As children, many of us played a game called, “Hide and Seek.” Whoever was “it” would count to a certain number while others would hide. When the count was done, he or she would proclaim, “Ready or not! Here I come!” It was now time to seek.
The season of Advent reminds me a bit of this game. As we approach Christmas, Advent serves as a countdown to once again preface for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I just bought my grandson, Henry, an Advent calendar with stickers to count the days before the birthday of Jesus. Some families will do daily Advent devotions with an Advent wreath as a countdown to the great celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.
When you think about it, the Christ Child’s arrival ended the countdown. The countdown for a Savior (from God’s Old Testament promises), was fulfilled with His coming at Christmas. God basically was announcing, Ready or not; Here I come! The apostle Paul, describing Christmas in one of his letters, wrote, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son . . .” (Gal. 4:4).
Like the game of hide and seek, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, arrived in the flesh to seek us out. Jesus told His disciples, “I came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He not only came to show us what God is like, but to also carry out a rescue mission. Jesus would go to the cross for the sins of you and me. He would rise victoriously from the grave so we might have eternal life and be saved. Jesus’ coming was a heavenly invasion to conquer the power of sin and death and the devil.
This is the good news we gratefully think about in these Advent days before Christmas. But there is so much more for us to consider as we observe Advent.
Advent brings to remembrance the fact that Christ is coming again. We need to constantly be ready for His arrival. The One who arrived as a baby will arrive again in glory and power. We live in the in-between times. A theologian once wrote, “The Christian is always living between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ He or she is one for whom something has already happened and for whom something still has to happen.” We are people in waiting.
As Christians, we confidently wait to see Christ coming again in power and glory to establish a new heaven and a new earth where people love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love one another as themselves. Where there is no more sin, no more pain, no more mourning, no more death, no more suffering. Only living in the light of God’s love, which was God’s original intention when He created this world. This is what lies ahead.
We know this to be true, because Jesus told His disciples – and even His opposition – these things. At His trial, He told them “the Son of Man will come again in power to rule over all” (Matt. 16:27).
An important question for us to be asking is What do we do in the meantime while we wait upon the Lord? This is what we began exploring last in Sunday’s message entitled, Watch and Pray. We will continue to explore the question for the next two Sundays.
As we again turn to Scripture for guidance, today’s reading about John the Baptist’s ministry has a vital word of instruction for us. The word is PROCLAIM. John’s job was to prepare people for Jesus, who was coming, by proclaiming the Good News of a rescue about to happen. All flesh will soon see the salvation of God, just as the prophet Isaiah had spoken of in the Old Testament. Central to John’s proclamation was a call to repentance, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In calling for repentance, John pointed out that we need a Savior. We are not okay with God. We are in need of forgiveness and cleansing. We are sinful and unworthy to have a relationship with the God who created us. We are rebels in His sight with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We have made a mess of things and are unable to make things right in order to save ourselves and restore a relationship with God.
Through the years, human beings have tried all kinds of ways to deal with our sinfulness.
• We rationalize it. I had a good reason to do this or that.
• We minimize it. It’s really no big deal; everybody tells a little white lie once in a while.
• We project the guilt. It really isn’t my fault. It’s the way my parents raised me.
• We deny it altogether. I really didn’t do anything wrong. Why should I feel guilty about it?
• We anesthesize it with alcohol, drugs, and pleasures of this world.
• We try to pay for our sins on our own by doing good things to get right with God.
However, all these efforts to take care of our sinfulness fall short. They just don’t work. We come up empty and miserable. John’s preaching reminds us that God is holy and just. He cannot and will not ignore our sinfulness. Sin does not go on punished. There are consequences, and the consequence for sin is judgment, separation from God for eternity.
When we come to the realization that we’re sinful and God is holy and just, we ask, Then who can rescue me from this body of death? John answers us: God will. REPENT!
To repent is to be sorry for, confess, and move away from the old ways of living. It means to return to God. Change your mind and direction, and surrender life to God. Tell Him you have made a mess of your life, and you need Him to take over.
John says his baptism in the Jordan River would be a sign of repentance. John’s baptism was a symbol of purification, cleansing back in those days. A pastor was only used for the cleansing of Gentiles who wished to enter the Jewish faith but needed to be purified. Yet John was saying everybody needs purification. Everybody needs to repent.
