Encounter: John the Baptizer (John 1)


Identity theft affects 9 million people each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, social security identification number, bank account, or credit card without your permission to assume finances or debt in your name. Thieves may open an account, make purchases, and charges until you discover and report the crime.

Victims can not only lose funds but ruin credit, they can lose out on loans or job opportunities, or endure months of aggravation.  The average out of pocket expense for an individual is $631.[1]

Losing your identity is a matter of security. If your identity is protected then you are safe from outside harm; if your identity is unprotected then you are in constant danger and damage.

Today’s world not only suffers from physical identity theft but also emotional and spiritual identity theft. People misunderstand their created purpose and are without an identity. You hear people say things like:

–          I don’t know who I am.

–          I need time to find myself.

–          I’m seeking direction and purpose.

–          I’m still looking for what I want to do in life.

–          U2 song: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”

When our identity is rooted in things of this world we not only have a loose foundation but we are open to danger and damage in this world. You must discover your identity or life will be hopeless. No identity, no reality; life will be a constant fantasy world filled with false hope.

Speaking about identity: Words by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, penned in 1944

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest O God, I am Thine!

Today starts a new teaching series that will lead us to know our identity and know God.

EXAMINE As you read John 1:19-29, 3:26-30, we can discover how to define our identity through these 3 life principles.

Before we examine these principles we need to know a little about a man in the Bible named John the Baptizer.

–          He was the son of Elizabeth (and Zechariah), which makes him a cousin of Jesus.  Luke 1:36

–          His mother was barren which made him a gift from God. Luke 1:7

–          He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:6 {he’d make a good contestant on Survivor but not so much for family dinner}

–          He lived in desert woods. Luke 1:80

–          He addressed crowds as “You Brood of Vipers” Luke 3:7

–          Some mistook his identity for a prophet, and even the Messiah. John 1:21

–          He baptized Jesus and said, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.” John 1:34

–          John preached “REPENT”; boldly confronting others with their sins so they could see God. Luke 3:1-19

–          In fact, John died for challenging King Herod’s adulterous lifestyle. Luke 3:19, John 14:1-12

–          In Acts 19 we read that people followed John even 30+ years after his own death and Jesus’ death & resurrection. The apostle Paul explained to these followers how John’s teachings pointed to Jesus and they in turn placed their faith into Jesus.

This character description will help you understand John’s identity. It will also help you begin to understand your own identity.

Your identity is not defined by labels (1:19-23).

Many people were wondering who John was, since he was doing many things that made him stand out. He ate locusts and wild honey, wore leather belt and camels hair but more than that; he baptized people for the forgiveness of sins. Many people identified him as “The Christ” “Elijah” and “The Prophet” but John would not be identified by any of these labels. His goal was not to draw attention to himself but toward God.

Labels are easy to give. Such labeling often leads to stereotypes and at that point becomes unhelpful.  Though John looked like the above labels they were not accurate because they were based on false assumptions.

Likewise, you may be labeled by false assumptions. These can be things like:

–                    Age:
1 Timothy 4:12 “let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Proverbs 20:29 “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is gray hair.”

–                    Race or Gender

Jesus in John 4 with Samaritan Woman; John 20 with Mary’s resurrection testimony

–                    Dress style

John in camel’s hair and leather belt, not soft clothing (Mt 11:8); character & conviction > clothing

–                    Relationships/Friends

Matt 11:19 “they say.. look at [Jesus, he’s] a friend of sinners”

Mark 2:17 “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.”

–                    Others like education, employment, the list is endless. None of these things truly define your identity. Who you are goes much deeper than external labels.

µ            Define yourself not by labels but by your Lord. Lordship labels life.

Your identity is not defined by ability (1:24-26)

John called people to repentance and baptized individuals. The Pharisees and people challenged John on the validity of baptizing people if he was not a key religious figure. In other words, they were saying, “If we cannot define you by labels, can we define you based on your abilities?” John’s answers in the negative saying his baptism is insignificant in comparison to another’s baptism. John baptizes with the physical element of water. Another will baptize with something far greater – the Holy Spirit of God!

Some may be tempted to define themselves through their giftedness and abilities. Things like musical talent or athletic ability, intelligence or other performance awards. Again, these things are superficial in nature and do not fully define who you are.

µ      Define yourself not by abilities but by your appreciation of God’s grace and gifts in life.

Talents & abilities are given to you; they do not originate within yourself. God gifted you to proclaim His fame, not your own.


Your identity is defined by worship (1:27-34, 3:26-30).

John understood that his identity did not originate within himself. It wasn’t based on labels or abilities but on his God. John pointed people to the greatness and worth of Jesus. John showed great humility in saying he was not worthy of being a lowly servant – untying sandals. However, Jesus is someone whom he could base his life on. Jesus was the One whom gives freedom from sin and eternal life in the presence of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


µ      Identity is rooted in our purpose as Image-bearers of God to glorify Him!

µ      Jesus is bridegroom, Church is bride… the voice pronouncing wedding vows fades to magnify the marriage

  • John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease”

  • Are we more concerned about voicing our agenda or God’s appeal and worth?
    • Revelation 5 – “We Fall Down”
    • Mrs. Charlotte Zilke was a humble voice to proclaim the greatness of God, not her own.

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