A Man Sent by God – Part Two
by Fred Pruitt
(Continued from Part One)
On with the story …
Now here are these Priests and Pharisees from Jerusalem cropping up – hissing and slithering in the snake of the religious mind. I never will forget the time I first noticed this snake cropping up in me in a major way. It was in our early ministry days in Monterey, California, in the mid-1970s. One of our projects was to take young homeless men off the streets – these were mostly hippie hitchhiker types in those days – and “train” them to be good Christians. They mostly just wanted to eat and a place to sleep, but we naively thought if we gave them those things then in appreciation they would want God.
But it was like pulling teeth. We were constantly cajoling them, counseling them, motivating them, encouraging them, rebuking them, preaching to them, quoting scripture to them, to get them to shape up and love God with all their heart. But for the most part they were just hanging out, enduring our religiosity to get a bite to eat and a nice place to sleep. This was witnessing with an “arm-twist!”
Now I had been with the church a couple of years by then, and had some “authority” over these guys. So one night I went looking for a portable TV I had loaned the brothers, intending to get it and take it back to my house. I went into a room where one of the homeless guys, Jason, was sitting watching the TV. I saw it there and told Jason I was taking it. (After all, it was mine!) So I just went up to it, reached behind it and unplugged it from the wall, secured the antenna and power cord, lifted it up and walked off. Of course Jason got upset, yelling at me, “Hey, what’re you doin’, man? I’m watchin’ that!”
“I’m your minister,” I said (meaning, “I’m your boss.”), “and it’s mine anyway, so I’m taking it!” I left Jason TV-less and cussing. I probably told him to watch his mouth, but I don’t remember.
It hit me as I left him what I had done. As the scripture said, “My heart smote me.” I knew I had been the snake.
We cannot know this until we are born again and can see from the perspective of the kingdom of God. That is why confrontation with sin can only fully occur when we know what real sin is. This whole story of John and then Jesus moves us from our spiritual infancy, when all the problems and solutions are primarily with outer things, to more and more within us, to a final realization one day, which is where this whole Gospel of John is headed, that we are One with Christ and the Father through the Spirit.
And right here in the beginning of the story many can see how our personal journey began, when we turned from our lives in our cities and villages, and “went out” to the wilderness and to the Baptist in the Jordan, and confessed our sins and were washed in spiritual water for their cleansing.
Someone might ask, “How so?” I did not literally leave where I was and go seek a prophet out in the desert or the woods. But inwardly I did (and somewhat outwardly, too!). There was a moment in my life when I “turned” and began to go a different direction. I had been running away from God and really life in general, but one day, like the Prodigal Son, I woke up in pig dung, and thought, “There has to be something better than this.”
That day I began to turn and go another direction.
Someone observing me at the time might say, “You didn’t turn toward Christ. You turned toward eastern religion.” And that is true, but when the “turn” started to move, (it was something that in a way “happened to me” rather than something I thought up and consciously decided), the eastern teachings were the first stop on a path that led to Jesus.
However, at the time I did “think” I was in charge of this “search,” for truth, for God or for whatever else could be found. Consciously I would have said I was following the eastern ways because I did not find among the “Christians” and/or “churches,” there to be anyone who had an immediate and obvious experiential life of Christ. (Not that they weren’t around, but I could not perceive them at the time.)
But when I began to read eastern thought and diligently practice meditation, etc., I began to “experience” what I thought was a genuine spirituality. My practices seemed to make me “feel better,” calmer, less stressed. I had transcendental moments, sometimes lasting many moments. Looking back I know I was play-acting, but at the time convinced that my play-acting – acting calmer, more loving, more genuine etc. – was the real me.
But to quote the song, “I still hadn’t found, what I was looking for.” I was still on the road, and I met many a John the Baptist on the way. They all told me, in one way or another, to continue in my repentance, to turn all the way around. To get ready to meet God, because He is coming on your scene, soon!
“A man sent from God ….”
That phrase alone, proves that man became separated from God. God of course didn’t go anywhere. He is All in all, whether the person knows it or not. In Him we live and move and have our being, whether we know it or not. His light is our light, whether we know it or not.
But the fact that we do not know it, or that we have fallen away from knowing it and have become trapped in deception, is the greatest part of our problem. The fact that God has to send someone to us to tell us, proves that we are somewhere where He is not.
Even though God is All in all, and everything, animate and inanimate, has its being or existence in Him, the place where God is not, is in the will of the person that has gone out from Him into itself in a separating wall of aloneness and independence. God is there, but only in the sense in which He is the upholding substance of everything. He is not there in His Person in the experience of the person. He is, to the person, as if He does not exist. Such a person only knows its own existence and denies everything else except how all creation relates to it and its needs and desires.
