I know, it sounds ridiculous to compare a Christian to a snow plow, but hang with me for a minute. Our preacher had just returned from a trip with his family to visit his oldest daughter who lives in Texas. It snowed – in Texas! About 3″ worth of snow. In the Midwest, where we live, that wouldn’t be enough snow to paralyze us, but where there is one lone snow plow to clear the roads (I feel that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I digress) there were people stranded on the interstate for 15 hours overnight!
As Jon and his family left Texas and saw cars scattered everywhere as a result of that small of an amount of snow, they decided to take a different route and opted to travel a frontage road which runs right alongside the interstate. Eventually they came upon a young man who had slid off the road and was stuck. To someone who has never driven in snow, they just don’t understand that you use your gas pedal to control the speed of your car, not the brake, and they haven’t learned the skill of rocking a car to free it from a pile of snow. Jon’s family got out of their car and helped him get unstuck.
What’s all this got to do with being a Christian? I’m getting to that now. Our Scripture for the day was from the book of Matthew.
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.'”Matthew 3:1-3
John was clearing the path in the sense that he was preparing hearts for the Messiah and to make people aware of sin so that they could receive the salvation of Jesus. The passage Matthew quotes is reference to Isaiah 40:3,
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.Isaiah 40:3-4
John the Baptist was doing just that. Making the road level: raising the valleys and lowering the hills and mountains to make the path straight. The rugged path would become smoother so they the people could know their Messiah, the one who would come to save them.
Another point I got from this sermon was that most people think repentance is about feelings; feeling sorry about your sins. But repentance is not a feeling, it’s an action. Wow, I never thought about it like that before! Feeling bad about sins that I’ve committed doesn’t cause me to change the behavior. But when repentance causes me to change my behavior, I’m making strides in my walk with the Lord. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not a sorrow in the heart.
Another point: Is repentance something we must do before we can come to God?
I just love our preacher’s answer! Yes and no. Repentance does not describe something we must do before we come to God; it describes what coming to God is like. We can’t come to the kingdom of heaven unless we leave our sin.
John the Baptist wanted the people to know the kingdom of heaven was near. His whole purpose was as a precursor to the Messiah, to serve a snow plow clearing the way. And I don’t think just to clear a path for the Messiah, but to prepare the people to be able to walk the path they must walk.
As Christians, we are a lot like John. We help prepare people to accept Jesus when we share the Gospel with them. Teaching them of his birth, life, and death all help them to understand why we have the joy and the contentment that we have. But, we’re kind of like that snow plow, too. We help them maneuver the hills and valleys when the path is blocked, we become the snow plows to help them get unstuck and clear the way.
By the time the snow plow goes by and clears the road, the wind just blows the snow back onto the road. We are the ones who are to be preparing the way for the Lord for a world around us that is spinning its wheels, looking for traction.
Preparing the world for the way of the Lord is not an easy task. Before we can have any hope of reaching others, we’ve got to do some work in ourselves first.
When you choose to have God in your life, are you prepared for the road work you have to do? Prepare a level path by preparing your heart and leaning into God to show you the road.