Sunday July 12, 2020
Four Steps Away From God
The people of Judah had become quite prosperous and complacent. Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness, idolatry, and sin. Joel warned them that this kind of lifestyle would inevitably bring down God’s judgment. There was time to turn back to mercy and grace. They were only four steps away from God. (See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of prosperous)
It seems that no matter how hard we strive and seek after God, there are moments when we find ourselves straying from the intimate fellowship with our Lord. We may not wander far, like the Jews in Joel’s day, but we still sense that we are on a path that leads away from God. It may be a path of sin or one of self-reliance. It may even be a road of destruction.
It is in these moments that God calls us to return. He draws us with a love so strong and beautiful. Now the word return means, “To turn with repentance, return to the starting point, come back home, return upon a path already traversed.” How beautiful is that? God draws us home…to start fresh and new. How do we begin this great journey? Four steps is all it takes: conviction, repentance, restoration, and fellowship.
Conviction. The word convict is a translation of the Greek word elencho, which means “to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness.” To be convicted is to experience an utter dreadfulness of sin. To be convicted is to feel the sheer loathsomeness of sin. The Holy Spirit exposes evil, reproves evildoers, and convinces people that they need a Savior.
And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (Jn.16:8)
Repentance. Properly understood, repentance means a change of mind; a change of the intention from wanting to sin to not wanting to sin that results in a change in action. It involves the decision to make a change of behavior and/or attitude about something. Biblically, repentance means to turn from sin with a heartfelt desire to change and not do it again. We Christians often fail in our war with our sin (Rom.7:19). Sometimes, because of our fallen nature and weakness, we often fail to completely carry out our repentance. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, we are able to turn to Him yet again and receive the cleansing that is guaranteed through Christ.
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Is.44:22)
Restoration. To restore our broken fellowship with Him, God sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Him (2 Cor.5:18). Jesus knew we needed help in living according to God’s commands. He sent us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and help us do God’s will. We need the Spirit of God every day to help us live a righteous life.
Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. (Zech.1:3)
Fellowship. Fellowship is the most important thing God wants from us. He wants us to come to know Him…to be with Him…to spend time with Him. Jesus set an example for us when He slowed the pace of His life to spend time with the Father. He knew the importance of quiet moments. He often went into the mountains to pray. The more mature we become in our relationship with God, the more important this quiet time with God becomes. We look forward to being alone with Him.
Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart. (Jer.24:7)
God longs for us to return to Him. Let this simple truth find a place in you today: we are never more than four steps away from God. Amen, and amen.