And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River – Mark 1, verses 4 and 5.
I once met Billy Graham. When I think of someone Godly, someone who has lived his life in service to advancing the Word of Christ, I think of Billy Graham. Over the years, he has mellowed from hellfire and brimstone evangelism to a more intimate and personal witness to the love of Jesus. Years ago, when given the chance to attend a Billy Graham crusade at RFK Stadium, I went. It was free, and I was amazed; intimidated, actually, at the sheer number of people there who publicly said, “I believe.” I mean, I was one of those people who quickly changed the channel every time a Billy Graham Crusade came on (and that seemed like every week or so), yet here I was participating in one.
At the culmination of the service, Rev Graham conducted an altar call; can you imagine an altar call for thousands of people in a football stadium? Those of us who were interested went down to the altar and made our way up to where Billy was praying over people. For just a moment, Billy Graham and I prayed together and I went on my way. He wouldn’t remember it today, but I do.
I remember it because the message Graham preached that night was the same one John the Baptist preached in the Judean desert two thousand years ago: repent of your sins and accept the forgiveness of God. I need to hear that message every single day. Do you? You know the answer, and it’s ok if you feel ashamed to say “yes.” Even if you say, ‘no.’ If you say no, then I think you might be someone I’d like to have a conversation with.
Tell me: would you stand in line for an iPhone 6 (or the newest of its competitors)? Would you drive out into the desert for Burning Man? What about driving all the way to northern Montana just to hike the elevated road at Glacier? Would you climb Kilimanjaro, or swim in all the world’s oceans, or would you bend over backwards to risk oral herpes just so you could say you kissed the Blarney Stone? Tell me: if you might consider the thrill of doing all those things, would you consider the thrill of never having to carry around your innermost guilt ever again?
Before Jesus made Himself known, John the Baptist lived in the desert and preached the hard yet loving message of repentance. He told it like it was; he confronted people with the harsh reality of their sins, then told them they could trust fully in God and be baptized and washed clean of those sins. They could lay down their guilt; they could claim the thrill of feeling whole again, of walking away unbroken. Thousands of common people ventured out into the hot sand to hear John’s message and to claim that rebirth.
It’s the same message I heard from Billy Graham. Tell me: when was the last time you considered that you might need to hear it too?
Lord Jesus, thank you for Your patient forgiveness. Daily I need to repent of the ways I’ve wronged You and others.
Read Mark Chapter verses 1-8. Also read Matthew 3 verses 1-11, Luke 3 verses 1-20, and John 1 verses 15-28.