This week, Ruben Ramirez unpacked some crucial lessons we can learn from the example John the Baptist set in being a voice in the wilderness.
Lydia Cunningham reflected on the sermon and how it challenged her to live differently.
Can you imagine the people of Israel not hearing the voice of God for 450 years? Although I am one for solitude, I cannot imagine going four days without hearing a family member’s voice or counsel, much less 450 years. This tidbit of information stirred me to think: “How long have I gone without hearing the voice of God and what is its value to me?” These questions then lead me to think deeper and confront the truth of the muted voice of God spoken through me.
Sunday’s sermon, was a humble reminder of the importance of a voice in the wilderness. Through the example of John the Baptist, the sermon highlighted the parallels between Jesus and John as well as the importance of his role as the one who made a path for the coming Savior. From this example I observed three major points: preparation, repentance, and humility.
John the Baptist was chosen to prepare the way for Jesus and His ministry. As explained by Ruben in this sermon, as “far-out” as John’s actions may seem, in truth, his actions reflect the actions of Jesus. John chose to live a life that was not common to his noble background, but common to the people he served which was what Jesus did. By reflecting Jesus, baptizing people and calling others to repentance, John made a way for Jesus’ ministry.
When I thought of repentance, 2 Peter 3:9 came to mind and what echoed was “not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.” Although this illustrates God’s undeserving mercy, I can’t help but think that even in this wish, I have a part to play.
The sermon expounded on the meaning and definition of repentance and its importance as a first step for salvation. Ruben noted the need for us to realize our sin, as well as the tantamount importance of mercifully shedding light on that need. When we present to our friends and family their need for repentance we “make space for Christ to encounter people and for people to encounter Him.” However, calling people to repentance will always stir emotional responses that may not be in our favor and, in worst case scenarios, may threaten our lives. This means that, as Ruben said, “You need to be ready and willing to die to preach that truth.” In order for us to be willing to die for this truth, we must believe it. Believe, “that Jesus is God and He is better than what they (our loved ones and others outside of Christ) are trying to fill their lives with…” This has challenged my comfort to be silent in the wilderness, and instead, make a way for Christ to be glorified like John. We need to be a voice.
The sermon also demonstrated what our response should when faced with hostility towards repentance. We should respond to hostility with humility, like John when he was questioned about his right to preach repentance. We should also stress that the reason of pointing out the need for repentance is so that others may know that we are not capable of saving them, but we know the one who can. We should be cognizant that our role in pointing others to Christ is not about us, but about Christ and that we are gracefully given a part to play in God’s glory. When we humble ourselves, and are aware of our part in Christ’s glory, then God will exalt us.
What struck my core and challenged my heart was a statement in the sermon’s closing, “Many of us are the only voice of God that any of our family members and friends will ever hear…” When I think of this, I think of my family and friends that I know who are not abiding in God’s love. This brings me sorrow, because like Christ, I don’t want anyone to perish. However, if there is time, there is grace, hope and mercy and I pray that we may pursue others as Christ pursues us and that our hearts may burn like Christ’s love for them. May we be like John and speak as a voice in the wilderness.