Monday, September 23, 2013

Walking Back to God

We can recognize an emergency, right?  We'd never let a situation slide without recognizing the moment of no return. Then comes the moment that the doctor says, "It's colon cancer/ liver cancer/ lung cancer." Or our husband comes home, papers in hand, and says, "I want a divorce."  And we wonder where was the moment?  How many times did we say to ourselves, "I should eat/drink/smoke less." or "I ought to work harder on my marriage"? 

Have you ever thought, "I used to be closer to God." I have. Even worse there have been times that I have let that thought play over in my mind for weeks, even months and done nothing to regain the lost ground.  

This is an emergency. I don't want you to look up and say, "Wait?!  How did I get here? I did not mean to leave God behind!  How did sin push me into this mess?"  If you've had the nagging thought, "I wish I was closer to God again," today's the day!

Readdress our sin

Sin separates people from God. When I was in Sunday School, the teacher used to draw a big canyon, labeled "sin," explaining that only Jesus could bridge the gap and reunite us to God. 

I used to think of that picture as an evangelism tool.  As a Christian, I don't immediately assume that my sin is separating me from God. God's chosen people, the Israelites didn't think that way either.  Isaiah 58 lays it out.  The people wanted God to be happy with them; yet they recognized that God was neither pleased nor listening to their prayers. Does that sound like a familiar story? Isaiah knows the problem: 

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

The people had unacknowledged sin.  They desperately needed Isaiah to tell them, out loud, the wrong they were doing so that they could repent.  If you feel far from God, and you really don't know why, let me encourage you to go to someone who is mature, godly, and loves you and ask them if they see sin in you. 

The people we love may already be doing this. Recently a friend said to me simply, "You seem really frantic."  That was not only the truth-it revealed my own heart to me.  I was anxious, worried, harried and busy.  Everything that looked frantic on the outside was rooted in a lack of trust, peace, and faith.  Sin was driving my anxiety.  

Remember the picture?  Willful sin creates a gap between me and God. Unrecognized sin, or sin that I blindly excused away will too. Repentance is the only way back to God. 

This emergency, drifting away from God, deserves our full attention. A self-evaluation, searching for sin, is not pleasant.  But anything standing between us and God must be ruthlessly eliminated!


Maybe after some self-examination you find not a glaring sin problem but a cooling.  You used to revel in your prayers every morning, now you find them mere rote.  You were a part of a great small group but recently you've drifted away.  You used to start your day with some Bible study but recently you're more likely to turn on the news.  

Did you let your disciplines slide?  Things got busy and what had been a habit became one more thing on a to-do list that never got done. If so the answer is simple: begin again. Veggietales said it best: " Praise the Lord, he's the God of second chances." (The singing angel scene from the belly of the great fish in the movie Jonah)

Or maybe your circumstances changed; you married, had children, lost a loved one, got a new job, lost an old job, moved or something else and you've simply not found the routines again that once sustained you.

We know that we need to add disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, and worship back into our lives, but sometimes it's not possible to pick up where we left off.  The woman who returns to her job and loses her mid-week ladies bible study can't just "go back" to it.  The young mom who used to rise early to pray and now gets up early with a 3 year old can't put him on hold while she talks with God.  Life doesn't run backwards.  

Instead, we need to embrace the change.  If we're back in the workforce, maybe our lunch hour could include 5 minutes of prayer.  If our kids are young, include them by reading aloud at the breakfast table, praying before bed, or having a daily devotional.  


One of the inevitable results of breaking fellowship with God is breaking fellowship with our brothers and sisters.  John puts it this way: 

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)

When we are outside of the light, we are out of sync with those who are in the light.  I wonder if that's why so often we walk into the auditorium, and feel disconnected and out of sorts.  Why we get a sinking feeling in our gut when that card comes in the mail saying, "We missed you."  Why when our friend calls, we don't even want to pick up the phone.  The very light shining from God through them blinds our eyes when we are walking in darkness.  

The relationship works the other way too.  If we have some hurt, some conflict separating us from our sisters and brothers, it potentially separates us from God.  The Sermon on the Mount includes an interesting section where Jesus indicates that making peace with a brother should happen before sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-24).  I would suppose that our living sacrifices might be disqualified by a rift that we have not tried to resolve.  If we have harmed our sister, she deserves our confession and restitution.  If our sister has harmed us, God requires that we offer to her the forgiveness he offers to us.  (Matthew 6:7-14)

Think of it this way, a single cell on its own lives a very short time outside of the body. It's not made to exist by itself.  By definition human cells are part and parcel of a human body.  A single Christian separated from the body of Christ is similarly damaged - cut off from aid, purpose and nurturing.  We've got to get reconnected. 

Some questions

Are you walking in the light?  Do you walk everyday, hand in hand, with the Savior?  Are you growing in righteousness and defeating sin?  Or have you been slipping backwards, sliding past milestones you first saw years ago, becoming mired in the mud of sin? First recognize that this is an emergency.  Then take a look at any sin that might be causing the gap between you and God.  Next evaluate your daily disciplines.  Are you reading your Bible, praying, worshiping, going to Bible study?  Finally reconnect with God's people when you reconnect with God.  

I hope that you don't need to do any of those things. I hope you are closer to God today than every before in your life.  But if you're not, I hope you are ready to make some changes.  If you've passed through one of those discouraging and defeating periods, leave us a comment and let's encourage each other.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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