Monday, July 22, 2013

This Guy Had a Reason

If there is a character in the Bible that seems to totally get his position in life, it is John the Baptist. This guy would have had reason to exalt himself. Luke 1:5-25 & 57-80 tell about his birth. Though not as miraculous as the virgin birth, it was certainly an unexpected gift from God. Luke tells us that John’s parents were ‘well along in years’ when they had him. That’s fancy jargon for ‘they were really too old to be having kids.’
His father Zechariah was told that John would be ‘a joy and delight’ and ‘many will rejoice because of his birth.’ Isn’t this what we all want to hear? You were born and there was much rejoicing. Gabriel went on, telling Zechariah that John would “bring (people) back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Can you imagine them telling John this while he was a child? Like the son of a great quarterback being told he’ll take over the team when his dad retires, John had reason to think highly of himself.
John the Baptist was full of God’s power, like the prophet Elijah. Matthew 3 tells of some of his ministry. Listen to how he speaks.
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt 3:2) If that is his introduction to a sermon, can you imagine the rest? Then, when he sees some other religious teachers coming, he says, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matt 3:7).
I don’t imagine you preach like this with a soft voice, hoping not to offend. I would guess John walks into a preaching opportunity with head held high and full of confidence. But listen to his conclusion in Matthew 3:11-12 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” That’s the equivalent of saying, ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
It would appear as if John has good focus on his purpose. He is pointing the way to Jesus.
But it is in the Gospel of John that we see the Baptizer’s followers fighting for him, for his fame and his position. “Everyone is going to [Jesus]” John 3:26. Like a McDonald’s team meeting where they brainstorm what can be done about the Whopper, John the Baptist’s followers lament that business could be about to get very slow. “Everyone is going to [Jesus]”
This could have bothered John. Any one in any business knows that competition is scary. Even pastors sometimes wonder what is going on in other churches. But John the Baptist makes several good points in response to this, and I am going to pass them on to you this morning.
John 3:27 “To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”
We each have certain gifts. We do not have all the gifts. We can only use what we have been given.

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