The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, "Here he is, God's Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I've been talking about, 'the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.' I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God."
John clinched his witness with this: "I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him. I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, 'The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' That's exactly what I saw happen, and I'm telling you, there's no question about it: This is the Son of God." // John 1:29-34, The Message
I spent a long time living as a missionary. Ten years to be exact. Amy and I worked with one of the largest missionary organizations in the world. We spent a decade serving college students. We invited them to become Christ-centered laborers. Our lives were shaped by prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and sending. It was an amazing time where we grew in our faith, we grew in our leadership, and we grew into adulthood. I would not trade that time for anything in the world.
Over the last ten years or so, I have reflected often about our time as college missionaries. I think about the many things that I would have done differently.
There were so many things.
During that time as someone who was young in my faith and learning to follow the way of Christ I was very strident in my desire to win for him. I sharpened my rhetorical skills and sought to learn from the best apologists about how to defend the faith.
I won a lot.
So many college students left an argument with me with their tails between their legs after a verbal and intellectual beat down. I really liked winning.
I’m not so sure that I was all that great at preparing people for the God-revealer though.
If there was one thing that I could change about my time as a college missionary it is that. I wish I had learned the critical importance of preparing people for the God-revealer moreso than an argument winner.
As I read this story this morning about John the Baptist two things grabbed my attention. First, that John understood himself to be someone who was preparing others for the God-revealer. This meant that John was not about his own ego or tallying up numbers of baptisms or wining arguments for the sake of winning arguments. Everything he was doing, everything he was about, was to prepare for the God-revealer.
Notice very clearly, that John was not the God-revealer. No, John was the preparer for the God-revealer.
Jesus, the Christ, he was the God-revealer.
And, that’s the second big thing that I’m wrestling with this morning. This idea of Jesus being the God-revealer boggles my mind a bit. It’s one of those, “It’s right there in front of your face! How can you not notice how big of a deal this is?” kind of things.
I don’t think that I have really and truly wrestled with the deep and abiding reality of Jesus as the God-revealer. Sure, I know that he’s the incarnate God-man, second person of the Trinity, the image of the invisible God, and all that. But, to really think and dwell and process this reality that Christ is the God-revealer, that if I want to see God I need to look at Jesus. There is no other person or place to look for God. God is most clearly revealed in Christ.
What is God like? God is like Christ.
So, once again, I’m challenged to spend time in the middle. If I want to know God, then I need to know Christ. If I want to know Christ I need to spend more time reading, meditating, and getting to know the Christ between Christmas and Easter. The middle of the story is where the person of Christ is revealed and in so doing, reveals God.
I’m also beginning to wrestle with the reality that my calling as a pastor is to prepare people to meet the God-revealer. I’d argue that is part and parcel to following Christ. So, how I live and love and follow in The Way is more important than winning arguments.
I desperately want my life to prepare people to meet the God-revealer so that they can join me in The Way too.