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Prepare the Way

October 24, 2021

Prepare the Way

Passage: Luke 3:1-20
Service Type:

Have you ever been exposed?

I remember about 8 years ago, I was a floor lead at my previous job and I got called up for jury duty and it was made known that I was to be gone at least one day.  As it turned out I was selected to be on the jury, so I called and left a message that I was going to be out all week.  The only problem is that I had left a message on the wrong phone.  On top of that, the plan was that if I didn’t have jury duty my boss was going to take off of work.

So the next day when it was time for our shift to start, there was no one there to lead.  Well jury duty finished at the end of the week and I showed up the following week for our shift and lets just say that things were not well between my boss and I. As things were brought up and how it should have been handled differently, rather than apologize, own my part of the problem, and move on - I dug in my heels and proceeded to defend myself which made things worse.

My boss at one point in our talk, said “Toby, could you be any more selfish in this matter?” And that hit me like a sledge hammer.  We eventually resolved things. But resolving it involved me repenting of a big heart issue.  I had a big prideful chip on my shoulder.  I was not willing to examine myself with some humility and own my percentage of the problem. I was exposed

I would love to say that has been the only time in my life that I have been exposed but there have been other times where I have been in the wrong and someone has pointed it out.

We all have been there in life.  Often God works through other people to bring a word into someone’s life to help them see themselves as they really are (not before the all seeing eye of others) but ultimately before God.  Which provides the opportunity to either in repent in humility and turn to Christ or harden our heart and often seek to remove ourselves from the source of exposure.

Have you ever been exposed for being in the wrong?  How did you handle it?

Main Idea: God’s breaking into the world leaves us exposed giving us the option to either respond in humility forsaking  our allegiances for a new commitment or hardening our heart in standing our ground and face judgment.

We begin our time this morning in the book if Isaiah. God is sending judgment to His people for their rebelliousness by giving them over to Babylonian exile. Israel had rebelled against God’s commands, forgotten his covenant, and ignored his laws - their hard heartedness was laid bare before God and others.

Not only are they being deported leading them to question God’s promise concerning the land but Isaiah 39 ends noting that all the males of the royal family will be castrated - to you and I this seems awfully harsh but to them this is serious because the throne of David is toast.  Because there is nothing Israel can do to maintain the royal line leading to the Messiah - there is no way to be saved.

Although Judgment is looming, Isaiah 40 begins with a message of comfort - a message to bring reassurance to God’s people.  It is a message that the final word for God’s people is not destruction but redemption.  

What is this message of comfort?  This message isn’t just that they will return from exile but It is that God is coming.  No longer is God out of human sight but the Spiritual will be Present.  

This plan of redemption is not just for Israel but this is to be offered to the whole world.

    • Isaiah 40:3-5 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. 4 Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

So what is Israel to do?   Prepare the way - Turn - Get spiritually ready.  That’s all they can do, because the powers of Babylon, the land promise, the Davidic promise, and everything else in between is too big for them to handle as the prophet Isaiah reminds them that they are frail like grass.  And it is only the Lord who can keep His promises and perform them.

But make no mistake Israel, preparing the way is nothing to turn your nose up at - this is serious business with eternal consequences.

So fast forward couple years or so and we land in the time of Luke…the only problem - is that this does not look like the comfort Isaiah prophesied in chapter 40; this looks like a continuation of Isaiah 39!

3:1-2a - God break’s through time and history

Luke 3:1-2a In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas

    • We are picking up in the midst complex political system where different officials take up different roles. From the Pontius the Prefect, to the rulers of various provinces, and then high priesthood.
    • I can’t help but think if God’s people after hundreds years after the prophet Isaiah were wondering when God was going to act on His promises and on top of that with the oppression of Roman rule where the “little guy” is often left hanging.  I wonder of Luke was thinking back to Isaiah’s message in chapter 40 and the words came to mind:
        • Isaiah 40:6-8 “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the LORD blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”
    • Luke is reminding us that the complex political system is not stopping God’s Word from proving true.  His Kingdom agenda continues to advance in spite of what people are doing.

