Sunday 4 December 2022

Sunday  is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, and the theme is on John the Baptist.  We do in fact honour John on the 24th June and on that day in Spain, which is still largely a Catholic country, they do so in style with ceremonial processions through the streets. John was a very special character in the Bible, being described by Jesus as ‘one of whom there being none greater.’


A period of 400 years elapsed between the Old and New Testaments and John acted as a bridge between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah.  God chose John to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus.

John attracted huge crowds to see and hear him; they came from all directions, North and South, East and West. They came from all levels of society


He was a fearless preacher giving a message of confession and repentance, and did so in the most direct way accusing them of being a brood of vipers, and told them there was a wrath to come.  Most preachers would rejoice in being able to emulate his appeal, although they would hesitate the language he used in today’s atmosphere where the least criticism raises accusations of phobia or bigotry.


Because of his successful appeal to people a delegation of priests was sent out to find out if he was acting in an orthodox manner.  The Jews believed, and were proud of the fact, that they were God’s chosen people and He would one day send a Messiah who would be a great national leader who would lead them to world conquest.  It was also believed that prior to the Messiah coming Elijah the great Old Testament prophet would come back to herald the Messiah’s coming. 


The priests wanted to see who John actually was. When John spoke of baptism it was not the meaningless kind that is sometimes practised in churches today and I will explain in detail subsequently what I mean by that.  Baptism was a symbol of admittance into the Christian faith, taken by someone who had come to need a personal Saviour in the person of Jesus Christ, who they would take into their hearts and lives and live according to His teaching. 


John wasn’t concerned with numbers or adding to some Church roll, he wanted genuine commitments.  The Bible is clear in all four gospels that the Christian life involved repentance and the following of a new way of life.  If we analyse our lives we will find there are things we have said and done and sincerely wish we hadn’t, but there is nothing we can now do except pray that God will forgive us, and that others will accept our flaws.


The place where John ministered was way out in the wilderness a bleak and desolate place, living off the land, getting his clothing from wild camel and food from whatever grew there. There is a wilderness in many people’s hearts. 


These verses describe the ministry of John the Baptist, and deserve our attention; he was the forerunner for Jesus Christ. Few preachers could ever produce greater effects.  People from a wide area of Judea, and all the places around Jordan gathered to hear him.  Jesus heaped praise upon him calling him a burning shining light. Jesus added that among men them that are born of woman there hath not one risen greater than John.

John spoke of sin and the absolute necessity of  repentance which had to be proved by the fruits of such. This is the teaching we all need,  but few will find it preached in to-day’s Church, as it might offend people who feel they are immune to sin. Many people feel content with a formal religion. And believe if we attend Church we are automatically saved. They should be taught if they don’t repent, they will perish.

He told people of who was coming to them, who was far more mightier than himself, for whom he was just a servant, the coming one was King who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and judge the world, taking away sin. We all need to be directed to Christ, who is a fountain of mercy and grace. He explained that the Holy Spirit was a special Office of Jesus to give to men, (and that would of course include women)

Forgiveness of sin is only part of salvation, and needs added the baptizing of the Holy Spirit.

John spoke plainly about those who did not repent or believe, for which there was a wrath to come in which the chaff would be separated and burned.  This again is something few preachers would speak of in the established denominations, but may well be proclaimed in evangelical Churches. But we must remember that Jesus spoke about heaven, but when he did so he also spoke of hell, which I was once told by a clerical colleague was now outdated When I stated I regularly tell of hell, I was suddenly relieved of his company.

This teaching is important in reaching the unconverted, people who sincerely believe there is a God who expects them to be ‘good’, and in believing that is  sufficient to get the to heaven. Let us be honest, such is being taught in Churches. and in addition by senior members of the clergy.  We have to point out there is a hell for those who live unrepentant lives.

John  spoke lastly of the safety of believers, and when  the Lord Jesus returns he will gather all the faithful.  Believers need to be reassured God is watching over them, and need to be reminded that Jesus stated he would never leave nor forsake them, and would be with them when facing temptation from the devil.

May these things sink it our hearts for we live in a day of false teaching, much of which is coming from what is euphemistically called leadership. Imagine how the Church could appear if there were many Ministers of the Church like John the Baptist.  

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