John 1:19-27 (New Living Translation)
“This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants[a] from Jerusalem to ask John, ‘Who are you?’ He came right out and said, ‘I am not the Messiah.’
‘Well then, who are you?’they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
‘No,’ he replied.
‘Are you the Prophet we are expecting?’
‘Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?’
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
‘I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!”
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, ‘If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?’
John told them, ‘I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.’
By the time John the Baptist (as we now know him) arrived on the stage of world history in Israel, the Messiah has been long awaited for centuries. No doubt news about “The King” had been even more widely rumored since the wise men’s visit to Herod three decades prior (Matthew 2:1-15) and Herod’s subsequent attempt at genocide, when he ordered the murder of all male babies ages two and under. (Matthew 2:16-23)
The Jews had been anticipating the arrival of the Christ. So it’s natural that when John appeared baptizing in the desert, the religious leaders sent a delegation to question him.
Notice John’s answer above. He is as certain of who he is as he is of who isn’t. John knows that he is not the Messiah. He knows that he is not Elijah. He boldly tells the delegates so. He defines himself by the words of Isaiah. John knows his place in relation to Christ. He is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal. His job is to point the way to Christ.
That is my job here at Elev8 and anywhere else the Lord sees fit to place me. I point people to Christ. That is the job of all believers – to point others to Christ. There is a strong temptation, especially in ministry, to want to fix people, to want to fix their situations, to impose upon them your opinions, your viewpoints, instead of showing them scripture. No matter how well intentioned you are or I am, we endanger a soul when we take on the role of Christ in their lives, if for no other reason than because we will fail them. At some point we will lie, or say something hurtful or mean. We will act selfishly. We will blow it. We will, in short, behave like the fallen human beings that we are. And what of their faith then? True, we can apologize, but the damage is already done.
I know what it is like to see someone you love deeply facing spiritual death. You reach out to offer the Source of all hope, but they reject him. You ache for them. You want them to know Christ the way you do, because if they just knew him…
But it comes down to this: If God respects people’s choices, then so must you , even if their choices lead to their destruction. By all means love the people in your life as best you can God’s way – not yours. Pray fervently for them. Be available. But respect their choices. Years ago, I hurt a young woman I had been mentoring by brutally expressing my very negative opinion about an endeavor she was undertaking. When I learned that I had wounded her, I apologized, but it was too late. She wanted nothing to do with me. I had mentored her as a teenager, but at this point she was grown and married. I had to respect her decisions, her pursuit of her endeavor, which was to join a cult, and her request that I back out of her life. I told her that I would always be present if she ever wanted anything to do with me again. I have never heard from her. I doubt I ever will.
Had I not been trying to “fix” this young woman, and instead lovingly disagreeing with her yet respecting her choice, had I been pointing her to scripture instead of to the gospel of Sheeri, I might still have a relationship with her today.
You and I are a sign posts. Everything about us should point people to the only One who can save, the only One who can heal, the only One who knows everything.
Likewise, Jesus should be the singular object of our focus. If we focus on him instead of on those who serve him, we’ll be able to forgive them when they blow it. If we accept the people in our lives for the gifts they are to the body instead of worshipping them in God’s place, we may be saddened by the news of the next pastor caught in a scandal, or the next elder who embezzles money from church coffers, or the next faithful husband who cheats on his wife, or murders his family, but we won’t turn away from God.
As followers of Christ, our hearts should break over the things that break God’s heart. We should be so moved by those in need that we share our resources with them. We should be so burdened for the lost that we pray continuously.
People fail all the time and sometimes very publicly. You and I are no different. That is the main reason why we must say as John did, “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming.'”
Let’s use our lives to point people to Christ by living upright, virtuous, obnoxiously joyful lives in plain sight. Some will reject him. But many won’t. Ask yourself if there are any areas in your life or the life of others where you are attempting to take on the role of Christ. If the Holy Spirit reveals these areas to you, repent and start again. And the next time you’re tempted to hand out unsolicited advice, or your opinion in place of scripture, flip off a bad driver in traffic (Oh, I know you don’t do that – you only know someone who does), “go off” on your neighbor, children, co-worker, friend, spouse…Think to yourself “Sign post,” and remember John’s humble response to the question “Then who are you?.”
Be blessed, Family!
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