3:2b-3 Through John God breaks through with a Message

Luke 3:2b-3 God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

    • Here we see God stepping into history working in and through the prophet John - He is now fulfilling His promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah that John would be a prophet of the Most High, paving the way for Jesus by bringing God’s message to people and that message is “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”


    • John was baptizing people that were declaring outwardly something that was taking place in their heart.  Repentance was taking place in their heart and they were turning to God for forgiveness.

So as God breaks through time and history and there is a message of repentance, we see that there is a motivation to repenting.

3:4-6 - The Lord is Coming

Luke 3:4-6 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight! 5 Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be made low; the crooked will become straight, the rough ways smooth, 6 and everyone will see the salvation of God.

    • When a king traveled through, it was common practice to send a group of workers ahead that would clear out the path that the king would be traveling on removing any obstacles making travel smooth. 
    • John’s goal was to clear the way for the Christ in such a way that they would have hearts tender and ready to receive Christ.  This message wasn’t just for the Jewish people, but it was for all people - the tax collectors and soldiers 
    • But along with Salvation coming, we are reminded from the Gospel of John that Jesus is the light of the world and that light breaks through the darkness shining bright and exposing shadows.

The Jewish Leaders Exposed: 3:7-9

Luke 3:7-9 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

    • In the mix of the crowds that came out, Matthew lets us know that there were Pharisees and Sadducees that had come out.  They too would know of Isaiah’s prophecy and how God promised a King to remain on the throne of David, so I’m guessing that on their mind was the thought, “hey John, don’t worry we are well aware of your need of some Abrahamic descendants to help pave the way for the coming Messiah…so here we are”.
    • So John gives them a warm welcome by calling them “Brood of vipers” and proceeds to tell them that they are under the wrath of God, fruitless, actually not needed to bring about God’s Kingdom, and about be cast into eternal judgment if they don’t repent.  And remember, these are “church going folk”
    • We cannot separate the wrath of God from the Gospel.  Because the Gospel is Good News BECAUSE Romans 1 “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people”. 
    • And God who is fully just in condemning us all to eternal judgment, decided long ago that He would not wash His hands of mankind but send Jesus Christ to absorb the Wrath of God for sinners who would repent and place their faith in Christ and go from being condemned and under judgment to be called sons and daughters of the Most High.

Luke 3:10-14 

    • Various people, tax collectors, and soldiers asked John - not what is the basis for gaining membership into God’s family but “What is the product of true repentance”?  And John began to graciously answer what are the natural outworking of God re-creating holiness in in the life His followers.

As The Crowds Exposed

“What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him. 11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 

    • We naturally have tendency to be inattentive, stingy, and unkind when it comes to the practical needs of the people around us the fruit of repentance in the follower of the Messiah should be one of growing helpfulness and open-handed generosity.

As The Tax Collectors Exposed

12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.” 

    • Tax Collectors were one of the most despised people of that time.  One secular historian lumped them in with adulterers, pimps, and informers.  In this day and age, they had two sets of taxes direct and indirect.  The indirect taxes were contracted out to people who would bid on the job from the government and the highest bidder won the job.  They had to pay in advance the bid they would have to recoup their cost.  What was commonly practiced was not just collecting what we would call a fair profit to provide a reasonable living but extortion. 
    • Here we see the natural tendency to be deceptive, misleading, and unfair in how one does their job and the fruit of repentance is ethical, straightforward, and trustworthy towards others.

As The Soldiers Exposed

14 Some soldiers also questioned him, “What should we do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

    • Soldiers often abused their position of power out of a heart that is dissatisfied, bitter, and cold intimidating others to their own advantage the fruit of repentance was to show in being joyful, unworried, and satisfied in the Lord that they treat others lovingly and compassionately.
    • Notice, in all these areas of life - John doesn’t say become missionaries to Africa, or full-time pastors, or travel the country as church speakers but go back to the occupation that you’ve been involved with (the mundaneness of life) and reflect the glory of Christ to a dark and dying world.  
    • Instead of disadvantaging others for your own gain; disadvantage yourself for the gain of others.  
    • Working out the grace of repentance in day to day activities

What is repentance?

