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Prepare to Prepare

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Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year. The new church year starts next Sunday. The year begins with advent and goes forward looking at all the aspects of the the life of Christ. This Sunday is the last Sunday in the year, and traditionally it is called Christ the King Sunday. It looks at Jesus Christ as the King of the Kingdom of God enthroned in heaven.
In advent we are celebrating, or remembering the first coming of Christ at Christmas, while at the same time looking forward with hope and anticipation to the second coming of Christ. We spend time in advent preparing. Preparing for the coming of Christmas.

What are you preparing for?

We are going to decorate the church. Many of you will decorate your homes. We will have schedules to keep, shopping to do and various others things to prepare for celebrating the coning of Christmas. You might be preparing to have family and friends over. You might be preparing for a Christmas party. But around church you hear a phrase Prepare your heart for Christmas, and we may not know what that means, or how to do that.
We can look at the Bible, and we can get answers from God’s word and find out what it means to “Prepare Your Heart for Christmas”. Hopefully, we will try and answer that question this morning. Let’s look at a place in the Bible where God Himself prepared the hearts of His people for the first Christmas, and see what we can take out for our personal lives.
Before reading God’s word, let me pray.

Scripture Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1–12 NIV
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

A Great Movement of God

Around Christian circles we talk about a “Movement of God.” Maybe, that is even what we are preparing our hearts for this Christmas-”A movement of God”. Maybe, you want to say something like this. I am preparing for a great movement of God in my heart this Christmas! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? What if everyone here was preparing, for a great movement of God, this Christmas. And better yet, what if we were only not just preparing but expecting. What if we all were expecting a great movement of God in our lives. If all of us in the church were expecting, and preparing for a great movement of God in our lives, wouldn’t that mean that we would be expecting a great movement of God in the Church?
Probably the greatest movement in history occured when God became man. When the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The greatest movement of God in History occured on that first Christmas. This description of the coming of John the Baptist is really the beginning of the great movement of God. The first thing we want to note about God working is that it occurs at a very specific time.
Matthew 3:1 NIV
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea

Comes to the Expectant and Thirsty

A great movement of God comes to the expectant and the the thirsty.
In those days describes that all of this took at a specific time for God’s people. Up to this point God had been silent for 400 years , never the less, the jews were still waiting for the Messiah. The jews were enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Never the less, the jews were still waiting for redemption. It is called Hope. Hope is the first week of advent and we will look at hope a little more in depth next but for this week. The point is, that these people even though it appeared like nothing was happening took God at his word and still expected that God was going to move.
Another thing to notice is that John came preaching in the wilderness of Judea. That is no accident. He didn’t come to the temple, in the city of Jerusalem. You had to go out to the wilderness to find Him. The wilderness is where the thieves, fugitives and outcasts would hide out. It is where David went to hide from Saul. It is where the jews were wandering as they waited for God move them into the promise land. They had to go out into the wilderness, not a pleasant journey at all to go and find where the movement of God was. they had to be willing to go.
The people came toJohn expecting God to move, and spiritually thirsty for God. They come expectant and thirsty and what does God say?
Matthew 3:3 NIV
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
Next, A great movement of God, is predicted and proceeded by God’s word.

Proceeded by God’s word

It isn’t like God just all of sudden, completely out of his character just decided out of nowhere, He was going to send Jesus Christ into the world. The coming of Jesus was predicted, anticipated looked forward to throughout the Old Testament. This passage is from Isaiah chapter 40. There are hundreds and hundreds of places in God’s word where God promises His son Jesus. There are hundreds of promises that God makes to His people throughout scripture, and God acts within those promises.
God’s word proceeds His actions. The people knew the things God had promised them. Things like Davids throne continuing, things like that they would be God’s people. God promised them shepherds that would lead them. God promised them comfort. It was knowing God’s word, that produced that exectation and that thirst in the first place.
The fact that the people knew what God’s word had said, had produced in them the expectation and the thirst to go out into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist.

