Time to Realign
Updated: Jan 22
It is Time to Realign
By Pastor Gary Lewis
During this pandemic, I heard stories about people having to quarantine. I heard stories about families having to divide their living quarters. But it is a lot different to actually go through it. I write this on day 7 of my own unique experience as I shelter in place in the parsonage basement. I want to thank you for your prayers, not only for me, but also for Georgy and Jeremy who were also exposed to the virus at the same prayer event.
Recently, the three of us attended a webinar about moving our ministry into the digital world of the internet. One of the ideas is to offer a podcast on a regular basis to connect us to others on the worldwide web.
The idea of a podcast appeals to me because I have always said that I have a face better suited for radio! What we discussed was doing some teaching about one verse in the Bible. While I am unsure of the technical requirements to pull off a weekly podcast, I decided to select a Bible verse that speaks to me in this unprecedented time.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17) This statement comes from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In this opening proclamation, he announced the long awaited age of salvation. In the Bible, the phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are used simultaneously to express this reality. It is the dream of the Old Testament, what scholars describe as God’s reign on earth, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin first with the context of this exhortation. Who was listening? We can tell by reading the surrounding verses that Jesus was not in the center of the religious world of his day – Jerusalem. He was not standing on the steps of political power. Jesus was born on the margins and he began his public ministry there. This is significant.
It’s time for Bristol UMC to spend more time in the margins. It is time for me to spend more time in the margins.
Jesus comes into our world to pierce the darkness with light. This is what the prophet Isaiah proclaims (Isaiah 9:2). Verse 15 in Matthew 4 refers to the “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Galilee, the area around the Sea of Galilee, is Gentile country. It was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Jesus inaugurated his ministry of hope on the mission field. As a result, we who endeavor to be Jesus’ followers must recognize the importance of the margins. It is always about God’s mission to all people.
How are people to respond to a new age of salvation? How are we to respond in our personal lives to Jesus’ message of hope? Jesus’ message is simple. “Repent.” Jesus is calling us to realign our lives, to change our ways, in order to live the Kingdom in our day.
Matthew 4:17 means we are to continually realign ourselves with the will of God. Repent means to “turn away” or “change our minds” about sin. Often times, repent is a word we use to those on the outside of the church. Jesus, though, as the Gospels reveal, often had his harshest words for those on the inside. Repent means to realign our thinking and actions, to shift or re-shift to align oneself with God. It is turning fully to God and away from any competing allegiances.
During a devotion at staff meeting, Jeremy led us through a You Tube message he listens to annually. He asked us to share what we learned from it. Here are three things that I think should guide us as 2021 unfolds:
1. We have to give God the time he needs to move in our hearts. The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of the believer, but we can’t hear until we pull away from the blinding noise of the world. The daily anxieties, worries and distractions of life can rob us of the joy of salvation.
2. When we pray and read the Bible, we have to believe that God is speaking. This is so vitally important. God is speaking – we just have to set our sails in the direction he is working.
3. Matthew 4:17 calls us to realign our life with the Lord. That means we need to confess our sin and receive forgiveness and healing. This means making constant adjustments, setting a new course at times.