Turn Around: the non-Sailor’s Guide to Repentance

Bob Seger has a song titled “Running Against the Wind”, which laments the transient and sometimes difficult nature of life. The Bible comments on that very subject: If you’re sailing against the wind, Turn That Boat Around! At least that’s what John the Baptist told his audiences at the beginning of his ministry… In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2 NIV)

Why Did Righteous Folks Need to Repent?

John wasn’t preaching some casual message about being a little sorry for what you had done. He was issuing a challenge to a people who lived by the law to a fanatical degree, who sought righteousness through legalism, and who probably saw themselves as righteous already. The average Israelite in John’s day probably did not see themselves as having very much to repent FROM. “Did I take too many steps on the Sabbath? Did I do something that made me unclean? After all, I am a pretty righteous guy!” And yet John called these practitioners of self-righteousness to turn away from sin and REPENT. He said the Kingdom of Heaven did not involve self-righteousness, but a whole different approach. He was challenging his listeners to change their lives by changing their direction.

turn

You’re Going the Wrong Way!

The Greek word metanoeo literally means to have a change of heart, but it was also used as a sailing term to describe coming about, and sailing back in the opposite direction. Sailors would use it to describe how a boat could “turn away, go the other direction.” This meant the boat had to reverse its course, tack against the wind, and make a commitment to head 180 degrees back the other way. It meant altering your course, and it involved full commitment to the new heading.

Do you ever get frustrated? Ever feel selfish? Ever experience a lack of love? Repent! Change your approach! Turn around and travel the opposite direction from where you are currently headed. John the Baptist preached it; Jesus proclaimed this message repeatedly in the gospels; so did Paul. It must mean something important in the Kingdom of Heaven, right? So, ask yourself: what do you need to repent FROM? And, Where are you sailing TO? Is it time for you to turn around?

Turnabout is Fair Play

John the Baptist preached this sermon everywhere he went;
Jesus preached it, too: He called on people to REPENT!
They called on men to turn around, to make a brand new start,
And change their lives by changing what they had inside their hearts.
Repentance meant to come about, to sail the other way–
To do things differently tomorrow than you did today.
If you have run from God, or balked at having His protection,
REPENT! And make your way back in the opposite direction!
When you repent, I think you’ll find your vessel needs less bailing;
There will be smoother seas in the direction you are sailing.
Turn about. You’ll find the Father loving you–not hating–
And as you head for home, you’ll find He has safe harbor waiting.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Come, and See: the Obvious Choice that was not so Obvious

When Jesus arrived on the scene, his cousin John was preaching to large crowds who gathered to hear him outside of Jerusalem. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come”, he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.” (John 1:35-39 NIV)

come

Maybe the Best Preacher Ever

John the Baptist became well-known during his ministry, so much so that Scribes and Pharisees would come out to the country from Jerusalem to question him, and a group of disciples gathered around him. In spite of his humble circumstances, and through no desire of his own, he became a celebrity. He was a dynamic preacher calling the children of Israel to repent and embrace the Kingdom of heaven.

John testified eloquently about the arrival of God’s son, and his followers had come to him from all over as he preached to large crowds. His disciples were dedicated men who were seeking the Kingdom of God, and they followed John for months if not years, watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. It may seem logical that John’s disciples would leave him when Jesus arrived, but that had to be far more difficult than it might seem on the surface of things.

John was famous, an established prophet, a rising star in the eyes of the Hebrew world. He preached with power and conviction, and his conduct was impeccable. He drew big crowds, and he had the attention of everyone who worshipped the Lord.

A New Kid in Town

When Jesus showed up on the scene, he was unknown, a young carpenter from Galilee without much street cred. There had been no miracles. No one had heard of him, and there were no crowds following him around. All of that came later. To most folks, He was just a guy from Nazareth until John pointed him out.

