Covid-19 Devotionals

Jesus and John the Baptist

We resumed our Wednesday night Bible study meetings tonight. This is the first study in exactly 5 months and 2 weeks. It seems like a lifetime we were separated, but it was wonderful to be able to meet together, study the Word of God, have a time of sharing and end in prayer. We studied Mark 1:1-20. One of the comparisons we looked at was the preaching of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. See John’s message:

Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

About 400 years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Malachi tells us:

Mal 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

The way John would prepare the way for the Lord was through “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. The Lord (Messiah, Christ, Saviour) was coming, and you were required to prove your repentance–your turning from sin–by publicly being baptised. In this way, the community would know you have pledged a change of life and morals … and should life transformation not be evident, they would know you are a fake! John preached, you believe, you proved the change through the public act of baptism and if you are a counterfeit … everyone would know.

Jesus’ preaching was similar in some ways, but different in others. We read:

Mk 1:14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!

John’s ministry needed to end because Jesus’ ministry needed to commence. Although the Baptist’s arrest and subsequent wicked murder is sad and tragic, in God’s permissive will He allowed this to be John’s earthly exit and immediate arrival in glory. Although Jesus preached “repent” just like John, He coupled it to “faith” … “believe the good news”. Plus, John preached about getting ready for the coming Messiah, while Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God is near! In other words, “I, the King of the Kingdom, am here … John preached it, and here I am. Repent and believe!” Another matter we looked at was the immediate response of Simon and Andrew and then James and John:

Mk 1:16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

These four men turned and followed Jesus when He called them to follow Him. No waiting, thinking, weighing options or working out a notice period. You see, the call was irresistible! They could not refuse, they could not resist … all they could do was obey and follow! You see, Jesus’ Word is not just irresistible … it is authoritative. Here is the real issue … wherever the King is, the Kingdom is, and whenever the King of the Kingdom speaks, His Word is authoritative.

Why is it, then, that so many people resist the King’s Word today? The Word is exactly the same. It is direct, pointed, authoritative … yet few seem to allow the Word of God to work in their hearts these days. Few respond immediately. One lady at the study mentioned how a lady who attended church a few times said, “I’m not ready to follow Jesus yet.” Variations of this comment are plenty. Let me tell you what the real problem is. John the Baptist appeared as an Old Testament prophet … in fact he was the last of them.

Mk 1:6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

His preaching pointed to the Holiness of God. He showed people God’s Character … and many fell to their knees, confessing sin and were willingly baptised to prove their repentance. Another prophet did the same thing … Nahum preached the character of God.

Na 1:2 “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. 5 The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. 6 Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.”

This is the same God of the New Testament. His Character remains the same. His Word remains authoritative and instructive. Unless the Character of God is presented and held before people, they would never know that God is jealous and avenging; having great power; will not allow the guilty to go unpunished … people will never tremble and fear the consequences of their sin. They will continue to treat God and His Word as they please. Their pastors will continue to pollute the True Word with unbiblical, man-pleasing rubbish that will keep man happy and sustained in his dilution. What we need today is pastors who are called by God, empowered by God, filled with God who will call sin, “sin”, and call repentance, “repentance”, with real urgency … or the Church will continue to decay, with the Lord Jesus repeating His Words to the Church at Laodicea: “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Ask God to raise up fearless men to preach every sermon in the power of the Lord … as if it’s their last sermon. Maybe through such preaching people will repent and believe and be saved … and be willing to be counted as the Lord’s own.

Dear God, please raise up men, filled with Your Spirit, to proclaim Your Word fearlessly, boldly and pointedly so that men and women will sit up, listen and be convicted by the Spirit to repent and be saved for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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