Unlikely Heroes – John the Baptist

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “Unlikely Heroes.” John Burke shared at the McNeil campus, and Bruce Gilson shared at the South Campus. Here are some of their thoughts:

“God’s telling an amazing, mysterious story. The greater part He plays in our lives, the greater part we play in His story even if we may not realize it at the time. We see this happen in the life of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was kind of wild man, some may say strange. He lived in the desert, ate a fear-factor diet of locusts and raw honey, and this most unlikely hero was also the one who announced Jesus’ arrival. John the Baptist was the first prophet in Israel 450 years after Malachi. Miraculously he was born to a couple who had struggled to have children, and he grew up and took a Nazarite vow.

John starts his ministry out in the desert near the Dead Sea about a year before Jesus begins his. They’re both about 30 years old, Jesus is John’s cousin once removed—he doesn’t know Jesus was the Messiah because up until Jesus’ baptism, Jesus lived a pretty normal, hard-working life of a carpenter’s son in a poor town called Nazareth.

‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.’  Matthew 1:1-6

John marked a turn in the story of God. All the Old Testament Prophets until John were pointing out the tragedy of humanity – that we all turn from God, go our own way, and hurt ourselves and each other. The Old Covenant Law simply showed us that we can’t be good without God at the Center. John is the prophet announcing Part 2 of the story. Jesus was bringing a New Covenant—a new agreement—that God pays the price to forgive all who are willing. He can restore us if we’re willing, and guide us by His Spirit to restore others. That’s the new story unfolding.

The more God plays the central role in Your story, the more your life plays a central role in His Story—even if you don’t see it. Even if it’s confusing. That’s what John’s life shows us. That even if Our Story isn’t unfolding like we want—if God’s at the center—it will unfold as He wants, and even the challenges and setbacks will find purpose in Grand Narrative.

What if your life doesn’t ‘wow’ the world, but does play an integral part in God’s story?  Is that good enough? What if your life doesn’t even go according to all your plans, but it does go according to God’s plans, and for eternity—there’s celebration around the part you played in God’s story? Would that be okay with you?

For one year John starts telling people to prepare for God’s arrival, and he experiences this great popular following. One year after Jesus’ baptism, everyone’s following Jesus and no one cares much about John. His popularity is plummeting, so much so his followers say, ‘Everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.’ John replied… “He must become greater, and I must become less.’ John 3:26-27, 30

As we make Him Greater, we may seem to become less—but in the end our lives will be greater than our little finite minds can imagine. Like John, we will be great in God’s story forever.  So let me ask you, can you pray John’s prayer, ‘God, you become Greater through my life, even if I must become less.’  That’s the path to lasting greatness.”

To watch or listen to this message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

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Eric Bryant
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.

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