Here's the blurb:
"Could it be that his appeal lay in the very strictness of his message, which was in sharp contrast to the soft religiosity peddled by religious leaders seeking popular support? Could it be that John's call for personal purity and individual righteousness was seen as a refreshing change from the ritualistic and institutional religion which had developed over the centuries?"
Here are my musings on it:
- How well the term "soft religiosity" describes our modern (American) Christianity! But we don't need to point any fingers at religious leaders to profit from the reminder. We each decide how we want to live our Christian lives based on how much of ourselves we're willing to give to God. One of the great old preachers, AW Tozer, wrote something like this: "We are all exactly as filled with the Holy Spirit as we want to be. Maybe not as much as we wish we were - but exactly as much as we want to be." Ouch.
- John's message was bare-bones and no nonsense. How much of our faith and lives are diluted by the addition of other things? We love, desire, enjoy "God and" - but how often "God only"? How different our attitude is from that described in one of the hymns of Israel: "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You." (Ps 73:25) I read that psalm probably 50 times before I caught that it's not "more than You". It's "besides You". Ouch.
- What is this weakness we have for seeking popular support? If we know God Almighty, why do we still care about the approval of others? Paul hit it right on the nose when he wrote: "If I were still trying to please men I wouldn't be a servant of Christ." He's right! Society and culture have become so perverse that when we try to please others (by doing what they want and expect of us) it's almost certain we won't be pleasing to God. We know that. But still we do it. To quote Tozer again: "I won't seek persecution, but I want to walk so close to Jesus that when they reject him they'll dump me right out along with him." Ouch.
- How tempted are we to imitate the softness we see in others who profess total commitment? As Christians, do we feel free to go places where Christ is not welcome? Do we make great friends of people who despise Him? Do we readily join in conversations He would refuse to be part of? At what point does our devotion to Him need to put a damper on our fun? At what point does it force us to be different? "Weird"? Or, that guy? Ouch.
The point of these musings, the blurb, and John's entire ministry is this: The things of God do not run through middle ground.
We like to believe they do. But they don't.
Jesus called for radical followers who were so in love with God and so committed to Him that they were ready to die for Him. That's not poetic imagery or oriental hyperbole. It's reality.
Following Christ is either radical or frivolous.
1. characterized by lack of seriousness or sense
2. self-indulgently carefree; unconcerned about or lacking serious purpose
3. of little or no weight, worth, or importance