JOHN THE PREPPER
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 29, 2019
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
— John 1:19-34, ESV
The angst of our current age has given rise to hidden communities of people known as preppers. They are preparing for a coming apocalypse, although it is not necessarily the one spoken of in the Scriptures. They believe our government is irreversibly corrupt, our economy is a thin layer of ice floating upon an ocean of debt, and the technology that runs our cities and systems is on the verge of being hacked and sacked. They are retreating into the wilderness, building camouflaged camps, and collecting weapons, food, and supplies to sustain them after the earth has been scorched. While the sad truth is there is some truth to their hyperextended beliefs, I won’t be joining their ranks. I could not survive three days without electricity, running water, and Kroger.
I do admire greatly, however, the world’s first prepper. He lived two thousand years ago and went into the wilderness to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. He advocated advent before apocalypse, and spoke of the first coming of Christ to take away the sins of the world. His job was to introduce Jesus to the public and prepare the way for Him. This he did perfectly, and the lessons he leaves behind can help all Christians prepare the way for Christ to be introduced to others.
We prepare the way for Christ to come into people’s lives by displaying humility.
According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived (ref. Matthew 11:11), only he did not act like it. He had the pedigree of a prominent priest and godly mother. He was blessed with an intelligence quotient so high it bordered on insanity. His speaking voice was so bold and eloquent it literally stopped people in their tracks. It is no wonder that people thought he could be the Messiah, or Elijah returned from the chariot, or the prophet to pick up Moses’ mantle and deliver the Jews from Roman tyranny.
At this time of this episode, John the Baptist was the most important person in the room. Think about the huge religious television empire John could have built. Think about all the Prophet’s Prayer Cloths he could have sold. Think about the easy life he could have lived with a cushy job at the Temple or sitting on Moses’ seat in some suburban synagogue. But John was possessed with an amazing humility and actually behaved as if others, especially Jesus, were more important than himself.
John wanted no glory, but deferred to his younger cousin who was actually the Ancient of Days. John could have grabbed the spotlight before the Light of the World appeared, but he steered clear of it. John did not waste a minute preparing his own kingdom, but rather devoted his life to leading people to the real King and the kingdom of God. John the Prepper was successful because his spirit of humility was the exact opposite of the spirit of his age, and ours.
Ours is the age of selfies and being served. We demand our rights and denigrate anyone who disagrees with us. We’d rather see the earth scorched than give an acre to someone else. Our culture is high on personal autonomy and low on genuine humility. We need to take a good look at John the Baptist in order to see what humility is, and is not.
Humility is a beautiful combination of faith and works. It is the belief that others are more important than yourself, then taking action to make sure they know it. It is speaking softly and carrying a big commitment to Christ. It is giving time, treasure, and talents to God that otherwise could have been spent on yourself.
Humility is not using your relationship with Jesus Christ as a means for personal gain or power. John could have done this, but did not. Modern politicians should not do this, but do. Hypocrisy does more to turn people away from Christ than anything else, but humility is the antidote that will eventually lead them in the right direction toward the kingdom of God. Have a humble, active faith, and begin by letting it shine in your own church.
We prepare the way for Christ to come into people’s lives by committing to community.
His original nickname was “John of the Hills,” a reflection of Psalm 121:1 and the elevated suburb of Jerusalem from which he came. He came to be called “John the Baptist” because of his dedication to dunking people in water as an initiation rite into a new community. “John the Prepper” did this, at God’s direction, in order to point out that a covenant with the Lord is not a mere personal relationship with God, it is a corporate relationship with God and His people.
Though baptism does not appear in the Old Testament, it was an Old Covenant ritual used by the Jews to incorporate Gentiles into the Jewish faith. The “baptism of John” (ref. Matthew 21:25), however, was something brand new, and the scandal of it was that most of the people John baptized were Jewish. It was not a baptism into the Old Covenant or Judaism, but a new baptism of repentance and faith into a new community about to receive the New Covenant.
John was not trying to make Jews or Gentiles out of anyone. He was trying to make Jesus followers out of everyone. He was the original prepper, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” He baptized people with water to prepare them to follow Jesus, the Messiah, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and gives a regenerate heart. That is why after John baptizes Jesus, the Scriptures do not tell of an ensuing baptism of Jesus’ first followers, because most or all of the first followers of Jesus had already been baptized by John. John prepared a community for Christ, one which we now call a local church.
In New Testament Christianity, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, baptism is an intensely personal ritual that places you in the corporate community of Christians, the church. Churches gather for worship and scatter for witness and work. They were vital for the beginning of Christianity and they are vital for the survival of Christianity. John the Prepper prepped people for the first coming of Christ, and now the church has the job of prepping people for Christ to come again.
Too many people today want to believe in Jesus but not recognize the importance of the church. They don’t want to be a part of organized religion, yet they gladly take paychecks from organized companies, deposit them in organized banks, and shop in organized stores. Lone rangers do not make many disciples, but members of good churches do. John the Baptist was no lone wolf, although he may have looked like one. As the forerunner of Christ, John humbly baptized people into the community of Christ, which was the forerunner of the New Testament church.
Christians in churches are today’s preppers. We conduct our lives with humility, reaching out to others to show them they are important to us, and more importantly to show they are important to God. We commit to the corporate disciples of gathering, giving, and going. Of course, there are other organizations that show humility and gather in communities. But John the Baptist did one more thing that separates Christianity and churches from all other entities and gives them an eternal quality. John the Baptist preached the gospel, plainly.
We prepare the way for Christ to come into people’s lives by sharing the gospel directly.
As a freshman in high school I dated a girl who told me one day, “I found Him.” At first I thought it was another boy, then I figured out it had something to do with religion. She invited me to her church, so I met her there on a Sunday. It was going reasonably well before all the people started speaking in tongues. They were whispering and hissing like snakes, and thinking real snakes might be up next, I excused myself, walked out and walked home, and never came back to that girl or that church.
It would be six long years before I ever darkened the door of another church. This time, I was properly and directly introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ by an earnest Freewill Baptist pastor. He spoke in plain English about the Lamb and the Lord, of Christ’s sacrifice for sin and His demand for repentance and faith, and I was born again.
I believed the gospel, behaved like a disciple, and belonged to a church ever since. I’ve been baptized in water and baptized with the Holy Spirit, and thanks to John the Prepper, I can now have a model that tells me when I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. Fulness of the Spirit brings a certain humility, a longing for community, and a boldness to speak plainly about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist prepped me for this. Now it is my job to prep others, and yours too. We do not need to go out into the wilderness. There is plenty of work to do right here in our world. Let us be humble, and consider the needs of lost and unchurched people and find ways to show them we love them. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near” (ref. Hebrews 10:24-25). And let us tell people plainly the scriptural, theological, and historical gospel of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world who is the Son of God. If we do, our community of preppers will grow larger, God will get more glory, and people will be saved.
A new year is at hand. A new age is coming when Jesus Christ comes again. New lives need to be born again into the kingdom of God before the King comes. Follow John and be a prepper. More importantly follow Jesus. Be prepared to prep other people with humility, the offer of community, and the gospel spoken plainly. The soul you save may belong to someone you love.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org