came to Him, and He baptized them. Some of John the Baptist’s disciples asked John about this, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:26) It’s a perfectly understandable concern, really. John the Baptist had drawn crowds for quite some time, baptizing many for repentance from sin as he announced the presence of Jesus the Messiah. Now Jesus’ time had come; His public ministry was well underway. And, with that, John the Baptist had fulfilled his purpose. It was time to step aside.

How easy it would have been for John to let ego cloud his judgment. Had he shown bitterness, resentment, or envy at the fact that people were flocking to Jesus instead of to John, I suspect that many would have understood those feelings. Instead, John took his rightful place.

Egoism is a prevalent trait in our sinful world. As defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, egoism is a condition in which a person’s motives are driven by their own self-interest, sometimes with an overt display of self-importance. We see this all the time, don’t we? Be careful here. While we may be tempted to think that politicians, athletes, entertainers, or successful business executives have cornered the market on egoism, the reality is this: Even “regular” people like you and me can be overcome by an air of egoism manifested in feelings of entitlement, self-centeredness, or perhaps through overtly seeking attention for ourselves. We have many avenues through which we feed our egos – ever hear of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter…? Yes, I am as guilty as anybody when it comes to putting myself out there in social media and taking pleasure as the “follows”, “likes”, and “retweets” come. Don’t misunderstand me; I think social media is great. I get news and information via social media. I stay connected with friends through social media. I also take hiatus from social media from time to time when I start to feel like it is dominating how I spend my time.

What is really important? What is it that should supersede everything else? John the Baptist knew that it was Christ.

So, back to the postcards. Since egoism is such an easy trap to fall into, I suspect that many preachers and teachers are sorely tempted, and even give in to the temptation once in awhile. While some postcards prominently featuring the smiling face of the church’s pastor raise the question, I know not to judge a book by its cover. But I wonder what those preachers talk about in their sermons. Do they present the Gospel? Is their message focused on Christ and the fact that He suffered and died to save us from the eternal damnation we all deserve because of our sin? Or do they feed egos by telling their flocks that God wants them to be happy; He wants them to be rich. Is the message they deliver each week about Him? Or is it about the people and their quest for happiness and self-esteem? Do they take the stage accompanied by pounding music and raucous applause or do they quietly, humbly, and contemplatively step to their position to deliver the Word?

What about the music and those who deliver it? Are they more concerned about their appearance and what the congregation thinks of their presentation? As they lead worship, do they move or dress to draw attention to themselves, or are they entirely focused on leading the congregation in worshipping the Lord? In my church, the congregation commonly applauds after the choir or soloist sings and after various ensembles offer their music. To be honest, as a musician I’m a bit uncomfortable with the applause, and I constantly remind myself, “this isn’t about me.”

God called John the Baptist to a very specific ministry. John was to announce to the world that the Messiah had come:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” finally they said, “Who are you?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:19-27 ESV

My role as a Christian is to announce Jesus to the world as He commanded in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). It is not to draw attention to myself in doing so. Yes, I want to sing well as a member of the choir and when I assist in leading worship. When I play bells, I want to hit the correct notes at the correct time at the proper volume. I want to do those things to give glory to my God and my Lord. I confess that I am sometimes tempted to relish in the applause when it comes; God forgive me. As a Christian, I must also lift my pastor and all who preach the Word in prayer, that they would honor God in presenting His Word and that they would present His Word faithfully, truthfully, and forthrightly.

John the Baptist announced Jesus’ coming to the world, just as he was called to do. And, as Christians, we are called to do the same. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

Ponder This: What is my attitude towards God? What is my attitude in worship, especially when I play a leadership role in the service?

My Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You and You alone are worthy of glory, honor, praise and worship. Even so, I confess that I sometimes forget that, as I focus on myself and what others think about me. I confess that I sometimes give in to the temptation to bask in the positive feedback others give me to the point at which it overshadows You. Forgive me, renew me, and continue to lead me on the path of sanctification. Help me use the gifts and talents you have so graciously given me to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sources:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Scripture text from BibleStudyTools.com

Preparing for the Divine ~ John 1:34-51

When I was a young boy I wanted to be like my Uncle Mike. We lived in Minnesota, but Uncle Mike lived in California! He was a bachelor at the time and was the director of one of the more renowned high school bands in the state. When my parents would tell us that Uncle Mike was coming to visit, I would get so excited! I remember my parents taking me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to pick him up. We would arrive early and wait at the assigned arrival gate, the anticipation building within us. The big, white jet finally pulled up outside the window and the passengers began to disembark down the jet way. We craned our necks until he finally appeared – finally, he had arrived!

John the Baptist had a specific life assignment from God: “He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’” (John 1:23). John most certainly completed his assignment with flying colors, for in reading this passage, there is a definite sense of anticipation among those whom Jesus first called as His disciples. They were ready.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah ” (which translated means Christ ). John 1:40-41

As Jesus called these first disciples, two things stand out that are worthy of consideration:

Immediacy: The disciples called in this passage (One unnamed, presumably John himself, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael) didn’t hesitate. They immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Him.

