In the sermon, “Making Smooth the Pathway,” the preacher delves into the significance of John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for Jesus in the first century. Drawing inspiration from the Gospel of Luke, particularly Luke 3:1-6, this sermon offers insights into the timeless message of repentance and forgiveness as conveyed by John.
The sermon begins by drawing a parallel between the preparation of a construction site and the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. It emphasizes that just as construction machines are used to prepare the ground for new roads or buildings, John the Baptist played a crucial role in preparing people’s hearts and minds for the arrival of Jesus. The audience is reminded of the Bible verse, “Make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight” (Luke 3:4), which resonates with the idea of spiritual groundwork.
John’s mission as the precursor to Jesus is discussed, highlighting the profound nature of his calling. It imagines what it would be like to receive a divine message to prepare the way for the Messiah. The preacher emphasizes that God often chooses ordinary individuals for extraordinary purposes, citing examples from Scripture such as Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Saul.
A significant aspect of the sermon is the understanding of repentance. Repentance is presented as more of a “doing” word than a “feeling” word. It involves a transformative change of direction, aligning one’s life with God’s will. While repentance might lead to feelings of remorse, its core focus is on altering one’s mindset and behavior. John’s message is a “baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins,” underlining the idea that repentance leads to not only forgiveness but also deliverance and freedom.
The sermon emphasizes that God’s ways are often mysterious and that He deliberately selects humble and ordinary people to accomplish His divine work. It invites the audience to reflect on the individuals who introduced them to Christ, prepared the way for them, and aided their spiritual journeys. Often, it is ordinary people in the local church who play this crucial role.
Quoting Georgia Harkness, the sermon highlights that the most potent evangelism occurs through the ongoing work of the local church, involving its members who contribute to preparing the way for the Lord. The church is defined as the people of God who actively engage in acts of worship, invitation, and community-building.
The message of repentance and forgiveness, carried by John the Baptist, is then brought into contemporary context. Repentance and forgiveness are seen as a two-way street. Believers are encouraged to receive God’s forgiveness through repentance and extend forgiveness to others who have wronged them. Forgiving others is described as an act of setting them and oneself free, turning enmity into friendship.
The sermon ends with a call to the audience to embrace the message of repentance and forgiveness, for God is on the side of allowing a margin for error. It emphasizes that anyone, regardless of social status or education, can be a servant of the Lord, playing a vital role in preparing the way for others to receive Christ into their lives.
This sermon beautifully illustrates the enduring relevance of John the Baptist’s message of repentance and forgiveness in our lives, emphasizing the power of spiritual transformation and the role each individual can play in spreading God’s love and grace.