Matthew’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah foretold of John’s coming: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him’” (Matthew 3:1-3). We now know John was preparing the crowds for Jesus who has ushered in the kingdom of heaven for all who will surrender their lives here on earth. For those of us who are born again, baptized into the Body of Christ, we have become citizens of this very kingdom. The Spirit of God, who was promised by our savior Jesus Christ, has come to live within each true convert to guide and teach us all we must know. As a prelude to all of this God sent His servant John to the people from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan. These people came out to hear John and to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River (a picture of the baptism into the Body of Christ). The people confessed their sins and made a commitment of repentance before being baptized by John. It was during this time that John saw the Pharisees and Sadducees in the crowd and said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit worthy of repentance. And do not presume 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. The ax lies ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10).
I suppose John would have the same message for today’s religious experts, modern Scribes and Pharisees who claim to know the scriptures, and adhere to the teachings of countless local churches around the world. They have a sense of godliness, but because they refuse to repent from a life in this world, they remain dead in their sins as they practice their manmade traditions and follow false religious doctrines orchestrated by Satan and his followers. Yet, true Christians do not follow these traditions, practices, and teachings. We are commissioned to love and share the good news with others just as John proclaimed. The crowds asked John, “What then should we do?” John replied, “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Collect no more than you are authorized,” he answered. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” “Do not take money by force or false accusation,” he said. “Be content with your wages.” The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John could be the Christ. John answered all of them: “I baptize you with water, but One more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:10-16). This is the promise of the Gospel, and those who surrender (lose) their lives here on earth will find eternal life in heaven!
However, even John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the messiah God would send for the salvation of mankind. He sent two of his disciples to ask the Lord, “Are You the One who was to come, or should we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus then made it clear, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of Me” (Luke 7:22-23). Just as in John’s case, our human nature causes us to doubt or question the things we do not fully understand. This is why we who are true Christians must live by faith and not by sight. Too quickly do today’s pastors and teachers throw statements around like, “If I cannot find it in the bible it must not be true,” “What I learned in seminary was…,” or some other statement consistent with a lack of faith in something they themselves might question. We are called to believe without seeing, which means that we do not have to fully understand what God is doing or saying.
Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? Otherwise, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear elegant clothing and live in luxury are found in palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’ I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John, yet even the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:24-28). Therefore, those who are truly in the Body of Christ are deemed as greater than John the Baptist. Regretfully, many so-called Christians and even those who are true believers should take heed to these words of Jesus. Don’t we make judgments based on the tradition and doctrines we choose to embrace that shape our minds? Just think for a moment what the stereotypical image we have today of what a pastor, teacher, or evangelist should look like? We are so quick to judge based on our own preconceived notions. Just as John the Baptist, many of us may not look like much and we may never be labelled as bible scholars, but the Lord will use us just the same.
Jesus said concerning their rejection of John’s teachings, “The Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. “To what, then, can I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to one another: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and of sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7:30-35). We must choose spiritual wisdom over intellectual knowledge. We must seek the Lord for spiritual insight through the reading of scriptures, fellowship, and most importantly prayer. Today’s church system has become so humanized and lacks spiritual substance and growth. We must learn to repent of this world to serve the will of the Father for the kingdom of heaven is here right now! If we wait too long, we will be lost forever just as the religious experts of today. You can find these religious people, modern Scribes and Pharisees who claim to know the scriptures, within the countless local churches across the world!
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