Have you ever really thought about what it must have been like to be John the Baptist? I have thought about it many times over the years…I even considered writing a book about him. I find him to be one of the most fascinating people in Judeo-Christian history.
I don’t know how often we think about the modern times that the early church leaders lived in. I know to us, they are from antiquity but to them, they were just regular men and women living in their own time…their modern time. John, in his time “wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Stop and think about him for a moment. Imagine knowing John in the present day. He is doing his ministry thing, sees a crowd of people and what does he say? “God has a wonderful plan for your life!” No, instead he says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” and “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
If John the Baptist lived today, he would not be the person invited to parties. He would be the one who was told by the religious “don’t talk like that, don’t say those things.”…”Talk about love, not sin or hell…no one wants to hear that message.” And while you are at it, change your clothes to be more relevant!
John the Baptist is one of “THOSE CHRISTIANS!”
He was not for self-promotion. He wasn’t concerned about fashion or style. He clearly didn’t care about pleasing others or tickling ears. He called men to the carpet for their sin and spoke of repentance, warning that wrath awaits them. He literally stood against the ruler of the time and called out his immoral relationship. He didn’t sugar coat anything or pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. He literally said to Herod about his brother Philip’s wife Herodias, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
But John doesn’t only tell the crowds to repent, listen to what else he says to the religious…the church folk of his time “…Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” There’s a warning in that statement that our modern church should heed. It reminds me of Matthew 7:23, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!”
John was not socially elegant here. He was a messenger, with a clear message- repent! He was said to “go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah”, and if you remember, Elijah was called by Ahab- The troubler of Israel. Elijah rebuked the people and said “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.” It is as if he is saying, “Who are you believer?…Who do you really serve?”
John was “in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” I believe there was great intention for John to be in the wilderness and for him to abstain from certain foods and drink and wear particular clothing. I believe it kept him from being influenced by the culture. It kept him from compromising his message for the sake of what is easier to hear. Imagine knowing John today, how different he would be from everyone around him. He lived that way, in his time, in spite of the reproach of his message
And so should we.
So what about the John’s out there today?
Some of you have heard the same, “Don’t say those things” by those in the church. You have understood what it feels like to be “THAT CHRISTIAN.” You have been accustomed to be shunned for your lack of “Christian civility.” You have learned it is a lonely road in the wilderness of Judea.
You have even heard words of darkness spoken from children of light.
Yet to those called to boldly proclaim the Gospel without compromise, I encourage you to remember, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And also to remember that of the raw, wild, Spirit-filled John, Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
Friends, let us reject a lesser Gospel and an easier message and all become like John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness and warning others to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Let us be the peculiar people God has called us to be in a lost and dying world and bear the reproach of the true Gospel. And let us lift up those who boldly preach and stand for the Word of God…until the nets are full.
O Lord let it start with me!