[NOTE TO READERS: Please accept my apologies for taking so long on this one. It took several rewrites before it made any sense.]
“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:17 – ESV
“If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Jeremiah 18:8 – ESV
Let’s see…Hold on a sec….(Sounds of me frantically digging through my notes.) OK, here they are. You should see my desk. It looks like the International Paper Corporation exploded all over it. Alright, let’s see. “…yet I refused to repent.” Yep, that was the point, wasn’t it?
Frankly, I don’t even know where to start on this one. If you KNOW you need to repent, then this is probably not where we need to start out…I mean, well…you KNOW, right? You might as well be about it, and wait patiently for me to write The Return To God, Part II : God Will Then Let You Know He Is Aware Of Your Plight.
When you turn to God:
How do you know that you need to repent and return to God? I wish I could say that an angel will appear, or a hand will write on the wall, or the spirit of Christmas past will haunt you, but that’s not what usually happens. It DOES happen that way on occasion. Look at the Apostle Paul. Here is how you know you need to repent.
You start to realize there is something terribly out of place. You become miserable. Your conscience bothers you more and more. The fact that you even have a conscience means God still has His hands on you. You can remember what it was like when you were saved, and learning the Bible, and can tell there is no way your present life is anything close to that. You have stopped reading the Bible, but every time you go near it, you feel like you really ought to open it. You wake up one day and realize that everything you have done since turning your back on God has been nearly a complete waste of time (We will discover later that that is not necessarily true, but for now, that is how it feels). You slowly wake up and feel the weight of your sin. You wake up and feel that that sin is going to crush you. If this is you, then you are going through what I and countless other backsliders have gone through.
I woke up slowly, and in that waking I discovered I have never been more miserable in my entire life. I was doing work I hated, I was living a life I hated, I was miserable. “Somehow” it occurred to me that, if I really belong to God, where is the evidence of the walk? Where is my Bible? Where are my prayers? Could it be because there might be something amiss between God and me? “Nah…um…well…maybe I should take a look.” And that’s what I did. I stepped out of my own skin, looked at my life, noticed my life was really messed up, and that I had God riding all in the back of the bus.
It really hit me hard when I heard Carrie Underwood’s hit song, “Jesus Take The Wheel“. I thought my heart was going to tear a hole right through my chest. The thing about God is, He loves you beyond measure. He is waiting to bless you in ways you have never imagined. But, unlike modern parenting, He is not going to coddle us, and give us a trophy just because we exist. God has His own economy, and if you want to do business with Him, you need to know that you cannot have it YOUR way, and please God. He has something else in store for you.
Here’s the big deal about turning to God. It doesn’t matter if all you did was sneak that extra cookie when Mom told you to leave the cookies alone, and you lied to her about it. It doesn’t matter if you just murdered your wife, or husband, or robbed a bank, or raped someone, or are an alcoholic, or a prostitute, or a Satanist. Sin is Sin. Period. If you are a Christian, and have turned your back on God in ANY way, THAT is sin. If you are a Christian and sin, you make a mockery of the death Jesus paid on the cross.
BREAKING NEWS: There is no sin that cannot be forgiven except to blaspheme the Holy Spirit of God.
For the past several years, one prayer that has become my daily prayer is Psalm 51:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51 – ESV
Did you feel it in your heart? Is that how it feels when you look over your shoulder because you miss God? Do you miss the JOY of His salvation? I know I sure did. And more. What’s more, in the beginning of the Spirit convicting me, I still dug in. But God never gave up on me.
Because I was so damned stubborn, it took God being persistent for 20 years to break me. I really hope you don’t wait that long. Life becomes a living hell if you wait that long. And you will know in your heart that, if you wait any longer, God will give you over to your own will. In spades.
So, give it a try. Why?
God will turn to you.
In the Old Testament, when you see that phrase of God turning to you, the word picture the Hebrew paints is of a Daddy reaching his arms out, anxiously waiting to hold you again. Jesus called God the Father, Abba…it means “daddy”.
If you are a Christian, you have the right and privilege to call the Living God “Daddy”. He loves you so much it hurts good. He is already waiting right where you are. He is standing right behind you with his arms stretched out waiting to hold you again. He loves you. You are the prodigal son returning to his father after squandering all your talents doing things that served your appetites.
Did you know that the Bible describes this reunion with God actually dancing with you? That the Angels themselves throw a huge party? I can just see Jesus throwing a high five to his dad.
But that alone is not the total reason you repent. That is just what happens if you chose to repent. What happens when you repent is, God cleans you up Himself. He will lift your burden. He will pour his forgiveness all over you. Your heart will be clean again.
Let me ask you something. Do you have to bathe before you take a bath? Nope. That would be silly. You don’t have to clean up before you turn to God because, frankly, that is impossible. Because of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, you are and will be clean again when you confess with all your heart, and repent (Means to turn back, FOR GOOD).
You know, just like I knew, that you miss God. Maybe you don’t remember how you got where you are. Maybe you don’t think you can figure out how to get back home. Maybe you don’t think you can be forgiven. You would be as wrong as I was when I thought all those things.
God was there all the time. When I was running from him, all I was doing was crossing his palm. You see, the Bible tells of God’s promise that nothing, no power, no thing at all can remove you from His hand if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. So, you can come home, because you are already there. He already knows what happened in your life because he saw it all. You cannot shock God. Believe me, I tried.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Give it a try. You really have nothing to lose.
Let Jesus Take The Wheel.
Here is an outline of my next few posts:
Part II: God will then let you know he is aware of your situation.
Part III: God has made you exactly the way you are, so that you can do exactly what He intends for you to do.
Part IV: God will then tell you of His plans for you.
Part V: God will send you to do a task. He will empower you to do that task.
That’s it so far, but there will be more in this series.