Confirmed in history

The expectant and the thirsty, those wanting to hear from God, that are willing to go out into the desert and into the wilderness to hear from God and be part of a great movement God, are vulnerable. This character John could be anyone. He could be making this stuff up. He may be crazy and think he is appointed by God. But God always, and without fail works in complete and total consistency with His word. He confirms His word by acting in history consistent with it. John’s life is consistent with God’s word, by what he says, Mt 3:3 he preached from God’s word, and even by his actions.
Matthew 3:4 NIV
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
This could be anyone just repeating what Isaiah said, but the people could be absolutely sure, because John has the appearance of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet that was taken up to heaven. The Jewish people recognized that he was an important prophet, and they believed that before Messiah would come Elijah would return. John appears in a very similar to Elijah, He is in the wilderness and he wearing strange clothes, even strange for those days, camel’s hair with this leather belt. But this is right out of God’s word again.
2 Kings 1:8 NIV
They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”
Perhaps the jews that came out to the wilderness in search of a movement of God, would have recognized this from scripture. This was God’s word being confirmed coming into their world. This is a further confirmation of an authentic movement of God.
God’s word gave the Israelites promise of God’s good news. God’s word caused in them this expectation and thirst for God, which was then confirmed in their life as they witnessed God’s word, God’s promises being lived out in John the Baptizer.
When the people see that God’s word is being demonstrated in the life and actions of John the Baptizer, they respond.
Matthew 3:5–6 NIV
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

The Response

John told them to do something to prepare for the coming of the kingdom. It was in verse 2
Matthew 3:2 NIV
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Repent, John said. The kingdom of heaven is near. There is a new kingdom. This kingdom is unlike the current kingdom.
Repent means to turn. Turn from the old kingdom and turn toward the new kingdom. Turn from sin and turn toward God. In Greek it carries the idea of completely changing your way of thinking. John is saying completely change your way of thinking toward a new kingdom.
The message from Isaiah was Prepare- Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight paths for him. All of this is the same idea. Prepare for this new kingdom the kingdom of God, by changing your way of thinking, by no longer going the way you are going but by going a new way.
The new way starts with confession of sins and baptism symbolizing that cleansing of sin, by washing away the old.
Matthew 3:6 NIV
Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
pause
However, whenever there is a movement of God, there is opposition.
Matthew 3:7–8 NIV
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

The Opposition

For some people God’s word is not met with expectation and thirst, instead it is left on the page. The Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to see, to be part of the great movement of God, but they were not going to repent. They were looking for a movement of God, within the current kingdom. The were looking for their own kingdom.
John’s response is if you are so holy, that you do not need to confess sins, then shouldn’t your life reflect that. You ought to be loving your neighbor, you ought to be caring for the poor and the outcast. But in fact they weren’t doing that. instead they were relying on their place in the current kingdom.
Matthew 3:9 NIV
And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
The Pharisees and Sadducees, the church going people at that time thought that there church membership was enough to save them. The believed that they recieved the grace of God by being part of this Jewish religious kingdom. John is saying no that is not it at all. You heart is still not in allegiance to the NEW kingdom that is coming. the Kingdom of God, the kingdom with Jesus as the king.
Think about sports for a minute. There is this great rivalry between the Vikings and Packers. A packer fan wears a packer shirt, they watch the game they cheer for the packers. But someone is saying turn from the packers and turn toward the vikings. Stop thinking about the packers, throw out your old jerseys. It requires a whole new way of thinking. A turning. Now, suppose some packer fans heard about free tickets to the Packer and viking game to people who were wearing vikings shirt. It is possible they might show up to that event with a viking shirt on hoping to get free tickets. John recognizes that these are still packer fans even though they are wearing viking jerseys and he says-No it requires a turning.
Matthew 3:10 NIV
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
And every tree, or every person whose life does not clearly reflect the life of Jesus, will be cast out. The life of Jesus is a Holy life. The whole point of this great movement of God, is to make God’s people People holy.
A great movement of God make’s God’s people holy.
Holy people are people set-apart for God. They are members of HIS Kingdom. The whole point of God’s movements in history, is to gather His people to Himself to set the apart for Himself.
Those that are not Holy, Those that do not have actions consistent with being part of the kingdom will not be gathered.
Matthew 3:10–12 NIV
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
God gathers his people together. When God’s people truly repent and turn from this world or turn from this kingdom and toward the kingdom of God their action reflect that they have turned. Your actions reflect your allegiance. God gathers them.Those that do not turn judgement awaits.
John’s baptism is this baptism symbolizing cleansing from sins. When Jesus comes, and you turn from your sins and toward Jesus you are Baptized or immersed with the Holy Spirit. You are filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the person that helps make you Holy.
For us today we can take this we can take this to prepare for Christmas. Let me summarize it here with this statement.
An Authentic Movement of God, Begins in God’s word, The expectant and Thirsty respond, and God make’s His people Holy.
This Christmas, to prepare you heart I have several steps.

