I would like to suggest that we should always be amazed at John the Baptist’s ministry and his willingness to suffer for the gospel. He was called to a special ministry to proclaim the coming of the Messiah Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he would turn back the hearts of many in Israel to the Lord their God (Lk 1:5-17). What a marvellous ministry with which to be involved!
It is also true to say that he suffered for the gospel. He was imprisoned by Herod for he dared to criticise Herod for marrying his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. Soon after, he was beheaded at the hands of Herod who foolishly agreed to his step-daughter’s request to have John the Baptist’s head put on a platter (Mat 14).
However, one thing John the Baptist didn’t suffer from was self grandeur (thinking more of yourself than what you should). Even though he questioned whether Jesus’ was the Messiah (Mat 11), he never once undermined his role as the one and only Messiah. On the contrary, he went out of his way to promote Jesus at every turn during his ministry.
In Matthew 3, John the Baptist was having a very influential ministry. People from Jerusalem, and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan were coming to him, confessing their sins and being baptised. He even stated publicly to the Jews that the one coming after him was far more powerful, whose sandals he was not fit to carry. To carry someone else’s dirty sandals was regarded as one of the lowest, menial tasks one could do. And yet, John the Baptist had no issues with it all.
John the Baptist knew that even though Jesus came after him, He surpassed him, because Jesus was before Him (John 1:15). More than that, John the Baptist knew that the message of Jesus which was full of grace and truth surpassed the message of the law that Moses brought. The law was not only unable to save sinners; it could not provide the Saviour we all desperately needed.
For John the Baptist, everything was about promoting Christ as the Messiah. John the Baptist likened his role to that of a groomsman, whose joy it is to hear the voice of the bridegroom and do whatever is needed to prepare for the festivities ahead, namely when the bridegroom receives the bride. When that event occurs, the groomsman’s task is complete. As John the Baptist so aptly put it, “Jesus must become greater, and John the Baptist must become less” (emphasis added – Jn 3:30).
It seems to me that many of us, including preachers and teachers can take a leaf out of John the Baptist’s ministry and learn an important lesson. And the lesson is quite simple, namely this: It’s not about us! Jesus must become greater; we must become less. I would even venture to say that if you think ministry is about you and your perceived worth in ministerial circles or even your congregation, it’s time to get out.
Thankfully in many Christian churches, Jesus still takes center stage. Christmas Day worship services, nativity scenes, and family functions are aware that Jesus is the ‘’reason for the season.”
Sadly, though, the same cannot be said of society in general. Jesus is now being pushed to the side, if not off the stage altogether. Today, Santa Claus is taking centre stage, and if it isn’t him, then it’s Santa’s reindeer, and if not that, it is little children having their photos taken with Santa. We live in a society where anything is better than Jesus having centre stage.
Perhaps we need another ‘John the Baptist’ type figure who will remind the crowds that Santa or his reindeer are unable to save sinners. To proclaim a new, that Jesus is the one and only Saviour, sent from God to redeem sinners.
Well may I suggest that you don’t wait for another ‘John the Baptist’ to come along. We are all involved in some form of ministry and we all know the message of salvation. To that end may our lasting legacy be similarly to that of John the Baptist. Let us be remembered as people who didn’t suffer from self grandeur, but as a loving people who continually came with the message; “Jesus must become greater… and we must become less.”
Prayer: Lord bless the true message of Christmas and may many from our suburbs, towns, cities and whole regions hear about Jesus. May it cause them to repent, be baptized and saved. Amen. JZ
“A winsome Christmas message…”
Last week I mentioned that Gen 3:15 is the first announcement by God of the coming Messiah. Even though Adam and Eve may not have understood the full impact of their decision to defy their Creator when He came searching for them in the cool of the day, they did have some idea, for they recognized they were naked.
That’s what sin does. It exposes our un-holiness before a thrice Holy God. It’s what Isaiah experienced when he was shown the vision of the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and how the train of God’s robe filled that temple. Isaiah immediately acknowledged his sin and that he was ruined and was living amongst a sinful people (Isa 6:1ff).
No doubt, in the coming weeks, months and years of Adam and Eve’s life, they must have deeply regretted their defiance of God in the Garden of Eden. Not only were they removed so that they couldn’t eat from the tree of life (3:22), they were soon to experience the full extent of their defiance when death came to their family.
In Genesis chapter four we have the dreadful account of Cain and Abel and their dispute which resulted in Abel’s death (4:8). A little later, in the same chapter it is seems that Lamech, a descendant of Cain, boasts about killing a man (v23). Thankfully, the chapter doesn’t end there for we read that Seth was born to Adam and Eve (v25). Seth was the family line from where the Saviour would one day be born. Already there, in the early chapters of Genesis we see ‘His-story’ being fulfilled, despite the consequences of sin.
