Thursday, December 08, 2011

Sermon on Isaiah 40:3-5, for Advent 2, "Prepare the Royal Highway"

Sermon Outline:

1. What’s in a highway? Part of our everyday landscape—don’t think about it much. But roads are the quintessential sign of rule and dominion. By roads a kingdom is made. Joined together, united for trade, travel, military, communication. Isaiah 40 speaks of preparing the “The Way of the Lord” (not the people of Israel), make straight in the desert a “highway for our God.” It’s the way of God back to Jerusalem, to visit His people restored from exile. The way of God to our hearts. “Make straight the way for God within, and let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there” (On Jordan’s Bank the Baptists’ Cry)

2. Part of God’s plan is to level the “mountains” of human pride, in His way to their heart. Repentance is to clear, straighten, level the highway to our heart.

3. Resistance to repentance. Obstacles we raise: “mountains of pride,” crooked hearts, stubborn hearts and stiff-necks. Sin tries to blockade God out of our heart. This is why a “highway” to the heart cleared by repentance is a sign of God’s rule and reign in our lives. Sometimes we’ve locked ourselves into self-made cages of sin. We are crying: “Let me out!!” and don’t know how to break free from our own chains. “Some of you are in the cage of addictive behavior like high anxiety, unpredictable anger, or biting sarcasm. Some know the dark world of Internet pornography. Others are chained to a grudge that won't leave until there is revenge. Still others are fighting an inner battle with a skeleton in your closet that is rattling louder and louder. Whatever your particular sin, it has left you in a cage of despair, darkness, even death. Your heart cry has become: “Let me out!”

4. And only God can answer that cry. The Holy Spirit lays the groundwork. Does the preparation. Breaking up the stony soil, cultivating hearts for repentance, giving a new heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. Repentance can be painful. It can be difficult break from past behavior that was so enticing, pleasing, self-satisfying. Or it can be a joyous release from guilt and slavery, from sins that held you captive for so long. Realizing that you really could “give up” the sin that you thought was inseparably intertwined with your life.

5. The Holy Spirit’s groundwork, convicting of sin, prepares the Lord’s highway for our heart. Jesus Christ will come and enter there. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Jesus’ coming in human flesh among us, was God preparing His salvation in the “sight of all peoples”. Setting captives free, proclaiming good news to the poor and imprisoned.

6. For the Jews who first heard Isaiah’s message, God’s glory had departed from Israel when the Temple was destroyed. To have the hope and promise of God’s glory returning among them—great joy. Promise of restoration, rebuilding, new Temple, glory of the Lord visiting that Temple. “Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Haggai 2:6-9).

7. Glory of the Lord would visit the Temple in the person of Jesus Christ. Then the glory left to die on the cross alone. But His glory was seen again in His resurrection on Easter, and His departure to heaven. From thence He promises to come again, to appear in glory where truly “all flesh will see it together.” Jesus’ glory will be seen by all, and all who worship Him and wait for His coming, will be caught up together with Him.

8. How do we prepare for this coming? God is on His way toward us. Are we ready to receive Him in our hearts? Prepare by repentance. Lay all your sins before God and ask Him to remove them from your life. Turn to Him, and He will clear that highway to your heart and establish His rule and reign there.

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