“NO SERVICE.” Those are the last words you want to see on your cellphone when you’re on an unfamiliar road. But they appeared on my screen as I drove through the grassy glades of Mark Twain National Forest in the Show-Me State. I was counting on John Denver—hopefully the country roads would indeed take me home, because without access to my phone’s GPS, I was lost.
The good thing is, I always have a backup plan (although it doesn’t always work). An ancient suction-cup GPS the size of a VHS tape never leaves my vehicle. Speaking of VHS tapes, it’s about as old and outdated as they are, so it’s always a risk to trust it. Nevertheless, I typed “H-O-M-E” in the search bar and made a beeline for home.
That is, until I was abruptly commanded to turn left onto an older highway that apparently hadn’t seen a car in ten years. The poor road was afflicted with potholes and was a dump for motorist’s trash. Even from the dead end sign you could see that this road led nowhere but to death, for nothing lay at the end but a heap of lifeless tree limbs, broken concrete, and shattered asphalt.
I had a moment of realization that I was going down the wrong road, and listening to my unreliable GPS was the problem. Therefore, I made the decision to turn around, ignore my GPS, and go the right way instead. Turning around to drive on the right road was the only solution. Stepping out to repair the wrong road wouldn’t help me. Pretending like I wasn’t on the wrong road wouldn’t get me on the right road. And feeling remorse for being on the wrong road wouldn’t do any good either.
The same is true if you want to go to heaven and take the right road that leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:14). You must first have a Spirit-induced moment of realization, which the Bible calls “conviction,” where God the Spirit says to you, “Look—you are on the wrong road!” Since the GPS of your heart is wired by sin to command you, “Turn away from God” (Romans 3:11), you are born driving on “the way [that] is easy that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13).
Once you understand that you are on a hellbound highway, you need to turn around and drive towards Jesus. This is what Scripture calls “repentance.” Repentance is turning away from sin and the wrong road, and turning toward Jesus, the only way that leads to the Father (John 14:6). Improving yourself with good works and spiritual resolutions won’t take you off the wrong road. Feeling sorry for being on the wrong road won’t turn you around. Pretending like you’re not on the wrong road won’t do it either. “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).