Preparing Our Hearts For Jesus
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Chan Gin Kai
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’” (Luke 3:3-6)
John the Baptist had lived in the wilderness for some time, surviving on locusts and wild honey. He must have looked quite a sight, with his hair unkempt and wearing clothes made of camel’s hair. And when he started his ministry, he came out with ‘all guns blazing’. He did not hold back in preparing the people’s hearts for Jesus.
Crowds came to hear him preach, and he did not mince his words, “You brood of vipers!” (Luke 3:7) He was more concerned about telling them the truth then how they might receive his message or how they might have felt about him. His fearless preaching of the truth cost him his life too. He “rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done” (Luke 3:19). Herod locked John up in prison, and under pressure from Herodias, beheaded him.
John challenged the Jews’ confidence in their lineage, “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8). God had made promises to Abraham, but God had also set His expectations for Abraham and his descendents. Sadly, the Jews gladly held on to God’s promises, but ignored His expectations. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
We see this happening in modern day Christianity too. Many hold on to God’s promises of salvation and blessings, but choose to ignore His expectations. Sadly, there are false teachers, pastors, evangelists, reverends and priests (or whatever title they choose to adopt) who twist the Bible and propagate these lies.
Like savvy politicians, these false teachers spread populist messages to gain followers. The good news of God’s promises is indeed far more appealing than the message of God’s expectations.
Of course we can count on God to always love us and keep His promises. But God is very clear about His expectations of us too. We cannot pick and choose what we want to follow from the Bible. And in case you think we’re different from the Jews because Old Testament (OT) laws bind them but not us, remember that John wasn’t calling the Jews to obey the OT; he was preparing their hearts for Jesus. OT laws may not apply to us, but John’s message of repentance applies to everyone who wants to follow Jesus.
John taught his listeners that they have to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). And when the crowd asked what they had to do, he gave practical examples. He taught them to share what they have (Luke 3:11). He told the tax collectors to be honest (Luke 3:13). He instructed the soldiers not to extort money or abuse their powers, and to be content with their pay (Luke 3:14). Repentance comes with practical actions. It is a change of BOTH our hearts and our behaviour.
Jesus message was similar to John’s too, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3)
For those among us who profess to be Christians, do we prepare our hearts daily for Jesus? Do we approach him with broken and contrite hearts? And do our actions follow?
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".