Summary: Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man who ever lived. What made John so great, and how can we live life to the fullest by following his example? John’s first love, his passion, and His Lord, was Jesus Christ.
*A few weeks ago I read that scientists were going to add another second to the clock on New Year’s Eve. They called it a leap second, something that happens every few years because of the gradual slowdown in the earth’s rotation. That leap second gave each of us a whole extra second to reflect on 2005 before it was over! Wow! What did you think about in that second?! Now, here we are, January 2006, and most of us are looking ahead. We’re wondering what kind of year we’re going to have, and maybe some of us have even made some New Year’s resolutions to help us have the best year possible.
This morning, as we begin our 4-week sermon series called “Living Life To The Fullest”, we realize that one of the ways we often try to make our lives fuller and better is to make resolutions. The problem is, the average life span of a new year’s resolution is about 3 weeks! By then we’re either off our diet or bored with our exercise program, or we’re sucked back into believing something we resolved never to believe again: that maybe, just maybe, this is the year the Vikings will go all the way! After all, they do have a new coach! What’s stopping us now?
Over the next four weeks we’re going to keep coming back to one foundational truth: The key to a full life does not depend on our resolutions, our plans, or our dreams. A full life depends on following the resolutions that God made for us in His Word, and that Word points us to Jesus. That’s the key thought for this sermon series. Now here’s the key verse for these 4 weeks. Jesus said in John 10:10: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.” The more our thoughts, actions, and words focus on Jesus, the fuller, the better our lives will be. This morning in our Gospel reading we’re going to meet the one man who, more than any human being in history, lived life to the fullest. We know this because Jesus called this man the greatest man who ever lived. He said in Luke 7:28, “Among those born of women, there is no one greater than John the Baptist.” No one was more focused on Christ and devoted to Him - that’s what Jesus meant.
But if you’re looking for happiness and fulfillment in 2006, who wants to pick John as a role model? After all, John ate grasshoppers. He had one outfit - a hairy robe. He lived in the desert, he was sent to prison, and his eventually his head was cut off. That’s not really the kind of life I want! But the truth is, there is nothing more fulfilling, nothing more joyful, than following Jesus Christ, no matter what the consequences. Jesus said, “I came that their joy may be complete.” There’s joy in following Jesus, even if we do wear a hairy robe and eat insects!
Over the next few minutes we’re going to look at what made John’s life so great in the eyes of Jesus, and we’re going to apply those principles to our lives. Because those are the things that will make us great, and are going to fulfill us. Our Gospel begins by saying, “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Why did John come preaching in the desert? Well, the first couple of verses of Mark tell us that the Old Testament prophesied that He would. A messenger would come to tell people to prepare the way for the Messiah. That was John. But that still doesn’t tell us why John decided to do it. We have to turn to the book of Luke to find that out. Luke 3:2 says, “…during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John in the desert.”
God spoke to John and John obeyed. God told John to go, and he went. The first mark of a great Christian is that when God speaks, we listen. Remember that TV commercial years ago? "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen!" When God speaks to us, when He tells us in His Word what His will is for each of us, we listen. It may not always be what we want to do. Did John want to eat grasshoppers? I heard they’re not too bad with a little salt and pepper! Did he want to wear a scratchy, hairy robe? Did he want to live out in the desert? Did he want to get in trouble for telling people what they didn’t want to hear? Did he want to go to prison and be martyred? No! But His love for Christ was more powerful than any human desire. You and I start to become truly great Christians, and fulfilled people, when our love for Christ and His Word starts to influence us more than our own human desires. That’s a mark of greatness in God’s eyes, and that’s the path to fulfillment in life.