Victoria Park Christian Centre
Suite 1, 342 Albany Highway, Victoria Park 6100, Western Australia
Were you a boy scout or a girl guide? If so, you would know their motto is “Be Prepared.” It’s a preparation of mind and body to succeed in certain disciplines. The Guide or Scout chooses a sport, activity or interest, and learns under the guidance of a supervisory leader. They are presented with the guidelines, rules and actions necessary. Preparation of the mind is to obey the rules and take guidance in order to achieve the goals set. Preparation of the body is for the strength and agility to carry out actions needed. Hazards or incidents which could scupper the endeavour must also be deal with. Here is an example of “Wilderness Survival:
Competent participants are awarded a merit badge to prove their capability in the chosen discipline. These skills prepare the Scout or Guide to think ahead and avoid disappointments or accidents. Life is full of preparation and so a dependable mentor or role model who will train us like the Scouts or Guides is indispensable.
Scripture agrees that life is preparation. However, it’s not a worldly preparation but a heavenly one. Paul explains that God has prepared a day when Jesus will judge the world…
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” Acts 17:31
All life is a spiritual preparation to meet God. When life seems confusing or you feel that you are in a maze remember that preparation is like that. It’s full of noise and bustle and sometimes things look like a contradiction until the event arrives and everything is settled. If we can only see that our preparation down here on earth is only a reflection of what is going on in the heavenly realm, it should be clearer.
If we look at the kingdom to come – in heaven – and think about all the preparation that is happening there it will make perfect sense. The angels have been sent from God and are busy preparing to help Christians meet the requirements for entry into heaven,
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
Jesus is preparing a place for us and when it’s ready He will return. It is a prepared heaven; it is a prepared kingdom; a prepared city; a prepared throne; a prepared seat and sitting. And when both the preparation on earth and heaven are complete we have a prepared soul and a prepared heaven — what perfection!
Jesus gave us a parable about the end times. He likened the separation of the prepared and the unprepared to sheep being separated from the goats. To the prepared He says,
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
But to the unprepared He says,
“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:34, 41
What disaster to realise too late that life is all about bringing our preparations in line with heaven’s preparations and nothing else. Too many Christians think it is about bringing heaven’s preparations in line with theirs and are complaining because God is not fitting in with their plans. We need a supervisor to lead and advise us as well as a positive role model just like the Scouts and Guides.
The guidelines, rules and actions that Christians have been given by Jesus is,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:19
John the Baptist is an excellent role model for us as he preached the coming of the Messiah to a people who desperately needed a Saviour. He told the religious leaders that he was,
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him…” Luke 3:4
When eastern princes marched through desert countries, ways were prepared for them, and hindrances removed. We, also, need to preach the gospel of Jesus to a people desperately in need of a Saviour. So let’s see what we can learn from John.
John had a prophetic word spoken about him before he was born by an angel. The angel came to Zechariah in the temple and told him that he would have a son who was to be called John. He explained that John would,
“…go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17
His parents would have recognised the prophecy as coming from the last verse in the last book of the Old Testament Malachi. God always spoke to His people through the prophets but for 400 years there had been silence. It would have been very exciting for them and we know that John’s family took it very seriously. Instead of being a priest like his father, John went into the desert to prepare himself the way Elijah went.
John copied Elijah’s odd clothing style as his description matches that of Elijah in 2 Kings:
“John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” Mark 1:6
Camel is on the list of unclean animals and Elijah and John wearing these clothes would represent the unclean state of the people that they are calling back to repentance. It would have been clear, right in the faces of the people. Today we make excuses for unclean behaviour and tolerate so many sins in the church. We are pressured by political correctness and are so afraid of appearing odd that we dress ourselves up in the garb that is acceptable – to our detriment and the detriment of people heading for destruction. How politically correct were these prophets who preached the need for true repentance? Let’s follow our role model John and let’s learn to differentiate between clean and unclean and not cover it up if we want to prepare ourselves and others for heaven.
