December 2019

First a quick joke: John baptizes Jesus and the heavens part. John looks up to the sky. He sees the Holy Spirit descending. He’s filled with amazement. He hears the words, “This is my beloved son…” He eyes now shine with pride. “in whom I’m well pleased.” John now drops his head in humility, staring deeply into the depths of the Jordan. “Ahem,” Jesus gets his attention. And apologetically He says, “I believe He meant me.”

Preparation, we can all agree that it helps to know what you’re preparing for.

To prepare for this sermon I reread the gospel accounts of John the Baptist. Studied the translations and looked for relevant verses. Spent a great deal of time doing additional research and putting it all together.

To prepare for my Deaconship I had to take 10 college level courses on theology which required a great deal of homework in addition to putting in hundreds of hours of service work for the church.

John the Baptist prepared the Way for the Lord. Let’s find out about John.

John is the son of a miraculous birth and is the firstborn son of a Levite priest. The older cousin of Jesus by way of their related mothers.

He drank no wine or liquor. He did not cut his hair or beard. His life was devoted to God.
Most importantly according to LUKE, John was filled with the Holy Spirit before birth.

He is to go ahead of the Lord in the spirit of Elijah. He’s the third to take on the spirit of Elijah. Elisha was the second.

Elijah’s work was to reveal the true God to Israel in a time of national crisis and to proclaim the sacrament of baptism. When Elijah faced the prophets of Baal the fire was kindled by water poured out three times upon the sacrifice. Where there is the water of baptism there is always the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns away the impurities and illuminates the faithful.

John spent a great deal of time alone with God in the Wilderness. A model of pure self-sacrifice and humility. He did this for his church. He did it for the people. He became the perfect priest.

Jesus said there was no greater prophet than John. John served as the last high priest of the Old Testament.

John was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

The voice of one crying (imploring). John is making a desperate appeal, an urgent request for all to hear. John was filled with the spirit. God was here and His ministry was about to start. The Master is Coming for YOU!

LUKE states, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 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;”

Some believe this refers to all people being made equal. The mighty humbled and the humble exalted. This sounds good to me, but I also believe it means to prepare for the world’s true and perfect King. A smooth path is being made for His arrival. The King should not have to climb mountains or descend into valleys, or bump over ruts, or have to take detours. There will be a straight path for Him. A perfect path for the King of All, A smooth path for Jesus to your heart. Open up your heart – The King is Coming!

The first step in your preparation is to repent. Admit that there is a rocky path to our heart. Admit you’re broken. Admit that you need God. We are lost without Him. We don’t exist without God.

John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

John wore what Elijah wore. A garment of camel hide is also very similar to the garments God made for Adam and Eve (basically, leather hides) to cover their nakedness. This is a quick and easy to make garment due to the size of the hide, a lot less sewing was needed. It was tough and protected the wearer from the temperature extremes of the desert.

Also, a camel carries human travelers over the worst terrain on this planet. A beast of burden, a draught animal that carries a heavy load, all for the benefit of humans.

Locusts would be a seasonal food, which were actually migratory grasshoppers that desert people were fond of.

Everyone was going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

A Jew would not want to be baptized. Converts were subject to baptism. It was the start of their spiritual journey and their relationship with the God of Israel. The act of immersion is not a momentary or temporary act as the washing for purification was. It would produce a transformative status upon the one baptized.

Why would Jesus be baptized? He was a Jew, He was sinless, He was pure, and He was God. What would the change in His status be?

From Son of God to The Lamb of God. In Leviticus 16:21, we learn that the High Priest lays his hands upon the sacrifice of righteousness transferring the sins and guilt of the Nation into the animal. The animal is then to be released into the wilderness by a fit man of time. This was a man who needed to be mature, (over 30) and could be trusted by God and His people. The guilt-laden animal was released into the wilderness to suffer the punishment for the sins. Jesus the perfect sacrifice at the altar of sacrifice (Joshua’s 12 stone altar in the Jordan river at Gilgal – a stone rolled away / circle of stones) baptized by John the last High Priest chosen by God.

