Preacher John the Baptist

John the Baptist had an important ministry, in the footsteps of the great prophet Elijah, preparing his generation to receive Christ.

John impacted the nation of Israel and far beyond.  Decades after John’s death Paul met a group of devout followers of God at Ephesus who had been baptised with “John’s baptism” of repentance.  At the same time an orator named Apollos travelled through many nations preaching John’s messages.

Both the Ephesian believers and Apollos had to be brought up to date with the revelation of Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of John’s preaching.  Yet for John’s message to have gone so far and wide we see that the impact of his preaching is quite impressive.

What John Preached

The Bible gives several insights into John’s preaching.  First mention is in Matthew’s history of the life of Christ.

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Matthew 3:1-3

Matthew tells us that John preached in the wilderness and the summary of his message is “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”.  Matthew also tells us John came in fulfilment of a prophecy from Isaiah.

Matthew’s assertion that John fulfilled a prophecy from Isaiah is confirmed by Dr Luke, who did his own research into the life and Christ and recorded his findings in the gospel of Luke.  Luke discovered that John’s father saw an angel which foretold John’s birth and said John would fulfil the very same prophecy Matthew records, see Luke 1:13-17 and also Luke 3:2-6.

Dr Luke summarised John’s preaching as Matthew did, with a simple sentence, but adding detail Matthew did not mention.

“Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” Luke 3:2,3

Isaiah Summary

Six hundred years before John the Baptist the prophet Isaiah spoke about him and what he would say.  Matthew declares that John is the fulfilment of a prophecy by Isaiah found at Isaiah 40:3-8.

“The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be exalted, and every mountain and hill will be made low: and the crooked will be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.  The voice said, Cry. And he said, What will I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God will stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:3-8

Isaiah gives a rich insight into John’s message, summarised by Matthew’s simple account.  We see that John was to preach in the wilderness, which Matthew recorded happening.  John would also “prepare the way of the Lord”, by getting the people ready to receive Christ, which the gospels record taking place.

The preparation for Christ was to involve making a straight path, lifting up the lowly, humbling the proud, removing the deviations and the bumps.  John’s simple and direct message levelled the field, directing all the people, great and small to take the same step of repentance.

All Flesh Is Grass

I love the prophetic account given by Isaiah about John the Baptist’s ministry.  The New Testament historians don’t give any insight into how this prophecy was fulfilled, so let me bring it to life for you as I see it.

“The voice of the Holy Spirit directing John said ‘Cry’! And John the Baptist said, ‘What will I cry?’ The Spirit told John to cry out ‘All flesh is grass and will wither, no matter how beautiful it looks, but God’s Word will never wither or fail.’”

At this point I see John standing in the wilderness, alone.  How many other people are going to be in the wilderness?  None.  Only lost shepherds and crazy people are hanging out in the wilderness, unless maybe someone is on their way to the Qumran community at the top end of the Dead Sea.

So John shouts at the top of his voice, into the barren hills, “All flesh is grass. Whatever you are doing it is a waste of time.  You need to be listening to God, because He is real and what He does lasts.”

John’s voice echoes across the scrubby landscape.  And off in the distance one or two lonely souls hear him preach and are immediately gripped by the Holy Spirit.  They are cut to the depths of their heart and hurry home to get their friends and family to come and hear this voice.

So powerful was the message, given in obedience to the Holy Spirit, that an audience quickly grows as people hungry for God are gripped by this simple, humbling message.

Malachi Prophecy

Isaiah was not the only one to prophesy about John the Baptist.  Four hundred years before John the prophet Malachi spoke of one coming in the spirit of Elijah to impact the hearts of the people.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, otherwise I will come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5,6

We know that John is connected to this prophecy because of the angel that spoke with John’s father.

“But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John. ….. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13-17

You will note in that angelic message that John fulfilled the prophecy given by Malachi.

Putting it Together

Recognising that each description of John’s preaching and ministry is in itself a summary, but that each should be complimentary, we can now put them together to create a picture of John’s preaching.

John was a voice crying in the wilderness, so he did not start with a big city crowd.  He had to build an audience in a place where an audience was hard to come by.  And he did.

He did it by preaching what the Holy Spirit told him to preach.  The message humbled man, exposing man’s temporary and meaningless existence.  The message also exalted God, by showing that God’s Word endures and cannot be changed.

John’s message called for repentance by levelling all humanity before God, all with the same need to repent before God.  John introduced a new expression of humility, that of baptism by immersion to testify to a change of heart.

