John 1:23 (ESV) He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
John the Baptist was well known for baptizing people in water when they confessed their sins and repented. Known to us as the forerunner to the coming Messiah, he was speculated to be many things while he lived on this earth. The thing about John is that he understood his role and never tried to be anything but what God called him to be. He was not the Messiah and he did not try to be even though some thought he was.
The purpose of John’s baptism, as he understood it and as we understood it today, was to prepare the hearts of those to whom he preached. You cannot truly be ready to meet the Lord until you’ve admitted that you need Him. Repentance means admitting that you’re a sinner and therefore that you need God to save you, because the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). John spoke of making straight the way of the Lord, and part of that is preparing the hearts of the people to receive the coming Christ.
Water baptism is symbolic of our death to sin and new life in Christ. John prepared people to meet the Savior before they even knew who He was. This was all ordained by God and worked perfectly into His plan of salvation. Today, we still need to come to Christ, first admitting that we are guilty of sin and incapable of saving ourselves. Only He can save us.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
You are not who you once were. You’re not who you were before Christ, but you’re also not who you were right at the moment He entered your life. You’re being transformed by God to be more like Him. He’s revealing more of Himself to you and as He does that, you gain more of His character. To know Him is to behold Him.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. No, each and every thing that God needs to work on in your life to give you the image of Christ is done one bit at a time. One event at a time. One circumstance at a time. One tragedy at a time. One triumph. One stint of suffering. All of it, everything that happens in your life is part of the process. It may not seem so now, but over time it will make more sense. Look back at where you were and where you are now. Think of all the things you’ve been through that have shaped you into what you’ve become. And the process is only just beginning.
The journey of sanctification is ongoing and doesn’t stop until we’re just like Christ. It won’t end in this lifetime, but it will have an impact here. As the Holy Spirit works in you, it affects your character and the fruit you bear as a Christ follower. You walk more closely with God, understanding more as He reveals more of Himself. God is glorified in you and through you.
John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Intercessory prayer can be one of the most important acts in the life of a Christ follower. Praying for others is a selfless act of service and one of the greatest things one can do for another person. Even Jesus Himself prayed for others while living here on this earth. Destined to die for the sins of mankind, the Son of God paused in His last few hours on earth and prayed for us.
In John chapter 17, Jesus first prays for His disciples. He asks His Father that the disciples would be sanctified and protected. After this, He prays for all believers who are yet to come. He prayed for our unity, that we would be one. And then, just a short time later, He willingly gave His life on the cross so that we could live. Jesus did not pray that prayer in vain any more than He died in vain. It’s His heart’s desire that we would be united.
Part of that unity includes praying for each other and strengthening each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). When we take on each others’ burdens, we act in a Christ-like manner, loving our neighbors even as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). When we put aside praying for our own desires and needs and pray for those of our family, friends, and even enemies (Matthew 5:44), we truly live out our faith in practice. Take time each day to pray for others.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
The law brings bondage. Rule-keeping is grueling and not productive. Real freedom doesn’t come from doing what the law says, but from God. He has set us free by His grace and forgiveness.
We can search around for peace and joy and happiness, but we’ll only find them in Christ because only His completed work on the cross can bring us the forgiveness we so desperately need. The Holy Spirit works in us to bring about contentment and joy and they’re only accessible because Jesus chose to come to the earth and take on our sin and put His righteousness onto us. This is why we are free, we have the righteousness of Christ. God looks down on us and sees His sons and daughters and not the sinners that we are because we’re clothed in Christ. Freedom is experiencing God’s love in Christ. The Holy Spirit enables us to experience it.
There are many reasons to pray and we are to pray without ceasing, but in some situations we pray for things that God has already answered. Probably the most prayed-for thing that we seek with the wrong intentions is God’s will. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek His will, just that sometimes we already know it and pray anyway, hoping God will change His mind or even His character.
The best place to find God’s will for us is in the Bible. There are many things for which we seek answers that have already been answered in God’s Word. Before praying for God’s will concerning the relationship you’re about to enter with a married person, consider that He has already spoken on this matter (Exodus 20:14). The same can be said of many decisions we face.
