Monday 9 December 2013

Mark 1
Mark begins his gospel with the words, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." At the beginning of creation, as Adam and Eve sinned, God was already speaking of the coming of the One who would save men from their sins, and in the Old Testament God spoke of the One who would come as the forerunner, John the Baptist.

So, as Mark's Gospel opens, John the Baptist is there to prepare the way so that the people would be ready to receive Jesus. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. This is where God sent him to preach and many went out to hear him. They went because of the message which was being preached which had a significant effect on them.

John spoke in a way that touched their hearts. Within all of us there is a conscience which is often dulled and needs reawakening. In their hearts people know they are sinners and it weighs on their minds.
What is sad is that in today’s world no one is supposed to be made to feel guilty. There is a distinct lack in the preaching of the Church to point out the consequences of sin lest we upset people. We have got to a stage where there are no absolutes, as long as one feels something is right, that is all that matters.
As a result, many in our day fix the blame on someone else for their behaviour. Now, while there may have been someone else involved, the fact remains that you are still responsible before God.

So whilst the Church now is reluctant to speak of sin lest it upsets people, John proved the opposite effect is true. People went miles just to hear him tell them words that would enable him to touch something in their hearts and minds. They were able to confess and have peace of mind.

When Billy Graham first came to England, many pompous clergy were derisive before they had even heard him speak. Whilst they were preaching to small numbers of people in sweet soporific tones, Billy was speaking before crowds of many thousands ranging from 20 to 60 thousands, with overflow meetings in theatres and church halls. He was never reluctant to tell them they were sinners and needed to turn to Christ. When people think of great evangelists, Billy Graham is often the name which comes to mind.

Just as did John there was a conviction of sin combined with a message of hope which offered relief. If the Church is content in observing state law assiduously and declining to speak of judgement, which determines heaven or hell, then it becomes little more than a social club with a spiritual flavour. We need to have more teaching based on the Bible rather than that identical to some social based magazine.

Then John called them to publicly acknowledge their repentance by baptism. Baptism at that time symbolised the washing away of the past and the beginning of a new life. This was performed when someone confirmed their faith repented and promised to lead a new life. It was not the frivolous act performed in too many churches where it is mainly children being baptised, which is in fact just the prelude to a party, and where the parents of children are not required to make any commitment other than just say the words on the service sheet.

John was the forerunner for Christ pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, the One who would come and baptise with the Holy Spirit, but his message can mean as much to today’s generation as it did to the people of his day.

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