By Erich Wallace
Now, as I sit here writing this, it is the beginning of the third week of Advent. I realize that by the time this post gets published, it will probably not be Advent any longer, but as I’ve reflected on the Scripture readings from the early chapters of Luke the last couple weeks, I think what I’ve discovered will be relevant year round. In turn, I’d still like to talk about the common theme of Advent: “preparing the way.” As I write on this topic, there is a classic biblical figure I would like to discuss who is known for preparing the way: John the Baptist. Let’s look at how he helps us to do that…
First off, John the Baptist was destined to be one holy dude from the get-go. His birth was foretold by an angel, and the angel said about John: “He will be great before the Lord… and 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,” (Luke 1:15-17). Not bad, huh? But how was John prepared to prepare the way for Christ’s coming during his lifetime? He was sent out into the wilderness until his public appearance to Israel (Luke 1:80).
Have you ever been out in the wilderness for a while? It is a purifying thing. It’s not comfortable. There are bugs. It can be really cold or really hot, and there’s really not many comfortable places to put your feet up and watch Hallmark movies. In turn, the distractions and comforts of life were removed from John, and it allowed him to more easily focus on God. Also, his diet: it consisted of locusts and wild honey. To me, that is basically fasting. Have you ever fasted? When we fast from food, which we (or maybe I) often find our comfort in, and when we spend the time we would spend eating praying, it’s amazing the clarity we can obtain about spiritual things. John the Baptist spent his life away from distractions becoming master over his flesh, which led to him having a pure heart and being able to “see God” as the beatitudes say in Matthew 5:8 (“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”). Therefore, this dude’s “way” was prepared!
When I first read about John the Baptist and his holiness, I thought, “Well if he’s really holy and was residing in the wilderness living off of bugs, shouldn’t I do that too?” (I was pretty convinced in college that I basically should). However, as you read on in the Gospel, when the crowds ask John what they should do to “prepare the way of the Lord,” he doesn’t answer them saying, “Leave your jobs and way of life and come and live in the wilderness as I do.” He speaks directly into their situations, or more like directly to their hearts.
“Whoever has two cloaks is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise. Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages,’” (Luke 3:11-14). He knew these people’s situations and spoke directly into them. Like John the Baptist, the Lord wants to speak directly into your situation to help you prepare the way.
What things do you have in your life that are blocking the way to Christ? Are you holding a grudge against a friend? Are you doing things with your boyfriend/girlfriend you shouldn’t be? Do you spend all of your free time scrolling through social media or playing video games? Have you not been honoring God through your work or studies? Have you not been thoughtful toward others? Guys and gals, we all have struggles we are trying to overcome, and that is okay. The question is, are we going to have the faith to listen to that voice of John the Baptist in our hearts and make the choices to try and get them out of the way?
I’m not gonna lie guys, this is the tough work of Christianity. Many atheists claim that Christianity is just a crutch people use to make life easier, but I would argue the opposite. Before I started paying attention to my faith, my life was much easier. When I started realizing that Christ makes demands on my life and that I needed (and still need) to change is when the struggle started. This is how we grow in faith, though. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.” When we make choices to change something in our lives and turn it over to the Lord, we are having confidence in what we hope for (heaven) and assurance of God (whom we don’t see). When we start to make choices that prepare the way and to put our faith in Christ is when our faith comes alive and is when people around us begin to see that we have something that they may not, and they begin to desire it.
So, will you prepare the way for Christ in your life?
I pray you and I both can.
Merry Christmas to you all, and I pray 2019 will be our best year yet as we try to prepare the way of the Lord more and more.