I absolutely love the character of John the Baptist. Even in biblical times, John lived differently than the way the world lived. Our images of John the Baptist likely include a wild-at-heart leader whose clothes were made of camel’s hair, and as one who feasted on locusts and wild honey. Don’t ask me how I can admire and yet be jealous of a personage who walked the earth so long ago, but I am. John learned that One would be coming who would be so much greater than he, and he innately knew he had an important job to do.
John the Baptist (Don’t you just love his full name according to Luke 7:20?) met Jesus for the first time in his mother’s womb when Jesus’ mother Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was John’s mother. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41 NIV). John, like each one of us was created with unique purpose. I, for one, just love John’s God-given goals, including “Make straight paths for the Lord.” That’s no small feat, but John went out in the wilderness to prepare for his mission.
Even from the beginning of time, believers were given the opportunity to be obedient to God’s promptings and assignments. John was given the amazing job of preparing the way for Jesus, who laid down His life for us, so that we may live for Him. Just like the prophet Isaiah wrote and John the Baptist fulfilled in Luke 3:4-6 (NIV): “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation,’” we too are called into action for Jesus!
John became the messenger for Jesus and announced to every one of the coming Messiah. He spoke straight-up truth and challenged and encouraged people to repent, turn from sin, and be baptized for the Lord was coming soon. And the people came by the hundreds!
John was busy in his God-given assignment of preparing the way for the Lord. The whole region was confessing their sins and becoming baptized for this coming Messiah. When John saw the many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where the believers were being baptized, he called them out on their motives and revealed the truth of God to the so-called religious.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were Jewish leaders who opposed each other’s beliefs in Jesus. The Pharisees followed the letter of the law but didn’t live out its intent. While the Sadducees used the law to further their political intent. They knew and used the law but opposed Jesus. They were using religion on a topical scale; nothing took root or produced fruit, and their actions helped no one.
John the Baptist called them out in Matthew 3:8-10, and he pointedly said to them: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8). Basically, John was saying in our modern-day vernacular, “Don’t think because your parents or family are Christians that you are also saved. You must walk the walk and live it out in your life. Produce fruit!” A person’s outward actions shows his or her heart condition. A developing Christian will produce much fruit that will be revealed in these areas of their life: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Knowing and accepting Jesus grows this kind of fruit in our lives. When your heart is right with God, when you’re living in these the fruits of the Spirit, and when you’re in tune with who God is, He will guide you where He wants you to work and serve. Remember, He’s already created your good works in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). God reveals these “works” to each of us in His written Word and time spent with Him.
John was saying there is more to believing than words; our actions should follow, or our religion is worthless—just words. God looks beyond words to see if our actions show our beliefs. If we say we are Christian, how are we living out that identity? Do you answer to God? Is He part of your daily life? Are you obedient to His laws? Do you read His Word? Are you part of a church? Do you live out your belief in your actions or is it just in word and thought? Or do you live it out only when it’s convenient to you? These are all great questions I ask myself daily. I, for one, don’t want to be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Since living in three different places in the last year, I’ve not served others like I was used to doing—like John wholeheartedly served. I miss it. I’m sure God misses watching me serve others. I was still serving in the ministry God gave me, encouraging others online through social media and books, and travel, but I wasn’t (and as of today, am still not) serving others in community. And that’s the whole of Christianity right there—serve one another and love one another as yourself. I need to get back to the basics. I’ve finally come up for air in the third house, and I need to get back to serving others as myself.
I miss investing in the community in which I live. I’ve been uprooted a bit more lately, but I seek out a community organization that speaks to my heartstrings and God confirms it, and then I get to work. Consider investing your time and talents into others and into your community. You probably already have something on your heart right now that has been speaking to you from reading this blog today. Cultivate it! There is only one you, and no one can do what only you can do. No one can love like only you can. No one can serve like only you were created to do. Just you can do it—no one else.
They will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). What better way to love than through the example of actions? Show your intent. Show your heart. Show you’re a believer. Get ready, Winchester! I’m gonna serve and love on ya like it’s nobody’s business. Let’s all commit ourselves to service again!