TEEN TREE       OF LIFE

THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Part 4

October 11, 2020

 

 

Before you begin, ask yourself a very important question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins? If you answered yes, you will need to be sure that you are filled with The Holy Spirit. How do you do this? You name your sins to God The Father in His Son’s Name. This is called Rebound. As a Christian, you must rebound any time you sin. This is taught in 1 JOH 1:9: If we confess [name] our sins [directly to God], He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins andto cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now, if you have never believed that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins, all you have to do is say to yourself that you believe in Him and you are saved! The Bible verse which teaches us this is ACTS 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

 

Last week we looked at JOH 1:22-23: Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” We learned that John used the word “voice” on purpose in order to emphasize the message of his ministry, rather than putting the spotlight on himself. This week, we’re going to review some of the facts we’ve already learned about his message and then go into it in more detail.

 

While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” (MATT 3:1-3 The Message Bible) As we know, John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin and was six months older than Him. His ministry’s focus was to prepare the way for his Cousin – The Messiah. John’s message is mentioned in all four gospels and was predicted long before he was even born. He’s called the forerunner of Jesus Christ. A forerunner is defined as something that signals or gives notice of what is to come. John’s forerunning was a very important part of what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had come to do. This is because John was responsible for getting people to think about their relationship with God! John’s purpose in God’s Plan for his life was to prepare the way for His Son. Think about that!!

 

As we learned earlier in this study, you could say that John was kind of an odd dude! That said, why would people come from all over the place to see him? Well, look at what Jesus Christ said this about John: What I’m about to tell you is true. No one more important than John the Baptist has ever been born.  (MATT 11:11 New International Reader’s Version) That statement alone tells us so much about this man of God!

 

Our Lord and Savior also referred to John as a prophet. That’s significant, and quite a compliment, because a prophet was someone who boldly spoke for God. A prophet wasn’t afraid to say what God was really thinking. In a sense, prophets were politically incorrect – often issuing warnings of impending judgment. Remember – when John appeared on the scene, there hadn’t been a prophet in Israel for 400 years. Then seemingly out of the blue, he appeared in the desert near the Dead Sea, wearing a rough, dark camel hair coat and offering this one provocative message: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” (MATT 3:2 The Message Bible) This is a message of challenge and hope! And you can imagine that after a 400-year lull, these were welcomed words!

 

One way John was able to get people’s attention was that he made his home in the desert – a tough place in which to live. Wilderness in the Bible represents a place of separation from religion; so it made sense for John to set up his ministry there. In the desert, he could be separated from religion because there were no temples or synagogues or any real activity; so John was free to preach and teach. His message had to be given in a place of separation where there was no legalism.

 

As we’ve learned, legalism is ignorance of God’s Word. A great example of legalism is the pompous attitude of the Jewish Pharisees and scribes of that time. In our day and age, legalism is mankind’s pointless attempt to gain Salvation or to continue in God’s Plan by way of some system of do’s and don’ts. And we, as Christians, have to avoid legalism like the plague!! The most popular form of legalism in Christianity today, is performing human good for the purpose of gaining God’s admiration. Legalism is the opposite of grace – so it’s evil. Legalism is Satan’s work.

 

So, John was a voice crying out from this austere place of solitude, far away from the legalistic people of his time. He wanted everyone to take notice. His goal was to get their attention with his message about the coming Christ. PRO 8:1 describes the technique he used to get his message out: Doesn’t wisdom call out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?

 

John came to correct the mistakes concerning the ways of God because the scribes and pharisees had corrupted the Law into a system of religion. He clearly proved that when a man has a message and a heart filled with Bible doctrine, God will bring the people to him without gimmicks, tricks, or programs – just God’s Word alone. And it doesn’t matter if that man is living out in the wilderness, far from where the majority of people are living!

 

Another reason John was able to get people’s attention was that he lived simply. Most of the poor in Jesus’ day ate fish, figs, and barley loaves. But, as we learned earlier in this study, John was so poor that he ate locusts as his source of protein. John’s appearance and lifestyle spoke volumes! It said: “I’m not sold out to the culture or the system. I’m nobody’s pawn. I can tell you the truth, straight up.”

 

John also got the people’s attention because he dressed exactly like the ancient prophet Elijah. Every Jew had learned that before the Messiah came, a prophet like Elijah was going to show up dressed and speaking like him. This was so the people would know that God was gearing up for something, and that they needed to get ready.

 

So, once John had their attention, what did he say? He told the people two things they could do to live a life that pleased God. The first, as we’ve mentioned, was to repent. You don’t hear a lot of messages about repentance in most churches today. We hear that God loves us, which, of course, is true. But we also need to hear that God expects us to follow His commandments and to have a change of mind toward His Word; and, that if we’re heading down the wrong path, we need to turn around and get back into His Plan for our lives!

 

Our Lord’s Command has always been for His people to follow Him with their heart (the right lobe of the soul, the part of the soul where metabolized Bible doctrine resides). This message is taught in DEUT 6:4-6 (New International Reader’s Version) where we find Moses commanding the second generation who are about to enter the promised land: Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Moses reinforces this message in DEUT 10:12-13 (New International Reader’s Version): And now, Israel, what is the Lord your God asking you to do? Honor him. Live exactly as he wants you to live. Love him. Serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Obey the Lord’s commands and rules. I’m giving them to you today for your own good. Outward obedience is not enough. God wants your heart – again, the right lobe of the soul – but sadly, that seems to be the one thing most Christians refuse to do.

 

Throughout Israel’s history, if the people were not in open rebellion against God by actually worshiping other gods, then they were playing religion. The same was true when John the Baptist began his ministry. Some Jews had had totally rejected Judaism and had adopted the Greek and Roman world view – including worshipping false gods! John the Baptist’s call to repentance was certainly aimed toward them. The call to repentance was as equally important to the many people that were caught up in legalism.

 

The religious leaders of the day had abandoned truly worshipping and seeking after God a long time before. This was evident when Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born, when stories of angels talking with shepherds near Bethlehem were reported. Simeon and Anna proclaimed all sorts of wonderful things about a baby boy brought to the temple. The magi from the east came looking for “one born king of the Jews.” The religious leaders were able to tell them the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but none of them bothered to go see for themselves! They were too busy playing their religious games and the common people were ignorantly following the teachings and examples of these religious leaders. They were lost sheep in need of a Good Shepherd and John’s message was to them!!

{to be continued}

 

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