The Bible is packed full of metaphors that involve roads or paths. It is all about one journey or another. Whether it is the Hebrew’s wanderings in the wilderness or Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem we can find something significant when someone is putting one foot in front of another.
From the moment we are born we journey our way to the end. And the journey always has an end…eventually. A new Christian starts a journey of another kind in that hour they first believe; one on which they will be taught by our counsellor, the Holy Spirit.
I have often remarked upon and wondered about the role of John the Baptist in Jesus’ own journey. John was sent to ‘prepare the way’. I mean, this is the son of God, the living Word of God, why would He even need anyone to make straight the paths? Whatever the reason John’s own journey was inextricably linked to the one of Jesus. All our journeys are.
Over the weekend a wise man said to us that this path that we are now on is well worn. Many feet have trodden this way before. A great cloud of witnesses. We were encouraged just to keep our feet on the path and use the experiences of others as part of our guidance system.
But what does this particular road ahead hold for us? As thing stands we are waiting; stopped at a crossroads (for want of a better metaphor), resting. The path ahead is indeed well worn despite the verge being overgrown and the start of this particular path being partially hidden. To the left is a wider path upon which many have trodden. It leads through various distractions along the way. Towns such as Legalism and Bigotry, where comfort is in plentiful supply. Beyond that lies the great city of Apostasy and the very gates of Hell themselves. To the right is a familiar path that I have trod before. It leads back to the very same crossroads at which we now stand. A full circle. It isn’t as wide as the road to Hell but it is ever so inviting. A short way down the path is the village of Same As It Ever Was, where people congregate for more of the same: the same worship songs, the same sermons about getting out into the world and the same feelings of inadequacy when we don’t get out into the world. Beyond the village in the field is the festival of Christian Conferences with whatever this year’s banal theme is. Perhaps Revival? Again. Where you can attend seminars with titles like ‘Fire’ or ‘Ignite’ or ‘Flame’, that are designed to fire you up so that you can go back to the village feeling like you have achieved something and settle back into the old routines. The road beyond the festival is littered with hamlets with names like Burn Out and Blunted Tool. Then the road doubles back around to the crossroads.
So, as we wait, enjoying the lush green pasture and still waters that the Good Shepherd provides, we contemplate the road ahead. My heart tells me that if we keep our eyes fixed firmly upon Him, and rely solely upon His Holy Spirit then we will see new hamlets springing up out of the desert. We will feel the warm sun on our faces as we help to build something new from something old. Written in the pages of the New Testament are the blueprints of this new from old. The building uses living stones – people themselves to build up around the chief cornerstone:
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 2:5 NKJV]
I often imagine what it would have been like for Nehemiah, up to his armpits in the rubble of the broken down walls of the sacked city, sorting through the stones for anything useable, anything that could be put back into the wall. The task for today’s church (that is anyone who is a follower of Christ and not some building) is to start rebuilding. To be living stones. To be built upon the cornerstone, the foundation that is Christ.
Revival starts with the heart. It starts here inside each of us, not outside in the masses, but here in the gatherings of followers of Christ. The living stones. It doesn’t begin by looking back [Luke 9:62]. It isn’t written in some fancy book about what an outpouring of the Holy Spirit looks like. Nor in some formula that worked at some MegaChurch in California. It begins with reform [See Hezekiah, Joash & Josiah]. It springs up from within [Isaiah 43:19], [John 4:14]. We shouldn’t be looking outside of the body of Christ for revival, for when we start to follow the commandments Jesus gave us in chapter’s 14, 15 & 16 of the Gospel of John, the world will soon see what we have and want it themselves [John 13:35].
The road ahead isn’t one of tearing down but of building up. The road ahead means going back to the handbook and having another look. What we have now isn’t what is in the handbook. We need to look again.
Back at the crossroads we have a choice to make…there is only one; to set our faces like flint and embark on the road ahead.