Preparing the Way – By Pastor Paul
In the opening chapter of the gospel of Luke, shortly before Jesus’ birth, was the birth of another man named John. He was prophesied about generations earlier and would play a key part in Jesus’ ministry. The angel of the Lord spoke about John before he was even conceived saying, “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And so it was, Zechariah and his wife conceived and bore a son and named Him John.
As John began the ministry God called him to, he started proclaiming a baptism of repentance, calling people to, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”…because “one who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”(Luke 3) John was given a unique role during that time to prepare the hearts of the people to receive Jesus when he was revealed. John was working to remove any stumbling blocks that people had, such as finding security in being a Jew for salvation, trust in money or power, or those living this life for their own selfish gain. John was pricking the consciences of people by calling out sin, and in so doing was removing stumbling blocks that would hinder the gospel from taking root in peoples hearts. As it says, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” (Luke 3:5)
He was also warning people that a day will come when the master (the LORD) will return to his field and harvest the crop. The wheat will be gathered into the barn but the chaff will be burned with fire. John was saying there are only two categories of people: those who are the wheat (the repentant who are trusting in God’s salvation) and those who are the chaff (the unrepentant who reject God and trust in themselves). So therefore, John’s message was that everyone must prepare their hearts and turn from their sins in repentance and look God’s only salvation, this one that was coming and has now come, Jesus Christ.
As believers in Jesus Christ, finding our righteousness in Him alone, and having had our hearts prepared to receive Him, we now are on a mission similar to John. Jesus’ last command to his disciples as he ascended into heaven was this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
The call for those in Christ is to go and make disciples, calling everyone to turn and repent and teaching all the goodness and riches of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. By doing this we are working to prepare the hearts of those around us to receive Jesus. We are to call people to a life of repentance and a constant turning from sins, fully trusting in the only one who can save—as we ourselves are doing. And the first mission field is our own homes and family. It was said that John’s message would begin the work of “turning the hearts of fathers to their children.” What a grace of God for a little one to grow up in a home and a church family that proclaims only Jesus and strives to prepare every little heart to receive Jesus as Lord. In Jesus Christ, families are being restored as parents are proclaiming the truths of the Gospel to their children day to day. As it says in Deuteronomy 6, parents are to be teaching their children the Word as they walk, as they sit, as they lie down and as they rise.
This is also our task together as the body of Christ (as the Spirit enables us) to work in continually proclaiming the gospel to ourselves, our children, to one another, and to the ends of the earth, “to make a people prepared for the Lord.” May we as a church family continue to strive to remove any stumbling blocks hindering the Gospel from being heard and pave the way by being faithful to prepare hearts; for there will be a day yet to come when all the chaff is gathered for the fire and all the wheat will be finally gathered in the barn. The goal must never be just changing one’s behavior but rather priming the heart to be changed. Ultimately God changes hearts and it is God who uses every situation to prepare hearts, but may we as the church be faithful to the call God has given us in Christ Jesus to be participating in the preparation.
Pastor Paul Linzmeier