Remaining Steadfast in the Calling of God
“7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely —be content with your pay.” Luke 3:7-14 NIV
From reading the passages above, I guess it would be safe to assume that John the Baptist was not a “Seeker Sensitive” preacher. Addressing your audience as a family of snakes is not typically a good sermon opener whether you are a, “Seeker Sensitive” preacher or not!
John was unapologetic and uncompromising when it came to sharing the message that God had given him. He confronts his hearers and tells them not to depend on their lineage in Abraham to save them. In other words, just because you come from a Christian home, does not mean that you are automatically a Christian yourself. He challenges them to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” John identified sin and he called it sin – regardless of whether he was speaking to people, priests, or politicians! He was unafraid to offend and to confront those who had backslidden from the faith, and he was unashamed in preaching repentance to anyone who would hear.
JOHN REMAINED STEADFAST IN HIS CALLING
Luke 1:17 says that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Elijah was remembered and well known for his bold uncompromising stand for the Word of God against a thousand prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and for his confrontations with King Ahab. John had this same boldness and zeal to call God’s people repentance and to return to God.
In our generation, the great reformer Martin Luther King called the church to a have boldness similar to that of John the Baptist. He says, “There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed . . . Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” or “outside agitators” . . . Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound . . . If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.” – Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
When it comes to the Kingdom of God and repentance, John the Baptist was perfectly clear that his message would not be a crowd-pleaser. He knew that being obedient to the calling of God in his life would not be about him gaining influence or personal success. He knew that following God was not about making sure that everyone was comfortable with him. Being obedient to God was about confronting people to make a decision for Him.
As I read about the life of John the Baptist and the early Apostles, I feel a strong and deep sense of conviction. I see how bold they were and how often they made the people around them uncomfortable. It wasn’t because they were trying to be offensive or because they were obnoxious. They were simply had a reckless abandon to proclaim Jesus and were unashamed in announcing Jesus Christ as a new King.
While I understand the principles of “friendship evangelism,” and I also have a strong desire to “not offend” or “push people further away from God,” I see a disconnect between how John boldly called people to repentance back then, compared to how bold I am today. I see the passion, boldness, and courage of John, and find that lacking in my life. I understand that I am not John the Baptist, but at the same time, the same Holy Spirit that lived in him, lives in me. The same Spirit of the Lord that overflowed out of him to proclaim Jesus back then, wants to proclaim Jesus today as well.
Heavenly Father I ask for the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist to grow in me. Forgive me for the many times that I have been more concerned about offending others than in proclaiming the Christ. I have backed down when I should have stepped up. I have been a weak voice, when I should have been the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to be speak out and be bold and courageous in sharing Your good news to those who need to hear and to repent. Amen.