Knowing “the rest of the story”, it only makes sense to us that John’s followers would gravitate to the Messiah, but in the first days after Jesus’ arrival, who knew? It couldn’t have been obvious or intuitive to anyone. Religious leaders came from Jerusalem, not Galilee, and Rabbis had formal training in the Temple Courts, being apprenticed for years until they were ready to step out and lead a group of men…

Even later on, many of the disciples weren’t exactly sure who Jesus was, and they didn’t know in advance what would come from this Rabbi, so this early in the game I’m sure they were hoping for an obvious sign that they were making the right play. When Jesus showed up, John’s disciples had to make a choice, and they had to leave a successful ministry for an unknown start-up.

A Difficult Choice

After John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus, two of John’s followers approached Jesus. In this well-known response, Jesus didn’t give them a list of his accomplishments, he didn’t pontificate or try to impress, he merely said, “Come, and you will see”. That is his invitation not only to them but to all mankind, and to every one of us: Come check me out. Watch what I DO. See if I’m legit or not.

Have you ever really, REALLY taken a look at who Jesus was and what he did? If you haven’t yet spent a day at his place hanging out, then perhaps you haven’t seen him the way he intended you to. Over the next few days in this blog we will spend a little time looking at Jesus and hanging out with him. Come, and see.

Hold That Thought and Watch This

We Christians think we have to sell
the Bible’s thoughts on heaven and hell
So sinners one and all can learn
That surely they must “turn or burn”.
We share the gospel when we can–
The Four Spiritual laws, the fall of man,
The Roman Road, salvation’s plan
Spelled out in an effective tract
Which we can share with grace and tact.
And yet there is no better way
Than what the Savior had to say
When John’s disciples asked if He
Was who they thought. His words can be
A template: He said, “Come and see,
And if you want to know: “Watch me.”
They did. The rest is history.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Preaching What People Need, Instead of Preaching What They Want

When John the Baptist heralded the coming Messiah, he was preaching a pretty simple sermon. Apparently, it was pretty hard to follow. Even though crowds came out to hear him, there was confrontation with the Pharisees and controversy about his methods.

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” (Matthew 3:1-3 NIV) John the Baptist was a fascinating character. He didn’t approach religion the same way the established teachers did.

preaching

Not Your Average Rabbi

His sermons were direct, convicting, and powerful, full of exhortations and pointed advice about reform. In his preaching he called the religious Pharisees a “brood of vipers”! He challenged his listeners to humble themselves before God, confess their sin, and turn away from it. He didn’t teach in the Temple in Jerusalem, as did the outstanding Rabbis of the day. John lived out in the wilderness, preaching far away from the centers of commerce and power. He dressed in rustic simplicity and ate locusts and wild honey. Farm to table restaurants are in vogue now, but John was more natural than that: he went straight up wilderness to table.

John the Baptist didn’t unpack Scripture, he exhorted people with it. He challenged the status quo. John prophesied. In spite of his apparent eccentricity, large crowds came out to hear him preach and many stepped forward to take the radical step of baptism, signifying that they hungered to commit to the Lord in a new way. When asked who he was, he quoted Isaiah 40:3: “He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Not What Everyone Expected

Although he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, his message was simple: “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” John didn’t call for the overthrow of government, no matter how much they hated Roman occupation. He didn’t call for a new building. And he didn’t advocate revolution or reformation to prepare for the Kingdom. He called for personal repentance.

He knew that for the kingdom of heaven to be present anywhere, it first had to be present in the hearts of those who hungered to see it. Is it present in yours? I think we all avoid repentance a little bit, and associate it with wild-eyed Mystics holding signs by the road. But probably, if you’re honest, you are doing something in your life that is taking you down the wrong path–something motivated by pride, or selfishness, or greed…

If John the Baptist showed up in your neighborhood, would you go listen? Would you like his preaching? Would you repent? The very Kingdom of Heaven is waiting! Confess. Turn away from your sin. Make straight the path of the Lord.

Simple Preaching

Of all the sermons ever preached,
From all the sinners ever reached,
There’s just one message you should hear,
So let me make this crystal clear:
(Jesus preached this, so did Paul;
Stephen, Peter, really all
Great preachers throughout history
Have emphasized this mystery.)
Every preacher God has sent
Said this: Repent. Repent. REPENT!
I’m pretty sure that’s what they meant.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread