By Charles Wages
Turning points occur in everyone’s life. They can be natural or spiritual; immediate or gradual; big or little; for good or bad. Whatever their magnitude or importance, they play a large part in our lives and in our attitudes toward God and man.
Our thoughts about “turning points” will be mainly of a spiritual nature, however the spiritual largely determines our attitude and manner of living in our natural estate. The Scriptures, especially in the epistles of Paul, speak of very dramatic and important “turning points.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9 is an excellent example of a spiritual turning point.
“For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Many of these people had been pagan Gentiles who worshipped all kinds of idols. Through the Word preached by Paul and the testimony of true believers they turned to God from their idols. This was a tremendous “turning point” that would affect their lives, and others, throughout their lifetime and into glory. The word “convert” means being turned around. Someone or something is going one direction in time and when converted they head in the opposite direction. They once faced Satan and self and now they face the Saviour.
One of the great passages of Scripture that clearly teaches a turning around is Ephesians, chapter 2. The first three verses tells us what we were by nature, how we walked and talked, and to whom we owed allegiance. What a dreary and degrading picture. Satan, “the prince of the power of the air,” was our master. We were his children in disobedience. Our character was determined by his character. Our conduct was determined by his conduct or manner of living, our conversation or speech was fashioned after his, and our course or direction was determined by him. What a miserable picture. What a miserable life.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved). ” (Eph. 2:4-5)
There can be no real turning point in one’s spiritual life apart from the power of God. God exercises that power when we give up our own efforts and trust Him. The little preposition “for” in Ephesians 2:4 shows us why God is so willing to help all who look to Him. His mercy is shown because of His great love for sinners.
In times past we were:
- dead in trespasses and sins
- walked according to the course of this world
- lived according to the lusts of the flesh
- fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind
- were by nature the children of wrath.
All of these, and more, because we were under the influence of the “prince of the power of the air.” This ruler is Satan.
But God enters the picture, and what a difference! This is also where the “turning point” takes place. The lost sinner becomes a saved saint. This does not come about by our own goodness or works (Eph. 2:8-9), but because of His mercy, grace, and love for sinners. God does the loving, giving, and the work needed for salvation. We, as sinners, do the receiving, and then begin to accomplish the “good works” He has appointed for His children. What does this accomplish in our “turned around” lives? We become “new creations in Christ Jesus” (2 Cor 5:17). This work of God allows the newly created individual to begin a new walk in a new direction.
Another great “turning point” is brought to our attention in Titus 3:3-7.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Again, we must consider what we were before God, through Christ, came into our lives and turned us around:
- we were foolish instead of sensible
- we were disobedient instead of submissive
- we were deceived instead of self disciplined.
- we were serving lust and pleasures instead of being servants of God
- we were living in malice and envy instead of doing “good works”
- we were hating one another instead of showing the love of God.
What a “turning point!” What caused this change of direction, this conversion? Titus 3:4 and 6 tells us,
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, … which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
When you read Titus 3 verses 4 and 6 together, you get the full meaning of what causes the dramatic change in one’s life. The statement in verse 5 lets us know again that we had nothing to do with this change other than to accept it as a free gift of God. When we read the expression “But after,” we are forced to think of “but before.” It is not a pretty picture. Sin never is pretty. We don’t like to think of being foolish, disobedient, deceived, lustful, envious, malicious, and hateful. These, though, are the results of letting Satan rule our lives. These are the qualities of a life without God. We see them mirrored in our society in every form of evil imaginable. A complete change is needed to get out of this mess. That can only be accomplished by the power of God who can turn our lives around and let us look to the future. In Titus 3:7 we are informed,
“That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Once we looked toward “no hope” now we face the future with a “new hope.” That “hope” is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
In Ephesians 2:11-13, we read of another great “turning point.”
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
These verses teach a great “dispensational truth” that the devil would just delight in covering up from God’s children. He has done a pretty good job so far. Many of God’s children know very little of God’s great plan for this age of grace. We are told in these verses that “in time past” the Gentiles had “no hope and were without God in the world.” It was through God’s chosen people, Israel, that the Christ (Messiah) was to come. The only way to truly worship God was through His plan and purpose for Israel (the circumcision). Gentiles were considered “aliens” and “strangers” from the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants and promises made to them. The Gentiles were “without hope” and “without Christ,” except in relation to Israel’s hope.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13)
Another great “turning point!” It is characterized by the expression “in Christ Jesus.” This makes the difference. All is changed and turned around when we see we are now “in Christ Jesus.” Not just in the world, but in Christ Jesus! This great turning point in God’s dealing with humankind came about by Christ’s death, not just His life. His beautiful, sinless life did not break down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, but the shedding of His blood at Calvary. This brought Jew and Gentile together in one joint body.
“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6)
Now, this joint body is known as the Church, the body of Christ. This was not only a great “turning point” in God’s plan and purpose for the ages, but can make a great change in our lives today. We, as believers, are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” What a position! What a future!
Yes, when we accepted Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, He completely “turned us around.” We once served Satan and self, now we serve the Saviour. Once, the many churches of man confused us, now we are secure in His Church, the body of Christ. What a change, what a hope, what a future!
“Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 16:25-27)