Friday, 1 February 2013

Being worthily unworthy

19  This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20  And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21  They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22  Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 23  He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." 24  Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25  They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26  John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27  "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." 28  These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 

I feel sorry in some ways for preachers who have large churches. I like to listen to podcasts of some preachers with multi-campus churches. I'm often reminded of the following joke:

'A surgeon rocks up to the pearly gates of heaven and demands to be let in instantly, because there's a long queue of people waiting to get into heaven. He proceeds to tell St Peter that he is a world famous surgeon and about all the famous people he's cared for. Then, as he is arguing, he sees another surgeon walk past and through the gates. Before he can protest, Peter says to him "Oh that's God, he just thinks he's a surgeon"'.

The point is, that people in large ministries (and indeed large in their own mind) can fall prey to thinking they are God. And how can you blame them when lots of people can treat them that way? Praise and adulation can trick us into thinking all sorts of things - none of us is exempt.

John the Baptiser had a very successful ministry down by the Jordan, with many coming to him for baptism. Yet when questioned he was very clear that he was but a signpost, someone preparing the way for God himself (that Jesus followed shows us who he was). What is more, John knew compared to Jesus he was nothing - not even the lowest of slaves to untie the sandals off his dirty feet. He knew he was a slave, a servant of God. He knew his place and was happy about it.

Now if we took this attitude of comparison to another person, this would be an issue. While the bible isn't a book on self esteem, it does have a realistic view of humans and it is often positive - after all if Jesus became one to reconcile us to God, what more recommendation do you need. But John isn't comparing himself to a mere human, but to God.

So as we seek to be involved in mission, be it as preachers to hundreds and thousands, confidants to a few, scholars to academic communities or parents to our kids, remember: we are not God. Thank God! Confess that freely to all and point all to the God man Jesus.

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