I’ve thought a lot lately of how differently GOD’s words are delivered to the masses. The delivery varies about as much as a person’s personality. Education also makes a difference in how it is spoken. There are many other things that can be thrown into the mix, like the atmosphere that a person was brought up in, etc. I don’t have any interest in dissecting the why’s and wherefore’s in this article. It is just to get us thinking of different ones we’ve sat under or maybe heard at a large outdoor meeting.
Here in our western culture we have had the advantages of education and a society that for the most part prides itself in being rather refined. This of course really varies depending on where you might happen to live. In this article I would like to look into some of the means, particularly people that GOD has chosen to use in His quest to get mankind’s attention. Since it is not my plan for this to be a thesis, I’ll limit my thoughts to just mainly just one man.
I have noticed that several blogs have mentioned John the Baptist lately, and it is because of Jesus’ statement seemingly connecting him to Elijah the prophet of the Old Testament—or at least saying that John spoke with the same spirit and agenda as this famed prophet.
In order to get at least a little taste of what the Jews of Jesus’ day were confronted with, allow me to describe this man a bit. There is not a great deal of time spent in Scripture describing John or his ministry, but what is said is more than sufficient. We know that he was the product of a miracle, just as Isaac was for Abraham and Sarah. John’s father Zachariah and his wife were well past child-bearing age and had never had children. In order to get to my point quickly, let me just say that Zechariah was more than a little surprised when he was approached by the angel Gabrielle with the news that he was going to have a son. He questioned the news, and in effect questioned the GOD of all creation who can do anything He decides to do. As a result he was struck dumb until after the child was born. He literally had to write what he wanted to say because he could not speak a word for the entire nine months.
When Zechariah’s son was born, he was asked what he was going to name him. Against tradition, he named him John instead of after himself. This is what Gabrielle had told him to do. The Bible also gives us another piece of information that tells us much. It says that John was filled with the Spirit of GOD while still in his mother’s womb.
When he was born, Zechariah prophesied over him, pretty much laying out the type of ministry he would have as a prophet of GOD (Luke 1:76-80). Verse 80 in this passage says that John grew and became strong in spirit and lived in the desert until he showed up publicly.
At this time Israel had had about 400 years of seeming deadly silence from heaven. There had been no prophets, nor notable priests. The Jewish Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and others were in complete control of temple activities and the people were under the thumb of the Sanhedrin. For most, true spirituality was nearly non-existent, hardly more than a form. Much of what the religious leaders were enforcing was scandalous, and refined to benefit them and not the people who they were supposed to serve.
On some predetermined day that GOD had chosen, John was told it was time to go upset the apple cart, and that’s what he did! First of all, one needs to picture this man! He had never cut his hair or beard because of a Nazarite vow that God had told Zechariah to teach him to follow. The Bible says that he came out of the desert wearing camel’s hair and a leather belt. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.
I suspect that when John first showed up, he probably looked like a wild man, and probably sounded like one. Because of having lived as a hermit for however many years, his concern for what he looked like was likely hardly existent. I can picture this man lumbering out of the desert one day with a walking stick, a few left-over grasshopper wings caught in his very full beard as well as probably some sticky honey. Whatever John did to attract his first crowd was probably only needed one time. After that, everyone had heard about the Elijah-like prophet that had showed up out of the desert.
The way he approached what GOD had to say to the crowds that came out to see him would have offended most of us “refined” Americans. He didn’t mince with words, nor did he care if anyone became one of his followers. He saw himself as the delivery person for GOD’s word of the hour. But, these people had not seen or heard from any true prophet in 400 years and they quickly overlooked John’s appearance and approach. They actually heard what John was saying and quickly saw that what John was saying was going cross-grain with the established religious order of the day. He brought a message that required a heart-change and not just religious tradition or ritual.
John’s message was one of repentance and a call to prepare the way for the Messiah. John did fulfill his job as fore-runner for Jesus. The crowds wondered if John was the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah but John made it clear that he wasn’t worthy to carry his sandals. John’s message got through and so the people began to respond en mass. They readily repented, confessed their sins, and were baptized by John in the Jordan river.
It didn’t take long for the news of John and the response he was getting from the people to catch the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees. John cut them down immediately with the comment, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance! And do not think you can say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I tell you that out of these stones GOD can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
His message was direct and to the point. Today, we would be quickly offended and write John off as a crazy fanatic. The problem is, we too often accept those as prophets who are not prophets at all, and avoid or marginalize those who really are. We judge a person by the wrong thing! It doesn’t matter whether a person is well educated or not. It doesn’t amount to anything in GOD’s book if a person is articulate. We should hear the message and judge it by the Word of God. Our world today is filled with great speakers, who can articulate people right into their web of deceit. There are more self-proclaimed prophets today than ever in history. They are leading people into error by the masses and it is partially because so few people read the Bible for themselves. It takes personal time to read, study, and pray about the Word of GOD. Our tension span is way too short. If GOD doesn’t floor us with a great revelation or stupendous miracle within the first five minutes of our “God-time”, we give up and pull up our favorite “feel-good” teacher / prophet and listen to him instead. That way we don’t have to do the hard work ourselves. Adding to the problem is the fact that the spiritual diet in most churches has put most into a spiritual slumber. There is no power in our lives, we are not prepared for anything that is going to test our faith, nor do we care to set aside any of the time-consuming entertainments we have come to enjoy in order to spend some of that quality time with GOD we so desperately need.
GOD used a very unconventional man, who delivered GOD’s word in a strong manner. He didn’t care about his reputation, nor did he care if he set off the religious establishment of the day. As a result, the common people caught the message and did just exactly what GOD was after—true repentance. GOD’s repentance required a change in lifestyle, and the people determined to do just that. The Pharisees were offended to the max of course. He didn’t must step on their toes, he stomped on them. They grew to hate him but were afraid to go against him because the masses had fallen in love with him and accepted the truths he was preaching.