That all being said, if the will of God really is in question and isn’t quite clear, of course prayer should be our first action. It’s never a bad thing to talk to the Lord before making a decision. Just make sure you’re not asking Him to bend to your will rather than truly seeking His.
2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Trying to keep up with every rule and restriction can be tiresome and in the end doesn’t bring about perfection anyway. We’re unable to keep the whole law and that’s why we have it. The law shows us that we are imperfect and in need of a savior. In Christ we have that Savior and a new covenant, one not dependent on rule-keeping, but on grace.
Trying to reconcile with God based on following the rules and doing good will still result in death. We cant’ reach God in this way. Only through the grace of Christ do we have a chance at a right relationship with God. Now He’s made us ministers of that new covenant. He’s shown us grace and now we’re to show grace on His behalf.
The Holy Spirit works in us to show the life-giving grace of God to others through our lives. Because we’ve been forgiven, we are empowered to forgive. Because we’ve been shown love, we are able to show love. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit are we competent to minister to others in this way.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
The fact is that prayer is so powerful that it has been exploited and misused by those who have no intentions of serving God. Those who seek after their own selfish desires on this earth have used the very gift God gave us to connect with Him and perverted it, made it into some genie-in-a-bottle formula for getting things. God did not intend prayer to be a vending machine.
Yes, Jesus clearly said that whatever we ask for in His name shall be ours, but we must remember that He said this to His disciples. Jesus made this statement with the understanding that those who heard it had left everything behind to follow Him. They had given up more comfortable lives to serve the Son of God. That doesn’t mean the promise isn’t ours to claim as well, it simply means that there are stipulations attached.
Those who follow Christ and call themselves disciples seek to bring Him honor and glory and in doing so pray for His will. If we are seeking Christ, the desires of our heart will not be selfish and our prayers will reflect the character of God. If we’re walking with the Lord, our desires will be in line with His desires.
2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
We may not always realize the impact our lives have on those of others, but it’s a significant matter. Our experiences with other people can change the way they think or feel about any number of subjects, including God. How we represent Christ can make a difference in the way others see Him.
Jesus was sent to this earth as a self-revelation from God. In Him we see all of the attributes of God in human flesh. He walked the earth and those who lived during that time saw God for what He is. Now, Jesus ascended back to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so who is left to represent God?
The Holy Spirit was sent to do God’s work in and through us as Christ followers. Now, we are God’s letters written to human hearts. We are what people look on and see God’s character (although not perfectly as in the person of Christ). The Holy Spirit connects our hearts with those of others, helping us bear witness to the work of Jesus and His saving grace. At times it may not even be something we say or do that draws another to Christ. It may seem unexplainable how they came to know the Lord through us, but that’s all the more proof that it’s Him doing the work.
Psalm 66:20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
We’ve often heard testimonies given of miracles that have taken place in the lives of those who tell them. On many of those occasions, the recipient of the miracle gives credit to “the power of prayer”. The question is: Is this putting us in the place of God? Are we, if only in a veiled way, taking the credit for the miracle because we prayed for it?
Just to be clear, prayer is in fact quite powerful for those who believe (James 5:16). There are many instances throughout the Bible in which we are called to pray, with faith. The issue is not the effectiveness of praying, rather it’s about who gets the credit after the prayer has been answered.
We must recognize that when a prayer is answered it is because God chose to respond with favor. The sovereign Lord is the one who decides what is right for us. It’s not the act of prayer itself that has granted us what we desire. It’s not we who have manifested this miracle. The real power is God’s.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
As followers of Christ, we represent the Lord whether for good or for bad. What we say and do can have an impact on the faith of other people because we’re agents of God, and for some, the only thing they’ll know of the gospel. But truth be told, sometimes when we’re at our best, that is, most rightly representing Jesus, people will hate us. Some people will hate us, not because of something we did wrong, but because of something right in us. Some people are repelled by the aroma of Christ.
Some will experience the gospel message through us and turn to God, others will sense the gospel message in us and turn away. The thing is, it’s not our job to make sure that every person gets just the right scent, it’s our job to represent Christ in all we say and do. Some people will be turned off from this, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We do none of this on our own. The responsibility of being a representation of Christ is huge and we just aren’t sufficient in our own strength to carry that out. The Holy Spirit works in us to make sure that those who will turn to Him see what they need to see.