The Sunset pastor on Sunday continued our Advent theme with a message, “Advent Means Preparation.” The text was from Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’”
The message had only one point: In order to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives, we must first prepare our hearts to receive him — preparation that requires serious work and commitment.
In ancient times, whenever an army or a king would travel through a new land, they would send a preparation army ahead of them to smooth out the road—to make way for the coming of the king.
The prophet Isaiah refers to this preparation in our text (vss3-4): “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill make low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”
He uses the picture of highway construction to highlight the preparation required for receiving the Lord Jesus in his day.
Here’s a question: Is it easy to receive Jesus into one’s heart?
It depends on whether you have prepared your heart to receive him.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus who prepared the way for the Lord.
John quoted Isaiah as he did his work (Matthew 3:3): “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea…. This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
What does it mean to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our hearts? Can’t we just invite him with no heart preparation? No.
Even the great Christmas carol, “Joy to the World,” notes the need for preparation: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room….”
Look at John the Baptist’s message in Matthew 3:2: “John the Baptist came, preaching…: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”
To prepare one’s heart means to repent of our sins—to turn away from them. One cannot receive Jesus as Lord and Savior without repenting of our sin.
In v8, to the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, John said: “You brood of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” No doubt the religious leaders felt uncomfortable at John’s message. He was stepping on their toes.
So also today, when a preacher talks about repentance, we may feel uncomfortable. So what do we need to repent of? It’s different for every person.
But I can tell you that in America we have some besetting sins — cultural sins that most unsaved people participate in. I’ll mention three:
(a) The sin of human pride and arrogance. This is the sin which rejects God because we think we don’t need Him. “I got this,” we think. “I have what I need without you.” But we don’t. Look at how much dysfunction, inability and violence there is in our country.
(b) Inability, brought on by able-bodied people not developing their minds and bodies but abusing and destroying them by alcohol, drugs, and sitting around not learning or doing anything, not exercising their gifts.
God says: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Use the gifts God gave you at birth to provide for yourself and to help others.
(c) Marriage and family breakdown brought on by out of control, hookup, uncommitted sexual sin. Many do not know how to be a good parent. The sexual harassing and assault in entertainment, the media and government is also next door in the neighborhood.
What sin do you need to repent of to prepare your heart for Jesus?
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” [Acts 17:30]
May we all turn away from our sins, and toward our gracious Creator, this week — our prayer for you from your friends at Sunset Christian Church.