Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
Most of us acknowledge that John the Baptist, was the one
of whom the Prophet Isaiah speaks when he writes:
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. Isaiah 40:3 & Mark 1:3
Yet perhaps too few of us have ever asked ourselves WHY it was needful and necessary for preparation to be made for the Lords ministry? Surely Jesus himself was a powerful “minister” and a powerful “preacher” and a powerful “prophet” not to mention the glorious overriding truth that he was and still is a powerful Saviour. In this light, some might reasonably argue that he needed none to prelude his arrival, none to “prepare the way before him!” Yet any such argument reveals a lack of understanding of the Spiritual Components of ministry.
You must realize that contrary to popular thinking, ministry is not a job, ministry is not a profession, ministry is not an occupation, ministry is not a vocation, ministry is not a calling. Ministry can and does include these components, but these are only the human components of ministry; and ministry, in order for it to minister, must include the spiritual dimension. There can be no real or relevant ministry without the Holy Spirit. For the things of God are “not by might, nor by power but by MY SPIRIT says the Lord” Zechariah 4:6 … and in order for the Holy Spirit to minister to the Word, and the Word to minister to the Spirit, (and the two cannot, and should not be divided) there must be a preparation done.
If nothing else – that makes sense!
On many and numerous occasions Jesus refers to the Word of God, and the ministry of the Word, as SEED, or seed sown.
No conscientious farmer or gardener, would ever dream of
merely scattering seed to the wind in the hope that it would settle on good, fertile and receptive soil? Instead many laborious hours of hard work are put into the preparation of the ground and soil beforehand, so that the seed has a chance of germinating, growing and producing a harvest. In the same way ministry, (all ministry) must involve and include preparation, if it is ever going to minister to human need.
In fact I would go further and say that without preparation God cannot bless our work. I learned a long time ago, that if we think we can do anything for the Lord without him,
all we will get from him, is the opportunity to try!
Paul says in 1 Cor 3:v7
“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” – We need God!
This is why week by week I must spend many hours in my study in preparation for every service I conduct. First in prayer and then in reading and then writing and rewriting and editing these messages and sermons that I bring to you. I must know how to take what God is teaching me, and how to share that with you for the greater good of all. This takes careful and prayerful preparation and many days work and many pages of script before I feel contented in God about what I offer to Him first, and then speak or preach to you secondly.
Now there have been times when I have been sitting in a Church service, worshipping with others, and without any notice or preparation whatsoever, the minister has kindly asked ME to step forward and Preach the sermon, simply because he himself had confidence in my ability to “speak for God” on that occasion. I am long enough on the way, and long enough in the
work – to be able to do so without too much difficulty, but God knows I don’t like it, and I feel ill prepared for the responsibility of it. Yet I know of those who approach the pulpit as if it were some kind of soap-box on which they should pontificate their own remarks opinions and views, and when they’ve done… that’s all it was. Lord have mercy on us! The Pulpit is a Holy place, and in it we handle Holy Material, and we have a Holy responsibility to do it right as befits our Lord and Master, our Saviour and our King. God expects our best, our BEST! If you cannot honestly say “Lord this is the best I can offer” then do not go out to do His bidding or His work? It’s unacceptable!
Some of you would never dream of offering shoddy work to your employer, but teaching a Sunday School Class, or Leading a Study Group, or a Prayer Group, or a Youth Group, you pull together your thoughts in the car on your way to the meeting. This will not do for God, and this will not work and this will never minister to one living soul. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is thanking God for the impact I have made in their lives?
I sure hope so!
I watched a TV programme a few weeks ago about “Child Preachers” and while I am encouraged to think that there are Children who are genuinely gifted by God, and who may one day be greatly used by God, there was a “showmanship” element to the programme that I found most disturbing. One young 15 year old preacher said that he wanted to be the best dressed preacher in the world. This is the classic “Zeal without knowledge” syndrome of which Paul the apostle warns in Romans 10. A Man or Woman, Boy or Girl is not made a Preacher by how they dress or what they wear, unless first they have donned the “Garment of Salvation” and the “Robe of
Righteousness” which are Christ’s. Isaiah 61.10 By all means encourage the children to follow Christ into the ministry of Preaching, but prepare their way also, and teach and
instruct them in Gods ways not in the ways of
“Hollywood glamour or glitterati”.
