A teaching by Rev. Barbara Williams, President of the Ministry of the Watchman International
Week of October 19-23, 2020
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.”
John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. When one repents, he changes from one mindset to another. This is not just a decision to say, “I’m sorry,” and continue the same behavior. There is no repentance in that. When a person repents, he goes to the root of his behavior and receives the sorrow that comes from God. Every person who comes to Christ has the knowledge of what behavior he is engaged in that has brought him to make the decision to serve God. Adulterers know they must be faithful to their spouses. Liars know that they must tell the truth. He who has stolen must steal no more. The only way sins can be forgiven is that they must be confessed and a decision must be made to sin no more. This is the essence of relationship with God. He responds to what we say. If we are only sorry on the inside, this is not sufficient. We must talk to God and confess what we need to get rid of. We agree with God about our sins. We confess our way out of bondage and into deliverance.
If you are in need of healing, there is good news! Proverbs 4:20-22 SAYS:
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
So there is life and health in God’s word. Since God’s word is medicine, we must take it like we would a prescription. I suggest three times a day, like you would your food. Remember, healing is the children’s bread. Consider this your “dose” for today. Remember, read, and meditate three times a day the following:
Rx: Matthew 9:20-22 ~ And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
If you’ve never studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we invite you to join us as we read through the Bible in a year. Read and meditate on these chapters this week:
October 19: 1 Kings 22, 1 Thessalonians 5, Daniel 4, Psalms 108-109
October 20: 2 Kings 1, 2 Thessalonians 1, Daniel 5 Psalms 110-111
October 21: 2 Kings 2, 2 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 6, Psalms 112-113
October 22: 2 Kings 3, 2 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 7, Psalms 114-115
October 23: 2 Kings 4, 1 Timothy 1, Daniel 8, Psalms 116
October 24: 2 Kings 5, 1 Timothy 2, Daniel 9, Psalms 117-118
October 25: 2 Kings 6, 1 Timothy 3, Daniel 10, Psalms 119:1-24
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and very mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
John announces that he is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. How wonderful it is to fulfill prophecy. We, the church, are the fulfillment of many prophecies. Jesus said that we would go forth and preach the gospel, and that we would prophesy. He said that we would be filled with His Spirit. But we would first have to have a work done in us that would make all the crooked places straight. All of our high places will be made low before the Spirit of Christ will come and dwell in us. All of our rough places will be made straight. We must conform to God’s ways before He will make His abode with us. John preached that these things will happen before our flesh will see the salvation of the Lord. In every life there are things that must be dealt with before we can see the goodness of God working on our behalf. If our ways are not correct, He will not visit us. Have you prepared the way for the Lord?
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
We cannot come to God merely to escape hell. It’s amazing how many salvation sermons deal with this “fire insurance policy” type of salvation. When we do not desire to make a lifestyle change, we will not see the glory of God. We will only be likened to the generation of vipers who wanted to escape the coming judgment of God.
When the Pharisees showed up to be baptized, John challenged them to confess their sins. It was common for the religious to think that their religious heritage would save them. This is why he warned them not to rely on their Hebrew birth to save their souls. Each man would be accountable for his own sins. John tells them to bring forth fruit for repentance.
There are things that we do that block the flow of God’s love in our hearts. God is only trying to make our lives more peaceful and more blessed by demanding repentance. Is there something standing between you and the peace of God? If so, lay the ax to the root of the tree by confessing it to the Lord and receive your peace.
He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”
Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?”
So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
What things do we need to repent of? The multitude asked the same questions of John. Most people know the answer to that, but sometimes we are in the dark and desire to know what changes God desires of us. John answers and lets them know that we must be willing to give if we have excess.
This is a kingdom that requires love. Love demands that we share our blessings with others. Love demands that we deal fairly with others. In the case of the publicans, they were taking excess tax money from the people. The soldiers seemed to be the worst of the bunch. They were violent, false accusers, and unthankful complainers. These are sins that separate us from intimate fellowship with God. John began to reveal the secrets of men’s hearts to them in order that they could prepare the way of the Lord. He did not want the people to miss their opportunity to be saved.
There are many of us who are missing God’s best because of the crooked ways in our hearts. Sometimes we are selfish and refuse to give. Sometimes we dislike our brother and exaggerate his faults. We may even obey God, but we do it grudgingly and are more concerned about our reward than about the condition of our hearts. These crooked ways must be made straight before we can enjoy the fellowship of God.
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The day of the Lord is always at hand. Jesus is a consuming fire. He separates the obedient from the disobedient; the good from the bad; the wheat from the chaff. He purges the threshing floor and tosses away that which is undesirable. We do not want to be rejected by the Lord. We want to be accepted. Sometimes we have long-standing issues that God wants to deal with. We may have gotten by with a little crookedness in the past, but there comes a time of the great separation and fanning of God. He blows away all our fluff and pretense. He wants to go deep into the recesses of our hearts and bring forth that which is good. If we prepare the way through repentance, His work is so much more beneficial. The separation comes as a welcome relief. We feel liberated from the burden of iniquity that has bound us for so long. Preparing the way of the Lord brings great benefits.
This is a time of repentance in the earth. Sinners are open and hungry for God. This causes the Holy Spirit to respond by announcing that the way must be prepared before the Lord will come into their hearts. If the sinner must prepare his heart, then so must the church. God is changing us into a peculiar people in the earth. Repentance causes this change, so prepare ye the way of the Lord! Make straight His paths.