All of us have our heroes. You know, people we admire and look up to. For me, I have many people I admire. Probably more than I can list. Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, A.W. Tozer, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Finney, etc. etc. I could list hundreds of men whose adventures, courage, strength, conviction that I would love to emulate in my own life.
One of my almost endless list of Biblical characters I have always loved and admired, is John the Baptist. He had such a blunt and simple definition of ministry: “I am a voice crying out in the desert” (John 1:23). Or as one translations renders it: “I am thunder in the desert!” I’ll go back to my Pentecostal roots and shout, “Hallelujah!, Glory!” I wish I could make such a declaration! Too often I feel like I am nothing more than a “gentle breeze on a summer day . . .”
Hey! Even Jesus referred to John as being the greatest “among those born of women.” John the Baptizer was considered the most blessed of all the prophets and preacher of righteousness. A couple of disciples of the Baptizer came to check on Jesus, and after they left Jesus said,
“When you went out into the desert to see John, what did you expect to see? And weak and willowy kind of guy? Tall grass swaying in the wind? I’m serious, what did you expect to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Don’t be foolish, you find that stuff in the sitting rooms of palaces and mansions, not in the middle of the wilderness!
“What did you go to see? A prophet? Yes. Yes, a prophet and more than a prophet. When you saw John, you saw the one whom the prophet Malachi envisioned when he said,
I will send My messenger ahead of You,
and he will prepare the way for You
“This is the truth: no one who has ever been born to a woman is greater than John the Baptist. All of the prophets of old, all of the law — that was all prophecy leading up to the coming of John. Now, that sort of prepares us for this very point, right here and now. When John the Baptist came, the kingdom of heaven began to break in upon us, and those in power are trying to clamp down on it — why do you think John is in jail? If only you could see it — John is the Elijah, the prophet we were promised would come and prepare the way!” (Matthew 11:14)
Oh man! That must have been an amazing time! The crowds were flocking to hear John’s scorching messages. Folks repented and were baptized, then became his disciples and even royalty came under his anointed influence! Some actually thought that he was Christ; others considered him to be Elijah raised from the dead.
But even with that tremendous accreditation from Jesus Himself, what impressed me about John is that he refused to be exalted in any way. That is so contrary from our modern-day, mega-church, popular tel-evangelistic TV productions. I have met believers who confuse the instructions to “come boldly to the throne of Grace to receive Grace and Mercy in our time of need,” with “come arrogantly and tell the Creator how things need to be done!”
Some love to idealize the preachers and those preachers love to be exalted. But not John! He emptied himself of all the self-serving desires and continually withdrew from center stage. In his eyes, he was not even worthy to be called a man of God — but wanted only to be know as a voice in the wilderness, modest, retiring, and unconcerned about honor or usefulness, not even worthy to unlace the sandals of Jesus! He never concerned himself with having a successful ministry or being “mightily used of God.” His entire life was devoted to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
No long ago, I read a post from someone who testified of himself as being a “gifted writer.” Please don’t misunderstand me. He may very well be a “gifted writer,” I don’t know. But why not allow the Lord make that proclamation? I see so much self-promotion and adulation within the Body of my Messiah. His Church is to be solely focused on Him, and not on what we may (or may not) be doing for His Kingdom. I have discovered years ago that He will elevate men to positions of influence and He can — and will — lower them, too.
Yes, I suppose you can take this as a powerful rebuke to those in this age of self-occupation, promotion of personalities, influence-grabbing, ego-tripping, and seeking of honors. John could have had it all, but he cried out, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). To reach that goal, John kept reminding everyone who heard him, “I am just a voice.”
The secret of John’s happiness was that his joy was not in his ministry or in his work. It was never in his personal usefulness or widespread influence. His pure joy was to stand in the presence of the Bridegroom, to hear His voice, and to rejoice in it. His joy was in seeing others, His own disciples included, flocking to Jesus, the Lamb of God.
I am telling you emphatically that the greatest fulfillment any child of God can know is to lose self and any desire to be a “somebody,” and simply rejoice in being a son or daughter who lives in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! Being totally occupied with Christ is what satisfies the heart. John could stand there, in the Jordan River, with his eyes fixed on Jesus, and be delighted by His presence. He fed his soul on Christ — his heart was always going out to the Messiah in adoration and awe.
Stop what you are doing and search your own heart and see who has the Throne. Who receives the credit and adoration when you speak or touch the life of someone else? Who is the One being elevated and adored? Search your heart and make sure you eyes are focused on the Messiah, the Lord, the King. These are the thoughts that have been consuming my prayers and my desire to proclaim. Quit exalting any one or any thing above our Lord Jesus Christ! HE alone is worthy of our adoration and worship.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)