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Preparing the Way

(Luke 1:5-23)

Lesson 1 -- first quarter 2008
December 2, 2007

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2007

The Voice and His Witness

John the Baptist identified himself as a voice, specifically, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." John cried for repentance. John cried out the news of the coming One. John cried forth that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. John was a voice, John had a voice, John used his voice to prepare the way for Jesus.

Have you found your voice?

Then came the day when Jesus appeared on the scene of John's ministry. John saw Him...and used his voice: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

John was not so caught up with his ministry and his message that he missed seeing Jesus. John was not so consumed with himself and his surroundings that he missed seeing Jesus. John was not so aware of the people that he missed seeing the Person. John was not so busy exposing and condemning hypocrisy that he missed seeing the True One. I wish this were true of me.

I can get so involved with these devotional commentaries...that I can actually miss seeing Jesus. I can become so involved with mission board work and school board work...that I miss seeing Jesus. I can get so bogged down with my failings (and successes)...that I miss seeing Jesus. I can become so consumed in my pursuit of solutions to interpersonal problems and family foul-ups...that I miss seeing Jesus.

My friend, how can I point out the Lamb of God to others if I have missed seeing Him myself? Life is not about commentaries, boards, failings (and successes), and problem-solving. Life is about Jesus! Because Jesus is life. And Jesus is the One who takes away the sin of the world.

Have you seen Him?

Have you found your voice?

Would men know you've been with Jesus? They need to know by your voice. They also need to know by your life. Let your life develop into one that points to Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God!" May those around you see in daily walk and action that you have His life divine. When they are near you may they feel His presence near.

We will never be the voice crying in the wilderness. I believe, though, that God calls each one of us to be a voice calling in the moral wilderness in which we live. And wilderness it is, grinding steadily toward absolute, all-encompassing vileness and depravity not seen since Noah's time. This corruption already stealthily and gently smoothers our God-ward sensitivity, slowly and steadily invading our hearts like smoky tendrils wafting gently and seductively on the numbing breezes of our culture.

Noah found refuge in his ark. Your refuge is in the Lamb of God. But you will not reach that refuge if you do not see Him! Nor will you help others to safety if, having seen Him, you do not find your voice.

Have you seen Him today? Did you even look for Him?

Imagine John, preaching and answering questions...but scanning the crowd, looking for the One his spirit would identify as the focus of his message. And then..."Behold the Lamb of God!"

You! Repent!

The call to personal repentance does not ring out very often in the Old Testament. But now as the old covenant draws to a close in preparation for the new, John the Baptist heralds a new call for change in each individual's innermost being. No longer will God deal with people on the basis of their national heritage. Now He will call people as individuals without regard to any sort of heritage. No longer will God's people be able to establish their spiritual identity by looking back to their physical kinship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now God's people will find their spiritual identity by looking back to a personal conversion experience based on repentance and trust in Jesus Christ.

John's message prepared the way for Jesus' message. In Matthew 3:2 we hear him announcing the new kingdom by proclaiming, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Not long after, Jesus launched His ministry with the same message: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Thus, the transition from the ministry of John to the ministry of Jesus freed nobody from the need for repentance.

No one can enter the kingdom without first repenting. And no one can continue in the kingdom without experiencing ongoing repentance. Given the importance of this heart disposition and life view, we ought to know the nature of repentance.

Repentance is most simply understood as a radical change of mind and heart. In a Biblical sense, repentance entails shunning evil and self in order to embrace God -- "repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20). Thus repentance has to do with changing for the better, with turning from that which is wrong to that which is right. This shows the deeply personal and spiritual nature of repentance. Genuine repentance touches and affects our very person.

So you see, repentance is not remorse, which is mere regret or grief for having done something wrong. To be only sorry I did something will not pass the test for repentance. But if that remorse leads me to turn away from that behavior and accept a better value system, then I have experienced repentance. The Bible puts it this way: "Ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner.... For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:9,10).

We also should understand that godly repentance comes to us as a gift. In 2 Timothy 2:25 we learn that God gives repentance -- "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." Romans 2:4 talks about God's goodness leading us to repentance -- "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"

If you have not yet experienced repentance, ask God to grant you this essential gift!

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