But that is a dry and thirsty land. It is the land of Adam’s wanderings, after he traded Paradise for a pig in a poke – the Will of God for self-will. It is the land of the Prodigal Son, who wasted all his inheritance in riotous living – until the money ran out.
But in the fullness of time, a man is sent by God. Perhaps God woke up one day and as He stepped out His front door, He looked for the man and woman he had made and for all the children they had, but they were not there. They were around, but they were hiding. And even if He walked out His door, stepped off his front porch and walked into the woods where all the people were hiding, and even though He could see them behind the trees, bushes and rocks, they could no longer see Him. He did not exist to them in their aloneness and fear. He lived in freedom and light but they were cowering in self-made and self-perpetuating prisons of darkness. They are afraid of the light. And, since they could not see Him as He IS, He decided He would go among them as a man Himself. He would become Man – them (us) – and get them out of their prisons and back into Himself.
But first He decided He would send another man, whose spirit and power they already knew, someone they could all recognize as the greatest among them (Luke 7:28), someone coming in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), to herald the coming of the One who would set them all free.
1:7, 8 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
In speaking above about this story of Christ as it relates to us inwardly, in no way do I want to take away from the historical story or make it less significant. This man of flesh and blood, whom we know as John the Baptist, was specially chosen by the Father, to be the herald of Jesus Christ. In a way he was like no other born except Jesus Himself, for though he was born of a flesh and blood mother and father, he was, according to Luke, filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. Jesus said he was the greatest among those born of woman.
John was in no way insignificant in his time. Everyone knew of him. He was so well-known that the Pharisees and Priests in Jerusalem perceived him to be a threat to them. Had no one held him in esteem, they would have given him no thought. But John had the hearts of the people. The so-called righteous ones would for the most part not go out to his baptism, and it was mostly the sinners who went to repent and hear of the Coming One. He was so threatening to them that they refused to take a “position” on whether John was from God or not, when confronted by Jesus later on. They held their position with the people too dear.
What separated John from all the other wandering preachers and prophets roaming the Judean wilderness in those days, was that he came to bear witness to the Light and not to bear witness to himself. John, we might say, was a clear lantern who shone out with the light that was not of him, but from Him Who IS the Light of all men.
What is very rare in a “preacher,” is an ability to let individuals grow up and find their own inner resources in Christ. It is a great temptation to those who bring others up in Christ to make those others dependent on them. There is a time for that, but there is a time for growing up, too.
John came to bear witness to the Light that everyone might believe by him. He was the first to testify that, “This is the Christ, this is the Lamb of God, believe on Him!” That is why it says that all are believing through him. John the Baptist’s witness is the first witness to testify that this is the One who takes away the sin of the world and baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Now every one of us who witnesses to this follows after John’s witness.
It truly is not ourselves but Another to Whom we give witness. As John said to the Pharisees, “I am the voice …” and we also are the voice crying in the wilderness. All we can do is give witness to what we have seen and heard. We do not know where the seed (the word we speak) will land and how it will come up. It has a life of its own.
The first time I went to formally “witness” to anyone after I went nuts for Jesus, I set up an appointment with a married couple we knew to go over and tell them about my new-found faith. I don’t remember what I told them, but they agreed to let us come over. Janis and I drove to their house one night after work, and took our friend Chris, one of our best friends and part of our hippie-life entourage, who showed no interest in Jesus that I could see.
We got to our friends’ house and sat on a couch, Janis on one side of me and Chris on the other. Roger and his wife were opposite us on another couch. I began to tell them about receiving Jesus and how it had happened to me. I didn’t get far before all hell broke loose. Roger was livid, “How dare you come over here to shove religion down my throat!” I was innocent, really. I thought because I saw how wonderful Jesus was, how in a moment of time He had changed my whole life, others would see it, too. After I explained it to them, how could they not want it? I was stunned at their anger. But they asked us to leave and we did.
I thought that night was a total bust and I was bummed out when we got home. After we got home, Chris, who had not said a word all evening and to whom I had given no thought, came up to me and asked, “Do you think I could receive Christ?” I was bowled over, but we prayed with her right there, and her life changed, too. And after, Chris affected many many others with her living witness of Christ, until her early death at 24, only a couple of years later to lung cancer.
We just are the witness God makes us to be in the current moment. We never know what seeds we are planting or how they will come up. It isn’t of ourselves, but is of the Light to which we are bearing witness. His Light manifests, and His Seed bears His fruit!
“Be not afraid – only believe!”