John the Baptist Goes Viral!
Just once, I would like something I do to go viral. I know it's cliche, but it would be exhilarating. Unfortunately, this is the goal of most millennials, making it easier said than done.
Consider this: over 300 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every single minute, and 40,000 new songs are being added to Spotify every single day. That's insane!
The internet age has given unparalleled access for everyone to everyone.
Of course, explosive popularity existed long before Instagram and YouTube.
One such pre-modern viral moment occurred several thousand years ago in the middle of nowhere. Like the internet stars of our era, John the Baptist's rise to stardom came suddenly. He lived the majority of his life in obscurity, but then in Matthew 3:5, he bursts onto the scene.
It says, "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan."
All of a sudden, everyone knew about John. He was the talk of the town, and people came from all over to see him. He was blowing up.
What led to this?
When you study the life of John the Baptist, it's evident that his path to virality looked nothing like the world. God is not in the business of elevating people for their own sake, and there are some distinct reasons why I believe God trusted John with this viral moment.
1. He was called.
From the very beginning, John's calling was clear. It says in Luke 1:15, "For he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth."
If we want to change the world, we need to seek God. He is the one who calls us and releases us to do the work. There are too many followers of Jesus dictating terms, but it doesn't work like that.
Instead, we should say, "God, above all else, I want to know you, and I'll do whatever you ask of me."
Matthew 6:33 instructs us to "seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
It's an inside out process. Don't try to go viral for God. Get to know Him, let His desires become your desires, make pleasing Him the most important thing in your life, and let Him do the rest.
2. He was uncool.
God gave John a big platform because he wasn't cool.
It says in Matthew 3:4, "John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey."
The religious elite wore expensive clothes and separated themselves from the people. They glorified themselves. John intentionally rejected the culture of his day. He was not trying to impress people with outward appearances.
Our problem is we are just too cool. We are way more impressed with the world, its culture, and fashion than with God.
God will never use the proud.
Matthew 23:12 says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
3. He spoke the truth.
John wasn't concerned about being popular or accepted. He had a mission, and that was to call people to repentance.
Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days, John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
If God is going to give you a viral moment, you need to be willing to speak the truth.
And it won't always be easy.
Over the years, I've been in many intense situations - many of them unsafe. I've had rocks thrown at me, fled from a riot in Lebanon, and been followed by the secret police. Once, our power was cut right before we were supposed to play. At a show in Albania, a guy threw a cell phone at my head while I was preaching.
But these costs have been trivial compared to the rich life that God has allowed me to live.
God gave John a viral moment because he wasn't afraid to speak the truth, and eventually, it cost him his life.
4. He was all about Jesus.
John was at the height of his ministry; all eyes were on him. But then in Matthew 3, verse 13, three words change everything: "Then Jesus came."
Without hesitation, John steps aside. He was clear about his mission, and never for a moment made it about himself. You see, John revered God and had an accurate view of himself.
We get a glimpse of his humility in Matthew 3, verse 11. Speaking to a large crowd, he predicts Jesus' arrival. He says, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
It was John's sincere humility that made him a powerful tool in God's hands. So highly did Jesus esteem him that in Matthew 11:11, He says, "I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!"
That is high praise and powerful evidence that God does indeed lift those that humble themselves.
John's entire life was devoted to preparing people to see Jesus, and when He arrived, he gladly moved out of the spotlight. I wonder if I would be able to do the same.
Whose kingdom are we building? Do we desire platform and influence to prepare people to see Jesus, or is it our name that we are looking to make great?
The world needs more "John the Baptists" - men and women who are called by God, unimpressed with the world, courageous in speaking the truth, and devoted to making Jesus known. If we would allow God to produce this kind of character in us, then we'd go viral in ways we could never imagine.