Summary: Ministry is not what we do as much as who we are in Christ. True ministry is rooted in Christ and reflects Christ in everything we do.
Jerry Jenkins, the writer of the Left Behind series, says a real writer is someone who cannot not write. One of the professors of theology at a major Christian college said that if you can do anything else do not go into the ministry. What both were saying is that behind our labor is a passion to do it. Many go to work every day without any passion for their work. Many Christians get up Sunday morning and go to church without any passion for worship. Passion comes from within not from without. For example, music does not produce worship but worship produces music.
For the Christian, nothing is more fulfilling and satisfying than ministry unto the Lord. Whether we are in what is termed “full-time” ministry or ministering unto the Lord every chance we get, the quality and passion for ministry is the same. What we do for the Lord should have such passion and energy that there is no question in anybody’s mind that we are serving the Lord. Notice the positive passion of the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
We come now to the ministry of John the Baptist. Although his ministry was unique in every sense of the word, there are aspects of his ministry that serve as a prototype of what our ministry should be. Certainly, John was especially called of God to do a work that nobody else could do.
John the Baptist’s ministry was to break the 400 years of silence and prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah, the dynamic ministry of Jesus Christ.
Ministry is not what we do as much as who we are in Christ. True ministry is rooted in Christ and reflects Christ in everything we do.
Perhaps it is an understatement to say the John the Baptist ministry blew the doors open like no other prophet before him. The ministry of the prophet is not to soft-pedal the message but rather to get in the face and rattle the cage of people who are in a spiritual snooze.
The degree of stupor determines the level of shock.
Just like a patient whose heart has stopped needs radical shock treatment to shock that heart back into pumping.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (3:7).
Sounds a little rough around the edges to me.
Let’s explore some of the aspects of John the Baptist’s ministry.
I. The Preparation for His Ministry
Every activity demands a certain amount of preparation. The more important the activity, the more intense the preparation.
For example, preparing to be a heart surgeon takes more intense preparation than flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Who would want their surgeon to have received his preparation and training from a book entitled, “10 Easy Lessons for Heart Surgery”? And he carries it into surgery.
The key to John the Baptist’s preparation is seen in chapter 1.
“And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (1:80).
And then come over to chapter 3,
“… the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness” (3:2).
The word “wilderness” has the connotation of separation.
This was the basic aspect of John the Baptist’s preparation. From his birth he lived a life separated from the world. That is what it means.
If you look at all the people God has used mightily, there is this aspect of separation from the world.
Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness… Get Egypt out of him.
The apostle Paul also spent years in the wilderness… Get religion out of him.
Separation is a key element of God preparing us to go into the world with His message. His message has to be undiluted.
With John the Baptist we see the instruction given to Zechariah his father, “for he will be great before the Lord, and he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (1:15).
This is usually associated with the Nazirite vow similar to the one Samson had in the Old Testament.
This was to separate him from the world and insulate him from the effects of worldliness around him. It is hard for us to understand how important it is to live a life of separation. This truth has been obscured and abused to such a sense that people do not understand what it means.
G.K. Chesterton said, “The world is not changed by giving into it, but by the saint that contradicts it the most.”
If we are going to have an impact in our community and world we are going to have to contradict it. The only way we can properly contradict the world around us is to be prepared by God who separates us from the world in order that He can send us back into the world to do His work.