This upcoming Sunday, I will be preaching from Mark 6 on the death of John the Baptist.  As we consider how his head ended up on a platter, it provides an important commentary on the recent events with ISIS, the church shooting in Charleston, and the Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex “marriage” in America.  While it may be tempting at times to separate from modern society and go out into the wilderness and live off of locusts and wild honey, that’s not exactly what John the Baptist was doing.  He wasn’t starting a compound to get away from the world, although he did dress strange and his diet did include large grasshoppers and local honey.

Christians must learn to live in a complicated world of sin.  One of the first lessons that a Christian must learn is that we’re not home yet.  Sadly, many professing Christians are too comfortable in our present world.  Others are overly offended when depraved sinners behave like depraved sinners.  As we stand upon the shoulders of many Christ followers from history, we can learn lessons about life as we consider how they navigated the complexities of sin in their day.  John the Baptist provides us an interesting point of reference as we consider our present sexual revolution in America.  What can we learn from John the Baptist about modern life in a confused culture?

Unashamed

In the aftermath of the terror attacks on America, September 11th, 2001, a religious service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. where many people and various faiths gathered to mourn the death of thousands of Americans.  The Rev. Nathan Baxter prayed during the service, and as he finished his prayer, he said, “Respecting persons of all faiths and traditions, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.”  John the Baptist would not have cared about respecting other religions had he prayed on that day.  In fact, it was duty to another religion that brought on the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

In our culture, American evangelicals often work overtime so as not to offend other religions.  I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians should aim to be offensive or scandalous in tone, character, or speech.  However, Christians must realize that the message of the cross is a scandal to the world and one that we cannot “dress up” or avoid.  To mention the name of Jesus is offensive in our day, and to claim to be a follower of Jesus is to open yourself up for ridicule and attack.  John the Baptist would stand firm and remain unashamed of Jesus Christ in the midst of a perverse culture.  In fact, that’s what he did in the midst of his perverse Jesus hating culture too.

Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?

Truth Proclaiming

To preach the gospel is to preach truth, and to proclaim the truth is to shine light into the darkness.  That’s not always a popular thing.  To be clear, the message of the gospel is not centered upon monogamous heterosexuality.  The message of the gospel is centered upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, Christians approach life through a gospel lens and when asked why it was necessary for Jesus to die on a bloody cross, all of the sudden human sexuality is a relevant issue.

Jesus died for sinners, and in His death He accomplished the salvation of a diverse group of sinners – including sexual sinners who would one day bow their knee to Christ as Lord.  Jesus’ death was sacrificial; however, it wasn’t the end of the story.  On the third day, Jesus was victoriously and miraculously resurrected from the dead.  His resurrection validated His claims of deity, and thereby the right to address all sin – including sexual sin (divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc).

Therefore, the gospel proclamation is not merely a proclamation of facts about Jesus.  It goes beyond that into the dark abyss of sin and human depravity.  That’s why John the Baptist wasn’t merely saying, “Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so, now come down here and get baptized, because Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  John the Baptist was proclaiming the truth, and the truth involved the facts about Herod’s incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias – his brother’s wife.  Mark gives us the details in his gospel account:

For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. [18] For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17-18).

John MacArthur was right on target in his book, Hard to Believe, as he stated, “You can’t be faithful and popular, so take your pick.”  John the Baptist was willing to be faithful to the truth and his popularity didn’t matter so much to him.  The popularity of the truth was more important to the Baptizer.  As truth proclaimers, we must have confidence in the Bible.  We can allow those who oppose to throw their questions and criticisms toward the Bible.  Those who oppose the Bible can’t harm it with their criticisms, doubts, and questions.  As we see with John the Baptist, to stand on the truth often means to stand exposed and to stand alone.

Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?

Risk-Taking

Calling out Herod Antipas was not the politically correct thing to do in John the Baptist’s day.  John the Baptist wasn’t willing to trade his pulpit for a political stump.  He understood the risk, and he boldly proclaimed truth.  Christians must be willing to take risks in order to proclaim the gospel.  In fact, to spread the gospel in private or on a public stage is risky business.  It could cost you your job, political advancement, friends, family, and perhaps your very life.

Let’s be honest, it’s a sad reality that the divorce culture of the world has been welcomed into the church.  Could the divorce culture in the church be related to silence from the pulpit from pastors who were paralyzed by “fear of man” issues?  What will the landscape of the church look like in the future?  Will similar men refuse to speak out about the sexual sin of homosexuality and welcome it into the “church” because of “fear of man” issues?

Many people are willing to risk their reputation, but not their life.  When clear lines are drawn in the sand of culture, Christians must be willing to stand with Christ rather than the popular crowd.  John the Baptist proclaimed the truth even when he was opposed.  He was warned to keep quiet, but he continued to thunder the truth about God and the sexual sin of Herod Antipas.

We need faithful and loving men who would be willing to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist and call out the Supreme Court and the President Barack Obama on their open sinful sexual revolt they’ve been leading in America.  Those who speak out must do so in love.  Don’t misunderstand love and think that it’s weak, soft, or capitulating on principles.  The fact is, love is bold and strong.  John the Baptist told the truth and risked his life in love.

A risk-taking Christian is not a reckless Christian.  John the Baptist wasn’t reckless.  Bold proclamation of truth requires a certain amount of risk.  J.C. Ryle said, “Duties are duties.  Results are God’s.”  The reason people were drawn to him was because of his calculated proclamation of truth.  May our God raise up an army of faithful Christians who, in the spirit of John the Baptist, will tell the truth about sin and point to salvation in Jesus Christ.  According to Proverbs 28:23, in the end, a person who rebukes a person in error rather than having a flattering tongue will gain favor.  That was true of John the Baptist.  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?

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