Matthew 3:1-12 — John The Baptist Convictions — Will You and I Have That Passionate Conviction to Christ When It Will Cost Us Something?

Posted: September 1, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 3:1-12 — John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. When I think of John the Baptist, I flash back to the 1978 mini-series, Jesus of Nazareth, a film that still gets air play today around Easter each year. It was and still remains, to me, as the best Jesus film in its totality. There are films that are better and more realistic about the scourge and the crucifixion (e.g., The Passion of Christ) but no other film captures the whole of Jesus’ life and the spirit of Scripture as well. And one of the performances in that film that was truly amazing was Michael York’s portrayal of John the Baptist. He was so into his role that you forgot that he was the studly film star of his day, Michael York, and that he was really John the Baptist. He captured the essence of what many of us see as how John the Baptist would have been. John the Baptist was consumed by his passion for God and to open people’s eyes to their sin. He was a true evangelist who spoke the truth of God that we must repent of our sins and turn unto God. He did not try to dress down his message to match the culture or to sooth the power brokers of his day. It was a plain and simple message. Repent.

As we skip ahead in Jesus’ life in the Gospel of Matthew, we find ourselves ahead into the future about 30 years. John the Baptist bursts onto the scene in Matthew. We see him preparing the way for the Messiah begging, pleading, shouting, screaming for people to repent (make an about face, a 180 degree turn) from the kind of self-centered lives that lead us to compromise God-like values to preserve ourselves such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing others, and indulging in sexual immorality. John called people to live out their lives according to God’s Word. The first thing we must do is admit that we have sin in our lives. And that is often the hardest thing to do. We often ridicule those who are consumed by God and who call us to repentance. John the Baptist was ultimately imprisoned for speaking the plain truth of the Word of God. He made enemies of the Pharisees and the Saduccees and the ultimately of Herod Antipas, Rome’s Jewish puppet ruler over Judea, who imprisoned him. To John, the message was more important that comfort and ultimately more important than this earthly life. How committed to the gospel are we? Will we fold under pressure or will we do whatever it takes?

Just think about today’s world where Christians in America are becoming increasing ridiculed for standing on their beliefs. We are considered old fashioned if we hold to beliefs that are out of step with what is now considered acceptable in our culture. We are ridiculed and marginalized if we stand on conviction that the Word of God is true and timeless. What do many Christians today do, fit in. We fit in rather than be singled out. We often sell out the truth of Scripture just so that we can say that we are in touch with the culture. Even our churches are doing it. The most blatant example is from my hometown of Greenville, SC where the pastor of First Baptist Church there (one of the oldest and largest Baptist churches in the state) said, in defense of his church’s same sex marriage and gay pastor ordination resolution, that, basically, it is more important to be in touch with the culture than it is to be true to Scripture. We evangelical Christians decry such dilution of Scripture but when it comes to those push come to shove moments individually, how will we react to cultural pressure?

The day is coming where we, in America (not just in other places where this is already happening) will have to, as Christians, chose between our faith and the culture on a personal level. There are fringe things happening now all around us yes. But the day is coming where you and I will have to pay a price, a real tangible price for being a Christian. How will we react then? If being a Christian would cost you your job, would you stand on your faith? Would I? If being a true Christian prevented you from getting a job, would you or I not mention that we are Christian? There is an old saying in Christian circles that “if you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Am I living out my faith? Am I standing on my faith or am I watering down the tough parts of the faith just so I will fit in? Am I silent when I should speak up? Do I complain about the degradation of morals in America but do not vote or do not run for office so that there would be a Christian in office? Do I have what it takes to be say a Christian in Iran or Syria right now? Do I have what it takes to be a Christian in North Korea or China right now? The day is coming where we will have to speak up for our faith or forever be silent and sooth the culture around us and join in with them as the blindly hurdle toward self-destruction that is called self-enlightenment. Are we going to say to the culture that it is riding off the rails on the crazy train or are we going to join on the train and ride with it off the cliff?

John the Baptist thought the message of repentance was the most important thing that he could do. He did not compromise the Word of God to suit the cultural needs of the day. He did not compromise the Word of God just to suit those in power. The message of repentance is often hard to hear but it is a message of love. When we are on the crazy train we cannot see the cliff coming. Preaching repentance may be tough love but sometimes it is necessary to open people’s eyes to the truth. That’s what mattered to John. Not culture. Not comfort. Not the personal easy way out. The truth of God was what mattered. He ultimately was ridiculed, put in prison and beheaded. Are you and I willing to have John the Baptist convictions for our faith? Or will you and I figure out a way to melt our faith down into a palatable soup for the culture around us? Will you? Will I? The day is coming where you and I will have to choose – fitting in for survival or standing on faith and accept persecution in whatever form that may take. I hope I have John the Baptist conviction. I hope you do too!

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