    • Repentance is not a one-and-done scenario.  Rather repentance is the posture of the Christian life.  But if we don’t understand this we will become discouraged Because we still struggle with sin.  Unbelievers don’t struggle with sin, they entertain themselves in it.
    • Jesus did come to take care of our sin problem but also to make us holy people.
    • “This is what God wanted when he first made humans in his image.  Now, God is re-creating holiness in your life through the new birth through sanctification in Jesus Christ.”
    • Repentance is not 
      • simply being sorry for your sin, 
      • a promise to stop sinning, 
      • simply admitting sin, 
      • merely changing your behavior, 
      • praying a prayer, 
      • Or the act of  baptism.
    • Repentance is a turning from. 
      • turn from your aim at pleasing yourself, 
      • gaining righteousness by your own merits and 
      • having your affections on the world offers.
    • Repentance is turning to: 
      • a life focused on our relationship with our Creator, 
      • the merits of Christ, 
      • aiming to please our Father
      • Union with Christ, 
      • and treasuring God.  
    • We all have lived for something prior to Christ.  We had allegiances that captivated our hearts.  Even if God graced you with salvation at an early age.  You lived for something. I remember our son Elijah writing out his testimony that he shared at Grace when he was baptized and he said “Before Jesus I was chasing idols like Legos and video games. I wanted these things more than God.”
    • Now we chuckle at the thought of an 8 year old at the time mentioning chasing idols being “legos and electronic games” but Elijah nailed it on the head idolatry is no laughing matter to God.  
    • Whether it’s a 2 year olds binkie, an 8 year old’s lego set, pornography, the escapism food or drink offers, the big house with all the toys, or the exercise and nutrition plan that promises me a good looking body or a life free from suffering.
    • Sin is treason, not sinus trouble!

But how will we be able to do this?  I understand what you're saying John but I know myself, I know my tendencies….

Luke 3:15-16 Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

    • John’s baptism wasn’t just an outward declaration of repentance in the heart, but was a forward look of hope of what Christ would do after He ascended into heaven. 
    • John is merely preparing the way for the One whose ministry would blow John’s out of the water. 
        • This is why John is preaching at all. 
        • John is the one preparing the way, yes. 
        • Repentance is how we “make ready” our hearts, yes. 
        • But there is One. Oh there is One.
          • He is crazy powerful.
          • He will immerse you with the HS.
          • He doesn’t tolerate sin.
          • He is not John
    • I love how we see God’s provision for all that he requires.  We are sinful people who cannot be in the presence of God without being holy, so God provides the plan for that to be possible through Jesus Christ.
    • We are powerless to do what God requires so He provides the Holy Spirit who enables our growth and ability to obey.
    • Even though we still struggle with indwelling sin and temptation so God provides the redemptive process of His refining fire, meaning he uses hardship and trials, and even sin’s consequences to increase our faith and rid us of sin:
        • 1 Peter 1:6-7 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Oh yeah, Herod was exposed too!

Luke 3:18-20 Then, along with many other exhortations, he proclaimed good news to the people. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to everything else—he locked up John in prison.

    • Then there was Herod, who wanted nothing to do with the message.  Heard and understood, but hardened his heart and removed the source. Herod wasn’t concerned with what should I do?
    • There are two responses we can take when we know we’re exposed:
        • Heed the warning of love or we can
        • Harden your heart and remove the source
    • There are some of us today who carry the visible shame of our rebellion like the used car salesman, lawyers, hedge fund managers who are well aware of their bad reputation but need pointed in the right direction
    • But woe to us who presume on our position like the pharisees who are more cleaned up on the outside and in more honest positions such as an office administrator, nurse, farmer, truck driver, or the stay at home, homeschooling parent who need God to soften our hearts and give us eyes to see and ears to hear

So the question now is not have you every been exposed, but how are you going to respond to being exposed?

Hebrews 4:13 No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.

    • We have Jesus - the Light of the World - the Word of Life

Have you received Him? If so

    • Live out Ephesians 5 that talks about how we were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth— testing what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.
    • Work out the grace of repentance in your day to day activities and by doing so you will expose the glory of Christ

If not - Repent and Receive Jesus before it’s too late

Luke 3:17 tells us Jesus’s “winnowing shovel is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”

He stands ready to forgive but does not wink at sin and will show now partiality when he judges.

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