The goal of the gospel of John is John wants his readers to have life, spiritual life. I want you to learn how to study the bible for yourself to reach that same goal – spiritual life. As these bible studies go on, I envision me talking less and less and us having more and more interaction so that you can learn how to put yourself in the presence of God through his word and through prayer so that you can experience abundant life that he promises for all believers.
Here are some questions – in the backdrop, think about what we can learn from John the Baptist to lead powerful Christian lives.
Secret to a powerful Christian life
2) Clarity of calling
One prerequisite for a powerful Christian life is simplicity. Matthew 3:1-4 – John the Baptist lived in the desert. In the desert, he could hear the voice of God clearly. The closest thing to John the Baptist today are monks. There is a common misconception about monks that all they did was sit around and pray and read the Bible. The monastic movement was responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout Europe. Especially Gregory the Great as Pope, he took the principles of the Rule of Benedict and employed them in monasteries. The Rule of Benedict centered around the principle of breathing in and breathing out – breathing in the Word of God/prayer and breathing out service and obedience. Thus, these monasteries set up by Pope Gregory were missionary centers because they were active in the communities and people living there were drawn to their sincere faith in the Lord.
We live in a noisy world. That doesn’t mean we all have to be monks? No, but the heart of a monk. Mary and Joseph just before Jesus was born was looking for a place to deliver the baby but there was no room for them in the inn. We need to make room in our hearts for Jesus to dwell. After the Tijuana trip, I felt compelled to go on nightly prayer walks. Then that grew into wanting to do prayer walks during lunch. Then God asked for more of my time and Jackie and I instituted a no TV policy until 10pm so that I can prioritize Bible reading. I then started looking for more pockets of time to give to the Lord. My commute was one and God asked me to pray, or meditate on Scripture and listen to sermons during those hour commutes instead of just passively listening to music.
We need to carve out time to spend with the Lord. Our circumstances may not change, but we need to actively find ways to push back on all the clutter in our hearts and taking time out to silence the noise. Luke 3: 1-6 – brief comment on the content of John the Baptist’s message. John the Baptist’s goal was to prepare the way for others to hear the message of God. We all have various contours of heart, meaning different reasons why we can’t hear the voice of God straightly.
Preparing the way for others to hear the message of God. Valleys need to be filled up. Valleys could be some difficulty, some struggle, a feeling of abandonment or insecurity that needs to be filled before God’s Word can penetrate. The mountains need to be brought low, our pride and false sense of confidence in ourselves need to be leveled so that we can recognize our need for God. Crooked roads need to be straightened, some crooked thought pattern needs to be broken and straightened out before we can hear God’s voice. Rough ways can be symbolic of life. Things just always seem to come up to distract us and these things become distractions from us being able to hear God.
All of this preliminary work has to be done in preparation for God’s Word having an impact on our lives. People cannot hear God until their heart has been prepared to listen.
Second quality: Clarity of calling
Another quality that you need to have in order to live powerfully for God is having a clear sense of calling. John the Baptist had a clear calling / identity. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Voice. That was his calling. But equally important to knowing your calling is knowing what is not your calling.
3 times he said I am not Christ, Elijah, the prophet.
Parents told me – since 5 years old, I said I wanted to be a doctor. You are all here – doctors, pharmacists – like apostle paul, I consider these things tent-making vocations. Vocations are a means to support ourselves.
Have you ever asked God, what is my calling? Did you ever question what your parents told you or society told you should be your calling?
Matthew 28 – great commission – calling of every Christian – to be a witness.
What does this mean practically? For me, I am an IT professional, but this is not my core identity or calling? I am a Christian IT professional. The order and emphasis are important. I am not a IT person and I happen to do the God thing on the side.
For me, I make decent money, I have a comfortable life, not extravagant but comfortable. But I feel a restlessness because I know God has called me to do something more with my life. When I am here preaching, I feel this is right. I want you to be able to discover for yourself what your calling is. And once you discover it, you will just know, this is right. Daniel Lim – when you see him talk about studying philosophy, you know this guy was born to do this. It’s his calling.
The third and final quality that you need to have a powerful Christian life is humility. John called himself a voice. He didn’t even give himself status as a messenger. Not even a person. Just a voice. And the goal of this voice was to prepare the way for God. He wanted people to see Jesus, not him. Jesus entered into the picture and John the Baptist faded. He told all of his disciples to follow Jesus. It was not about what he could accomplish for God. He just wanted to be faithful to his calling.
His confession – he must increase, I must decrease. Witness – we are pointers to Jesus. Sun, moon, earth. Moon as reflection of the son. Son of God, light of God – we reflect Him to others. We shine most brightly when we are aligned with the Son of God, just like when the sun and moon are aligned. But when the earth gets in the way of the sun, the moon no longer shines. In the same way, our light of Christ is diminished when we become engrossed in worldly affairs.
We need to be clean vessels, meaning not allowing the world to taint us. Christian maturity is humility. Life is less and less about my story, my life, my agenda. A mature, humble follower of Christ shifts the focus from oneself to God’s story, His glory, His purpose.