Psalm 4:4-5, KJV, “Stand in awe and do not sin; commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifice of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord.”

We all need to prepare for God. Be in awe of Him. Speak with our heart not our head or our passions and desires and really dwell on it. Think about it. Repent and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus.

John says, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John says that he is not even worthy enough to touch the sandals of Jesus, John doesn’t consider himself to even be worthy of the status of a servant.

Every time I face a new challenge or trial it forces me to face the fact that I am fighting to surrender. Our flesh resists the truth. We struggle to surrender to His will and His perfect plan. We need to be more like our pets and more specifically I will reference dogs. This reminds me of the story of the country doctor.

There was this country doctor who made house calls and his dog followed everywhere. One of his patients was dying and asked the doctor, “How do you prepare for death? What happens when you die?” The doctor thinks about this a moment and then turns away from the man. He opens the door and his dog comes rushing in. The dog excitedly jumps all over the doctor. The doctor turns back to the dying man and said, “Do you see this dog? He didn’t have any idea what was on this side of that door. All he knew was that his master was there, and he wanted to be with him.” “That’s how I feel about death,” the physician continued. “I don’t really know all the what’s and how’s about dying. I’m not totally sure what’s on the other side of that door. But I know who is there, and that’s enough for me. I’m looking forward to being with my Master.”

In this case there is only the need to repent and prepare your heart for love. God has done all the preparing for us. He has prepared a place for us. Our eternal place. We need to accept that and let our love and excitement grab a hold of us and bring us closer to God!

I have had dogs for most of my life. I currently have two dogs. There is quite a lot we can learn from them. They always want to be close to us. One lays right next to me with her head on my thigh, while the other lays on my feet. We should always try to get as close as we can to God.

When we speak to dogs, they twist their heads and perk up their ears to try to understand us. Giving us their complete attention. Do we make that kind of effort to listen to the Word of God?

Also, my dogs go crazy when I come home. Even if I’ve only been gone a little while. They cry and bark excitedly. They even shake as they fight for position to jump on and greet me. They clearly remember me. Do you remember God in the same way? Are we overjoyed when we partake of Communion since we do that in remembrance of Him? In excitement of His return.

My dogs also go crazy when I call out to them. They love that they belong to me. Do we love that we belong to God? We are His and there is nothing we did to deserve that love. The love of our Master. Our creator. I think the dogs clearly understand that. We should be overwhelmed with joy that we belong to God and that He can come back at any time.

John’s whole life was to point people to Jesus and to teach the people to open themselves up for His perfect and eternal love. To John the true message was “JESUS!” Nothing else matters. He had no immediate family. His parents died when he was young and there were no siblings. I’ve had people roll their eyes at me when I speak about Jesus, but I can’t even imagine what John must’ve been like. Hey, John, what’s your favorite color? JESUS. Hoping to meet the right girl and settle down? Nope, just waiting for JESUS. What was John’s legacy? JESUS. If John was granted a burial, I bet he would have had JESUS on his tombstone because that’s the name he would’ve wanted everyone to see.

If John was a dog according to my limited research, he would have been an Akita. Supposedly they are the most loyal and affectionate dog breed. John was loyal to Jesus and loved Jesus and his only concern was to bring more people to Jesus. Even at a time in his life when many think he doubted God and questioned the identity of Jesus I believe he was still filled with the Holy Spirit and John was only asking for clarification.

The Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah are of a dual aspect: Messiah ben Joseph the suffering servant and Messiah ben David the conquering, reigning monarch. The prophets could not see the great interval of time between the two comings of Jesus. We have the gift of hindsight and know that Jesus came as the suffering servant and His second coming will be as the conquering King. The King of Kings. The King of All.

Problem: We get caught up in ourselves. We think we’re in control.

Point: Repent and prepare for God with honesty, a simple peaceful mindset, urgent worship and most of all, love. All of your love to acknowledge and accept His control.

Power: We need to open our hearts for His perfect love. Be ready for our hearts to be overwhelmed with the love of God. God has done all the work and prepared a place for us.

All of this is summed up in Proverbs 3:5 – 6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”