John’s message focused people on the Kingdom of God, which has two points of significance.  The presence of God challenges our sinfulness before Him, calling us to repent and seek forgiveness for our sins.  For those who have found that forgiveness, the presence of God promises God’s blessing and grace in their lives.

The depth of repentance called for by John prepared people to accept Christ.  It also changed their heart, not just to God, but toward those in authority and those they are responsible for.

Modern Day Equivalent

A modern day John the Baptist would still preach the same message.

“Repent before God, because God is at hand.  God will judge your sin and is also ready to bless your obedience.  Stop living for personal agendas and recognise the temporariness of your life.  God’s purposes are profoundly more wonderful than all those other things that consume you.  Turn around and start living for God, in the fear of God.”

A modern day John would not start out with a big audience, but with a Spirit anointed message.  He would speak with such destiny that the message would do the job.  He would not buy and audience or rely on marketing hype to get heard.

And a modern day John would expose in people’s hearts their pride, rebellion, selfishness and independence.  He would call them back to living the way God wants them to, rather than for their selfish, secular agendas.

John Baptist’s preaching moved a nation. His message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Today that would be “Repent, for God is right here, so fear God and expect God’s blessings”.

Jesus Preached the Same Sermon

The significance of John’s sermon is endorsed by the fact that Jesus Christ took up that same message when He began to preach.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

This is the message destined to prepare hearts for Christ.  This is the message that Jesus preached.  And this is the message that the early church preached as well.  Paul the Apostle reminded the church leaders in Ephesus about his preaching that had built that church years before.

Acts 20:21 “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just as John called people to repent, so did Paul.  The Kingdom of God being at hand was the basis for repentance.  Because God is real and is present to deal with us, we must have repentance toward God, but we also have great reward in our faith in Jesus Christ.

As I summarised it above, the message is, “Repent, for God is right here, so fear God and expect God’s blessings”.

The Crash of 2008 part four

The financial crash of 2008 is the product of greed, boom and bust cycles and the manipulations by power players. But it is also the product of man’s sin, man’s mammon worship and God’s judgements.

Prophetic insights tell us that God wants to humble people and the nations and to have them rely only on Him, not on their money or their survival plans.

What Should You Do?

What are the things you should do to weather the storms we are facing and will face in the future? I suggest that you consider the following list of things that I have taught others to do in this situation.

Humble Yourself

If it is true that God is at work in this situation, seeking to humble the nations and bring them back to Himself, then the best thing you can do is be quick to humble yourself. It is time to repent of your materialism and to stop looking to money to be your saviour. Money is proving unstable and even toxic to some.

You also need to consider whether you have been worshipping Mammon. God wants you to worship only Him.

Cry Out To God

Call on the name of the Lord, cry out to God and trust Him to deliver you in this situation. God is ready to rescue those who trust in Him. So call upon Him. Put your trust in His ability to protect and save you.

God promises in His Word that we can be kept safe even when we go through the flood and the fire.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; neither will the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:2

Expect God’s Blessing

We are able to expect God’s blessing, even in a time of famine or trouble. God’s ability to bless us is not limited by physical circumstances.

Thousands of years ago Isaac, son of Abraham, experienced a 100 fold return during a time of famine.

“And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar ……. Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year one hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.” Genesis 26:1,12

Whatever is happening in the global markets, God is able to protect you and to bless you. He is even able to bring you amazing provision when everyone else of struggling, just as Isaac had a one hundredfold return during a time of famine.

Avoid Slavery to Debt

Debt is not sin, but debt does make people servants or slaves to others. Those who are in debt are vulnerable to having their situation overturned by the lender.

“The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

I reiterate that it is not sin to have debt, but it is dangerous. In a season of financial upheaval it is possible to be penalised by the one who has lent you the money. If you have the opportunity to get out of debt, that would be to your advantage and an excellent strategy.

Let God Purify Your Heart

When our faith is tested then so too is our heart. God holds our faith to be of great value. He tests us to see how we cope under various pressures and to see what comes out of our heart.

“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10

As your financial and material security is put at risk your heart will be exposed. You will either trust God or be angry with Him. You will either rest in God’s provision or you will strive more and more in your own strength and cunning.

I have personally been through protracted times of hardship and those seasons tested and purified my heart. In such seasons I have been able to sort out my attitudes toward material goods, worldly values and God’s call on my life.

So, let God purify your heart even in the challenging financial times you may be going through.

Stand On God’s Word

People of faith know how to stand secure on the Word of God. God makes many promises about His blessings and His protection in our lives. Rather than looking to the newspaper headlines, you are much better to look into God’s Word and stand firm on what He is saying.

