Our Own Way

Our Own Way
Robert Wurtz II

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)

Notice how our passage zooms in on the essense of the controversy that God has with man; We have turned, every one, to his own way. That is to say, each one of us either is or at one time did what they wanted to do- to the exclusion of what God thought about it. In the language repeated in the time of the Judges,  In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, 21:5) This is the essense of all sin- me being in charge of my own life doing what is right in my own eyes. Yet this type of life is truly nothing more than slavery to Sin. As Jesus said it in John 8:34; Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (NKJV) A lot is said about freedom today in Christian circles. There are thousands of books on freedom. Sermons on freedom. I recently performed a contemporary Gospel song query and found over 100 songs that contain the word ‘freedom’. When some people speak of freedom they see it as the release of inhibitions in public worship. Others see it as being free from their past sin or past life and identity. Yet, freedom is a deceptive concept. Understand that noone but God is truly free. The rest of us are slaves to someone else. The question is, who or what are we a slave to? 

Changing Owners

For when ye were the slaves of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things [is] death. But now being made free from sin, and become slaves to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:20-22)

Some speak of freedom as if they were liberated from Satan in order to do their own thing. Almost as if there was some middle place between God and Satan that a person can function in being free from both Sin and any real obligation to obey God. Some came out of ‘deep sin’ having been in bondage to drugs and alcohol, etc., while others never did such things and were just as much a slave to sin as anyone else. So long as a person is serving themselves they are serving Sin. What did our key text say? All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6) In fact, unless a person is a slave to God they are by default a slave to Sin. When we finally repent and turn to God we shift completely from one form of slavery to the other. We  go from being slaves of sin and shame unto eternal destruction, to being slaves of righteousness and holiness unto eternal life. 

Down with the king

One of the great areas of change that must come to all people that desire to serve God is in the area of, “our own way.” Many serve sin thinking they are living life as Frank Sinatra described it, “My Way.” But it is an illusion. People insist on being the king on the throne of their own life. That sounds like a simple thing to say, but it has a tendency to go right by us. Many think they have the right to think what they want to think, say what they want to say, behave like they want to behave, etc., as if they are accountable to no one but themselves. If they want to mistreat someone or treat them unrighteously they believe it is their prerogative. This attitude comes from Adam and when given the opportunity become more and more inhumane and vile.  

Jesus defined repentance by referring us to the Book of Jonah and the behavior of Nineveh after hearing Jonah’s message. To understand how evil and brutal these people in Nineveh were you would need to do as study of Assyrian warfare. After employing terror and blood upon their enemies they would return home to the capitol city of Nineveh and paint their exploits of butchery upon the walls of the kings palace as if it were some sort of morbid and diabolic wallpaper. When representatives from other lands would come to visit they were met with images of human felleting, beheadings, impalement and every other vile thing in order to intimidate them into subjection. They were the most professional army the world had seen to date. Yet, upon hearing a simple message from Jonah, “Yet 40 days and Niniveh shall be overthrown”, the people of Nineveh repented. The king got up from his throne and put on sackcloth. This is a picture of man in his typical hateful way responding to the grace of God in repentance and faith. God spared the city at that time. However, as other generations came along they fell back onto their ways and were destroyed. The final verse of Nahum ends with a question; Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AS)”> at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty? (NIV) Their repentance was sure at the first, but by the time 150 or more years had passed enough new generations had came that knew not the Lord nor the judgment He had pronounced before until they were back to their old cruelty. They had killed so many people there was no one left to mourne their demise. Why? Because nobody lived that had not been touched in some way by their savagery. Yet, even as far gone as these poeple were they still found a place of repentance. They were still able to abdicate the throne of their heart and allow God His rightful place.  

Thy will be done

One way to describe true repentance is simply to say that a person goes from saying in their heart, ‘my will be done’ to saying ‘thy will be done.’ This is where it has to begin. 

Nineveh Had No Bible

Nineveh Had No Bible
Robert Wurtz II

Greek scholars over the centuries have tried to define mετανοεῖτε (repent) and similar terms. There is simply no English equivalent. Yet, what may be helpful is to understand our Lord’s use of the word. He states, The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:41) To understand our Lord’s concept of repentance we would need to go back and read the book of Jonah. He used the word in a sentence so as to color our understanding. In fact, He is expecting that the Jews would have done something similar as John the Baptist had came telling the people, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come.” But what did He find? did they react like pagan Nineveh? No, he found business as usual. The people that were entrusted with the oracles of God would not repent, but a pagan city known for its brutality did. God help the ones that follow Nineveh in the judgment. 

Works Meet For Repentance

The people of Nineveh did works meet for repentance. As we will learn later, they didn’t have sense enough to know their right hand from their left, but they had enough sense to repent. (Jonah 4:11) How did it happen? First, And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. (Jonah 3:4) This message offered no hope. It was simply a declaration;  Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. This is instructional. The result? So the people of Nineveh believed God. (Jonah 3:5a) This is essential to any persons’ repentance; they have to believe what God has said. That sounds simple enough because the word ‘believe’ gets thrown around so much and it has no real bearing on reality. The people of Nineveh believed so as to proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. This is fruits worthy of repentance.

No ‘Pointers’

You will notice that they were not given a checklist of things to repent of. They were left to themselves to sort it out. This tells me that God knows that we know what is offending Him. There is no need for ministers to stand in a pulpit and start listing off possibilities. Folks will sometimes pretend they don’t know what they need to repent of, etc.; but apparently God is not buying it and Nineveh is the example. They were a pagan society and exceedingly brutal. No Bible. No Sunday Schools. No churches on every corner. This is exceedingly sobering to consider. 

The King Vacates the Throne

We have another facet to Nineveh’s example when we read, For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (Jonah 3:6)
If you or I are ever going to repent in the biblical sense, according to the definition of Jesus, then the ‘king’ that is in my and your heart is going to have to arise from his throne and lay his robe from him. The king that has been inside you calling the shots ever since you first told your mom (mum) or dad, NO! We have to come off of the throne of our own life and utterly humble ourselves before the true King. This is the key. This is more than outward things, it is an inward change of attitude. What else did they do? Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. (Jonah 3:9) 

Turning From the Evil

We all have to TURN from our evil way. ‘Evil’ here is our own human independence, no matter how ‘good’ we may esteem our behavior. A person can do works that appear good and yet be in total rebellion against God. Notice that this king and his people did not need a list of things to repent of. Sometimes folk act like they have no idea what you are talking about. These people knew in their own hearts what they were doing wrong and they turned from it in all humility. The results? God believed them and He spared their city. (Jonah 3:1-10)


Suggested Reading

Roberts. Repentance. 



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