Matthew 3:3-6 & Luke 3:3-6
“For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:3-6)
“And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:3-6)
A non-Christian friend recently asked me to explain what it means to be a Christian. With a balanced mix of excitement and nervousness I did my best to explain the gospel, fully expecting that the message of Christ’s death on the cross would change his life right then and there. Sadly, I was wrong. While it was a great and honest conversation, it ended not with the sinner’s prayer, but with my friend explaining why he did not and could not believe. Why couldn’t he? Because he does not agree with the basic premise that man is sinful. Though he admitted that there are bad people in the world who do bad things, he held to the belief that most people are ultimately and mainly good. As such, he saw no beauty in the gospel because he saw no need in himself or others for a savior. His heart was unprepared for the message because his worldview would not allow for it.
Before Christ began his ministry, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the people for His coming with a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why did they need this preparation? Because, like my friend, they did not recognize their guilt before God or their need for salvation. There can be no saving atonement for sin without repentance. When you think about it this makes sense. How can one be saved without recognizing first that they are in danger? John’s job, therefore, was to apprise the people of the danger they faced and to prepare them to recognize the savior when He came.
The heart of man has not changed much since Christ’s first coming. It is still slow to see a need for God and quick to justify and reason away sin. As a result, we need preparation before the gospel can take root in our lives. Though there is no condemnation for those that believe in Christ Jesus, there is a need to remember our sin so that we can properly value and give thanks for the work Christ has done on our behalf. As the recognition of our sin grows, so will our appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice.
Are you aware of the danger you were in before Christ? Is your family? What about those you minister too? This Christmas season remind yourself and your disciples not only that Christ came to Earth, but what He came for. He came to save us while we were yet sinners. He came in reaction to our sin to set us free that we might reestablish a relationship with the living God. Let’s prepare our hearts for the beauty of Christ’s coming by reminding ourselves who we are without Him.