One of the things that every Christian dreams about, and is called to in some capacity, is ministry. Almost from the very beginning of our faith journey, we start to wonder what God is calling us to and the big question in Christian circles today is “what is my purpose/ministry/calling/identity?” What is that special way that I am going to live out my faith and touch the world–or at least my section of the world?
In John 1, we meet a key minister, John the Baptist, or more accurately, John the Baptizer. He wasn’t a part of a denomination 😉
I believe that John is a key example of ministry, because he was the forerunner for Jesus Christ. What bigger ministry/calling than that? To pave the way for the Messiah Himself! Right in the midst of the famous verses describing Jesus and His Mission, John is introduced as the one who “bore witness about Him, and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me!'” (John 1:15)
What an honor for John to be spoken about in Scripture right along with Jesus. However, it’s less his position and more his testimony that stands out to me.
In John 1, the religious teachers and leaders of that day approached John as he was baptizing, and they asked him a few questions that I believe are crucial for us to ask ourselves as we live lives of ministry. First they asked him who he was and if he was the Christ. After all, he was preaching repentance from sin, baptizing people, and gaining followers. He had spent time in the wilderness and from his youth people recognized that the hand of God was on him in a special way (Luke 1:66). However, John’s answer is very important. The Bible specifically says that he “confessed, and did not deny, but confessed,” that he was not the Christ (John 1:19-22). Furthermore, he continued to deny it as the leaders mentioned other famous spiritual leaders he could possibly be. I think it’s important to note that John was not tricked into self-promotion or false humility with his answer about his identity. He knew who he was and he didn’t need to embellish it or denigrate it. In our lives, it is crucial for our ministry to others that we know who we are. And this comes from spending time with God. When we know who we are, then we don’t need to dress up the truth of our identity or be afraid of it.
Next, the leaders said, “‘Who are you?…What do you say about yourself?'” (22).
This also is a very important moment. What comes out of our mouths about ourselves says a lot about what we really believe. Psalm 139 declares, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. How vast are the sum of them!” Are we agreeing with what God says about us or are we believing lies spun by the culture, the flesh, or the enemy? Any lie we have adopted, no matter how subtle, is dangerous to our identity and to our effectiveness in ministry. John’s answer to the Pharisees lets us see that his identity was wrapped up in God and that he believed what God said about him.
“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 1:23).
John had spent time with God, and in the Word of God, and his identity and calling were built on that foundation.
As children of God, we believers ought to be living in such a way that makes others take notice. But what will we say when they do? It’s been a thought-provoking question for me–what do I say about myself? How do I describe myself? In terms of my own opinions/gifts/talents/what others say about me? Or in terms of God’s thoughts about me?
How do we know God’s thoughts about us? We talk to Him. We listen. We get into the Word and let it get into us. Jesus is the Word and He was with God from the beginning. Anything and everything we need is in Him.
Because the Spirit of God dwelt within him, John was secure in his identity and also in his calling. He didn’t have to feel afraid of the Pharisees. He didn’t have to try to promote himself. He didn’t have to feel threatened when his disciples went and followed Jesus (John 1:35-37). He knew what he was on earth to do–point to Jesus, and when the Lamb of God showed up physically on the scene, faithful John did just that.
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29).
May our lives point to the Lord. May our voices cry out that our God saves. May we find our identity and our pleasure and our greatest testimony in serving Him!