Turn and Live
I think all our great learning has made us mad.
Not however, the way the apostle Paul was accused of by Festus in Acts 26:19-30, when in making his defense before King Agrippa, he declared to him that he had been obedient to the Heavenly vision, announcing to those in Damascus, Jerusalem, throughout the country of Judea and to the Gentiles that,
they should repent, turn to God and perform deeds worthy of repentance.
The Scriptures say that for that very reason, he was seized by the Jews in the temple and they tried to kill him. (vs 21)
For this defense Festus said,
Paul, you are mad; you’re great learning is turning you mad.
And Paul responded,
I am not mad most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth.
No, we are not like St Paul. These days we have lost our sobriety; we have fallen off the wagon of boldly speaking the truth despite the consequences.
yet, having all manor and means of communication, education and letters after our names, we have not made peace with plainly speaking the truth in love, and letting the chips fall where they may. No, we like to dance all around it, mariachi bands and all (as per Father Rutler),
until we explain it away, until confusion reigns and the truth is carried out to the recycling bin where it will come around again another day, disguised as something else.
The Lord Jesus Christ does not dance around the truth. And it’s really not that complicated or He wouldn’t say,
..let the little children come to me.
In fact, in Ezekiel 18, where I happen to be in my Scripture reading, it says it about as clear as can be. Here the prophet receives a word from the Lord to tell those in captivity to quit saying this proverb;
The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.
It seems that the Jewish people in captivity couldn’t quite accept that they were to be punished for their own sins. Oh oh– believe it or not, the Bible actually says that God will do that and He sets out in this chapter by the word of His prophet, to convince the people of exactly that.
First, the Lord God says, that’s the end of that proverb in the land of Israel..It will not be used ever again. He tells the people,
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the son is mine;
the soul that sins shall die.
(Forgive me Lord), but, for the sake of the nuns on the bus, lets clarify– it includes us girls, too.
Listen, He says, if a man is righteous, does what is right and observes God’s ordinances…he will live. If, however his son messes up..his blood is upon himself. What about the son who sees the sins of his father and says I’m not going that route? Then he will not die for his father’s iniquity, but as for the father…well, he’s up the creek.
Basically, vs 20b tells us, the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and vise versa for the wicked one.
Then the Lord explains in vs. 21 that, ‘should a wicked man turn from his sins he will live, and none of his transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him.’
So much for the mean God of the Old Testament.
Still, the house of Israel questioned God’s justice and the chapter ends with the Lord’s rebuke, reminding them exactly who’s in charge, whose ways are not just and exactly how much He loves His people;
Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.
Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!
Why will you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so
turn and live.
Sounds like the apostle Paul, doesn’t it?
And what do you know? God has made a way for us to do exactly what He asks, because His commands are not burdensome. ( 1 John 5:3)
It is through the price paid by the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ on Calvary, that God has given us the only provision for our sins, the bridge to restore us to the Father. By identifying and accepting that Christ crucified is personal- for you and me-we are enabled to walk away from the ruinous rags of sin, the stench of which is eternal death.
By His cross and Resurrection, you and I have been set free.
There’s an old evangelical scriptural tool I used back in the day, when talking to people about salvation and what it means to turn and live.
It’s called the Roman Road. I still think it’s a great thing to memorize, because it explains the basic tenants of salvation from the book of Romans:
- Romans 3:23- the condition of man
- Romans 6:23a- the penalty of sin
- Romans 5:8- God demonstrates His love for us
- Romans 6:23b- Christ’s provision ( God’s gift)
- Romans 10:9-10- man’s response
- Romans 10:13 – God’s promise is for everyone
Ironically, as many times as I used this to teach others about Jesus, salvation and the cross, I myself followed that road all the way home to Rome and the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
As I’ve said before, I don’t have any fancy letters after my name; just a decent education and years of being a student of the Word of God.
But, I’d be privileged to be lumped in with the likes of St Paul and hear someone shouting to me from behind,
you are mad.
Actually, I have had that happen, but that’s a story for another day.
My response-in love- will always be the same;
look to the truth of the Word of God and Holy Mother Church;
Turn and Live
- Art: The Apostle Paul explains the tenants of the faith in the presence of King Agrippa and Festus, Vasily Surikov, 1875