Leaving the Path You’re On Is Hard (do it anyway): Acts 3:11-21

person in black jacket walking on snow covered pathway between trees
person in black jacket walking on snow covered pathway between trees

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Peter Speaks: Acts 3:11-21

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Acts 3:11-21

Filming in the Wilderness

One time an independent film maker told me a story about a shoot he did at the top of Mount Baldy in the Applegate Valley, a remote part of Oregon. This area is wild enough that the film maker and his wife encountered what may have been a mountain lion while scouting the location. My friend and his wife, and the creature, whatever it was, were just ten feet from each other. Fortunately it fled.

Anyway, the cast and crew had to hike a long single track trail, carrying a considerable amount of camera gear and other equipment, to access this location at the summit. After a long day of shooting, they finished around dusk, and it was time to hike back down the mountain.

With darkness approaching, they were about halfway down when the director suddenly stopped and said, “Hold it. This is wrong. We’re on the wrong path.”

“No, we’re not,” his crew replied.

“Yes we are,” the director said. “We have to go back uphill to find the right way.”

So this cast and crew, who were exhausted from the hike up earlier in the day, and from the long day of shooting — how do you think they reacted?

Some of them didn’t want to believe it.

Some didn’t want to hear it. They wanted the path they were on to be the one that would lead them home. Because it was easier. Because it was downhill. Because they had momentum. They were already heavily invested in their present path. They had already come so far. The only problem was, as badly as they wanted it to be the right path, it wasn’t.

Ultimately the crew made their way back up the mountain, until they found the right path to lead them home. Which was a good thing, because had they not done so, they would have been lost, in the dark, in the remote Oregon wilderness.

That’s how life is sometimes.

Over the years I’ve watched several Christians I love and care about drift away from walking closely with Jesus. They become influenced by their friends and professors at their university, or the people around them at work, or people they meet online. Maybe there are people close to them who profess to be Christians who have disappointed them. They become preoccupied with what the world has to offer. Little by little they begin to drift away from the path God has in mind for them. The one where they walk closely with Him. The path where they enjoy intimacy with Him. The path of intentionally connecting with committed Jesus followers, studying the scriptures, and intimacy with God in prayer.

After they’ve walked apart from Him long enough, they become convinced they’re on the right path. When someone comes along and tells them otherwise, they don’t want to believe it. They don’t want to hear it. Because it will be hard to turn around, to go back uphill, so to speak, and cover ground they’ve already covered.

But in order to find the true path, they must.

It’s heartbreaking, but it seems that often something catastrophic has to happen before they recognize where they’re at. A serious health problem, or a divorce, or a DUI, or the loss of a job. Of course it’s not just the individual who suffers. The kids suffer. His or her spouse suffers. The parents suffer. In fact, everyone around them who loves and cares about them suffers.

Peter’s Words in the Portico

While the lame man who was just healed clung to him, Peter addressed the crowd.

Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this? And why are you staring at us as though it were by our own power or holiness that this man was healed? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob glorified his servant Jesus, who you delivered to Pilate, and who you denied when Pilate offered to release him. You denied God’s Holy and Righteous One and asked Pilate to release a murderer instead. So you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. We witnessed his resurrection. It’s by his name — by faith in his name — this man has been made strong who you see and know. The faith that’s through Jesus has given this man perfect health in the presence of you all.

And now my brothers, I know that you didn’t understand. And your rulers didn’t understand. I know you acted in ignorance. But what God foretold by the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, He has fulfilled.

So repent, turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. That he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, the one heaven must receive until the time for restoring, the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Leaving the Path You’re On Is Hard (do it anyway)

Peter said, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. . .”

A number of people in the crowd listening to Peter that day were among those who shouted for Pilate to release Barabbas (a man who committed murder during an insurrection), and crucify Jesus. They were on a path that didn’t include God’s Christ. And they were heavily invested in that path. They had been on that path for some time. They walked that path with their Jewish friends from school, or work.

Now Peter is asking them to repent. Some of us might think that to repent is to feel remorse. But that’s not what it really means. To repent means to change direction. So when Peter asks his brothers to repent, he’s asking them to turn around and head back up the hill. He’s asking them to take a different path. He’s asking them to surrender their lives to Jesus, and to follow him, to follow Jesus on Jesus’ path.

That had to be a hard thing to do. In the next chapter we’ll see that for some, it was too hard, and they didn’t change their mind. Or their heart. Or their path. But we’ll also learn in the next chapter that many did change their direction. Even though it was a hard thing to do, about 5,000 made the decision to change paths. Even though it was a hard thing to do they went against the flow of their friends at work, or at school, or around the neighborhood. They surrendered their lives to Jesus, even though it would surely mean they would pay a price for it in the culture of their day.

Can I give you my best advice? We humans are influenced by our friends, coworkers, classmates, and culture way more than we like to think we are. Sometimes these influences take us down a path that pulls us away from following Jesus. The best thing we can do is to intentionally find those who follow Jesus closely and attach ourselves to those people. In my experience, they’re usually found doing something for Christ in ministry.

It’ll be hard, I know, but it’ll be worth it. Drifting along in the flow of the influences of this world won’t lead you home. It might take a long time but eventually you’ll only find yourself lost, in a remote wilderness, in the dark.

It’ll be hard, but turn around, head back up the hill. Change your path. Follow the path that leads to the place where God wants you to dwell. With Him, with Jesus, in heaven, forever.

Notes:

Photo by Domen Mirtič Dolenec on Pexels.com

You might also like Why I Fear God

Kurt Bennett’s book is now available on Amazon!

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4 Comments on “Leaving the Path You’re On Is Hard (do it anyway): Acts 3:11-21

  1. Pingback: An Important Conversation With My Younger Self: Acts 3:22-23 | God Running

  2. Right now I have a door that is open. In fact my family is partially through the door. I’m struggling really hard to determine if the path is God’s will for my family. If I don’t go through the door is my current path just the easy path “downhill” that I’ve always been on? I don’t know. I’m praying for an answer, but I’m still waiting for God’s plan.

    Your posts always seem to be something I need to read.

    • Yes, thank you for sharing that Adam. It helps me to pray for you. Praying right now for God to lead you through the precise door He has in mind for you.

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