Monday, December 7, 2009

Spirit and Truth # 158 - Painful Preaching

Spirit & Truth # 158
“Painful Preaching”

By Rev. Greg Smith

"See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming," says the LORD of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner's fire and like cleansing lye. (Malachi 3:1-2 HCSB)

He is coming. Can you feel it in the air? Can you hear it on the wind? Even as we wait, the Messiah is on His way. We don’t know when He will arrive, but He is coming still. Are you ready?
Malachi had a vision of the coming Messiah. But he knew that the people’s hearts weren’t ready to receive the Lord. He foresaw that before the Lord would come, another messenger must arrive, to fertilize the soil of their souls. John the Baptist must come before the Messiah, preaching that people should repent and be baptized.

John was anything but what the people might expect. From the beginning, he turned people’s expectations upside down. His message was the photo negative of everything that they already knew. It was completely backwards from the way their minds worked. John Opposed sin and invited repentance. Specifically, he decried the sin of King Herod, who had taken his brother Philip’s wife as his own. John knew that the people take the morality (or immorality) of their political leaders as an example to follow, so he confronted Herod’s sin directly. John preached a message that would turn the establishment on its ear. And that kind of message is dangerous.

Sometimes preaching can be painful to the hearer. Powerful preaching can burn away our impurities like a refiner’s fire. It can scour our hearts like strong lye. And that can be uncomfortable. Yet it is necessary if we’re to become what God wants us to be.

Preaching can also be painful to the preacher. John stuck his neck out, and ended up losing his head. Yet he was willing to risk it all. As a result, Jesus would say that there had never been anyone born who was greater than John.

God calls every believer to be a preacher like John. Maybe we’re not called to wear camel’s hair and eat locusts—but we are all called to speak God’s truth, even if we know it won’t be well received. Even if it gets us into trouble (Mt 11:11; Lk 7:28). We can’t be afraid of criticism. We can’t be afraid of people getting mad. When we, like John, become “a voice crying in the wilderness,” then “the crooked will become straight, the rough ways smooth, and everyone will see the salvation of God (Luke 3:4-6)."


godamongus said...

John the Baptist was beheaded for nothing to do with helping Jesus in his ministry. John failed in his mission as the forerunner and return of Elijah. Ever since the days of John the Baptist, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence. John became the best example of FAITHLESSNESS in Jesus, practically on par with Judas Iscariot.

Greg said...

John was imprisoned for preaching against Herod's sexual sin. He was beheaded because of the vindictiveness of Philip's wife Herodias. You're right, that John's beheading had no direct link to actively helping Jesus in His ministry. His beheading was, however, due to His mission of preparing the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah.

We can hardly say that John failed in his ministry, if we take the words of Jesus seriously. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Mt 11:11)." This is high praise, especially coming from the Son of God.

The Book of Revelation is clear that the Kingdom of God will continue to suffer violence until the end. This is not due to our faithlessness. In fact, it is because the people of God are faithful that they suffer violence. Satan doesn't bother persecuting those who fail in their mission. Satan opposes those who threaten his kingdom. This is why John was martyred. This is why thousands are martyred for Christ every year--because of their faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel.

Blessings to you, and may God find us faithful.