God says the He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19) and that His blessing meets your needs without bringing you sorrow (Proverbs 10:22).

Look To God

People seek to protect what they have and to build up a greater store of assets. This is the desire for gain and fear of loss which drive so much of our markets.

The Bible reveals that God is our greatest source of security and blessing. In fact, unless God supports your plans for protection and profit you are wasting your time.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders waste their time: unless the LORD protects the city, the watchman wakes in vain.” Psalm 127:1

Look to God, not your own cunning or resources. Your financial advancement and your security are found in him, not the markets or your clever ideas.

Help Us Turn Australia (and the Nations) back to God

God is challenging the pride and rebellion of the nations that try to survive without Him. Christians have the role of bringing the nations back to God. Rather than being eaten up in your own concerns, ask God how you can help to bring your nation to repentance and humility before God.

Yesterday is Gone

The Beatles made a huge hit singing “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away”. And others waxed poetic about how “Yesterday’s gone” and how they remember “Yesterday when I was young” and so on.

Yesterday’s Hold

The reason “yesterday” has such a hold on people’s lives is that we all carry the past into the present and beyond that into the future. Yesterday is the time we sowed certain things into our lives and today we reap the harvest. So yesterday is a powerful component of ‘today’ and it will still be making its presence felt when we get to tomorrow.

The Catholic Church teaches people to go to confession to deal with the sins of yesterday. Someone sneered at the habit of some who sin during the week and look for forgiveness in the confessional on the weekend. They said it was like sowing wild oats all week and then praying for a crop failure.

The Hindu faith respects the baggage of yesterday as karma, which we carry not only through this life, but into future lives which Hindus believe they will face. Gautama Buddha, who rejected the Hindu teaching of reincarnation, went so far as to say that we cannot remove our Karma even in a thousand lifetimes.

Yesterday’s Debris

Here are just a few of the things we bring with from yesterday, even though yesterday is gone.

We bring our disappointments from yesterday. We face disappointments with others, such as our parents and family. But we also face disappointments with ourselves.

We bring our broken relationships from yesterday. Once we have offended someone else or they have offended us that damage remains, often throughout life. Family reunions and community life become tinged with the hurt and offence that we feel toward others and they feel toward us.

We bring our compromises from yesterday. Once we have compromised our values and character that becomes a weak spot for us from that time on.

We bring our slaveries from yesterday. When we give in to sin, such as anger, pride, jealousy or lust, that thing enslaves us and it controls us throughout our lives.

Today’s Harvest

It is also true, as the Bible teaches, that our actions and choices involve us sowing seeds in our lives. A seed not only remains, but it germinates and produces a whole crop. So when we sow something into our life, we are setting up a harvest in the future.

Today’s harvest is filled with the fruit of the things we planted yesterday. If we planted selfishness, pride, anger, greed, violence, self-pity, wilfulness, addiction, lies or other evil things, we will have an evil harvest today.

If we planted forgiveness, faith, love, trust, humility and the fear of God then we will have a much better harvest today than others might have.

Yesterday is not ‘Gone’

While the songs might say, “yesterday’s gone” it isn’t true. Yesterday has passed, but it has not ‘gone’. Yesterday lives with you today.

Just as yesterday’s piano lessons undergird today’s musicianship and yesterday’s studies undergird today’s understanding, yesterday’s moral choices undergird today’s character.

Transforming Yesterday

“You can’t go back in time” is one way to look at it. “What’s done is done!” might be your way of dismissing the past. But there are powerful ways of unlocking the past and transforming yesterday. Let me briefly outline two of them.

Confession of Sin is a powerful way to unlock and transform yesterday. When you repent of the choices you made in the past God is able to set you free from the debris and consequences of those choices in the present. You can actually get a crop failure, even though you sowed lots of wild oats.

God can go back in time. While you are stuck in the time-space continuum, God exists outside of time. So He is able to go back to your past and make Himself present, bringing healing to things that are part of your yesterday that has ‘gone’ from you.

A Testimony

A friend of mine named Malcolm visited a lady who had chronic problems. When he prayed for her she had a vision of a baby crying in a cot. She realised that she was seeing herself as a tiny baby. She sensed the extreme distress of the baby and it connected with the pain that kept surfacing in her life.

A spirit of intercession came on Mal and he began to weep for her. As he did she saw in her vision that the door to the baby’s room opened and Jesus walked in. Jesus lifted the baby into His arms and as He did the woman felt all her pain and torment drain from her life.

