In this sermon, Pastor Neil continues his series of Advent messages. Here he tells the story of John the Baptist and some lessons we can learn from his life. Here are some excerpts:
John is one of the most fascinating figures in the whole Bible. His appearance was unusual. He may have looked like a wild man with his long hair and shaggy beard. His wardrobe was strange – he wore clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist (Mark 1:6). His diet was strange, too – he ate locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6). He drank no wine or other adult beverages (Luke 1:15). He lived out in the wilderness by himself. “strange” is no doubt a word we would apply to him. But from birth the hand of God was upon him.
From before his birth, he was set apart by God for the Lord’s service. From his birth, if not before, God’s Spirit was upon him, preparing him for the work God had prepared for him to do. And John was passionate, even fearless, as he carried out his mission from God, even when it got him in trouble. He was arrested and eventually beheaded by Herod Antipas, the governor of Judea, at the urging of Salome, the daughter of Herod’s wife Herodias. You can read about that in Mark 6…
While there are many things we can learn from the life and witness of John the Baptizer, there are three things I want to bring to your attention today.
The first thing we can learn from John is the importance of knowing yourself. To make the most of your life, you’ve got to know who you are. One thing that impresses me about John is that he knew who he was – and who he was not…
John knew who he was, and who he was not. He found his identity not in what other people said about him or in his popularity with the crowds who flocked to him. His identity [was] in his relationship with God. He knew who he was because he knew the God who had made him and called him…
The second thing we can learn from John’s life is the importance of knowing your purpose. John knew that he had been sent from God, that he was a man on a mission. He was not the Messiah. He was not the eternal Word of God who became incarnate – flesh and blood – in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) and came to live among us in order to die for us. John was not the one and only Son of God and Savior of sinners. He was not the light of the world that the darkness cannot extinguish. That was not John. It was Jesus..
The third lesson we can learn from John is the importance of a spirit of humility.
John could be bold. He was direct and uncompromising in his message. He didn’t hesitate to call a snake a snake, or to call sin exactly what it was. But he had a spirit of humility, because he had a clear sense of who he was and who he was not. He had a clear sense of God’s claim on his life and God’s purpose for his life. He knew what some Christians – especially Christian leaders – sometimes forget: You cannot glorify God and glorify yourself at the same time. You cannot exalt Jesus and exalt yourself at the same time.
Pastor Neil has a lot more to say about John the Baptist and the lessons we can learn from his life. Please click here to hear this sermon in its entirety.