Interestingly, all of the OT is an account of how God has moved individuals and nations to ensure that the birth of the promised Messiah would eventuate. As I have said before, we should read all of the OT with Christ-coloured lenses, after all it is all about Him (Lk 24:44).
Unfortunately, many people, particularly in our western societies, do not see their need of a Saviour, nor do they see their current lifestyles as being offensive before a holy God. Perhaps, even more to the point, they don’t even acknowledge God. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, for even God’s chosen people Israel, forgot God and what He had done for them. It didn’t take a hundred years to forget, but as little as one whole generation (Jug 2:10).
I guess the challenge for us at this time of the year when we particularly remember the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is how to convey this life saving message to our friends and families, who may perhaps even attend worship services on Christmas Day.
I guess we could tell people that they are miserable sinners and that without Christ they are on a path to everlasting punishment. It wouldn’t necessarily be wrong or unbiblical, but I dare say it wouldn’t be all that winsome. I am not convinced that we should be opportunistic in a negative way about the gospel when we know some people will be in church who perhaps only come one day a year.
That doesn’t mean we be wishy washy with the gospel, but perhaps we could take another tack. Perhaps we could show our friends and family on Christmas day that we want to genuinely worship our Father God and praise Him for the works of His hands, not least the provision of Jesus as Saviour.
We wish to show our family and friends through singing songs of praise and quiet, reflective prayer, that we are very thankful for our forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. We could perhaps show our deep gratitude by our free-will offerings that the cost of what our first parents caused through their disobedience has been paid in full by Jesus. We could show them that because the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, we have a peace that passes understanding, despite the turbulent world we live.
By conveying the message of Christmas in this positive way may be more winsome and won’t leave people thinking that they have been bashed over their heads on the only day they come to a worship service. JZ
“Remember & Prepare”
This Sunday is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is one of those Church Calendar events where by we remember and prepare for the coming of Christ. It really is a two-fold event. We remember the birth of our Saviour, celebrated annually on the 25th December, but we also prepare with eager expectation our Saviour’s second coming.
Sadly, the celebration of the Saviour’s first coming has been largely commercialized. Many celebrate the holiday that is associated with Christ’s birth, but not too many celebrate the significance of Christ’s birth. Then again, what’s new?
C.S Lewis once wrote that the birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth. Indeed, Scripture revolves around this event and then foreshadows the second coming of Christ. In the OT there are some four hundred scripture references and prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus as Saviour of God’s people. The first such reference can already be found in Genesis 3:15, often referred to as the “protoevangelium,” where the woman’s seed will crush the serpents head. There are many other references throughout the OT which outline Jesus’ birth, life, death, sacrifice, resurrection and his return (See Isa 7:14; 9:6; Isa 40; Micah 5:2; Zech 9:9; 12:10; Psalm 22; Isa 42; 53 and many others).
Unfortunately, God’s Old Testament people, despite the many references to the coming of Christ in the Old Testament, are still waiting and living in denial of His actual coming. We pray that the Lord may be merciful to them and open their eyes to see Jesus, after all, they were instrumental in His first arrival.
Today, not too many people deny that Jesus was actually born, lived in Palestine, and even died a cruel death. What they do deny though, is that He is the divine Son of God, that He is the Saviour of sinners who repent and that he rose from the dead. In fact, other than claiming that Jesus may have been a good example to follow and therefore morally OK, Jesus is irrelevant to their everyday lives.
This shouldn’t surprise us for if people do acknowledge the resurrected Jesus as God’s Son and the Saviour of sinners who repent, then they would also have to acknowledge that they would need to give an account for every deed done and every word spoken, whether good or bad.
Personally, I can think of no more important event in “His-story” than the birth of Christ, His life accompanied with many miraculous events, His death, His resurrection and His glorification. Indeed, where would we be without the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ? It is with thankful hearts that we can say we know Jesus as our Saviour and because of what He has done, He is also our Lord.
I am not privy to what many of you have planned as individuals and as families to remember Christ’s first coming. In fact, it’s amazing how much planning and preparation goes into this festive time by so many people. Hopefully, some time of quiet, thankful reflection and discussion about this momentous event amongst the festivities would not be out of place.
Oh, before I forget, we also need to plan and be prepared for Christ’s second coming. In fact, that may happen before the annual day of remembrance for His first coming this year! And since that is true and a real possibility, we should perhaps put far more thought into that event which Scripture also speaks about on many pages in the New Testament (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 5; Tit 2:13 and many others). The last thing we would want to do as Christians is to live in denial of Christ’s second coming.
Yes, agreed, it has been a while since He first appeared, but let us not think for a moment He isn’t coming back again. That would be serious mistake. The Apostle Peter warns, “But do not forget this one thing dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:8-9). Come Lord Jesus, come quickly JZ
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.