Monday, September 28, 2009

Turning Point

Everyone has a turning point. Where is your turning point? Where will you be when you finally realize that you need to change? At what point will you make your decision to turn? You see:

A life unchecked and unchallenged is life unchanged.

And an unchanged life is a life going nowhere!

Luke 3 KJV
1 ¶ Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

(AD26) John the Baptist preached one message – “Repent!” – Repent simply means to turn … turn from one thing and turn to another …

Matthew 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 3 also records John going forth preaching repentance and only one chapter later we see Jesus preaching repentance.

Evidently repentance is a very popular message with the “in crowd”, you know, “the inner circle”, those close to God. Now, back to Luke 3:

Luke 3:4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John was preparing the people for the presence of the Lord. How does one prepare the way of the Lord? Again, it has to do with Repentance …

Luke 3
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

Notice those who came to John’s wilderness church service.

The People – Just common, ordinary, everyday people. Moms, dads, kids, construction workers, school teachers, shop keepers … the basic blue collar back bone of every community.
Publicans – In the truest sense, these were tax collectors. They represent the white collar strata of every society. Community leaders -Those who often make decisions which dynamically affect others in their community.
The Soldiers – Not just any soldier, but Roman soldiers, soldiers of a foreign country with a foreign allegiance. People whose loyalty was pledged to another and were bound to obey the dictates of their superiors. As well, this group represents people who exercise great authority over the health and welfare of the nation, they are necessary for any community’s protection … but who will protect the community from them?

Each group asked John the same question:

“What shall we do?”

To each individual group John gave a specific reply. He showed each of them where to turn. What to turn from and what to turn to:

• The People – (if you have two coats … meat) Be kind and caring; look to the welfare of your fellow man. Don’t be selfish!

• The Publicans – (exact no more) Don’t create unfair hardships on others. Realize that your decisions affect more than just your own life and income. What is good for you, may not always be good for others. See the bigger picture before you act.

• The Soldiers – (Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages) It’s simple: do not use your authority to become a plague to those you are here to protect. Realize, John continued to say, someone is coming after me … basically: there is a higher authority than those to whom you have thus far pledged yourselves to follow. He will have final authority. You need to find your turning point now!

John’s goal was bring a message of repentance to each person in every group without respect to their call or condition of life. All repentance asks of us is that we stop doing what’s wrong and start doing what’s right. Now that’s really not too much to ask of anyone, is it?

Imagine a world where no one did wrong. That would be heaven … and it will be. That was the message of both John and Jesus … the Kingdom of heaven is at hand and you can get ready for it here on earth, right now!

Let’s look at a Bible story about two men who were brothers and see which one of them needed to find a turning point.

The story is found in the book of Luke, chapter 15. In this account Jesus tells of a certain man who had two sons. We will begin the story by reading one verse before Jesus introduces the family and their situation:

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

See, here Jesus is talking about repentance again … Now where is your turning point? Let’s continue with Jesus’ story:

11 ¶ And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

But what about the other son … the one who stayed home, worked hard and did what was right?

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Of course we can easily recognize that both sons were in need of repentance. We know that the younger son who wasted his life, time, and money on foolish living needed to:

• Check himself
• Challenge himself
• Change his life

But so did his older brother who stayed home, worked hard, and did what was right. The older brother needed to check his heart, challenge his attitude, and change his life too. Why, his critical attitude and unforgiveness had now become a wedge even between him and his father, (representation of God). This man needed a turning point in his life.

Where is your turning point? Perhaps you are not even aware you need to turn. However, without regard to you call or condition of life, I can confidently tell you, no matter who you think you are, you need to change and become more like Jesus … we all do.

Check yourself … Challenge yourself … and Change! It’s not too much to ask. Let today be your turning point. Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!