Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.
Thinking about cultural engagement isn’t something necessarily new to the church. In his treatise, The City of God, Augustine outlined how the “city of God” (reflected in the church) lives in and engages with the “city of man” (Rome).
Fast-forward to 1951 and H. Richard Niebuhr wrote the classic primer listing five models of how Christians think about and engage culture. And then in the most recent decade, James Davison Hunter and Tim Keller outline a list of ways Christians go about engaging (and even attempting to change) culture.
Moving forward in this post, my goal isn’t to straighten out the complexity of the church’s engagement in culture. However, my aim—at the very least—is to help believers think about our existence and thus our engagement as aliens and sojourners in a pagan and Post-Christian land.
To do so, I want to offer four observations for how John the Baptist was a prophetic witness to the [first] coming of Christ and how the church too can be a prophetic witness to the [second] coming of Christ.
But before I list my four observations, let me define prophetic witness. As people of the already but not yet Kingdom, a prophetic witness seeks to embody and evangelize the truth that the King has come and is coming again to make all things new.
Here are the four ways we can do that based upon John the Baptist.
First, preserve a prophetic existence.
John the Baptist lived in the desert, wore unfashionable clothes, and had an unusual diet. Interestingly, he didn’t have to do any of those things. He did so out of a prophetic existence. As a result, his prophetic residence pointed to a future deliverance; his prophetic style and diet pointed to living a simple life.
As believers, our prophetic existence necessitates us remembering that this world is not our permanent home; that we are looking forward to a home yet to come (Heb. 13). Therefore, we live in the here and now as ambassadors (2 Cor. 5), strangers, and exiles (1 Peter 2) in a foreign land. Our lifestyle points to a coming [new] world.
When this world doesn’t look nor feel like home, we don’t attack, criticize, denigrate, or retaliate. We love, pray, and intercede for the world—all the while exclaiming “Maranatha!”
Second, proclaim a prophetic message.
John the Baptist had a simple message, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 3:1). The major difference between his prophetic message of repentance and ours is that it falls before Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.
Today, the church has the same message with a lot more precision, power, and authority—given Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. We too proclaim a message to the world that they need to “REPENT.” They need to change their hearts, minds, and direction and put them on Christ by claiming allegiance to him.
In changing their direction, they need to admit and confess their sin (rebellion and treason) against the King. They need to ask him for forgiveness as they make him the center of their lives and wait patiently for him to come back (Acts 1:11; Rev. 21).
In short, “Repent, for the King has come and is coming again” is the prophet message we have for the world—that we take to the world.
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Source: Christianity Today