Let’s apply all this to our day. We become so in tune to what will bring the statistics that shows growth in our churches, that we’re afraid to speak the Word the way it was written. We go to great lengths and spend enormous amounts of money to produce a “seeker-friendly” atmosphere. Too often very little of GOD’s Word actually gets out. We’re afraid of teaching too long because people might not come back. There is a saying that goes something like this, “If you can’t say what you’re going to say within 20 minutes, then you won’t do it in an hour either.” Although I agree with getting things said in short mode if possible, where do we get off putting a limit on GOD’s Spirit when He is speaking through us? How can we insult Him like that? We may be worried about whatever fun we had planned for Sunday afternoon, but GOD is concerned about our eternal soul. As Christ-followers, that must be our greatest concern. One thing that we tend to forget is that our 20 minutes of teaching in GOD’s word is all that most people ever get, all week long!
I have always been amazed at the simplicity and straight-forwardness of Billy Graham’s sermons. I don’t know how long he spoke, although I know his TV programs were usually an hour long. He never minced with words, and he was never afraid to call sin what it is. He spoke much about the degenerated condition of a man’s soul without the cleansing of the Blood of Jesus which comes through repentance. Multiplied tens of millions heard him until he was just too old and weak to continue. There are still great leaders that seek him out at his mountain top location in North Carolina. His message is still the same.
I believe that GOD’s message to the world today is an urgent one, and it is a round two of John the Baptist’s message. John preached a message of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Today, there are those that seem set apart from the majority, and they are passing down the same message from heaven. It is an urgent message of repentance again, and also once again—preparing the way for the Messiah. Only this time, Jesus is not coming as the suffering Messiah, but the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who will set up His millennial Kingdom from His beloved Jerusalem.
This message here in our land is not a popular one. Repentance means a person must humble themselves to bend their knee before the GOD that created them. It means asking forgiveness and then living with a whole new agenda. It doesn’t mean that we quit living! It just means that our goal is different. We also allow our GOD to be the LORD of our life, not just Savior. It’s much easier to repeat a sinner’s prayer so as to make sure one’s name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, than it is to submit to Him as LORD of everything in our lives. Yet, we dare not do any less. We are living in a dying world. Most of us are so tied up with our own interests that we don’t even see what all is happening in our world. It is spinning out of control. Ever since Israel became a nation again in 1948, the clock started to tick on its way down to the Lord’s return. It is our generation that will experience all the things that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. Much of it is already well under way, and the rest will come at hyper speed. Everything has escalated—everything! There is a perfect storm brewing in the Mideast right now that could be set in motion from any one of several fronts. All of the world’s leaders know it is coming.
The leaders of the world also know that the world’s economy is doomed. The globalists intend everything to go into a chaos so that they can rebuild it their way, but that’s not going to happen either. Mankind is determined to make it on his own, and separate himself from any thought of his Creator. Some of what science is doing today provides an example of this. More than one scientist has bragged that modern science and technology is going to rebuild the human body via genetic engineering and through singularity to where it will be a much better product than the one that “God” made! Man has no idea what kind of pandora’s box he is opening. It will backfire, but…GOD said long ago this would happen.
It is so very important that we know what we must do! We need to grab onto Him with everything we have! That however means that we will need to do exactly as He says: “Prepare the way for the KING”. This means that you and I also need to prepare ourselves for the KING. He is coming for a church that is without spot or wrinkle. What is it going to take to wake the church up? I’m afraid it will take some shocking events. And…they are on the way. This is why there is such an urgency in GOD’s message to us today. Too many of His own people don’t have a clue what time it is! Too many in leadership won’t tell them!! Can’t take a chance on sounding like an alarmist! We can’t talk about prophecy because people will think we’re nuts! Really?? Somewhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of the Bible is prophecy, yet we conveniently avoid it.
It would be better for us to take a chance on seeming a bit “nuts” than have to face our LORD and give answer why we didn’t tell those He put into our influence. I don’t ever want to be in that position. There is a reason why there is a special blessing promised for those that even just read the book of Revelation. Most avoid it; in fact most wish it were not even part of the Bible. We’re already living within the pages of the book! So…there are some “John the Baptists” in the world today presenting a very strong message, and they really don’t care if it is well received or not. Who in America wants to hear about repentance or holiness today? Almost no one! It doesn’t fit with our modern affluent lifestyles. Well, our affluent lifestyles are incrementally being removed even while I am taking the time to write this article. We haven’t seen anything yet! The world economy only has months left. Most top government officials are quite aware of how bad it really is.
So, who are you going to listen to? Some slick, fast-talking evangelist or self-proclaimed prophet or apostle who says that everything is going to be all right, as long as we continue sending him a couple bucks toward his ministry? There is no lack of charlatans today! Listen to the message that says, “Repent, submit to the great GOD who created you, and walk hand in hand with Him as He leads you through these mine-filled days leading up to His return.
I happen to believe in a very literal Rapture of the true church. In my next post, I am going to give the reasons for my belief and the scriptural backing as well. Many are out there condemning the belief as heresy, particularly if you happen to believe in the “pre-tribulation” rapture. Well, it is not heresy. Those that call it heresy don’t know how to define the word. I have no problem with a person not choosing to believe in the rapture, no matter whether it is pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-tribulation, but don’t toss those aside who happen to believe they can support it scripturally. Even if my “pre-tribulation” rapture belief were to turn out wrong, it has nothing to do with my salvation. Nothing at all. In the next post I’ll show how the “pre-rapture” is taught not only in the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well. So…stay tuned in!
Until next time, KEEP LOOKING UP!