John the Baptist

All posts tagged John the Baptist

Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

When Prayer is a Fight

Published February 17, 2014 by Dawn

For whatever reason, I was really struggling to pray this evening. This seems to be happening more often as of late. Not because I don’t feel welcomed into fellowship with the Lord, but because I struggle to accept His invitation. I am very aware of my fleshly reactions lately, and I have never hated more than I hate my flesh. And it disgusts me so much, I feel like I am wearing ragged clothes into the presence of the King. Um … I don’t want to present myself to Him that way. So what do I do? Sadly, I just don’t present myself at all. I give Him like a shout out or a smile, or a look of longing, and then avoid His piercing gaze like the plague.

Then there’s the matter of all the prescribed ways to come into His presence. That’s the one that was really tripping me up this evening. I’ve read several books that tell you how to most effectively approach the throne room so that your prayers are definitely heard and then immediately answered. I’ve even done the hocus pocus described to procure favor from the King. But tonight, I just wanted to sit and talk with my Husband. Not tell Him how good He looked or how much I needed this or that, or flatter Him sufficiently to get His undivided attention. I just wanted to sit down with Him and talk. I wanted to express my heart, cry some maybe, listen to His voice of encouragement and gentle love. All the prescribed methods just weren’t in me tonight. I didn’t want to participate in the spiritual foreplay. But you know what? No book really deals with those nights when you just want to cuddle and talk … well, none that is, except the Bible.

As I was wrestling with my unwillingness to flatter God as a way of gaining His attention and favor before I could even pour my heart out to Him, my mind returned to this one phrase in the Bible repeated over and over throughout the first four books of the New Testament: “Jesus saw the crowds and He had compassion on them.”

Let me be honest here: The crowds always got on my nerves. I would read through the scriptures about how the crowds followed Jesus everywhere, begging for this and that. They didn’t want Him, or His companionship. They wanted His touch and then they’d be on their way. Like a jealous wife, I looked at the crowd as a major nuisance. I just wanted Jesus to step out of the boat into the crowd and say, “People, go home! Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something here?!” I mean, He couldn’t even mourn the loss of His beloved cousin John for too long before the crowd rushed on Him again. And you know what else perturbed me about the crowd? Their total lack of respect for Jesus. He had to hide out to get any sleep. Here I go again, all jealous-wifey about it. A man’s gotta sleep! Go home! They didn’t adore Him, or sing to Him to gain His favor. They pressed in around Him until He was backed into a boat or crammed into a house in the middle of town with no way out. And do you know what Jesus did? HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM!

He and I are polar opposites. You can imagine my surprise tonight as I fought inwardly, both longing for Him and knowing I was not going to approach Him by way of a lie. There was no sincere worship in me. I just wanted to talk! So I sat here on my couch yearning for the Lord but unwilling to press in, and a song began to spill from my mouth: “Come just as you are. Hear the Spirit call. Come just as you are. Come and see. Come receive. Come and live forever. Come.” Come just as I am … skank clothes and all. Jesus was still willing to sit with me. Come to Him without a song … He was still willing to hear my prayer.

James scribed these words in 5:16, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” But Romans 3:10 quotes the Psalms that, “There is none who are righteous.” Do these two verses contradict one another? Seemingly so, until you take into account that this is the whole basis for the Gospel. Jesus became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)! Seems that when I struggle to approach God because of my filth, it is because I have forgotten that only because Christ’s blood covers me am I made perfect and welcomed into the Father’s presence! Welcomed! Not because of anything I do or fail to do, but because I am right with God because of Jesus.

The truth blinding me right now is this: I am one of the crowd. Sure, maybe tonight I just want to snuggle up and talk about life. But there are times I only approach Him in need, or other times when I’m watching for a miracle. Days when I just want to be fed, or even just acknowledged. And He’s always so patient with me, and full of compassion. The truth is – and He knows this, thank goodness- I’m incapable of even desiring Him without His Spirit coaxing me (John 6:44). So in truth, I am just one of the throng, pressing in to Him, begging Him daily to do something in me or through me. And for the throng He has compassion!

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, ardent multitudes have been crowding toward the Kingdom of Heaven…(Matt. 11:12, TLB)

 

The Cost

Published November 21, 2013 by Dawn

He sat, staring at his hands and rubbing his feet absentmindedly in the hot dust. The sun beat down on him without mercy, his cracked and peeling skin absorbing the heat and responding with rivulets of sweat. He was completely unimpressed with himself. He was actually quite sick of himself. He was sick of the sweltering heat, the itchy camel hair, the stinking bugs, the sickening sweet of honey day after day. He struggled every day to minister in the midst of hardened hearts and ridicule. John folded his fingers over his palms, placed his head on his fists and wept. His heart was torn afresh. There were not many who sought the Lord, not many who cared for John’s message. They all came to ogle and scoff. For God’s glory, John lived in a daily humility he could hardly stand sometimes. When the Spirit was on Him, it was easy. He felt in every part of himself that this, this self-deprivation and humiliation, was exactly what he was created for. He knew the sacrifice he paid was necessary. His death to self, the eating of locust and wild honey, the camel hair wrap, no place to lay his head. No comfort ever … it was all for a purpose. He could not possibly handle the call of God living in his flesh. But the dying was a daily thing, and the pressure wore greatly on John. He lived in a glorious tension of both hating and loving life.

This is what I imagine John the Baptist must have thought and felt in his lonely moments. We know that at one point, he was so depressed, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or if there was another. John must have sometimes doubted the work he was doing for the kingdom. What John never heard was Jesus’ praise. He was absent when Jesus said to the crowds, “Among those born of women, there is no one greater than John.” And the daily derision of the crowd had to have hurt in those moments of weakness. John was, after all, still human.

Yet, the truth remains that John had been called, and he had been called to discomfort. He had been called to a life of denial and humiliation. He was not destined for greatness as the world saw it. He was considered demonic by the vast majority of the church, and really only accepted by the outcasts of society. There was little to no comfort in his life. His clothing was strange and most likely, he didn’t smell to great. He probably only ate when the hunger overwhelmed him, considering locust and wild honey was the only thing on the menu. He was a very strange, repulsive kind of man. He didn’t win people because of his good looks or money. He didn’t win people at all, really. But his message was so attractive, people pressed in to hear it. And they flocked to the desert to drink in the words that John was preaching. They walked with him into the water to display the purifying affect of the message the Spirit of God had burned on his lips.

John did not demand attention. His message did. And it wasn’t accomplished with tons of money. It was accomplished through an obedient self-denial and sacrifice. How was John able to submit to this life and calling?

I recall a verse in the Bible that could explain: “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:43” This is obviously not true of John the Baptist. If he loved the praise of men more, he would have never submitted to that life. He would have run from it. He would have run from the call. When Jesus publicly praised John, it was a foretaste of what awaited him in Heaven.

There are many opportunities for us to seek the praise of men in this life. Sometimes, we even insist upon it, pushing ourselves into positions of acknowledgement and the limelight. But at what cost? I’ll tell you … in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said that when you do things before men to be seen by them, you forfeit your reward from the Father. When you seek the praise of men, or jockey for it, you give up something so much more fulfilling and precious: the praise of God. That’s a hefty price to pay just to impress fickle people. The honest truth is, there is no person on earth who will unequivocally approve of you. So you may as well, whatever the cost, live for the praise of God because He can and will approve without reservation. Whatever the cost. This is burning in my heart today. Whatever God calls you to do, do it without reservation and He will praise you for it. Maybe not in this lifetime, but you are storing up treasures in Heaven. And it’s gonna be worth it.