Change Your Ways, Son.

A good friend of mine is in the hospital for COVID. He’s been there since Friday. It’s uncertain when he will get out. I suggested to him that it was time for him to get things right with Jesus.

Why should he?

For the same reason that all of us should – because God commanded us to. Those of us who are familiar even a little bit with the Christmas story have probably heard the story of John the Baptist. What did he say? “Repent!” Even Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). That was also the consistent message of all the prophets of old.

Those who might not be familiar with Jesus are still required to repent. Every single human knows about God through nature, yet we refuse to give the true God credit. Instead, we make up gods of our own creation to worship. In all this, “they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

What does “repent” mean? It’s common for humans to offer up a particular vice and call it good. The fact is, God requires all of our being and not just giving up a particular sin. Romans 1 explains the human condition by saying, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” (Romans 1:21).

Humans go about our lives with little regard to God. Oh, sure, some may be religious, even very religious, but even that is disingenuous in the eyes of God if it isn’t a matter of the entire heart. Most of us, however, go about life with little or no thought of God let alone honor him or give him the thanks that he deserves.

Who is this God whom we disregard? Contrary to popular scientific belief, the universe came into existence. It didn’t just “happen” out of nothing all by itself. The bible tells us we know this because of what we see. Furthermore, we know that God is the one who did it. Still, our scientists get all bent out of shape if we try interject this into their theories.

God made everything and keeps everything spinning and in perfect balance. I’ll bet one day we will discover that even the most remote galaxies are required to keep the earth, moon, and sun at just the right position to make life possible. In Colossians, we learn that Jesus is the one who made all things and that he is the one who keeps things in place (Colossians 1:15-17). Life would not be possible without God.

Furthermore, every good thing is a gift of God (James 1:17). Like what? A new Mercedes? Perhaps, but let’s start small like with food and shelter. Or maybe the fact that you woke up today. Or maybe that people love you and care about you. We become consumed at how unfair life seems to us, yet we forget that we are breathing. We have bodies that digests food for us. We have work and leisure to enjoy. The fact that we might be miserable is no indictor of the generosity of God’s blessings.

Even in illness or loss or holocaust. As terrible as these things may be, countless people attest to good things happening through them.

Why would God be so benevolent? Good question. The fact that we have any good thing is because he made us in his image. That’s why he is good to us. Unfortunately, we don’t reciprocate. In fact, we all reject him and chase after gods of our own design. All of us. (Romans 3:9-20). What a slap in the face that must be! The problem is that we refuse to acknowledge this. That’s why God has sent his prophets and Jesus and his followers to warn the world of our error.

Make no mistake, there is a penalty for deliberate disobedience. Eternal torment awaits all those who refuse him (Revelation 20:10, 15). Yet, this is not God’s desire for us. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) but rather desires that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9).

We’re back to that word, repent. What does that mean? Basically, it is a realization of just how wicked we really are. We don’t honor or thank God. We do things that harm ourselves and others. Only by sincere, honest, and deep reflection can we begin to understand these things. It is when we do that we can finally begin to worship God and live our lives by walking with Him.

You know what that looks like. Aunt Jane all of a sudden starts reading her bible and talking about Jesus. A good friend suddenly stops drinking and wants to tell you all about Jesus. It’s the people who keep talking about Jesus, who seem to abandon their whole life to follow him. Most people think they are crazy, but they are not.

That’s not to say there aren’t frauds in this bunch of bible-thumpers because there are. Furthermore, all of these folks will do things at times that don’t seem to line up with what they say. That’s sin. They’ve changed – a lot – but they are not yet perfect. In fact, they can sometimes be awful. But here’s the deal, when they are, they are so troubled by it that they will likely surprise you with a sincere apology.

It’s not what they do (or don’t do) that makes the difference between them and God; it’s what God has done for them. He has forgiven them. Completely. Past, present, and future. And Jesus is the means by which this is accomplished. Jesus is the one who paid that debt through his death on a cross. His resurrection from the dead defeated the penalty of death and provides for eternal life.

All that is required is that you believe. This isn’t just head knowledge. Satan and his demons believe in Jesus, but they aren’t saved (James 2:19). Genuine belief plays itself out through trust in God enough to turn from a life of sin (repentance) and abandoning a way of life to follow Jesus. It’s understanding that, “God is God, and I am not,” and the proof of that by becoming his disciple.

It’s all or nothing. There is no turning back from this choice. Those that do prove that they were never genuine about it in the first place. They are liars.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Look, it is only right that we honor and thank God in a manner worthy of his glory. That is sufficient reason right there. Then to those with faith, genuine faith as evidenced by repentance, he grants the right to become his child, and, with that, eternal life (John 1:12, 3:16).

Everything changes once you become his child. Make no mistake, we are not his children simply because we were born. We are all made in his image, yes, but only those with faith (Romans 10:9-13) are his children. That’s a really, really big deal. We have peace with God and escape his wrath. We are saved (Romans 5:1-11) and will enjoy him forever and ever (Matthew 25:31-34).

This will be evident by what you see.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Let’s keep all this in perspective. Christians aren’t better than anyone else in that they all start off just as sinful and condemned as the next guy. The only thing that is different is that God has intervened in their life with mercy.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Christians have nothing to brag about. Genuine Christians will certainly be corrected by God if they become proud. The more stubborn the Christian, the more severe the correction. God definitely disciplines his children (Hebrews 12:7-11).

There IS a price to be paid for becoming a disciple of Jesus that you should be aware of before becoming one. The world will hate you for it because you will be in sharp contrast to their deeds. They stand condemned (John 3:18-21) and despise you for it. You will lose friends and even family members. You may lose your job and even your life for the sake of the gospel. Count the costs.

Mark 8:34-38 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

That’s the gospel message. If you have been given this message, it is both a blessing and a warning. It’s a blessing because you have sufficient knowledge and an opportunity to repent. It is a warning because certain damnation will be the end to all who don’t.

Choose wisely. I can attest that I rejected God, and particularly Jesus, until I was 44 years old. What a fool I was! By his grace, I have been saved. I have never regretted it even a little bit. God completely took away my taste for alcohol, apart from which I would have certainly died long ago. He replace it with joy and peace unlike I’ve ever experienced before. I owe it all to him. I am my own worst enemy, but he has changed me from the inside out.

I’m certainly not the only one with a testimony. If you are reading this and have not yet given yourself over whole-heartedly, I recommend you do so today, right here and now. Don’t delay a moment.

If you think this message might be helpful to others, please feel free to share it. I hope you do.

Father, I pray that this message falls like seed on fertile soil. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

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