It was a bit like one of our old ‘Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman’ jokes. Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector going to the temple to pray. The Pharisee was full of thanks for how marvellous he was, but the tax collector humbly asked God for mercy. (Luke 18 v 9 – 14)
One preacher I heard said that it’s not how near or far away from God that matters, but which direction you are facing. You can either be drawing nearer to God, like the tax collector, or away from him, like the Pharisee. The only thing you can’t do, is stay neutral. Like in a rowing boat, if you are not rowing, you’re drifting.
We are told in Genesis 19 v 26 that Lot’s wife disobeyed the angel by looking back to Sodom, and thereby was turned into a pillar of salt. However you understand that, she was simply not pushing forward. Maybe she was a native of the place, or maybe it was the property they had there, but the pull of it was stronger than her desire to leave it.
And then I wonder, am I really ‘pressing on heavenwards toward the goal’? (Phil. 3 v 14) What are the things that pull me back? Am I genuinely facing towards God, without even a glimpse towards things that spoil my relationship with him? What is truly amazing, is that it only takes a moment to change our direction. I gather that the word ‘repentance’ in origin means just that – to change your mind and turn around. That reminds me of a beautiful old chorus we used to sing –
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.