I always chuckle when one of the presenters on our local NPR station reminds his listeners as he is signing off his news segment to use their turn signals. It is a needed reminder in this state, and perhaps yours as well, because fewer and fewer drivers seem to think it necessary to signal before they turn. This is a dangerous trend because when a driver’s intentions are not clear, accidents are more likely to happen.
I am not sure how this happened. Do driver’s ed classes no longer teach the practice of using turn signals when preparing to turn on the road? Is it no longer necessary when taking an on-road driver’s test? Or is it just a matter of people not being interested in obeying certain laws, and police not interested in enforcing them?
There is another trend that I have been seeing for a number of years that relates to the current lack of using turn signals—conversion without repentance. There are many who claim to be Christians (over 75% in America), but many have never used their turn signals. In other words, they have never demonstrated they are turning from their sinful ways in order to follow Jesus. They perhaps prayed a prayer to receive Christ, maybe were baptized, and they became more consistent in their church attendance. Yet, their lives show no real change.
Over my years in ministering on campus, I have seen this countless times. Students claim to be Christians, but live much like their unbelieving peers. Their stories are remarkably similar. They grew up going to church; they accepted Jesus as their Savior while a child or teen, and came to college confident in their salvation. Yet, upon coming to campus, they never used their turn signal to indicate they were living for Jesus, or, perhaps more importantly, when they decided not to live for him. Instead, they stuck to their claim of being a Christian, when all those around them could easily see their hypocrisy.
I usually learn these stories when students begin to feel the need to make a turn back to Jesus. Numerous times I have heard students say, “When I began college, I thought I was a Christian.” By being involved in our campus ministry, they began to learn a basic biblical truth—without repentance, there is no salvation (Acts 2:37-38; II Corinthians 7:10). Repentance is the spiritual turn signal indicating to God and to everyone in your orbit that you are truly desiring to follow Jesus.
There are many examples of this in the New Testament. The most familiar are probably the “Damascus Road” experience of Paul (Acts 9), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). However, there is a lesser known one that has always impressed me. This is the story of some Ephesian believers who were claiming to be Christians, but were secretly practicing sorcery. They were living double lives and the Lord convicted them. Their response? They repented, not just by saying they were sorry they had done wrong, but by burning very valuable scrolls which Luke said were worth the equivalent of 137 years of the average yearly wages of the day! Now that is a turn signal! And what was the result? According to Luke it was this: “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
I have written this before, but it bears repeating: The American church overall is weak and does not impact our culture in a truly transforming way because so many of those involved have never indicated their commitment to Jesus through true repentance. And the church is culpable because in pursuit of conversions and members, it has cheapened the cost of following Jesus. Compare what many churches teach with what Jesus says.
The church says ask Jesus into your heart so you can be saved. Nothing else is required. Jesus, on the other hand says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
The church says we accept you just the way you are and love you. Jesus says this, but adds this caveat when he addresses both the woman caught in adultery and the rich man:
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’‘No one, sir,’ she said.‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:10-11)
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
The church says it doesn’t want to talk much about money and the average giving of a church attender or member is at 2.5% of their income. Jesus, however, says,
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Turn signals are important in life, those we have in our cars, and those that we have in our hearts. A turn signal of a car indicates the driver’s intention to turn. It helps to prevent accidents.
A turn signal of the heart is shown by repentance—turning away from living for ourselves and instead living our lives in total devotion to following Jesus and obeying his commands. This signal helps to spread the Gospel through demonstrating the power of God to truly transform lives. In our society, we have grown accustom to not using this one and feeling fine about it. That must change if the American Church ever hopes to have a significant spiritual impact on our society.
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture references are from the New International Version.