It was as if Jesus was able to go back in time to the entry point of the woman’s troubles and resolve them, even though that was now many years past.

Saying Good-bye to Yesterday

If yesterday has brought its bad baggage with it into your today then be encouraged to say “Good-bye” to that stuff. You can remove it forever by confession and by asking the Lord to unlock and heal your past.

The Steps to Release, which I have written about in my books and in other posts, will be helpful in this process.

I want you to live in the freedom with which Christ has made you free. I want you to be able to say, in all reality, that Yesterday is Gone! Keep all that is good from yesterday and unlock and remove all that is bad. Once you’ve said “Good-bye” to yesterday’s rubbish you will have an even better future to look forward to.

Steps to Release via Legal Ground

The Steps to Release which I teach is a checklist of key steps that help a person move into the freedom Christ purchased for them. The steps are to:
Admit Your Need;
Find the Real Problem and its Root Cause;
Repent;
Forgive;
Renounce;
Resist; and
Cast Your Cares on the Lord
.

I noted in my early personal journey into freedom and from watching what happened to others, that it was little use coming into freedom if that freedom could not be maintained. That would be like taking ground off an enemy, only to lose it and have to fight another whole battle to win it back.

The best way to maintain or hold ground that was won was to be thorough in the process of taking that ground. And that’s where ‘legal ground’ comes into focus. If a person has given the enemy a legal right to attack them, then they will re-lose the ground they win.

A visiting minister or a faith-filled moment can see a person come free from a problem. But if the devil still has a legal right to oppress the victim with that problem, it will come back, in one form or another. The recurrence of the problem will be a real downer to the faith of the individual and they may find it harder to win the battle the next time around.

No matter what the problem is I make it a point to clear away the legal ground which may have been given to the enemy. That’s where the three steps of Repent, Forgive and Renounce have their place. Once the problem has been identified it could be easy for a faith-filled person to go straight to battle with the issues. The warrior may well win the battle. But with an open door for the problem to come back there is a serious risk that it will do just that. Jesus even warned that a demon can return bringing even worse demons with it.

“Then he goes and takes to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:26

That’s why I get people to work through these three intermediate steps in the process. So let’s look at these steps which deal with the legal ground.

Repentance leads to God’s forgiveness and the cleansing of our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9

The reason we need to be forgiven and cleansed is because that makes our sin just as if it had never happened. That is important because, if we have sinned we have become the servant of the sin we committed.

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34

If you are a legal servant of a particular sin, then it will be very hard for you to maintain any freedom from it, even if you have experienced a dramatic deliverance. You need to be forgiven of the sin, so it is gone out of your life. Then the legal link of you as a servant of sin has been removed.

The act of giving Forgiveness to those who offended us is also vital in removing the legal grounds of the enemy. If we do not forgive, we block our own forgiveness. When we do not forgive we are handed over to the tormentors.

“But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:26

“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you do not forgive from your hearts every one the trespasses of his brother.” Matthew 18:34, 35

How can you expect to maintain freedom when you have been denied the forgiveness which sets you free and then you have been handed over to a tormentor? You must extend forgiveness to your offenders in order to secure your own forgiveness and to maintain your own release.

Then we come to Renouncing. This is an interesting Bible truth, because it is only mentioned in the Bible on one occasion. The Apostle Paul declared that he had renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.

“But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2Corinthians 4:2

The Greek word translated “renounce” is only used once in the New Testament. Its technical meaning is to “speak off”, as if to revoke something by a verbal pronouncement. When a father disowns his son, and says, “This is no longer my son”, he is renouncing his son. The Moslem form of divorce enacted by a husband repeating the words, “I divorce you”, three times, is also a model of what renouncing could be like.

Paul had ‘spoken off’ the things which were hidden in his life, which made a lie of his testimony or good intentions. In practice today, the process of renunciation (renouncing) involves making a declaration that you are no longer connected to the evil which once ruled in your life. Mostly I simply get people to say, “I renounce the evil” (specifically naming it where possible).

Once these three steps have been worked through I then proceed into the spiritual warfare component of resisting evil, commanding it out of the person’s life. I am confident that the enemy does not have a toe-hold or a hand-grip to cling to, so gaining the release is easier. I am also confident that the freedom that is achieved will be much easier to maintain.

My first article about the Steps To Release gives more understanding of how these steps work.
So have a look at: Steps To Release

For a sample prayer through the steps to release I commend the book, Family Horizons, which is available from www.FamilyHorizons.net