By Ryan Shaw
God is calling His church to “Prepare the way of the Lord!” Over 2,500 years ago, the Holy Spirit spoke words of prophecy through Isaiah that apply to us and our core purpose as the body of Christ globally. In fact they need our diligent attention and emphasis now more than ever.
In Isaiah 40:3-5, Isaiah prophesies, “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 be 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.”
Isaiah was laying a foundational call before the people of God throughout history – Voices in every generation will be needed to consistently call God’s people back to their core purpose, “preparing the way of the Lord.”
John the Baptist took on this calling as He preceded the coming of Jesus in the first century. His preaching of practical repentance “prepared” multitudes to see, hear and follow Jesus as the true Messiah. John’s was a ministry entirely focused on laying groundwork so Jesus’ ministry and purpose could be accomplished.
John says of Himself in John 1:23, “I am ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord.’” With solitude, simplicity, vision, courage and humility, John became a “voice” of God in his generation, preparing for Jesus’ first coming. His was one of millions of “voices” God intends to use.
John’s voice alone was never meant to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. The Holy Spirit is searching for similar voices today which He can possess to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
Isaiah’s prophetic declaration 2,500 years ago, and John’s anointed example in the first century, enable the people of God today to recognize our own “voice” in preceding and preparing for Jesus’ second coming.”
The calling of such “voices” is laid out in Luke 1:17. This verse refers directly to John yet is meant to be applied by all who will take up the high calling as God’s voice in today’s generation.
“He (John) will also go before Him (Jesus) in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Though God is sovereign, He has limited Himself out of desire for voluntary relationship with His body. He tells us very plainly that we have a “voice” in His coming – we must prepare and make straight a way for it. But what exactly does this mean?
First, He is calling every born again believer to individually prepare their lives as a highway for our God. There are areas of our lives (as believers) that are not what He intends.
Our spiritual lives have desert and wilderness places, they are curvy and winding, there are high and low areas needing to be flattened and made consistent, crooked places that a road could never get through, and rough places that would bring great damage to any vehicle.
Through Spirit-led reflection, we discern these areas, bringing them to Jesus in confession and repentance. We develop new disciplines, enabling us to “straighten” out our lives in Christ so that He can come and have His way in us on His highway.
We allow the Spirit to deepen, widen and heighten our vision of the beauty and glory of Jesus, responding by growing in costly love and obedience of our great King.
Second, we corporately “prepare the way for the Lord” by mobilizing His body to obey His commission of embodying this Gospel of the Kingdom among every ethnic people group on the planet. We teach, inspire and activate His people to “scatter” themselves from where they are to where very few believers are.
Churches and campus ministry fellowships are empowered to study His mission purposes Biblically, having their Christian worldviews shifted to grasp where the Spirit is leading. They begin to pray and intercede with authority for global harvest among the nations while receiving anointed teaching giving them foundational understanding of the Great Commission and cross-cultural mission movement today.
They implement a sending strategy to scatter their church members, with their families and jobs, to similar cultures and language groups, who are without a relevant gospel witness. Some from these ministries go even farther, to very different cultures and peoples.
Such ministries are referred to as Great Commission Ministries and every believer identifies and grows in their particular role in the Great Commission.
Through such ministries, deepening their people in abandoned devotion for Jesus, and trumpeting the call to understand and love Jesus’ Great Commission, the way of the Lord globally is prepared.
The Holy Spirit is searching for “voices” in this generation who will articulate these two core messages of God in their home churches, small groups, campus ministry fellowships, Bible schools and more.
May we, like John the Baptist of old, discern our calling as ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord,” responding in faith and courage.