Everyone lives by a moral or ethical standard. It may be unwritten or even unconscious, but it is present for everyone. It may be the code of ethics or the rule of life that was imprinted by family; it may be the code of ethics or the rule of life that is imprinted by the laws of the land; it may be the code of ethics or the rule of life that is imprinted by church tradition; it may be the ethics or the rule of life that is imprinted by God and the Scriptures. Often it is a blend of many of these. For a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the conscious decision and commitment has been made to be ruled by God’s will, by God’s law, by God’s Word, by God’s Spirit.
Inevitably, there are times when cultures collide; when the voice of family, or law, or tradition or religion differs from the voice of God. This is what is meant by cultural encroachment. The difficult thing is that many times we are influenced by culture unwittingly; we don’t even recognize it. The pressure of the crowd, of the culture, of popular opinion can be overwhelming and difficult to resist.
Our Bible belt story this morning is about John the Baptizer who was renowned primarily for his message but easily recognized by his wardrobe and diet. He was the original fire and brimstone preacher and he wore the prophetic garments of camel hair and leather belt like his predecessor Elijah. He lived off the land and ate locusts and date honey. His proclamation passion was to prepare people to meet the Lord. The challenge of cultural encroachment, of God’s rule of life being eroded, corrupted, or even replaced is not a new phenomenon but an age-old problem. Let’s take a look at Matthew chapter 3 and hear a message from two thousand years ago from the prophet John the Baptizer that sounds like it could have been written for Plano, Wylie, Murphy, Sachse, Allen, Parker and Richardson; for us today.