I am enjoying reading Matthew in The Message sooooo much.
I sat down tonight to try and select a thought to share with you and there were so many. I want to be careful and thoughtful in what I write and with the next few days we have ahead of us, deep and thoughtful is not going to squeeze into the time I have.
So I am going to just share one of the early observations as I began reading the first of the four Gospel accounts.
In Matthew 3, we are introduced to the ministry of John the Baptizer.
What a sight he was as described in verse 4. He wore a camel-hair habit tied at the waist with a leather strap. His sustenance was based on locusts and wild honey from the fields.
People were literally lined up to come hear and see him.
We have to remember there had been a 400 year silence as God quit speaking through any prophets. The people were soul hungry and John was the real deal and so they came to hear him.
Hearing him stirred their hearts and they confessed their sins and were baptized.
Sadly this also became what all good things eventually seem to become…a road show…an experience.
I call it the Beanie Baby phenomenon.
Enough people start making a fuss and soon everyone wants to be in on it whether they are really committed or not. All fads start with a few who flock and many who stand back and wonder if folks have lost their minds.
But as more and more are talking about it, more and more want to be a part of it all and so John realized the Pharisees were coming down.
Eugene Peterson, taking the Greek and translating into every day English says it this way:
“When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was the popular thing to do, he exploded…”Matthew 3: 7 The Message
It makes me think how we, as Christians are lamenting the current wave of UNPOPULARITY we are experiencing in a quickly shifting culture.
But perhaps when Christianity was “popular” it was not really sincere…hmmmm….
And what does this exploding Baptizer have to say to those who just want the “baptism experience” but not the changed life?
He calls them a brood of snakes. And he reinforces that by saying they have slithered down to the river and think rinsing their scaly snakeskins in water will clean them up.
But it won’t.
He urges them to change their lives – transform their hearts – or else the baptism is nothing more than splashing water on a reptilian casing.
I think of the seeker-friendly movement and am pretty sure this wasn’t included in the “how to make people feel welcome” intro packet.
It would seem that what John was preaching – a message of repentance – either changed your heart and caused you to renounce your sin and then be baptized to fully embrace this new direction…or you just thought it was a fad thing and you wanted to be a part of the excitement.
Conviction, confession, repentance and renewal are hard things.
They are not an emotional reaction to an atmosphere but a spiritual response to a move of God.
It would seem that the call of preaching and teaching is to share the truth of the Gospel and then let the Holy Spirit do the work of convicting.
Not everyone who hears will be changed, but that doesn’t mean we stop speaking.
Our call is not based on the response of the hearer but on the truth of the message.
I remember hearing once that the most dangerous prayer we will pray is “God, change me”
But it is the most powerful and important one to start the journey of becoming a follower of Jesus.
Let’s continue to pray that prayer and speak the truth and let God do the work of conviction and heart change in others <3