Although John wore an unclean garment his own food was completely kosher as it was provided for by God. Locusts were on the list of clean foods. We need to learn from our role model John that God will provide our food for us. The children of Israel were given manna and quail in the wilderness and Elijah had his dietary needs met by God through a Raven once and a helpful widow. They all trusted God for His provision for their daily bread to prepare themselves for God’s work. We see so many Christians worrying about their diet and their health and monitoring their own food, taking supplements and exercising to excess which brings on ill-health and often, demonic oppression. Worrying about your food is a sign that you do not trust God to provide for you. Jesus told us not to do that:
“So stop concerning yourselves about what you will eat or what you will drink, and stop being distressed, because it is the unbelievers who are concerned about all these things. Surely your Father knows that you need them!” Luke 12:29-30
Let’s follow our role model John and learn to trust God and allow Him to provide for our needs.
Even though John was given a prophecy from an angel he did not do anything until the word of God came to Him and told him what he should do:
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar… the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness” Luke 3:1-2
We should follow our role model John in this and wait for the word of the Lord to come to us. So many come in here who are broken, disappointed and frustrated with God as they have listened to a false prophecy and taken it on themselves to fulfill it. If you have a true prophetic word over your life then when you have finished your preparation and it lines up with God’s timed preparation then it will happen.
This is wilderness work and we must all go there. We must allow God to change us during this time so that we trust Him for our provision. We must learn to recognise His voice and know when He is calling us to do something. We must know His commandments and His ways and be obedient to them otherwise how could we know the difference between the straight and crooked way.
Trust of God seems to be lacking today and I believe it is a lack of wilderness work. Many come in here telling me that God has fast-tracked them. Don’t believe it, Christian. Moses, Elijah, the Prophets, John the Baptist and even Jesus did wilderness work and allowed God to put them under the test before they embarked on their ministry. If they weren’t fast-tracked why would He do it for you? If you do not allow the wilderness work then you cannot learn the lesson that God will provide for you and trust will always be lacking. Let’s learn the lesson from our role model and allow the wilderness work and prepare ourselves to be fit for heaven where God will provide all of our needs eternally.
After the wilderness had prepared John for heaven’s work John was called out into Jordan to preach a baptism of repentance and turn people back to God. The river Jordan has particular importance in God’s work. It marks the boundary between the wilderness which is testing and learning trust and obedience and entry into the promised land and fruit. The crossing of the Jordan marked the end of the wilderness for the children of Israel. Jesus’ learned trust and obedience by allowing Himself to be led by the Holy Spirit across the Jordan and into the wilderness to be tested before beginning His ministry. Immediately preceding Jesus’ wilderness experience He went to the river Jordan to be baptised by John. Jesus was sinless and did not need a baptism of repentance which signified the washing away of sins. However, Jesus was associating Himself fully with sinful mankind as the future sin bearer and demonstrating the right order to come under the will of God – how to fulfill all righteousness:
“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. Then John consented.” Matthew 3:15
This is how we prepare for righteousness and help others prepare. We recognise that our old way of living is wrong and we confess our sins and go to the river (or the baptismal pool) and fulfill this righteous act of being forgiven and washed of our sins. Then we allow the wilderness survival work where we learn to trust his provision for us in all circumstances – just like the Scouts/Guides in the spiritual snow, rain, wind, heat and dryness. The wilderness is a place where alternative assistance is removed and you learn to lean on God for all of your needs. It’s called a baptism of fire and it’s performed by Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. It’s where you are refined and set on fire with zeal for Jesus and His work. John said,
“I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I… He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire” Matthew 3:11
To bring your preparations in line with heaven and merit a place there the order is – repentance, baptism, wilderness testing, waiting for the word to come to you and call you out to assist others in their journey. There are no short cuts. All of these stages must be completed. You cannot avoid any of steps and you must undergo all of them. Then like the Scouts/Guides you will fully prepared to meet God who is fully prepared to meet you. Come on guys – be prepared! Heaven is worth it, Jesus is worth it!
This message is an abridged version of a sermon given by Andrea Locke at Victoria Park Christian Centre on 8 May, 2016. Our services are at six o’clock and are open to all visitors. Come join us as we worship, give thanks and learn together!