Posted: 12/1/17 at 7:00am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Yesterday I had adventures in driving. I was in a town in which the streets were designed as spoked wheels, and I needed to visit someone in a hospital there. I didn’t know the hospital’s address. We searched for hospitals using the GPS, found one listed in the town, and followed the directions to it.
Forty minutes later, after a long circular drive through the forests and along the river, I ended up on the same street on which I started, about a quarter mile behind where I had begun. Had GPS told me to make a U-turn, I would have done so and gotten to my destination an hour earlier. It was very frustrating.
As I reflected upon what had happened I mused that it was a parable of the lives of so many people. People start off with good intentions, then get bad advice—which they follow—and waste away much of their lives. Yet if you advise them to turn around and go in the correct direction, they often ignore you.
Many today see no need for God, nor God’s moral standards; they further see no need for having moral people and morality in the workplace or school. They think morality is childish, prudish, or old fashioned. They say it’s okay to lie, because everyone does. They profess that there is no absolute right or wrong, and thus anything goes.
How is that working for you, America? Israel also thought that at one time. Then the Israelites’ lives and society began to crumble. They complained to God as to why “he” had let such bad things happen in their society and lives.
God responded in Isaiah 1:7, 21 (NLT): “Your country lies in ruins, and your towns are burned. Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes and destroy everything they see …” Isaiah 1:21 (ESV) “How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.” Most people today are shocked at how many people misuse their power and positions to extort gifts or sexual favors. Recent events show that destructive behavior is the nature of humans when God is not guiding their decisions and choices.
The root of the problem lives in us, in ourselves, in our hearts, and in our circular thinking. When we close God and his values out of our lives, we are left with a tendency to do evil. God said through Jeremiah that the human heart is deceitfully evil (cf. Jer. 17:9-10). We need God and God’s influence in our lives. Our families and children need church involvement to be a priority again.
Evil is not a good companion, and it is an even worse master. Evil is an abuser and destroyer.
God’s healthy advice to a country or person going in the wrong direction is to turn around and go in the right direction.
Again, God speaks in Isaiah 1:16–17 (NASB95): “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”
Those following bad advice end up living in circles and keep coming back to the place where they still need to change the whole direction of their lives. The word for “turn around” is the word “repent.” Change the direction of your life and make the necessary corrections to get on the right road heading in the right direction.
I am reminded of a story of some painters who were painting the outside of a church building. The painters did the easy part first and saved the steeple for last. They were about out of paint when they reached the steeple. Assuming no one would notice, and desiring to keep more money for themselves by not buying more paint, they watered down the paint and white-washed the steeple. Suddenly a bolt of lightning hit near them and they heard a voice from heaven saying: “Repaint, and thin no more!”
Whitewash does not solve the problem. We need to repent to change our life’s direction and values by returning to God instead of driving in circles. With God’s direction in our lives, we can be brought back to the right road where we find fulfillment and peace.