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June 23, 2014 – Matthew 3

Click here to read Matthew 3 on BibleGateway.com

johnbaptistJohn the Baptist is one of the most intriguing characters in the whole Bible. From his conception, he had a special place in God’s plans.  One can even argue he was the first to recognize Jesus for who He was – the Lamb of God. And yet John’s life could have been radically different.

Contrary to what you might think, John had other options. His dad, Zechariah, was a priest who had actually spent time in the very presence of God to offer incense (it was like the Publisher’s Clearing House for a priest). It would be very natural that John himself would be a priest (it was hereditary in those days), and could probably expect to be a fairly important one.  John may have grown up to be the High Priest when Jesus was preaching.  Imagine how different the Bible might have been then.

THE GOOD

And John gave it all up. He gave up living near (or in) the temple; he gave up the respect of his people; he gave up the middle-class life in the suburbs of Jerusalem. And for what? To live out in the wilderness, wearing a scratchy shirt, eating bugs, and running the bee gauntlet for honey once in a while. Even you outdoorsy kind of guys gotta hate bees.  Everyone hates bees.  They’re jerks.

John gave up any comfort and respect he had a “right” to. And Jesus said there was no one greater. That’s a pretty strong compliment, especially from Jesus, who probably knows a thing or two about giving up awesomeness to serve God’s will. John got the privilege of participating in one of the crucial events of Jesus’ life – his baptism – because he had given up what seemed to be the “blessings” that were rightfully his.  He spent thirty years of his life living out in the boonies, and Jesus pointed to him (John) as the example of what we should all be.

THE BAD

And notice that following God does not mean that everything will go peachy for you.  John spent years in prison, and finally was separated from his noggin by a vengeful woman and her immoral daughter.  Does that seem fair?  Of course not; but God’s will was done.  John was doing what God had in mind, no matter what.  Later on Paul, who spent most his life following God closely, talked of his beatings, shipwrecks, starvation, and other goodness.  Being in God’s will does not mean that you will be comfortable.

What are you willing to give up to truly follow God? Would you give up your job? Would you wear thrift-store clothes and drive a rusted-out Oldsmobile? Will you give up your rights to your guns, or your free speech, or your happiness? Will you eat macaroni and cheese every other day? Will you give up 20% of your paycheck to charity? What about another 10% just for missionaries? Will you stand up and be laughed at for living your life according to book of “myths”? Will you give up your home to work overseas? Will you give up that relationship that has priority over God?

How far are you willing to go to be what God has in mind for you?

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