Cultivate Expectancy and Thirst

We talked about this last week. Jesus said Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. The scriptures have answers in them. There is joy to be found in Jesus. God’s word has promises for a life of peace and satisfaction, but you have to go out and look for it. You have to pick up your Bible, you have to pray and ask God to show you that. You have to be thirsty for God, and expectant that He will fulfill His word.
You have to spend time in God’s word. A great movement of God-begins in God’s word. If you are too busy preparing your house for you guests, or your presents, or your food. You can expect that your house will be ready, but you cannot expect your heart to be ready.
As you read your Bible in the coming weeks, search the passage you are reading for ways that God’s word will manifest in your life. The end goal is holiness, not happiness. Jesus came to make us holy by going to the cross and dying for sins.
Go to the bible with expectantly, and thirst for Jesus and search God’s word to cultivate thirst and expectancy for Him.

Prepare for a Response

When you have a thirst for righteousness, and an expectancy that God will bring it about, you will need to prepare to respond. God looks for His people to respond to Him. For instance as the Holy Spirit, brings God’s word to bear on conscience, God may ask you for a response, like repentance. John was calling people to repent. Your particular response may vary depending on how he has interacted with you in His word. Is it to love somebody you have a hard time loving. Is it to repent of a particular sin. Is it in the are of giving?
In the response, the response to God, will always be consistent with His word. God will not call you to respond in a way that is not consistent with His word. How is God through His word calling to you to respond?

Be ready for Opposition

Opposition will come. Either from the outside-other people-or even internally in your own thoughts. If you hear that this isn’t for you, you do not need to this. Or that you do not need to repent, or you do not need to get closer to Jesus, that is opposition and is not of God. God draws people closer, he does not leave people in place.
All the time people come looking for a great movement of God, but they are not looking to be made Holy. They are chasing books and churches, and looking for excitement and blessings.The purpose of an authentic movement of God is to make God’s people Holy. To set them apart for Himself. This is how you can tell if God is really moving somewhere-ask this question-Is His people being made Holy?Are God’s people becoming more set-apart from the world, and for God? Or are the people just looking more like the world. If they are just like the world-It is not an authentic movement of God.
You can be a good person, and have a wonderful fun Christmas by preparing your decorations, shopping, having parties. It will be great and you will have warm and fuzzy feelings, but they will vanish in January.
Or you can have a blessed Christmas. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will have their fill. You can have your fill with Jesus but it will mean hungering for Him, responding to him, and putting aside the opposition.

God makes people holy

Again God’s word and God’s primary work are not that you will have a cozy little Christmas. Primarily the work of God in history is to make God’s people Holy. As you are made Holy you grow closer to Jesus. God will do that for the expectant, and thirsty according to his word.
Jesus did not come for trees and candy canes and lights. If that is what you want and expect for Christmas, then you will have to get that from Wal-Mart.
Jesus came to make us holy. Jesus came to call us a people to himself. To continually work in our lives, to make us more and more like him. Now, in that process, as we become more holy we find more satisfaction in Jesus. The things of this world will look strangely dim, as Jesus looks brighter in your life.
In that kingdom you will have joy. In that relationship with Jesus you peace. In that fellowship with God the Father you will have love. In that hunger and thirst for righteousness you will have your fill.
Prepare the way of the Lord-make straight paths for Him.
In Jesus name.
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