Witness: Two of the called disciples, before doing anything else, shared the good news with his brother. Andrew found his brother Simon, whom Jesus renamed ‘Peter’ and Philip shared the good news with Nathanael.

How would I have reacted? Would I have been ready? These are sobering questions, but in considering them I realize that they are questions that each believer faces even today. The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back, and when He does His return will be like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). There will be no John the Baptist to pave the way. Instead, the way is paved in God’s Word. So while those first disciples were prepared to meet their Messiah via the witness of John the Baptist, we modern day Christians must begin our preparation for His return by reading and studying His Word.

God’s Word, the Bible, is a beautiful gift. Time in God’s Word is time well invested. In 2014 I completed a one-year Bible reading plan through which I read every verse in Scripture during the year. My reading of the entire Bible reinforced, beyond any doubt, that God’s Word is Truth. The entire book, both Old and New Testaments point directly to our Savior. To fully understand and appreciate God’s work, we must read His Word; all of it. I’m doing it again this year, and God willing, will do so every year to follow. God’s will and plan for humanity is revealed in His Word, and by opening it and reading it, the beauty of His plan comes alive. Will you join me?

My prayer for today: Lord God, thank you for your Word. Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from the consequences of my sins. Just as the first disciples did, help me to follow Jesus and share the Good News with the world. In His Holy name, AMEN.

‘Tis the Season! ~ John 1:24-34

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer_9462 (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Christmas. What’s it all about, anyway? Is it stockings and toys? Is it stress over lack of money and time to buy and do all the things we want during the holiday season? Is it a beautifully decorated tree and lights on the house? Is it a man in a red suit that magically descends the chimney, leaves an abundance of gifts, and then magically ascends again? (When I was a boy we had no chimney; I always wondered how Santa was able to get into our house)! In the American tradition, Christmas is all of these things. Sadly, for many, this is the extent of the Christmas holiday.

The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29

Interior, St John the Baptist Church - geograp...

Interior, St John the Baptist Church – geograph.org.uk – 1096768 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Christmas is much bigger than the secular traditions of the holiday. Christmas is about Love. It’s about a Love so big that our human minds cannot fully grasp it. God in His Word reveals this Love. Here, in this passage of Scripture, John the Baptist tells us why this Love came to earth. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). We need help; we need redemption. That redemption comes only through the Child of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge; I enjoy my decorated home (my wife is quite talented), giving and receiving gifts, and gathering with family and friends. But those things pale next to the birth of my Savior. As a wise person once said, “Jesus is the Reason for the season.”

May your Christmas season be filled with love and joy!

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to save me from my sins. As I enjoy the holiday season, let me always remember and celebrate, first and foremost, the Holy Birth that is the centerpiece of Christmas. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Christmas Preparation ~ John 1:19-23

1-08-06 christmas tree 011

1-08-06 christmas tree 011 (Photo credit: takfoto)

Like me and my family, I’m sure you’ve begun your Christmas preparations: decorating the Christmas tree, shopping, making travel plans, baking goodies – all of the activities that bring us joy as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. As we work through these annual rituals of preparation, it is easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really all about, and the most important preparation of all can sometimes be shoved into the background as we make ready to celebrate with family and friends.

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 40:3-5

Scripture tells us that we must prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmastide. It’s not referring to decorating trees, or shopping, or baking cookies. God tells us in His Word to prepare for the coming Savior. John the Baptist lived this preparation just before Jesus’ ministry.

(John the Baptist) said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet ?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” ~ John 1:23-27

John’s message to the world in advance of Jesus’ ministry was a message of repentance. Jesus was about to enter the scene, and the people needed to prepare to meet him by repenting of their sins and being baptized as evidence of their repentance.

Guess what? Nothing has changed.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I compose this essay, we are early in the season called Advent. The first season of the church year, Advent is a time of self-examination, confession, and repentance as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Just as in John the Baptist’s time, people are busy living their lives. Even in these days leading up to Christmas, we tend to live our daily lives with God in the background. We decorate, we shop, we party, and we plan – but do we stop amidst all of this to consider what it is we’re about to celebrate? Have you thought about Jesus’ birth, why He came and what His coming means to the world? If our first consideration of His birth comes during Christmas worship we’ve missed the boat.

Now is the time to begin considering these things. In what areas of your life is God shoved into the background? Are there sin habits that need confession followed by change? Have you done something that is eating away at you day after day as the shame separates you from God? Sin is at work in your life and in mine each and every day; we all fall prey to its siren song. Now is the time, ahead of Christmas, to acknowledge our sin, confess it, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. Give Him just a few minutes every day during this Advent season of preparation. If you’ll do that, you’ll find that your Christmas celebration is all the more meaningful as it embraces the true meaning and purpose of this wonderful holiday season.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this is such a busy time of year. Help me to not shove you into the background of my life as I live this daily busyness. Instead, show me where I’ve done wrong so I may confess, repent, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray – AMEN.

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