So then, lets get back to John the Baptist and the reason why HE was preparing the people for the Kingdom Ministry of Jesus, “the Word made Flesh”? I believe that there were three important elements in the preparation work which John began and carried on even while Jesus was preaching. First, there was the necessity to create a Saving Expectation, then a Supernatural Expectation and then a Spiritual Expectation.
Up to that point, indeed up to an including the point of the Cross and the Crucifixion, Mans hope for Salvation had lain in the fulfilment of the Law. The 10 Commandments, and the dutiful obedience to the rites and rituals of those exercises and instructions which God had given through Moses and the Prophets.
Now, John the Baptist mission and ministry was to speak of a “better way” a “better world” a “Kingdom” and a “King” “And he preached, saying, There cometh one after me, He that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” Mark 1:7 He was preparing the people for the coming King. Then He was also preparing them for a Supernatural Experience. He adds:
” I baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost”. Mark 1:8 The people had never heard such things, they had no understanding of who the Holy Ghost was, nor of how he could personally change their way of living.
They had understood from the Prophets something of the influence and power of the Spirit of God upon the great and the good of the past. They knew about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they knew of Joseph and Daniel, of David and Solomon, and they knew in some small part of the influence and power of the Spirit of God upon these great men, but they had no understanding of personal spiritual life… it simply was not yet possible. So they had to be prepared for it in their thinking, before they could have faith for it – in their hearts. “For Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”.
Romans 10:17 A new Spiritual Expectation had to be created, ground for the seed to come, and through the mission and message of John the Baptist, the way was being prepared for another Kingdom. They had been witness to the working and ways of Rome, now they were about to witness the working and ways of the Son of God, a greater Governor than any Pilate!
It is the same today, unless the Holy Spirit first prepares the heart of man to accept Jesus as Saviour, there can be no Salvation. For …”Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:v12. Unless the seed fall into good (or prepared) ground it will die!
Now the reason why I have prepared this message entitled
“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”
is because right now, God is in need of more “John the Baptist’s” As for his first advent, Jesus next advent too needs preparation. Yes, Jesus is coming back again. It is the next big event in the history of our world. First He will come back suddenly and secretly not to the earth but to the air, the
atmosphere above it, to the clouds, and call away the Church, Rapture the Church for the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Seven years later, following a Great Tribulation period, He will return on His next appearing to immediately make all the world His Kingdom, destroy all evil, to bind Satan and establish His Millennium Reign for the next 1000 years from Jerusalem.
But it is preparation for his sudden and secret coming for the Church, preparation for the Rapture, that I want to focus on today.
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding within the Church about that event. Much of it stems from the fact that too many of us don’t read what the Bible says about it, and many Preachers are afraid to tackle the issue fearing being misunderstood. Yet there is no confusion or panic in Heaven! God has laid down His word and settled it in Heaven for ever. It cannot and will not change, and what I say about it today will be as true as it was 30 years ago, and still be true 30 years from now. So listen very carefully, it is most important that the Church today grasp this truth and it weighs heavily upon
me to share it with you.
It is in these facts of Scripture that our future destiny lies.
Many of our Churches are teaching that the world will get into such an awful state, and there will be so much terror and trial and testing, that Jesus will suddenly come and rescue, catch his bride away and it will all be over for us, and the lost and God-less will get what they deserve. I meet Christians virtually every week, who will say things like, “Its getting like the end”
or “its just a sign of the times” and many are praying
“Oh Lord come and take us out of here”!
That’s how I know those who don’t study or know the Scriptures. These are they that do not read for themselves
and so walk in error and deception.
But if you know your Bible, you will know that Jesus is NOT coming to rescue His Church, nor to catch her up out of the mess of this world, and He will only be coming for the Church when the Church has prepared itself for His Kingdom and his Coming, when
We have Prepared the Way of the Lord!
Because this time also, there is a necessity to create a Saving Expectation, then a Supernatural Expectation and then a Spiritual Expectation. Only when the Church has delivered to the whole world the Saving Power of the Gospel, the Supernatural Power of the Gospel, and the Spiritual Power of the Gospel, will God know that this world is not the place for his bride any longer, and will call her up to greater and better things. Then we will be caught away and that which was begun in the Spirit will end in the Spirit, that which began in the supernatural will end in the supernatural: and that which was begun with the Saviour will end with the Saviour.
