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Repentance - Turning It Around

There's an old story about a man from the city who was driving out in the country one day. The signs on the road weren't very good, and he got lost. Eventually he stopped at a farmhouse to ask directions. "Can you tell me how far it is to the town of Mill Pond?" he asked the old farmer when he came to the door. "Well," said the farmer, "the way you're headed it's about 24,996 miles. But if you turn around, it's about four." That story reminds me there are times in life when the only sensible thing to do is turn around! That is re especially true if the direction we are traveling takes us further and further away from God. That story minds me of a unique and interesting directional sign my wife and I saw a few months ago in a place called Skullbone, Tennessee (in West Tennessee in Gibson County). Now, if you don't know where Skullbone is, allow me to help you out. It's two miles from Goosefoot, Tennessee! Still lost? Let me try again. According to the sign we saw, Skullbone is 11,876 miles east of Sydney, Australia! Still need help? Skullbone is only 5,431 miles northwest of Cairo, Egypt, 1,958 miles east of Los Angeles, 108 miles northeast of Memphis, and 1,128 miles northwest of Miami! The sign marks the direction and distance not only to Goosefoot and Memphis, TN, but many other famous cities around the world! Now, how far is it to Memphis from Skullbone? The sign says it is 108 miles — if you travel west. But if my math is correct, it would be 24,892 to Memphis from Skullbone if if you traveled east! Let me say it again, there are times in life when the only reasonable and sensible thing to do is turn it around!

That's why John the Baptist's words in Matthew 3:1-2 still resonate 2,000 years after he uttered them. Those verses tell us shortly before Jesus began His public ministry John "came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!' " Space won't allow a very deep study here, but when John said, "Repent," he was basically calling on his hearers to turn it around. The way they were going was serving only to take them further away from God. The long-awaited Messiah, King Jesus, was very near at the time of John's preaching. A short time later, in Matthew 4:17, Jesus goes public with His ministry, and we read: "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' " According to James Meadows, "Repentance is a turning of the mind brought about by godly sorrow that produces a change in life" (East TN School of Preaching Lectures , 3/8/10). This call to "repent" and turn it around literally thunders off the pages of the Bible, Old Testament and New. It is a vital theme in the Gospel along with faith in Jesus and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The word "repent" or some form of it is mentioned more than 50 times in the New Testament. As noted, John the Baptist preached it and Jesus preached it. The twelve apostles "preached that people should repent" when Jesus sent them out two by two (Mark 6:7, 12). Paul told intellectual and academic heavyweights of his day that God "now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). And Peter wrote that the Lord "is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). The Bible is clear — God wants you to turn it around! Heaven is within our reach, but only if we repent.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