John the Baptist – what a chap. He’s the guy that basically everyone has heard of but hardly anyone knows anything about. He’s the famous “forerunner”, which means that he announced the coming of Jesus and helped prepare people’s hearts to receive what Jesus had to offer them. The Bible says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit since before he was born. And even though he was a little weird (he had a diet of locusts and wild honey while living in the desert), he made an incredible impact. However, when people started pointing out to him that everyone was going to Jesus to hear His preaching and leaving John the Baptist in the dust, he replied in the most humble way. In fact, his entire life’s mission could be summed up in this one statement he made in John 3:30: “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
Why would he say something like that? Because he understood that his purpose wasn’t to point people to himself, but rather to God. His job was to blaze the trail for the coming of the message of salvation. I am humbled by his announcement in Mark 1:7-8: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of His sandals. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
I am a missionary. Some might say that is quite an accomplishment. People both in my home country and in the country where I am serving have a great respect for someone with the title “missionary”. However, lest I am ever tempted to think that I have arrived at a certain level, I am reminded of John the Baptist.
He had the most unsuccessful ministry ever. He starts out famous, loses everyone to this Jesus guy, and then ends up with a handful of people called his disciples who spend time with Jesus too. The final days of his life are spent as entertainment for Herod in prison, and he is beheaded as a prize for a dance. His ministry went the OPPOSITE direction that anyone would ever want. However, his life was successful, because he did what he was called to do: he pointed people to Jesus.
Over the past few days, I have been thinking about my goals in our ministry here; who I want to have discipleship studies with, who I want to go to the next Encounter weekend, how many of our contacts I want to be in leadership classes, how many Home Bible Studies I want to have, etc. It is good to have a plan, and it is good to desire these things for people, but I have to take a step back and ask myself, “What is my purpose here?”
A few weeks ago, I sat on the steps with a good friend of mine. She really holds my heart. She is stuck between a rock and a hard place; stuck in a lifestyle that does not please God, but beginning to understand for the first time what God’s love really is. She is facing very difficult decisions, and after she spilled her thoughts and heart out that day, she looked at me and waited for my response. I breathed a prayer to God, “Lord, what would You have me say?” And plain as day, I heard Him speak to my heart, “Point her to Me.”
I realized in that moment that this simple phrase is my entire purpose here in Ambato, Ecuador. This simple phrase is my entire purpose on this planet and it sums up the calling of my life. In the grand scheme of things, I am nothing. I have nothing that I did not receive from God. When I analyze who I am apart from Christ, I realize that I have nothing at all that is worth looking at.
I am unfaithful, but Christ is faithful…always. I am selfish, but Christ offers selfless love. I am often distracted and short-sighted, but Christ is the ultimate listener and sees the depth of each person’s heart. It is only IN CHRIST that I could ever offer anything lasting and worthwhile to anyone. It is only in becoming less and less of me that Christ can offer more and more of His transforming love to each person that comes my way. It is only in saying to people, “There is Someone who is greater than I who holds everything you need,” that my purpose is fulfilled. Eyes off me; eyes on Him. “He’s the One you’re looking for” is the message that I must proclaim to every person to whom I speak.
You see, once upon a time Jesus found me in a dark place and without hope. He rescued me from Satan, who had me chained down solid in his stronghold. Jesus set me free! Because of Him, I live every day with hope! Because of Him, I have this amazing opportunity to talk to people all day, every day about what salvation really means. It doesn’t make any sense to do anything different than that. Missionary or not a missionary, I can’t keep quiet about this Jesus guy. Salvation is nothing without the Savior. Freedom is nothing without the Liberator – and He frees me every day. He (not me) holds the key that can free EVERY SINGLE PERSON. So I will spend my life leading people to Him. I will not hesitate to tell people, “There is One who is greater than I. He alone can set you free, shower you with hope, and give you a reason to live.”
Jesus is the only Son of God, who saw our hopeless condition and came to offer His life as a ransom for our sin. He died on a cross and rose again, defeating death and breaking every chain that could hold us captive if we would but accept this salvation that He freely offers to us. This is the message that I proclaim. Maybe someday I will end up in prison as entertainment for someone, only to be beheaded as a prize for a dance. However, if I am faithful to my purpose and to Christ’s message of salvation, my life will be a success. So I hold true to this, praying that God would always give me the strength to humbly become less and less so that He alone might become more and more in me. Maybe someday when people look at me, they will see nothing but Him. What more could I ever want in this life?