Today’s Bible readings are 2 Samuel 14:1-15:22, John 18:1-24, Psalm 119:97-112, & Proverbs 16:8-9
2 Samuel 14:14
14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.
I love this word from the bible. God does not sweep life away. He is always working to bring us back to Him even when we wander. This is such a truth for us to recognize. The nature of our Father is to bring us back to Him.
Many times when people in the church have a failure we send the message to them that it is over for them. We exclude them from serving. We eliminate them from ministry positions. We tell them they need to focus on themselves get their lives in order.
I don’t disagree with that approach. I do believe that leaders should be held to a higher standard. When there is a moral failure, or any failure of character for that matter, we should hold people accountable. That is the biblical thing to do, BUT at what point do we learn what David needed to learn—the grace to restore.
In our personal life, if it is our children that have broken our trust we may say that it will never be the same. If it is a spouse who has lied or cheated we say we will never trust them again. Is this restoration? Is this the way that the Lord deals with us? Is this the example that He left us?
I see that this is an issue in the body of Christ. I was filling out an application for membership at an outdoor facility in our community. One of the questions was: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” My reply was: “Yes, but that was 15 years ago. I am a pastor now. That is long in my past.” Yet, this still causes me to think: “Is it ever going to be behind me?”
I feel, at times, that we forget that Jesus is all about restoration. He wants to restore people & things.
1. He wants to restore us to health.
2. He wants to restore us to ministry.
3. He wants to restore us to service.
4. He wants to restore us leadership.
5. He wants to restore us in our communities.
There is no doubt that this is the heart of our King. God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. I believe that we have forgotten this in the church.
We are so quick to administer correction, & this is needed, but it seems like we have no concept of restoration. At what point do we receive back into FULL restoration our brother & sisters in the Lord? It is interesting to me that we preach this message of restoration in our churches but FAIL to demonstrate it when opportunities arise. We tell people that God will restore but then we fail to restore people. It is as though our doctrine & our practice are in conflict.
At some point if we are to be people of integrity ourselves, we must practice restoration. By failing to acknowledge & restore, we become hypocrites of the very message that we preach. We fail to give the very mercy & restoration that we ourselves SO desperately need.
So the question needs to be answered—at what point do we restore our brothers & sisters??? I think that the answer is found in the bible.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
The really interesting thing about this is that Jesus never put Peter on a probation period. He was restored. In just a few short days Peter would be back in fulltime ministry changing the world for Christ.
I do want to say that Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He knew that Peter had truly repented. This is the best way to gauge things. Has there been a true repentance? Is it evident in the life of the person? Is the fruit of their life showing that there has been a change of heart, mind, & direction?
Another thing that is very important is prayer. We must be people who believe in the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If we seek the answer to these things in prayer God will reveal the truth to us. But let’s not just say that God has showed us, LET’S REALLY PRAY UNTIL HE SPEAKS CLEARLY TO US. God knows when there has been a true change in a person’s heart.
This may be different for each person. It may be a 6 month turnaround. It could be a 6 hour turnaround in other cases. Other times there may never be a true change. The point is that we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in each case.
Lastly, once there has been true repentance, restoration should immediately follow. Wisdom would be to put up boundaries to prevent a future relapse in the old area. We don’t want to set people up to fail again. Yet, we want to practice restoration.
I hope that this has touched your heart. I pray that we will be people of grace. I trust that we will follow that leading of Jesus & work harder to devise ways to get people back into ministry & fellowship that sin has stolen from them instead of devising ways to keep them out.