Summary: that there are some similarities about John’s mission and the church’s mission today that would be beneficial for us to consider.
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
When we think of a wilderness, we think of words like seclusion, isolation and perhaps sparsity. I believe these words would be appropriate in describing not only a wilderness in the natural sense but also one in the spiritual sense. In a spiritual sense the devil would like to back God’s people into a dark secluded place, separate them from one another and then limit the truth that they are exposed to. If that constitutes a spiritual wilderness then I believe the world today qualifies as one.
Without a doubt, we are definitely living in a time when Christian values are under attack and not only in this nation but all over the world. Christian values themselves are not the only thing though that is under attack, Christians themselves are too. Many followers of the Lord all over the world are now experiencing the onslaught of the enemy. Today there seems to be an increasing animosity against Christianity.
There have been other times throughout history where the enemy of mankind has launched attacks on righteousness. Come to think of it, I don’t think there has ever been a time when the devil has said to his following demons, “why don’t you guys take a rest.” The devil has continuously fought against God’s people during every age, at least to some degree. What is inspiring though is to read about courageous people of God, who during those historical times of spiritual battle would step up to the battle front, to hold the line for righteousness. God also needs those kinds of people in this present age who will rise to the occasion and do the same – people who will have the commitment and boldness to step out front and lead the way. There is a word for one who is willing to fill such a position. The word is vanguard. A vanguard is one who is willing to take the lead. He or she becomes the forerunner. They often establish the path for others to follow.
John the Baptist was one such character in history. It was said of him, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” Matt. 11:10
Also Jesus said of John, “…Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” Matt. 11:11 What a courageous individual and voice for righteousness he was in his day but that was in his day. God is looking for men and women today who will serve in similar ways. I believe that there are some similarities about John’s mission and the church’s mission today that would be beneficial for us to consider. This message looks at three of those things. They are John’s timing, his message and his purpose.
John’s coming was announced by the prophet Malachi a few hundred years before John himself appeared on the scene. He wasn’t called by his own name in the prophet’s writing but rather was described using Elijah’s name. It would later be understood what Malachi meant by the use of Elijah’s name. He was inferring that the one who was to come would come in the spirit and power of Elijah. [Luke 1:17] Jesus was making reference to John in His day when he said, “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” Matt. 11:14 The prophecy that Jesus was referring to is the following, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:” Malachi 4:5
What a birth date! What a time in history for John to arrive! The world was in dire need of a deliverer - a restorer – a savior. Jesus would be that person that would bring hope to many but John would be His precursor, pointing that generation of people to the messiah. John came in a time when there was much division, even among those who claimed to know Jehovah God. Many of them were separated into various religious sects such as the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. Also there were many who were separated by bloodlines (for instance the Jews and Samaritans had their religious differences). Much of the Gentile world in that day was saturated with their own religions and gods. There was just an overwhelming force of false religion and ideology that those who were searching for the truth in that day had to contend with.
Prior to John’s day, there had already began a deterioration of the Word of God in the hearts and lives of the people. They had drifted so far from TRUTH that when the people heard the real truth, they hardly recognized it. No doubt both John’s and Jesus’s listeners considered some of the things they were saying as strange stuff.