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.
I Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Many and varied are the ways that man tries to get closer to God. New religions spring up all the time, each seeking to find the right way to become whole. Hundreds of self-help books are shelved at each book store, none quite adequately fulfilling our quest. None quite bringing us into that place where we stand in right relationship with our Creator.
It’s sad that we spend so much time searching when the answer our souls seek has already been given. We don’t attain enlightenment by searching within ourselves. We don’t achieve entrance into heaven through doing enough good deeds. There is one way to God and He is Christ Jesus. He is our Savior, our King, our friend. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36) and not one thing was created that was not created by Him (John 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and only He qualifies to mediate between God and man (John 14:6).We can try to fix ourselves, try to gain knowledge, or try to work our way to righteousness, but in the end it’s all in vain. Only Christ can save us. Only He can set us free (John 8:32).
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Are you in need of convincing that God is on our side? The One who was before all creation cared so much about you and me that He didn’t spare His own Son. He could have. God could have chosen to keep Jesus in heaven. Who could have questioned Him? He’s God! But He sent His real Son in order to give us a chance to become sons through His sacrifice. Does that sound like someone who isn’t going to take care of His people?
In my experience, the richness of the gospel really became real to me when I began to better understand how God adopts us as His children once we’re saved. The inheritance we receive as sons and daughters of the great I AM are innumerable and indescribable.
If He would give us the greatest gift possible to give, why would He not also give us all things through Him? Why would He not meet our needs, not answer our prayers or not stand by us in times of trouble? Our loving God is faithful and stands by His people. He leads us and guides us, provides for us, prepares us and equips us.
Luke 2:30-31 for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
What must it have been like to wait for years and years with the promise of a Messiah to come, never knowing quite when He would arrive? Oh the faith of Simeon, to keep believing even into old age that God would keep His promise. Simeon is a good example of faith rewarded. He waited and he waited for the Promised One and then a day came when God allowed him to see Him with his own eyes. What a day that must have been for Simeon.
We know that he rejoiced and gave praise to God over the joyous occasion, but he also revealed that at this moment his life was complete. He had been promised that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had been born and there He was in front of Simeon, being presented at the temple. Simeon could die in peace. Are you so content with encountering Christ that you’d say you can die in peace right now because you’ve seen Him?
It’s a great occasion any time we get a taste of the Lord’s goodness. His salvation is a free gift that we can never earn and it comes only from Jesus Christ, and to experience this is something to sing about, to make a fuss over. But do we look at this as enough? Is your life complete now that you’ve seen the Lord’s salvation? For Simeon it was enough. There was nothing more that the world had to offer him that could even come close to meeting Jesus face to face. Somehow for us there is still a lot competing for our affections in this world, but the reality is that Jesus is enough and we should be content with Him. He’s all that we need.
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
God sent His light into the world in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3), and yet when He ministered here on earth people rejected Him. Even though He had existed since before time (John 1:1) and created the world (Hebrews 1:2), the people didn’t see Him for what He was and many made the wrong choice by not following the true Light. They chose darkness.
You and I are given the same choice today – to receive the light, Jesus, or to reject Him. To those who receive Him, that is not only to believe in His existence but to believe that He brings life through salvation by His death and resurrection, God promises the right to become His own children.
He will bring you into His family if you believe that God became a man and lived a perfect, sinless life, one you and I could never live, and that Jesus died to take the penalty for our sins and He raised back to life so that we can have life. Do you believe this? Have you chosen the Light over the darkness? Now’s your chance.
1 John 5:13-21 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
What do you believe? Where do you put your trust? You may say that you believe Jesus has the power of eternal life, but if you don’t act as though He does, you’re not really believing. John didn’t write his first letter to non-believers so that they would see the truth about Jesus. He wrote it to Christians, so that they would actually believe what they say they believe.
It’s one thing to have the belief that Jesus died for your sins, one thing to go to church and fellowship with other Christians. But it takes more to actually live it out. If you know, without a doubt, that Jesus saves, then don’t ever worry about whether you’re forgiven. If you know it to be true, don’t act timidly when He calls you to do something. If you know He has all things in His hands, act like it.
John made this point by bringing prayer into the discussion. True belief brings confidence and boldness. Are you praying with confidence that God can answer you? With boldness that He will hear you and give you your requests? Pray in His name, according to His will, and He is able to provide all things. There’s nothing He can’t do. Do you believe it?
Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
What did you do to make yourself be born into the world? Most of us would not argue against the truth that we had nothing to do with our physical birth. It was as out of our control as anything can be. Why do so many of us, then, think that we had anything to do with our own spiritual birth?
When you’re dead, you’re just dead. There’s nothing that a dead thing can do to make itself come to life; that can only be done supernaturally. We were all once dead, even though we walked as someone who was living. We lived and breathed physical life, but spiritually we had no pulse. We could only follow the course of this world, led around by the rest of the walking dead. We were slaves to sin.
That is, until God made us alive. Yes, He made us alive together with Christ, that we might be His people. This is true if we’ve put our trust in Christ and we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Notice all the passive language. We’ve been made alive – passive. We’ve been adopted into the family of God – passive. We were chosen – again, passive.
The dead can’t raise themselves, physically or spiritually. We can no more choose to wake up from spiritual death than we can choose to be born from our mother’s womb. We have ever so much to be thankful for, and spiritual birth is among the greatest gifts we could ever receive. God’s grace is unfathomable.