WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE QUALITY OF THE AUDIO FOR THIS MESSAGE.
During the Advent season we are to be preparing our hearts for the appearing of the promised Emmanuel. John the Baptist’s mission was “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” In this message, we will learn from John how we must be prepared to receive the Prince of Peace and walk according to His way.
The Promised Emmanuel
Advent Part 4: Peace
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Dec. 24th, 2017
- Today is the last Sunday of the Advent season, where we have been preparing our hearts for the coming of the promised Emmanuel.
- So far in this series, we have spent time with Simeon and Anna in “God’s waiting room” with hopeful anticipation for God to come through on His promise. We have been challenged by Mary, who, out of love, treasured Jesus above anything and anyone. We have walked with the wise men to gain eyes that see, a heart that worships, and to be able to rejoice exceedingly with great joy in knowing that just around the bend we will see with our own eyes the savior of the world, the King of all kings.
- The theme of the message this morning is peace, with the unlikely winner of the “peace prize” going to John the Baptist. You might be saying, “John the Baptist? He is not apart of the Christmas story!” The truth is that he is part of the Christmas story, and he is the “connective bridge” between the ending of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.
- The last book of the Old Testament is the book of Malachi. The last words in the book of Malachi before God goes “silent” for 400 years are these:
Mal 4:5-6 ESV
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
- The Old Testament ends with the prophesy that the prophet “Elijah” would come to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” before the “great and awesome day of the Lord.”
- The people of Israel who knew their scriptures were waiting for “Elijah” to appear and prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. They waited. And they waited. For 400 years they waited. Until the day that the righteous and blameless priest Zechariah (who, along with his wife Elizabeth, had been praying for a child) was burning incense in the temple. The angel Gabriel showed up with this proclamation:
Luke 1:13b-17 ESV
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
- God picks up in the New Testament where He left off in the Old. At just the right time, God fulfilled what He said would happen as He started the next segment of His plan. This should give us confidence in the God who always keeps His promises.
- John was the fulfillment of what was prophesied in the past and for the purpose of this message, we are going to focus on the role John was prophesied to play in preparing the people for the prince of peace.
- In order to be a people prepared for the coming of the Lord, we must first
Have hearts for the children
- In particular, it is turning the hearts of the fathers from other things toward the children.
- Why is this the first task given to John the Baptist? The Lord could have asked him to do anything . . . like pointing out sins and calling for repentance of all kinds of evils. The focus is not on what we should turn away from, but what we should be turning toward. Why the men and why toward the children?
- The Father is the foundation of the family, and if the foundation is not solid and true, the whole building shifts and things start to crack. Doors and windows don’t open and shut properly, and the structure that is built upon the unstable foundation becomes uninhabitable. It will eventually collapse. Men, you are to be the provider, the protector, the leader, the lookout, the captain, the coach, the encourager, the equipper, the helper, the healer, the example, the safe place, the guardian of the soul, the cultivator of the mind, the developer of the spirit, the rock of shelter, the champion of the children and the foundation of your family with Christ as the corner stone.
- If our “hearts” (that is, our thoughts and feelings) are focused on the children, then we will have a heart for our wives. We will work hard and be smart on our jobs. We will care about the world in which they will live. We will do good in the world. If our hearts are for our children (those who are the most vulnerable, the most dependent, the most moldable), then things will go well in the world.
- If we get this wrong and if our hearts are turned someplace else, there will be neglect, abandonment and abuse. Evil will run rampant and families and futures will be damaged and destroyed. The vast majority of evil that happens in this world, and that is allowed in this world, is because of men.
- I can tell how much of the heart of God a man possesses by how much he has a heart for the children. A man who has God’s heart is a man who loves his children. The man who has a father’s heart is the man that has the heart of THE Father and who has a heart that is prepared to embrace the Son. This is why turning the hearts of men to the children is the first task in preparing them to embrace the Son of God.
- I am first proclaiming and pleading with you men, to turn your heart, your thoughts and your emotions toward your children and toward the children. Become the man the God has called you and designed you to be.
- The second thing we must do to be a people prepared for the Lord is to:
Have wisdom of the just
Luke 1:17 ESV
and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
- Here is another “turn” that needs to happen in us in order for us to be people prepared for the Lord: to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.
- The disobedient do not have the heart of the Father because they don’t trust His wisdom. They choose their own “wisdom” over His. They think they know what it best and better than the eternal one who has created all things and knows all things. They choose their own “wisdom” and turn to go their own way.
- Now again they are turned back to the Father, not by telling them how bad their way is, but by telling them how good the wisdom of the just is. (This is often not the method we use.) The wisdom of the just is to be obedient to the Father. And in obedience to the Father, there is success, satisfaction, peace, joy, rightness and goodness. There is true life there. In order to persuade people to turn from disobedience, talk about the wisdom of the just and the reward of obedience to the heart and wisdom of the Father.
- John the Baptist’s father, Zachariah, did not believe the Angel Gabriel’s message and became mute until the day that John was named. At that point he regained his voice, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied this about the mission of his son:
Luke 1:76-79 ESV
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
- This prophesy described in greater detail the message and mission of John. His overarching goal is again restated: “to prepare the way for the Lord” – which was given as turning men’s hearts toward the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. This is done by giving the knowledge of salvation, that there is forgiveness of there sin based on the tender mercy of the Father God.
- The sunrise, which is Christ, who is the “light of the world,” will give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death (the only way there can be a shadow is if there is a light). The light of Christ guides our feet (our actions and activities) and the way in which we live into the way of peace. What is “the way of peace?” It is the way of Christ, who is the prince of peace.
- Here is the prophesy of Isaiah about Jesus (and this is the passage that the “Hallelujah Chorus” is based upon):
Isa 9:6-7 ESV
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
- God’s ever-increasing government and peace are established and upheld with justice and righteousness. The way of peace is the way of justice and righteousness. If you want to live in peace, walk in justice and righteousness. Both establish it and uphold it. In your life . . . in your home . . . in your work place . . . and in the world . . . Without these two things, there is disorder, despair and destruction, but within justice and righteousness is peace, order and life.
- Turn your hearts toward the children and turn your head from disobedience to the wisdom of the just. Walk in the way of peace, established and upheld in justice and righteousness.
Questions for the week ahead:
- Ask God to help you honestly evaluate your heart for the children as demonstrated by your thoughts, feelings and actions. In what way(s) to do need to “turn toward” the children?
- Are there ways you have been living “disobedient” to the Father? Ask God to give you the “wisdom of the just” and choose to walk in the “way of peace.”
John 1:6-9 NIV
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 8:12 ESV
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- And now the light of Christ has been passed to the candles of our hearts that we may in turn, with His light shining in, us bring light to the world.