John the Baptist had a powerful ministry. People were coming from all around Judea to hear him speak and to be baptized by him for the repentance of sins. When Jesus comes to him to be baptized, John recognizes that He is the messiah, the savior of the world. John’s baptism of Jesus would mark the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
After this Jesus began to grow in popularity. People began flocking to Him, even those who had once followed John. In John 3, John’s disciples come to him and exclaim to him that all are going after Jesus. John’s reply speaks volumes. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
In the midst of life, it is easy to feel threatened by someone else’s popularity or success. John was and is known as “the Baptist”, yet here we see Jesus baptizing people. John does not let his ego oppose what God is doing, even in the midst of his disciple’s dismay. John saw and understood the purposes and plans of the Lord. He knew Jesus was the messiah, and that his purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. As Jesus’ ministry started, John’s had to wind down. John accepted this with great humility. During our life, and our life’s work and ministry, we should always strive to see and understand what the Lord is doing. Sometimes it is necessary to take our eyes and concerns off of what we are doing, and recognize the blessing of the Lord on someone else; even if that means we must step into the background. God does not set people against each other, or send people to compete with each other, but He sends workers to complement the work of the Lord, and to carry it forward. John had to defer to Jesus, the Messiah; a minister with a greater authority and a greater responsibility. A true servant is able to humble himself before the Lord and help those around him or her to achieve the call of God on their life, and to defer to leaders and those in authority. God has not called us to our own success and glory, but to fulfill His will, and bring glory to His son, Jesus Christ. Today, may ego, pride, and any focus on our own success and popularity decrease, and may it be overwhelmed by a joy to see the will of God achieved by all those around you.
Galatians 6:14, 1 John 2:16-17
Throughout the New Testament, the word ‘world’ is used in more than just a literal way. The Greek word used is ‘kosmos’ directly related to the English word cosmos. The literal translation is ‘something ordered’ or ‘ordered system’. We see this idea of the ‘ordered system’ of the world used in the epistles. John instructs us to not love the world or anything in it, and that if anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. This can seem confusing. God sent Jesus to die for the world. However, John clarifies his statement. ‘For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father but from the world.’ Here the ordered system of ‘the world’ becomes clear. John is speaking about the system of values and desires that the world naturally follows. People naturally following the urges of their flesh, what their eyes see as appealing, and struggling to attain status and ranking, vainly comparing themselves to others by the systems of fame, wealth, and beauty. These values can be seen as they are exploited in advertisements, displayed over social media, lionized in film and television, and celebrated in sports and entertainment. John instructs us to not love these values or this system. Although we are living in the world, we are not to be of it, or from it. Paul furthers this thought. He declares that he is crucified to the world, and that the world is crucified to him. It is a startling passage. The idea of crucifixion comes with it pain and humiliation, resulting in death. With it comes the stigma of the worst criminal. By declaring this, Paul is stating that he is dead to the ordered system of the world, and that the world’s ordered system sees him as shameful and humiliated. Likewise, he views the world’s system as shameful and humiliating, and ultimately, dead.
As Christians, we live in a system that elevates and celebrates things that God views as shameful, criminal, and humiliating. Likewise, we should not be surprised when others view our values, and even our relationship with Jesus as weird or crazy, and even with disdain. A relationship with Jesus does not integrate with worldly culture; it stands in stark contrast. Ultimately, it is this contrast, this light in darkness that leads people to the Savior. As the systems of the world lead people into suffering, pain, and spiritual torment, the light of Jesus Christ shines bright as a beacon of hope, love, and life. Today, as you go out into the world, may you shine as an example of Jesus Christ, confident as a new creation, and may the appetites of the world lose all their appeal in the radiance and love found in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 9:35-36, Mark 11:
Matthew 9 is a great display of the heart of Jesus. In the middle of His ministry, He looks out at the crowd and has compassion. He sees the crowds that are coming to Him in their true state. They are helpless and harassed. The people are plagued by illness, distressed by poverty, overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, and burdened by oppression. Worse, they are unable to improve their situation. They have no answers. Like sheep without a shepherd, they are helpless against predators and the natural hazards of this world. Since the fall of man in the garden, this has become the natural state of humanity. They are beset by worries and cares, and trapped in the snares of the enemy.
Jesus stood in stark contrast. He came to destroy all the works of the devil. He came healing the sick, raising the dead, opening blind eyes, and declaring the way of the Lord. He was immediately recognized by the hurting masses. His fame spread far and wide. People would travel long distances to see Jesus. They knew they needed something or someone. He was and is the answer. As Jesus travels back to Jerusalem before His crucifixion and death, the people worship Him and cry ‘Hosanna’. Hosanna is a cry that means ‘Lord, Save Us!’
Although the world is often deluded and deceived, it is still crying out for a savior. The heart of all of humanity is longing for communion with God, for relief from torment, and for a peace that only God can bring. The answer is Jesus. He is called ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us. No longer alone and afraid, forced to brave the dangers of the world without guidance, Jesus has come to save us from sin, cleanse us from unrighteousness and to be a true shepherd. It is through Jesus that we are free from the harassment of the devil, secure in the arms of our savior. It is this freedom and security that we have to offer others. The same Jesus that rescued us is available to all those around us. To those who are caught in sin, bound by mental illness, harassed and helpless, crying out ‘Hosanna’ – Lord save me!, we must be a light on a hill, pointing the way to their help and salvation. Today may you receive the comfort of the savior in every situation, and spread this comfort and saving grace to all those around you!
The book of Habakkuk begins with a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. After Habakkuk’s second outcry, Habakkuk declares that he will station himself on the tower, stand on the watch, and look for God’s answer. In the place of prayer, Habakkuk has brought a complaint of injustice to God the Father, the judge and ruler of all.
Prayer is not only making our requests known to God. Part of prayer is receiving God’s answer. There is a place in prayer of active stillness, waiting for God to speak through His word, the Bible, and through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The watch of the prayer warrior takes place in the security of God’s presence. The shelter of His wings is the refuge, the fortress that the sentry stands in watch. Like a soldier on watch at the top of the battlements, there is a place in prayer of stillness, scanning the horizon, expecting and waiting on God’s reply.
Just as Elijah prayed for rain, and then sent his servant to look at the sky, so all who pray should press on in prayer and watchfulness, until expectation turns to faith. The seventh time the servant looked, he saw a small white cloud. Elijah’s faith became sight. God had answered. When the evidence of God’s answer appeared, Elijah ran with supernatural power granted by the Spirit of God. As you go to God in prayer, may you watch with expectation in the secret place of God’s presence, and may the evidence of God’s answer release you to run in the power of the Holy Ghost!