Turn Your Life Around
Turn Your Life Around
‘Big John’ had been living on the streets of London for over ten years. Before that he had spent over nine years in prison. Most of his teeth were missing. He was addicted to methadone. His nickname on the streets of London was ‘Big John’ because he was a big guy who had once boxed for the Army.
‘Big John’ walked into our night shelter for the homeless at HTB. He came with his friend ‘Little John’. ‘Big John’ loved it and appreciated all the young people who cared for him. He started coming to church. He came on Alpha. He encountered Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Alpha Weekend. He came off the drugs. God turned his life right around – from despair to joy.
He started telling his friends on the streets about Jesus. Each week he would turn up at church with more friends. His nickname, on the streets, changed from ‘Big John’ to ‘John the Baptist’!
One of the guys he had met on the Alpha weekend was in the property business and found him accommodation. A dentist in our congregation volunteered to replace all his missing teeth. He has been reconciled with his mother and his daughter and he now has a relationship with his grandchildren, whom he had never met before.
Following Jesus is life-changing. He constantly turns people’s lives around. He turns despair into joy (Psalm 30:11).
Call out to God who turns lives aroundPsalm 30:8-12
God can turn your life right around. God turns ‘wailing into dancing’ (v.11a). He removes our ‘sackcloth’ and replaces it with ‘joy’ (v.11b). All this happens when you cry ‘mercy’ (vv.8,10).
David called out to God, ‘Help me out of this!’ (v.10, MSG). God did: ‘You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy’ (v.11, NLT)
It is amazing and wonderful to hear story after story of Jesus turning people’s lives around, bringing them out of despair, setting them free from drugs, restoring marriages and changing lives – turning ‘mourning into dancing’ and sackcloth into ‘gladness’.
No wonder David ends this psalm by saying, ‘I can’t thank you enough’ (v.12, MSG).
Thank you, Lord, that when I cried out to you for help you answered me. Thank you for turning my life right around!
Watch out for God’s great turnaroundMark 13:1-31
Everything you experience now in terms of God turning things around is only a foretaste of the great turnaround that will occur when Jesus returns.
The Jerusalem temple at the time of Jesus was one of the most impressive sights in the ancient world. Yet Jesus saw beyond the earthly splendour of the buildings and knew that its glory was momentary. He points the disciples beyond the architectural splendour and makes a series of prophecies about the future.
- Turnaround of the temple
As they leave the temple, one of the disciples says to Jesus, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ (v.1). Jesus says all this is going to be turned right around. He says, ‘You’re impressed by this grandiose architecture? There’s not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble’ (v.2, MSG).
Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70. This may be what he is referring to when he says, ‘Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too – these things will happen’ (v.30, MSG).
- Turnaround when Jesus returns
Jesus’ prophecies about the destruction of the temple are not an isolated event. They are characteristic of the whole period until Jesus’ second coming and they foreshadow what will happen at the end. He therefore doesn’t limit his words to the immediate future but continues on with prophecies about the end itself.
Jesus prophesies about the events surrounding his return. Jesus warns us that as we approach the end times, things are going to get about as bad as they can get. There will be ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (v.7), ‘earthquakes’ and ‘famines’ (v.8b). And these are only the ‘beginning of birth-pains’ (v.8c). Worse is to come: ‘The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’ (vv.24–25).
Just before the dawn is the darkest hour. But after the darkest hour comes the new dawn. God is going to turn things right around with the return of Jesus: ‘And then they’ll see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his Arrival filling the sky – no one will miss it! He’ll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole’ (vv.26–27, MSG).
As Jesus speaks of the great turnaround that will take place in the events of the future, he also urges his followers to make a turnaround now in their own lives. Three times he encourages his disciples to ‘watch out’ and ‘be on your guard’ (vv.5,9,23). Jesus wants us to turn around from focusing on the wrong things, and to watch out for three things:
He warns his disciples to watch out for false messiahs who will be particularly active during times of war, earthquake and famine (v.5).
Jesus says that there will be an intensification of persecution (v.9) where ‘everyone will hate you because of me’ (v.13).
As well as deception and persecution, the last days ‘will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning’ (v.19).
In the face of all this, Jesus says ‘do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit’ (v.11). Jesus’ people are encouraged to watch out and be assured that God is in control of these events and Jesus is coming back to turn things right around.
Thank you, Jesus, that you are coming back. Thank you that although you came the first time in weakness and dishonour, you will return ‘with great power and glory’ (v.26).
Thank God for the greatest turnaround in historyLeviticus 14:1-57
Can God revitalise the church? Can he transform a nation? Can he reduce the crime rate and empty the prisons? Can he turn around the state of marriage and family life?
The greatest turnaround in history took place on the cross through the blood of Jesus that was shed for us. What looked like an utter defeat, God turned around into the greatest victory of all time. In doing so he made it possible for you and me to be part of God’s ‘turning the world around’ today in our communities.
All this is foreshadowed in the Old Testament passage for today. Again and again in the book of Leviticus we read of the need for cleansing because of sin and guilt. Sacrifice is required (14:19). Atonement is necessary (vv.18,19,31). The blood (vv.14,25,28) of a lamb (vv.10,12,23–24) without defect (v.10) that brings atonement and cleansing from sin (vv.11,19,20,23,29,31).
The apostle Paul explains how this all points to Jesus’ great turnaround ‘to which the Law and the Prophets testify’ (Romans 3:21). Everything we read about in Leviticus today is designed to ‘testify’ about Jesus. Paul continues, ‘This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe... by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (vv.22–24).
As a result, you can approach God today with confidence. In this passage in Leviticus, we read of cleansing taking place through water (Leviticus 14:7,8) as well as blood (vv.14,25,28). This is picked up in the New Testament as a foreshadowing of how Jesus cleanses us. So, the writer of Hebrews says, ‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water’ (Hebrews 10:22; see also 1 John 5:6).
He then finishes his explanation by explicitly drawing on the sacrificial imagery we see in today’s passage to explain how this is all achieved: ‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood’ (Romans 3:25).
This is how history is turned around. This is how ‘Big John’s’ life was turned around. This is how my life was turned around. This is how your life is turned around. This is how despair is turned to joy. Thank God for Jesus.
Lord, thank you that you have already turned history around. I pray that you will turn our nation around. Pour out your Spirit. Revive your church. Turn around the state of marriage and family life. May the crime rate fall. May the prisons begin to empty. May our cities, towns and villages be transformed. May your kingdom come.
Mildew seems to have been a big problem in the Old Testament. The treatment for it was very complicated and involved the priest. We have damp in the vicarage, which might be similar. I’m glad members of the congregation don’t ring Nicky each time they have mildew in their home. He isn’t very practical!
Verse of the Day
‘You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy’ (Psalm 30:11, NLT).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations (marked NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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