John’s Greatness: His Self-Denial

John’s Greatness: His Self-Denial
“‘But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!’” (Matthew 11:8).

The easy way is seldom if ever the way of success. Great generals risk their lives just as their troops do. Great athletes train relentlessly, forgoing the pleasure most people take for granted. And in order to help save other lives, medical researchers sometimes risk exposure to deadly disease to find cures.

The self-indulgent person is not willing to live as John the Baptist did. He wore camel’s hair and a leather belt and ate locusts and honey (Matt. 3:4). His lifestyle was a down-to-earth protest against self-indulgence and self-centeredness. John lived completely apart from the hypocritical, corrupt political and religious systems of his day. His devotion to God’s kingdom completely superseded any personal comforts or attractions to the world’s standards.

Prior to John’s birth, the angel predicted to Zacharias, John’s father, that John would “be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15). That was part of the Nazirite vow, along with pledging not to cut one’s hair or touch anything unclean, that many Jews took for a few months or years. But John, along with Samson (Judg. 13:7; 16:17) and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), took the vow for life. John the Baptist had a lifelong, voluntary commitment to self-denial as an act of devotion and service to God—one aspect of his greatness that Jesus praised.

Ask Yourself

What have you sacrificed in order to stay true to the will of God? What are some things—even good, sinless things—that others are allowed to enjoy, but which cannot be a part of your life for one reason or another?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,


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