January 11, 2023
Everyone wants their life to count. There is inside of each of us the desire for significance, that our days on this earth will matter and the fruit of our lives will last.
Jesus proclaimed that no one did this better than John the Baptist. He gives a tribute to John’s life right before John is beheaded by a godless king. Christ not only honored John, but He used the moment to teach us the greatest path to significance and purpose.
DON’T BE A FLIMSY MAN-PLEASER
As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (Matthew 11:7)
John was not a wishy-washy reed that bent to every passing wind. He was an unmovable oak. A man who shifts with the latest opinion merely blends into a world that has no clue. We become a part of the wallpaper of a godless world. Such men live and die and leave no trace.
Flimsy men become so because they long for the approval of men. They want to be popular, to be liked by those around them. They don’t become God’s man who stands in the midst of a godless world. They’re just one more worldly man because they believe that this will give them life. That popularity and acceptance is the point. They don’t make a difference in the lives of others because they are no different from others.
John did not bend with current thought. He set the conversation. People came to him because he was proclaiming something different. He was speaking the truth of God, which stood like an unmovable lighthouse giving clear direction amid a swirling ocean. He stood out in the best possible way.
DON’T BE A COMFORT-SEEKER
“But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! (Matthew 11:18)
There is a natural bent in all of us to seek comfort. We want the best house, the best car, the nicest clothes. We want the recliner life. We are deceived that life consists of the abundance of things we possess and the number of enjoyable things we can experience.
John had died to that lifestyle. He lived in the wilderness, wore simple clothing, and ate minimum meals. He didn’t do this to be noticed. He chose that lifestyle because those things simply did not matter to him. His minimalist life was not weird; it was just focused.
John was on a mission, and to indulge the flesh was to abort that mission. All else was sideways energy. There was a single-mindedness toward one agenda, and that one purpose was not personal comfort, pleasure, or reputation.
BE A VOICE
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’” (Matthew 11:9-10)
Jesus' assessment of why John was so effective was summed up in one word: prophet. A prophet is a proclaimer set apart to tell people the truth. When John was asked to describe his life, he said he was a voice crying in the wilderness. Not a celebrity longing to be loved and noticed. Or one more man just trying to get along. He was a clarion voice.
He was sent from God. Another gospel account says of John, “There came a man sent from God whose name was John” (John 1:6). Since John was God’s voice, he knew he must listen to God and say exactly what God wanted. He had no right, nor desire, to say anything else. This message was controversial in a world that ignored God. It ultimately cost him his head, but in his brief life, the world heard God’s voice, not John’s.
John’s message was not diluted, and it was certainly not flowery or fancy. His speaking was singular and entirely focused. He pointed men to Christ. He was preparing the pathway for Christ and a pathway to Christ. He didn’t point to himself or an organization or a plan or program for living. He pointed to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” was his solitary word.
John was born and chosen to be a unique prophet in the line of Old Testament voices that all pointed to the Messiah. He was the last of these Old Testament voices. And Jesus said he was the greatest.
Since Christ has come, the setting is different (He has now come), but our message is still the same. If we are to have life, we must come to Jesus and Jesus alone. The Christian life is not a system but a person, not a program but a relationship.
And our path to lasting usefulness in this life is still like John’s. We must come to Jesus, walk in intimacy with Him, and then point men to Him. We are to be the lighthouse with one light that stands out in the tumultuous darkness. We are to resist the soft clothing of the world, showing others the liberating truth that such values are worthless. We must live to take men to Christ, helping them to clear away all the rubble in their lives (repentance) and humbly come to know and serve Jesus.
John did his job with such clarity and single-mindedness that Christ gloriously memorialized him. May the Lord help us to live and serve like John. And may we hear the “Well done” of heaven. Nothing else really matters or lasts.
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