This morning in chapel I shared a thought from a 2012 blog post I wrote about new snow and total transformation (from Acts 3). More and more I’m convinced that God is not in the business of covering up our past or our mistakes, but making us wholly new.
And while some may say that this transformation is entirely a work of God, I’m also convinced that transformation is often waiting on us to take the first step.
So, what is that step? Well, it is the same step that Peter called for from the onlookers that day in Acts 3:19-20: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
It’s actually a two-part step, but it’s one motion.
When I was in high school, I was in the Civil Air Patrol… which was a like Boy Scouts in a lot of ways, but actually an auxiliary of the Air Force. So one of the things we learned to do-and spent a lot of time doing-was marching, or, as the military calls it, drill.
There are specific commands that the drill sergeant gives so that everyone stays synchronized. When you’re standing still, they’re things like right face, left face, and about face. But when you’re moving, they get a little more complicated. You have commands that allow you to all turn at once, or turn in columns, or completely change direction. “To the rear, march,” for example, is a 180 degree turn, while marching.
You do it by planting one foot (the right foot) pivoting to your left, and then stepping off with that right foot that once was planted.
In Acts 3, that first motion, planting your foot, is the word repent.
It is, essentially, acknowledging that I need a change, and putting my foot down. Saying taht whatever direction I was going, I’m not going to go that direction anymore. I’ve had enough.
If your direction included a lot of swearing, it’s putting your foot down and saying, I’m not going to swear anymore.
If your direction included responding with anger, it’s putting your foot down and saying, I’m not going to respond in anger anymore.
If your direction was really going nowhere because you were just being lazy, it’s putting your foot down and saying, I’m going to get up and do something this year.
To repent means to put your foot down and say, I need a new direction in my life. I am not continuing in this same direction. I am going to turn away from my sinful life.
That’s the first part of the step, the first part of what we are called to do in Acts 3; the second part tells us what direction that is. It says turn to God.
Turning to God gives us that new direction, and it requires us to make a move. And so look, in just a couple of days it’s going to be the new year… and what a better time in our lives to begin to move in a new direction, then right here when we have a new calendar, and a new year.
Maybe, for you, that first step in the new direction is a step of prayer. It’s saying that prayer is not going to be a last resort for you, but the very first thing you do. First thing in the morning, to talk to God… if you’re moving towards him, might be good to talk to him.
Or, maybe for you, that first step in the new direction is a step into God’s word. It’s saying that the wisdom that we find in the scriptures is going to be your source of wisdom this year. It’s saying that before you spend an hour on facebook or watching a movie, maybe you’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes reading in the Bible.
Or, maybe for you, that first step in the new direction is a step of attitude. It’s saying that, just like Philippians 2:5 says, that you’re going to adopt the same attitude as Jesus. An attitude of humility, of contentment, of service, and of worship.
I guess what I’m suggesting is that, if that first motion is one of turning away from some unhealthy way of living—repentance—then that next step needs to be one that moves you towards completeness-towards God. It’s a step away from the sinful life, and a step towards God.
And it’s a great way to start the new year.