” That He might present (us) to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should
be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27
Now I must be honest with you today, for I often feel like John, “A voice crying in the wilderness”
for the Church at large, do not like this message, they prefer to stick with their erroneous traditions and bury the people in the pew reminding them that they are just “old sinners saved by grace”. If you think of yourself as an “old sinner” saved by grace, you will never achieve anything for God. This is the lie of the Devil to keep you ineffective and in cold storage. (I call it) I too was an “old sinner” well actually I was a “young sinner” for I was saved by grace at the tender age of seven.
But the good news of the gospel is that on that day and at that hour and in that moment, when I trusted in Jesus as my Saviour and sin-bearer, I lost for ever the label “sinner”!
Refuse to bear that Label!
I am not a sinner, old or young or any other sort of sinner. I am a child of the King, I am a son of the Most High God, I am the apple of the eye of God, I am the heir and joint heir with Jesus Christ of all of the glories of heaven. I am seated with Jesus in Heavenly Places, above all evil principalities and powers, and because they have all been put in subjection under His feet, they are all in subjection under my feet. I am a Man greatly beloved, I am empowered and enabled and equipped by the Holy Spirit, I am blessed in my Home and family life, I am blessed with great and good friends, I am regularly blessed with more than enough and to spare, and I am blessed in my ministry to you and to the Church, the body of Christ, I am a Citizen of His Kingdom,
I am blessed in knowing sin forgiven, blessed with the peace of God which passes all understanding, blessed with the presence of God and the protection of Heavens Angels and blessed in my going out and coming in. I am blessed with Health and wholeness, with happiness and contentment, and with miraculous answers to Prayer. That’s who I am.
I am not an “old sinner”.
This is why I will work every hour that God lends me to prepare the way for his kingdom and his coming, to show to the world His Great and Glorious Salvation, the Supernatural Power of faith in Gods Word and Promises, and the Spiritual Reality of kingdom relationship and walk with God. I am not the man I was a year ago, I am not the man I was a month ago, for I have stepped up, I have reached another level in God, and I wish with all my heart that you could be here, and that you would join me in this crying in the wilderness – prepare the way!
Every day God is answering my prayers and opening my eyes to see things I never understood before. His word has truly become a fresh fountain, a well of water within, a living steam, a bubbling brook and an overflowing treasure.
If God can get all of us to this place of knowing who we really are in Him, then he will come back for us, sooner and not later, for this world cannot hold us.
Oh how we need the shaking of God in our Churches to rid us for ever of the dead religiosity and the divided theologies of the past. We badly need the renewal anointing of this life that comes from God, that is full abundant and overflowing, the life Jesus came to give us. If you are listening me today and you cannot honestly say with your hand on your heart that you have this abundant life right now, then you are not where you need to be in God. You are not enjoying what Jesus died to buy for you.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Let me read you a few verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 4. Here Paul is speaking of the gifts that God has given to his Church and the reason why he gave them.
Look at verse 11.
(11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
(12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
(13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
This my dear friends, is the desire on the heart of God for His Church. Again I say, as a Preacher, mine is often a voice crying in the wilderness, for most church-going folk today are opposed to the very idea of the “unity of the faith”. But mark my words it is going to happen, for Jesus is not coming back for a Bride that is in bits and pieces, and in every denominational camp, there will have to come on us a great shaking, but Jesus will bring us together “perfecting us” and enabling us to “dwell together in unity” then and there God Commands a Blessing. Psalm 133:3
It is time to set aside our labels and call ourselves Christian, and nothing else. Time to loosen the denominational shore-line, to set aside the things that divide us, and unite in the one that sets us free, for the sake of the Kingdom and the King
whose name is Jesus. It must begin somewhere, could God be speaking to you? If we could get ourselves together as we are supposed to be, then will the world sit up and take notice of us.
As I write this sermon, I am conscious from the letters in my mail bag that there are troubles in virtually every Church Congregation in the land, and the Devil is having a field day.
Fewer people attend Church today both North and South,
than at any other time in our recent History.
Ministers and Priests are taking early retirement under the pressures and stresses of the job. Many are even facing legal action for their theological stance. The world has begun to tell us how we should be running the Church. Lord have mercy!
We have lost the battle when we should be winning the war, and our world is in a mess. It is time to Get up, Stand up, Speak up, and Look up … it is time to prepare the way of the Lord – time to prepare the World for its new Governor & King – the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you stand up with me? And if you will
may Almighty God enable us to stand together always –
for His Great Glory. Amen.