Have you ever been there? Choosing to tune out a message in church, or even from a friend in your small group Bible study, because you say to yourself, “this does not apply to me”? Why do we tune God out? I do not think it is because He is boring, but more rather that He is invasive, and He confronts us in our unbelief. I think, for me at least, it has been unbelief that has caused me many times to tune God out. Approach the story of John the Baptist with me (in Matthew first), and maybe we see this same idea.
John is clearly providing a baptism of repentance and preparation for receiving the righteous King, Jesus. At least two things we ought to note: 1). John is a very unlikely candidate to be seen as a priest or religious leader (Matthew 3:4). So, where does his authority come from? 2). People are recognizing their need for repentance, so the message of John is very relevant: See your sin, admit your sin, get ready to face God.
Oh, thank God for this one guy in my church that always believes the message is intended for him. He walks up every Sunday, blesses God for the “good Word,” and is ready to apply it to His life. I wish I were more like that. I think sometimes I am more like the Pharisees and Sadducees who approached John the Baptist in their unbelief. In John 1, as John is baptizing, they contend with the messenger. “Who are you?” “Who gives you this authority?” John quotes Isaiah directly, and says, “I am that guy- they one crying ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” You can’t get more authoritative than that.
The religious leaders had the “we are children of Abraham” sense of entitlement. “We deliver the message, and we control the religion, because WE are the chosen ones.” And that attitude created unbelief. They did not see themselves as God’s audience. They didn’t need to repent. It is wildly ironic that the very ones that God had rejected as His spokespersons do not see a need to respond with “fruits in keeping with repentance.” They have the power, they have the position, the have the privilege. So, they can put God off, because nobody could possibly be as righteous as them.
I am certainly not a great preacher, but I am thrilled that God has permitted me to be a messenger. I, like you, have said, “I do not connect with that preacher. He is too dry, academic, serious, LONG…” Because the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected the messenger, they did not receive the message. Perhaps more telling, it meant they were not ready to meet the Messiah of the message: Jesus. Hey, I am just saying, if I were eager to receive direct speech from God that mattered so much to my Father that He would send it my way, I don’t think I would try to tell Him “how” He can deliver it. That’s religion. That’s entitlement. That’s unbelief.
Prayer- “God, I want you to speak to me today, so I am crucifying my unbelief, sense of self-righteousness, and spiritual pride. I acknowledge that You are my great Messenger- Your Word is truth. In speaking to me today, erase my unbelief and give me the faith to respond with real fruit. In Jesus Name, Amen.”