The Journey: Misfits 12-2-2020
By Dean FosterDecember 2, 2020
The Journey: Misfits
Sitting higher and thinking higher God chooses the eccentrics, the loners and the misfits to go in His name. "John the Baptist" out at the Jordan River was one of those. We know him from the Gospels as the one God sent to prepare the way for the Christ. Paul explains in 1st Corinthians that God does not choose the wise, the strong or the renown by human standards. God chooses the weak, the foolish and the "who-are-you" to shame and confound the world. God calls those who search and seek real life in Christ to lead others. Leaders are a peculiar breed on the amazing odyssey of wonder and discovery that we are a part of as the Church; the Body of Christ on earth. In His love God sends His invitation to all of us as both a challenge and a touch. God's prophets call for a decision because His message cannot be ignored.
Welcome to the Journey.
When the word of God came to John son of Zachariah in the wilderness, he went into all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. To those in the Judean countryside and some of my people here in Jerusalem his appearance was sudden. To the many who didn't expect him in our time "the Baptist" was a curiosity. Others saw him described by the words written in the prophet Isaiah, "A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' " (Isaiah 40:3). All the people were fascinated, by this prophet out by the Jordan; all went out to see him.
Provocateur or prophet, the first sight of John is a striking experience. He looks as wild as the mighty river flowing wide and deep there beside him. His clothes are made of camel's hair, not the smooth black and red silk of a cleric. He wears a wide leather belt around his waist. The chiseled look of his weathered face, arms and legs portray an untamed, fireside lifestyle. His beard and dark hair are tossed by the wind, his bearing was bold as we joined the group more or less assembled near the river. He stood in the quiet of the midst of them, when he began to preach. He spoke a message we'd never heard before so we moved in close to listen.
Speaking with spirit and power he seemed to come more alive in some way. We moved up close so we could listen. Standing in the sand at water's edge it was clear, he was speaking for God. This barefoot, unschooled, bedraggled prophet called on us, the children of Abraham around him to repent and be baptized. He called us into the Jordan to be made clean and prepare the way for the Holy One. It felt like he was saying, "Prepare the way into your hearts." Prepare for the one who was coming soon. This rough looking fellow from outside somewhere was calling on us to prepare for a forgiveness that is to come. This word from God sounded more like the call to a whole new life!
John's words were hard to believe and yet, so obvious and true. Clearly, to be forgiven of sin one must turn your back on sin. Here is this outcast preaching to us that we should stop thinking only of ourself. He's preaching what we should already know! He was telling us to see the abundance God has already given each of us. He said recognize and submit to the joy it is to share all that God has given you.
Can you imagine how radical this sounded? His appearance suggesting, he has nothing more than the animal skin and strap of leather that cover him while he calls on us to give half of what we own to those who have nothing because they have earned nor saved nothing for themselves. This penniless loner comes out of the wild to propose this absurd generosity. Then not only that, we eagerly listen because we know, he speaks for God. We know he speaks for God because what he calls on us to do, we know is only half of what God would do!
You have to see this character preaching to understand! The way the words come from deep down; from deep down in his soul I should say. The words animate him as he speaks and he explains that one more powerful than he is, will soon come! One whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. The misfit "Baptizer" tells us, "I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
There seems no way to understand all that John says or know how many others went out to see him. Some curious, some for spiritual reasons. Doesn't matter though, I'm sure they all found the same maverick and man of God that I did. A preacher who had only one good sermon. The same way all preachers have only one good sermon; the Good News from God Himself. When the people heard John preach, they responded and then went home soaking wet and forgiven. (Even the Lord Jesus would go down to see John and be baptized.)
Welcome to the Journey.
Standing next to the Jordan River watching and hearing John the "misfit" Baptist and Preacher propose a way to make ready for heaven must have been something akin to sitting or standing in a worship service today when the preacher makes an altar call. Many things run through your head as you consider going forward. Most of them have to do with fear as our enemy holds you back.
There is the fear that you'll be admitting in front of friends that your faith isn't what they thought it was or that you want more from God than you are currently getting. Both of which may be true. But then, isn't that what being a Christian is all about? Seeking, searching for growth in Christ and helping others to do the same. In fact, worship is all about learning and growing together as the Body of Christ the church. Going forward to the altar and/or being baptized is a first step toward growth in Christ. Nothing to fear there.
Then there is the fear that coming to Christ will dramatically change your life. Which of course, is also true. A change which we should also realize is the opportunity to joyfully trust in the Lord God. Joyfully look forward to the change He has in store and is about to make for us. This is where it all begins. Not that God is going to do all the work just that He is going to be with you as you work towards being more like Him. This is where with help we can truly begin to live our lives in Christ. What will that be like? Certainly, seeing and knowing that God is true and never fails when you trust in Him is empowering. Think of that. All of the promises of the Bible are true! Realizing that the Ruler of the universe truly wants only good for you! In trusting God all the freedom and good begins to change your life. Yes, change is coming and will not all be easy. It takes root though, and you begin to grow. Remember of course that your sanctification will be in His good time, so there will be some challenge to it. Expect that but fear not because He is with you.
In the Letter to Titus, Paul writes that Jesus will purify for himself a peculiar people for his very own. So, it seems if we are going to be in that set aside group, we can count on being considered a misfit by this world. We can only hope. It is my prayer for you that we can be so thought of and set aside together. Which would mean our faith has pleased God and our names are written in the book of life.
Being a Christian doesn't keep the storms of life from devastating us. It means God's transforming power can immerse us into the person of Christ who gives us the strength to overcome whatever we must face in life.
Whatever it is you fear standing there before the Lord, He already knows and will meet you there just as you are. His grace will be more than enough. Come down to the Jordan or forward in the church if you haven't already, get wet and become a misfit in Christ with the rest of us.
This is the Journey.