We live in an age that to be Christian is to experience the pressure of progressive ideas or increasing ostracism. Local churches are threatened with lawsuits and protests. Christians in the public are faced with the title of bigots or bygones. The world is not a friendly place for those who are disciples of Jesus. However, we are not alone. We have a history of persecution dating to the Head of the Church Jesus himself arriving who warned us of this occurrence.
Many books, articles, and lectures are accessible concerning the mission of the Church. We must understand that many of these tasks and purposes have an expiration date. One day the sole purpose of the church will be to glorify God for eternity. No more taking care of the sick, facing opposition, or telling people of salvation for all these things will be no more. There is one aspect we cannot miss during this temporary mission. The mission of the church is similar to John the Baptist. Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus’ first coming, so the church is the forerunner for Jesus’ second coming.
With all the persecution we face today, we are not alone. For centuries there have been numerous ways God’s people have been killed and tortured for the truth. With a wrenching gut feeling, I realize as I write this, I have brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution. There are no words that make this reality easier. The Church will face opposition.
John the Baptist did not allow persecution to dissuade him from the message. The truth of the Christ, and his glory, overcame the reality of persecution. Jesus confirmed this in John 15:18-27, stating that we will be persecuted because he was persecuted, yet he will send the Spirit to be our Helper. Jesus identified with us in this persecution, but we do not battle persecution in the same manner as Jesus. He beheld the power from within his person. We behold the Holy Spirit, who is indwelling us.
John the Baptist faced his beheading proclaiming the truths of God and calling people into repentance (John 14:1-12). The Church is to face persecution in the power of the Holy Spirit by boldly proclaiming the message of the Savior. The Lord hears our cries (Psalm 34:15-18), the heavens look down pleading (Revelation 6:9-11), and the end is drawing near (1 Peter 4).
The message from John the Baptist stirred the waters. Literally, people were hearing the message of the coming Messiah, turning from their sin, and being baptized. Figuratively, the religious were beginning to get unsettled. No one likes the message of being called a sinner and turn from their evil ways. That is, until their heart proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). The message of John is not just that people are evil and need to repent. His message was repent for the Messiah is near. The stirring of the waters was pointing to when the heart would be stirred and changed (Luke 3:16).
The message of the Church today is slightly different. Instead of baptizing in preparation of the Messiah, we baptize in light of the risen Savior. None the less, the mission for John is the mission that has been given to us. John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance to a holy God, pointing to the Messiah that was greater, and teaching his disciples to recognize the Savior.
We live in a world that needs truth but hates the truth. The Church is to engage a hostile people with a message that seems insulting to the unchanged heart. We know this is good news for them; however, we must show patience as they do not yet know the goodness. We go forth with the truth in a patient and bold manner because we live among a people in need of a Savior. John was the promised voice preparing the arrival of the Messiah. The Church is now the voice proclaiming the accomplishments of the Messiah.
John the Baptist was born to prepare the way of the first coming of Jesus. The Church was born out of Jesus’ first coming and awaiting the day of his second coming. We have a message of hope because our Savior is coming once and for all to gather us. This is good news because our sin tainted world and sin bent flesh will one day be glorified. The Earth will be made new, and our bodies will be perfected. We have a message of preparing the way for the Savior of the world. We have a hope that persecution will one day be no more. We will then during that period of redemptive history live in the glory of God with everyone singing truths in one accord where there will be no martyrs, nor opposition to biblical truth. John the Baptist will even have his head, and the Church will be worshipping under her head.
Cry out Church, for Jesus is coming back!