Are we preparing the way for the Lord?

What implications does the way-preparing that John the Baptist did for Jesus have for me?

Luke 3:4, 15-18

3 4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

Week 1 (January)

"They're without a pastor."

The words fell on me like a lead weight. It was the final Saturday night of a 10-day district missionary tour. And I'd just found out that the small church where I was to be the following morning was between pastors.

That bothered me. I had the premonition that in a few hours I was to arrive at a church where confusion would be reigning. There might be no one really "in charge." And I was tired. I had been in a different bed every night for 10 days, eating at a different table every day. I didn't relish the thought of having to fill a role as pastor for a congregation.

Sure enough. The next morning, when I arrived, there was some confusion in the air. Some thought I should speak in Sunday school instead of the worship hour. Others wanted me to just project pictures of our work and talk about them, something I prefer not to do on Sunday mornings.

The whole thing was unnerving to me. I inwardly closed my eyes and prayed for a portion of grace, then announced what I thought we ought to do. I then sat down to await the beginning of Sunday school.

We did have a good service that morning and I even wound up teaching a Sunday school class. But later that day the Lord began to work me over.

For, you see, I should have cared a little less about my being tired and homesick. I could have even taken charge a bit more. Perhaps I could have offered to be somewhat flexible in what I had planned to do.

In short, the Lord told me that it looked like I had been more concerned about having my own way prepared than I had been about preparing His way. I hadn't really prepared the way for the Lord that Sunday morning like I should and could have.

John the Baptist's life speaks to us at that point. No doubt John had been under tremendous temptation to take the glory to himself. But he didn't. He talked about Someone even greater -- much greater, he said, whom his listeners should follow. As had been prophesied in Isaiah 40:3- 5, John pointed the way to Jesus.

I've been evaluating my life with the question: Am I preparing the way for the Savior? Would He be pleased to step into the situation I have just helped to create? If He wouldn't be pleased, then am I open to His Spirit's ethical correction and cleansing?

In the late 1800s, the novel In His Steps by Charles Sheldon got people asking the question: What would Jesus do in this situation? Maybe there's another, even better question we should be asking ourselves: Are we preparing the way for Him?

The best thing we can do in our Christian life is to offer humble and courageous witness to the Saviorhood of Christ. Are we too often talking about ourselves, even our Christian life, when we ought to be pointing the way to Someone greater than us, much greater?

Are we preparing the way for the Savior with our lives and our lips -- as John the Baptist did? Are we as humble, sacrificial, and yet courageous witnesses as He was?

Discussion questions

  1. How did John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus, and what lessons can we learn from his example in terms of preparing the way for the Lord in our own lives?
  2. What challenges might we face in preparing the way for the Lord, and how can we overcome these challenges to become better witnesses for Christ?
  3. In what ways might we be more concerned with our own desires and plans than with preparing the way for the Savior, and how can we become more open to the Spirit's ethical correction and cleansing?
  4. How can we balance talking about our own Christian life with pointing the way to Someone greater than ourselves, and how might this impact our witness as humble, sacrificial, and courageous followers of Christ?

I wrote these devotional thoughts while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in Standard, a weekly take-home Faith Connections curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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