This morning, we’re continuing a new message series entitled, “Hearts Turned.” In this series, we’re being challenged with where are hearts are directed. After all, it is critical not that we follow our own hearts, but that rather our hearts are steered and directed down the right path. As Solomon wrote:
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Last week, we learned a bit about how to keep our hearts steered in the direction that the Lord has planned for us; into His plans which are greater than we could even ever think, ask, or imagine! We learned from Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal and his longing to see the people’s hearts turned back to the Lord.
This morning, we’re going to look at an account of a man who not only had a desire to see people’s hearts turned back to the Lord, but who was destined for it even before he was born: John the Baptist. In fact, Jesus even called him the Elijah who was to come.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will 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.”
John, preparing the way for the Lord; turning the hearts of parents to their children and turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. John was destined to be a heart turner for sure!
66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
It was also prophesied about John long before his birth:
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
This morning, we’re going to gain insight on how to be a heart turner like John as the Lord calls and anoints us also to prepare the way for the Lord in the lives of those around us.
John’s life and ministry were incredibly simple. Still today, turning hearts to Jesus is incredibly simple as well.
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
John did just that; he prepared the way for people to turn their hearts to Jesus. It is not said of him that he lowered every valley, raised every mountain, and made the rugged places treacherous to travel in order for them to become more steepened to their sin and depravity. No, it is said of John that he raised every valley, lowered every mountain and hill and made plain and level the rugged places and rough ground.
Whether we realize it or not, we often make it difficult for people to turn their hearts to Jesus. Many people have the impression from us that they need to “clean up” their act before coming to Jesus. They have to stop smoking, swearing, cheating, and they have to be ready to give their finances generously before coming to Jesus.
This was not at all the atmosphere of John’s ministry nor even the ministry of Jesus. The “worst of sinners” came running to be saved. The picture of God was not painted to be a god who required perfection before allowing someone into His presence. The picture of God was painted to come to Jesus just as you are so that He could perfect you. The atmosphere of John’s ministry was to encourage all to come just as they are to be transformed, to eliminate any obstacle that stood in their way to coming to Jesus.
The simple message of John, as well as that of Jesus, was to, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come.” Their message was to repent, to turn, literally to turn their hearts back to God. To repent is to think of things differently. John was described as a great teacher and prophet, yet we never read a single word except the common theme of every prophecy and teaching to repent.
Like John, we have been entrusted with the words of life. Like John, we can call people to repentance and prepare the way for Jesus. We do this by simply speaking His words of life and teaching who God truly is. No, this doesn’t need to be a lengthy sermon and it doesn’t even require a single quote of book, chapter, and verse. It is simply done by redirecting someone’s hearts by the words that they speak. It can be just a few words, but spoken at the right time and in the right way, they pierce the heart and prepare the way for Jesus!
1 Corinthians 14:3
the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
Simple phrases like:
You’re not alone and God will help you through this.
Nothing’s too hard for God.
It’s not over yet and God’s plans will prevail.
You’ve got me and Jesus.
We can even get cute with them like:
God’s going to turn this mess into a message and this test into a testimony.
We should be ones who speak the language of Heaven, which is a language of such a powerful hope and life that nothing can overcome them. It is a language that glorifies God in every situation. It is a language that never allows sin or difficulties to minimize the power and authority of Jesus who overcame them all!
Too often, we speak as if though the works of the devil are greater than our God. We speak as if though sin overcomes and squelches the Holy Spirit’s ability to move. Rather, the Holy Spirit moves in the midst of temptation to empower us to overcome sin and destroys every work of the devil.
We speak as if though one can only be used of God if they are walking in perfect holiness. Rather, we read about how people who weren’t even disciples of Jesus were doing miraculous works in his name causing his actual disciples to become jealous. Jesus said not to stop them! Why? Because they were doing them in the name of Jesus and it is that authority and that name that is recognized and submitted to by our enemy even when invoked by those still living in sin who haven’t received His salvation. Jews such as the Seven sons of Sceva were doing this in the early church as well, but it didn’t always end well for them as once a demon gave them such a beating that they ran out of a house naked and bleeding since it was smart enough to recognize that they weren’t saved themselves. If an unbeliever can invoke the name of Jesus with such power and authority, then imagine what we can do through Him!
The truth and reality that turns hearts to God is this. It is not the life that we once lived, but rather the life that we choose to live from this day forward that matters to God. Listen to what Jesus said about those who heard John’s message:
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Our language should be one of power and authority; one of hope and certainty. We should speak God’s truth into every situation, which will turn hearts to Him. We should not be ones speaking a language of shame and condemnation of sin. The only One, Jesus, who could speak that language chooses in this season to instead speak life into death and freedom into sin. He speaks of tax collectors and prostitutes, the worst of “sinners” entering into His kingdom before the religious folk.
John spoke of Jesus who would come and who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. We have a better message than John of Jesus who came and who baptizes people with the Holy Spirit and with fire! John spoke of a kingdom that was coming near. We have a better message than John of God’s Kingdom which is right here on earth even as it is in Heaven!
Our simple words and our simple lifestyles, like John’s, can turn people’s hearts back to God. Let’s keep the gospel as simple as it truly is and stop complicating it. When people hear about what God has already done for them, about what God is ready and willing to do for them, and what God has planned for their future, it turns their hearts to Him. It gives them strength to fight another day and courage to face tomorrow. It gives them confidence in our God who is forever faithful and true.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
This morning, God is anointing us and sending us to share the good news about Jesus. This morning, look down because those feet are becoming something beautiful! Those feet are about to walk out these doors and carry the Kingdom of God wherever they go! Those feet are the altar where Heaven meets earth.
How can those around you call on the one they have not believed in and how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard and how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
Those beautiful feet are the feet of the one who is going to share the good news of the gospel with those around them! Those feet are the feet of the one who is going to speak hope and life boldly and courageously into every circumstance! Those feet are the feet of the one who is going to destroy the works of the devil and set the captives free! Those are the feet of the one who is going to turn hearts back to God! Today is the day of your commissioning!