Due to a technical difficulty the audio for this weeks sermon is not available. Below are the notes:
Isaiah 40:3-5 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”
Matthew, Mark and Luke all quoted this verse speaking of John as the one spoken of and said that his message was, “Prepare the way for the LORD, make straight paths for Him.”
What do you think of when you consider a straight path? For most of us we think about logistics. A straight line is the shortest distance, the fastest trip, the easiest or most convenient or comfortable. When we speak of this Scripture, of John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord and making a straight path it has nothing to do with ease, speed or comfort. In fact straight paths in your life, in mine and in the lives of those around us have nothing to do with ease, speed or comfort.
Vs. 3 Straight—yashar—to be right, be straight, be level, be upright, be just, be lawful, be smoothing.
Vs. 4 crooked—aqob—akove—deceitful, sly, insidious/slippery, steep
Vs. 4 Straight—miyshowr-me-shore—level place—uprightness
Vs. 5 revealed—galah—to uncover, remove
So when God speaks of straight paths, it is not about ease, speed or comfort; He is speaking about being right, being clear, being sure, being where we are supposed to be. Even more, straight paths remove deception; they remove wrong mindsets and false beliefs and theories. Straight paths are about discipleship, they are about becoming mature, faithful and strong.
Hebrews 12:12-13 “Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”
After Paul’s lesson on discipline he jumps into these verses. Because of God’s discipline, through God’s discipline, thanks to God’s discipline: be strengthened and walk in right paths! God’s desire is to heal what is lame, not to destroy it. So often we believe the lie that says that God sees our sin and wants to destroy it or even us, but the reality is He is doing what is necessary to bring healing. Straight paths are not about making you feel better but rather making you strong and whole and as you were created to be!
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” Direct Your Paths
Some of us have lived in constant disappointment because we have believed the crooked place, the deception that said that if we would “acknowledge God” He would give us the paths we hoped for. We don’t acknowledge God so that He will do our will, we acknowledge Him so that we will surrender to His! He is not giving us paths of ease, speed or comfort; He is giving us paths of His order, His guidance, His perfection and His will. The straight path is not always the easiest, the fastest or the most comfortable, but going back to Isaiah 40, it is always the path that leads to men seeing the glory of God!
I Corinthians 3:1-3 “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly (carnal)—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?”
The church in Corinth was divided. They were arguing over who each person followed, some wanted to align themselves with Paul, some with Apollos, some saw the foolishness of this and just aligned themselves with Christ, but still fell into the sin of being divided over the alignments. Paul has to be brutally honest and shares that they, as followers of Christ are still very immature. He says that they are still worldly or carnal which simply means that they are still controlled by human nature, by their emotions, traditions and desires rather than the Holy Spirit. He then twice, in the form of a question says that they are acting like “mere men”.
I think Paul’s point is this; you are not “mere men”. How many times have you said, “I’m still human” or I’m just a man, or I’m just a woman, I’m not perfect. Paul is actually destroying this excuse and hindrance to maturity, when he says, “Aren’t you acting like mere men?” His point is you are acting like something you are not, you are not mere men! Again, addressing our identity, we are no longer “mere men”, we no longer get the excuse that we are weak, He is strong, we no longer get the excuse that we are flawed, we have been washed, we no longer get the excuse that we can’t, He can. We are no longer mere men!
Paul explains what makes us different in verse 16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” We are not mere men because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are now the Temples of the Holy Ghost, vessels of honor, containers of God’s glory. Paul’s exasperation is this, how can you act like mere men when you are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. I believe Paul was trying to tell them that their actions were not a match for their identity; it was time for them to “walk straight paths” so that they could be seen by the multitudes around them as they are seen by God. But listen, this is not merely a greater requirement, it is a greater opportunity. It is not merely that God expects more of you now; it is that God has made more available to you.
Vs. 21-23 “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God.”
You don’t need short cuts, you don’t need a faster, easier or more comfortable way, you are created for, called to and equipped to walk in straight paths. We are not mere men, we are not less than, unable or even unsure. Straight paths are all about trust, all about faith, all about maturity and all about love.
I have been talking about our three Biblical mandates, three things that God has laid on my heart for this group and this community for years: Friends of the Bridegroom, Remove the obstacles and Straight Paths. These three things are who we are called to be along with what we are called to fulfill. I believe that they align perfectly with Jesus’ three commandments:
1. Friends of the Bridegroom—love the Lord your God
2. Remove the obstacles—love your neighbor as yourself
3. Straight Paths-Make disciples
Discipleship happens through declaring the ways, the will and the plans of God. God’s plan for your life is perfect, it will not often be easy, it will rarely be fast and it may never be comfortable but it will always be perfect. We must learn to willingly walk in “unhindered obedience” so that we can see God’s will completed in and through us. Ultimately, what is the point of these straight paths? What is the point of taking the right way instead of the easy way? Of taking the right way instead of the fast way? Of taking the right way instead of the comfortable way? Isaiah answered these questions for us, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
Revealed—galah—to uncover, remove
Right now God’s glory is covered; it is often hidden by crooked paths, by deceitful teachings by fleshly longings by uncomfortable circumstances or slow fulfilling promises. Our calling, our straight paths, our directed steps are uncovering the glory of the Lord for those around us. When you follow Jesus’ path for your life, when you follow Jesus, His glory is revealed to those watching your life. Believe me, those watching you are not looking for ease, for speed or comfort, they are looking for the longing of their hearts, for the lover of their souls, for the glory of God. We are not mere men, we are not called to immature, self-centered journeys, and we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, the ambassadors of Christ and the ministers of reconciliation.
I pray that you will join me today in making a declaration to God: I will no longer seek out easy paths, I will no longer pray for fast outcomes and I will no longer crave after comfortable solutions, I will choose the right way, I will wait for the straight path and I will walk in the road that leads to the revelation of God’s glory.