Tuesday, January 7, 2014

MAKING MUCH OF JESUS (Matthew Chapter 3)

If only John the Baptist had consulted with the church growth “experts,” he would have done things differently, but instead he decided to do things his own way—God’s way.
He was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6).  “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through Him, He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light” (John 1:7-8).

He came to share the news of the coming of the Christ.  His ministry was utterly unconventional.  The religious leaders of that day sat “in the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6), John the Baptist “came preaching in the wilderness” (Matthew 3:1).  The Pharisees and Scribes espoused a religious of self-righteousness “(tying) up heaven loads and laying them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4), John the Baptist preached a message of repentance in view of the immanence of the “Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 3:2-4).  The leaders of his day richly adorned themselves with religious garb drawing attention to themselves, John the Baptist--akin to the prophets of old--had “a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his waist” (Matthew 3:4).  Those leaders loved “place of honor at banquets” (Matthew 23:6), John the Baptist ate “locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 23:4) in the wilderness.
Despite his unconventional ways (or, because of them) the multitudes were drawn to him.  “Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan” (Matthew 3:5).  Even the religious leaders came, only to suffer his rebuke as he sensed their hypocrisy (Matthew 3:7-12).  Amongst his followers were some who would later become Jesus’ disciples (John 1:37).

He came to “bear witness of the light” and that is a matter in which his example has direct relevance to us.  He was always directing people to Jesus (not to himself).  When the religious leaders sent men to ask, “Who are you?” he replied “I am not the Christ” (John 1:19-20).  When they asked again, he affirmed his God-given role as a “voice crying in the wilderness (to) make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:22-23; Isaiah 40:3).  He spoke of the One who would come after him “whose sandal (he) was not worthy to untie” (John 1:27).  He saw Jesus and declared “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Though he was born first, he spoke of the eternity of Christ in saying “He existed before me” (John 1:30).  When it came time for Jesus to be baptized he hesitated, saying: “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? (Matthew 1:14).

He spoke to the essence of his ministry endeavor this way: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  He came to make much of the Christ, not of himself.  And that is the nature of the ministry of any good witness for Christ—to make much of Jesus.  We are far too easily drawn to fads, and distinctions, and culturally relevant matters that distract from the task we have been given—to make much of Him.  We are given the role as ambassadors of Christ to plant and water, but it is God who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).  We are but “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7)—fragile and ordinary, but inside we bear the precious treasure of the knowledge of Christ.  It is not our task to distinguish ourselves according to the particulars of our vessels, or to make our earthen vessels relevant or compelling to the lost.  Our task is to make much of the treasure we possess, the Lord Jesus Himself.
I’m thinking we can learn a lot from John the Baptist.  He was not concerned with cultural norms or relevance.  His concern was to make much of Jesus—in that he serves as a good example to us all.

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