Preparing The Way Of The Lord
General Idea: A man goes out to baptize and preach the coming of the Lord, to "prepare ye the path." Obedience, willingness to go all out in faith, and a willingness to endure extreme persecution for the Lord characterized John the Baptist. He was the road builder laying the path for the Lord. He removed the rocks of sin by tearing them up and exposing them, without fear of reprisal by the arrogant and prideful hypocrites. He was indeed extreme, and was needed to show a corrupt religious system its errors and point to the truly Righteous Messiah. I wonder if such a person would be welcomed in a church today? Such extreme commitment is considered foolish amongst the world, and even with many Christians. We may not be called to eat bugs and curse pious frauds, but we are called to obedience, in our heart, mind, and actions! In addition, this does take an extreme stand! Have you heard His call? Have you responded to it? Have you made a stand?
a. Each of the four Gospels introduce Jesus' public ministry with the preaching of John the Baptist, who lived, and worked in the wilderness by the river Jordan (Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 3:22-36).
1. He had a following, and was zealous as well as "successful," as "People from Jerusalem and all Judea"…who were …"confessing their sins" went to him to see who was preparing the way for what was to come. (Success is never to be measured in numbers, but in faith and obedience!)
2. Though John's work was short-lived, because he was imprisoned and later decapitated, his work was clearly important.
3. He called people to repentance, which literally means to change our minds and ways 180 degrees!
i. This call is to change people; to have them turn from sin and then turn to God.
ii. Repentance was not just sorrow or emotion, but an actual change (Matt. 4:17; 27:3)! This change would then allow us to feel the sorrow of the hurt we cause not only ourselves, but also the people around us, and even God (2 Co 7:10-11)! When one serves the Lord or has repented, the fruits will be manifested. If not, something is very wrong. Therefore, if a leader is gossiping, or a Christian is acting one way on Sunday and another on Monday, something is very wrong! (Gal 5)
iii. OT repentance meant to return to a life of obedience and faithfulness with the Mosaic Covenant.
iv. It did not mean self-punishment, as it was interpreted in the medieval monastic moments, such as cutting, gouging, and even torturing one's self!
v. Nor does it mean remorse, depression, or self-pity, although it can cause these. Judas was sorrowful for his actions, but he did not repent.
4. Kingdom meant, "rule" and heaven is the source of the rule. In other words, we are to be ruled by God in all aspects of our lives!
b. John the Baptist was fulfilling prophecy (Isa 40:3; Mal 4:5); make His paths straight (John 1:19-23).
1. John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah," but was not actually Elijah (I2 Kings 1:8).
2. John was bold and determined, and he knew his call and its urgency. The leaders and "powers that be" did not intimidate him (John 3:30)!
3. An angel told Zacharias that his son John would "make ready a path for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17)
4. John's baptism was for preparation and cleansing. It was a public display from people who truly desired to repent, and implemented that repentance into their lives. The baptism itself does not cleanse, it is only the public ceremony or statement of the commitment of the person being baptized!
i. Jesus Himself did not baptize anyone, but His disciples did, and then called us to do so (John 4:1-2; Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; 8:35-38; 10:47-48).
ii. Some people heard the message, saw their filth, and sought to be clean (children of God--the Elect), while others made up excuses and lived in denial of their sin and their lost state (children of the devil) (Prov. 28:13; John 8:44)! People do the same today! You will never have freedom, or true life, unless you relinquish your determination to have your own way! Being stubborn or being in denial will cause you to go to Hell, and you will miss what you could have had!
5. His preaching centered on repentance and he told people they could not trust their ancestry for salvation. This means the same as, being reared as a Christian will not make you a Christian. You must profess faith and repentance on your own!
i. His curse on the Pharisees and Sadducees was because of their hypocrisy, not living the faith. They were "dressed up" for show, and had no go!
ii. He warned that Judgment was near. Most believe this means when we die, we will be judged, and the urgency of his message meant that our life span is short. This shadows the judgment of the world to come, too (Matt. 26:31-46; John 12:48; 15:1-6; Rom. 11:11-23' II Thess. 1:7-10).
iii. Luke also records John's compassion for the poor (Luke 3:10).
iv. The big finality in John's preaching was that the One to come is mightier, and comes… to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt 13:30; John 16:7-8, 12-13)!
c. Repentance is essential!
1. John's ministry prepared people for Jesus' ministry and teaching.
2. The call to repent was what Jesus proclaimed (Matt. 4:17; 9:13; 11:20; 12:41; Mk 1:14-15; Luke 24:46-47)!
2. This is the same message the apostles proclaimed (Mt 10:7; Acts 2: 38; 3:4. 19; 17:30; 20:20-21; 26:19-20!
i. If we do not understand what it means to repent, we will then miss the centrality of the gospel message!
ii. If we do not understand what it means to repent, we cannot be His disciples!
4. The Great Commission (Matt 28; Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23) centered upon repentance as a precursor to being discipled!
5. Christian adult/believer's baptism is the public profession that a changed occurred in you by the way of repentance!
3. The fire John talked about was the action of the Spirits coming and staying within us. This occurred at Pentecost (Ac 1:4-5; 2:1-21).
4. John foretold that Jesus would separate the "wheat" from the "chaff" (Matt. 3:12; 10:34-39; 13:47-50). This can mean that division will happen before the peace we expect comes!
d. John's message is still needed and required today, because we cannot have salvation without repentance. Grace is free, but grace cannot come into a heart where it is not welcomed, and when being unrepentant, we will not welcome His grace!
- Have you ever seen a street preacher? If so, how did you feel about him?
- How much obedience and willingness do you think is necessary to follow Christ?
- How does your relationship and growth with Christ compare to what you see in John the Baptist? Would this be a fair comparison?
- Why was John the Baptist willing to go all out in faith, and take on extreme persecution?
- How do you feel about people in the church who say one thing, yet have a completely different lifestyle? Prideful hypocrites?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worse and 1 being perfect, do you think the Church as a whole needs to be shown that they are a corrupt religious system with errors and that they miss the point to the truly Righteous Messiah?
- What are the rocks of sin, that need to be torn up, exposed, and repented from in you?
- John had a following and was successful. How do you define success?
- Why was John's work important?
- What does repentance mean?
- Why would it be wrong for a Christian to act one way on Sunday and another on Monday? If it is wrong, why do so many do it?
- Have you ever felt the sorrow or the hurt you caused yourself, or the people around you, from your actions?
- Why do you suppose medieval, monastic moments interpreted repentance as being self-punishment?
- Why did the leaders and "powers that be" not intimidate John? What can you learn from his determination that would give you more confidence and hope?
- How would you explain John's baptism?
- Why do you suppose that Jesus did not baptize anyone?
- Do you think that John's message is still needed and required today?
- Is the Word of God sharp and is it penetrating you, so that your life shows it?
- We are called to obedience, in our heart, mind, and actions! Moreover, this does take an extreme stand! Have you heard His call, and have you responded to it? Have you made a stand?
- Are you showing true acceptance of Jesus as your Lord? You can know this by…. (Luke 6:46)?
All that you do in life must be a reflection of a life surrendered to Christ. If you are so self-willed there can be no room for the living Christ, this may mean that others will use you, take advantage of you, get mad at you, ignore you, go around you, ridicule you, and persecute you! However, what they do to you, they do to Him! Make sure you are not the one persecuting the Lord!
© 2002 R. J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.com