Thursday, June 1, 2017, 8:40 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 40:3-8 (ESV).
Prepare the Way (v. 3)
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Wilderness – “an empty or pathless area; wild, natural or uncultivated state” (M-W). Spiritually speaking, this is talking about our lives outside of faith in Jesus Christ – in our sin nature, void of God in our lives, and going nowhere.
As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are to prepare or make ready the way of the Lord for the people. The way of the Lord is the way of holiness, not just the way to forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven when we die. John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord for the people by preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus preached the same message, as did his NT apostles.
So, we tell people the truth. We tell them that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, not just so we can be forgiven our sins. We share with them that coming to Christ means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are risen with Christ to new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We inform them that if we make a practice of sinning, i.e. if we walk (in lifestyle) according to our sin nature, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we have the hope of eternal life with God (Ro. 8:1-14).
We are to also make straight in the desert a highway for our God. This highway is the road we are to travel, the path we are to follow, and it needs to be straight, not crooked. Straight – honest, above-board, upright, pure, and unadulterated (unmixed, undiluted) by the world of sin.
It is the way of holiness, and to be holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made into the image of Christ. We are not to immerse ourselves in the culture of our societies or to blend in with the world in order to be accepted by them, for God called us out of the world. If we love the world like we are supposed to love God, then the love of the Father is not in us. God’s grace to us is not carte blanche (free rein) to do what we want. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 2:15).
Shall Become Level (vv. 4-5)
“Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
My husband and I moved into a high-rise apartment complex a year ago, right after he retired. Right after we moved in, a major renovation of the property, inside and out, was under way, and it is still not completed. For the past year we have watched all kinds of earth moving equipment dig up the old and replace it with the new, as well as we have witnessed multiple trucks hauling stuff in and out as the old has been taken away and has been replaced with what is new – new paint or wallpaper on walls, new ceiling tiles, new lights, new carpeting, new doors, new security system, new landscaping, upgraded parking lots, and remodeled party rooms and lobbies.
When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, via death to sin and resurrection to new lives in Christ Jesus, born anew of the Spirit of God, our Lord puts to death our old lives of living for sin and self, and he gives us completely new lives in him, which are to be lived to him and to his righteousness. The old is taken away, and the new has come, just like in our building and on the building’s property, only spiritually and perfectly done by God, and not physically removed and replaced by human flesh. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, in his death on a cross became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (2 Co. 5:21; Tit. 2:14).
Yet, it is not as though God just zaps us and we instantly become perfect, and that we have nothing to do with it at all. We must exercise the faith he provides, and we must cooperate and participate with the Spirit of God in the removal of the old and in the replacing of the old with the new (See: Eph. 4 – the whole chapter, Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14 & Lu. 9:23-25). We must humble ourselves before God, acknowledge and repent of (turn from) our sin, and turn to God/Christ to follow him in his ways and in his truth, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).
Flesh is Grass (vv. 6-8)
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
A lot of people these days, though, who are sharing what they believe is the message of the gospel, are not preparing a way of holiness, i.e. the way of the Lord, which is straight (unmixed with the world). They are not making the uneven (potholed, irregular) ground (terrain) level (straight, upright).
Instead, they are preaching a message which is adulterated with the world of sin, and which gives its adherents the impression that they can merely acknowledge Jesus’ existence, accept his forgiveness for their sins, and that they now have salvation from sin, escape from eternal damnation, and the promise of heaven when they die, which can never be taken away from them. Many of these “preachers” of the “Word” tell them that they don’t have to repent of their sins, and they don’t have to obey Jesus, because, they say, God requires nothing of us other than to “believe,” which is made out like a mere intellectual or emotional acknowledgement of what Christ did for us, but absent any teaching on death to sin and living to righteousness.
What this also does is give the impression that one who “believes” in Jesus is now set for life no matter what he or she does from this moment forward. This false (adulterated, diluted) gospel gives its followers the notion, too, that they can continue living in sin, that they can continue sinful practices, and that God’s grace just covers it all, so no worries.
But, that is not what scripture teaches, and we need to know what the Word teaches, because these men or women are flesh, and they will die, but it is the Word of God which stands true to the very end. And, it is the ONLY WORD we can really depend on. It says if we say we have fellowship with God, and we walk in darkness (sin), we are liars. It also teaches us that if we practice, if we walk in sin, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God (See: 1 Jn. 1:6; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; & Gal. 5:19-21).
Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be
Norman J. Clayton
Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way…