What awaits those who repent?
The forgiveness of sins, which is given us by God who sacrificed His right to get even.
How does He cancel our debt?
Through His Son, Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist went on to say, “There is one who is coming whose sandals I’m not worthy to untie. I baptize you with water. He will change your life and baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit.” Forgiveness, purification.
Later on, he would say as he pointed to Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
By the way, this command of John to repent and be baptized is an important phrase, Jesus used it in His ministry as well. We especially see it in His commission to His disciples after the resurrection, with one exception – He added to it. They were to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name to the nations of the world. This is why, on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so your sins will be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sin. It is offered to all people to receive through faith.
So there you have it! John’s job before Jesus’ first arrival was to prepare the way by proclaiming the news of God’s rescue mission through Jesus. That, my dear friends, is the job given to each of us as Christ followers as we live out our days waiting for His return arrival in power and glory. We are called to be proclaimers, to tell others about Jesus’ first arrival in order to prepare them for His next arrival. Jesus Himself said, “You shall be my witnesses from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and the ends of the earth.” He clearly stated, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” He commissioned on the mountaintop, “Go, make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit teaching them to obey all I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19).
This is the Church’s purpose in this world – to proclaim the Good News of forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord! It is also why this broadcast called Christian Crusaders exists! We are here to proclaim the forgiveness of sins through Christ. It is the responsibility of the individual Christian as well. We are to be proclaimers, to help people see not only their need for forgiveness, but the solution for it – turn to Christ.
The whole world is full of people whom God loves and need Jesus. God is counting on you and me to proclaim the Good News of salvation to them.
When you think about it, believers in Christ have already experienced the blessing of a John-the-Baptist type of person pointing them to the rescuer, Jesus Christ. Someone who showed them their need for forgiveness and pointed them to the solution, Jesus. Perhaps you had faithful parents who brought you to baptism and then raised you up in the covenant of your baptism, brought you to worship and Sunday school, youth groups, confirmation, taught you the importance of prayer, and modeled what it looks like to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Faithful parents who helped their children understand the basic doctrines of the faith. Maybe you were connected to faithful pastors, Sunday school teachers, or youth workers who patiently and lovingly brought the gospel message message of Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation to you and encouraged you to place your trust in Jesus.
Many of us have friends, relatives, and spouses who have played the role of John the Baptist in our lives proclaiming our need for a Savior and pointing us to Jesus. I invite you to take a moment and think about all the people God has used in your life who He empowered to bring you faith. You didn’t come to Jesus Christ on your own. You have people in your life who told you about Him, pointed out your need for Him, and called you to faith in Him. It might be a good idea to write a card during this Advent to thank someone for playing the role of John the Baptist in your life and pointing you in the right direction.
Today’s main teaching for those of us who are wondering what we do while we wait for the arrival of Jesus is simply this: Proclaim Christ. Just as someone did for you, go and do likewise. As the Word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness commissioning him to proclaim God’s message to all the people, today it is coming to you. Consider yourself called by the Word of God today to proclaim the Gospel until Christ comes again or until we breathe our last breath in this old world of ours.
I know some people shudder at the thought of proclaiming. How do I fulfill the Great Commission to proclaim the Good News? Will anybody listen? Will I be rejected? Jesus’ disciples had three years of training and learning, so why wouldn’t we, His disciples, also learn and train to get good at the art of Christian conversation? To be able to listen, ask good questions, and be familiar with what the Good News really is about: sin, grace, forgiveness, and faith.
I have found training classes to be very helpful for people in my own congregation. Classes such as Evangelism Explosion, Becoming a Contagious Christian, Irresistible Evangelism can be quite effective. Ask your pastor to train you. It will make their day because our main job is to quip the saints.
“Living Like a Missionary” by Jeff Iorg is a good book I have read and taught. I would recommend it to those who take this calling of God upon their life seriously.
And then pray! Pray for opportunities for God to use you. I know from personal experience that God loves to open doors for people like you and me who ask for the opportunity to be proclaimers.
You can do this! You can confidently proclaim and boldly trust in the promise Jesus gives: “I’m with you always you” (Matt. 28:20). As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit’s power working in you, with you, and through you as you proclaim. In fact, you can consider yourself armed and dangerous!
God is counting on you to be a John the Baptist in someone else’s life. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer