02. Fallen Christians

02

For By Grace Are Ye Restored Through Faith

The ingredient most often missing in a person's life when they are trying to restore their life to sweet fellowship and usefulness for the Lord is, faith. What kind of faith? Simple faith.The same kind of simple faith that brings Salvation. Without faith, it is impossible to be restored, just as it is impossible to be saved.

Many of those who try to restore their life make a mistake that often causes them to be discouraged and despondent. They try to return to the Lord through a series of deals with God. In other words, they try to work their way back to God just like I tried to work my way home from the library that day. You can no more work your way back to God than you can work your way to Him in the first place. Works will leave you far away from Him and more frustrated than when you first decided to return. It is His grace that allows us to come back into fellowship with Him, and all we must do is to put our faith in that grace to have our fellowship restored.

In the story of the prodigal son, we see the prodigal coming to himself and realizing just how good the servants of his father had it. He had hit the bottom and spent all that he had on his riotous living. He made a decision to return home and strike up a bargain with his father. If his father would just treat him like one of his hired servants, he would work for him as a hired hand. He thought that he had forfeited his right to ever be called a son again.

He rehearsed his speech that he would present to his father. It would go like this.

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” I can imagine that he probably rehearsed it on his way home; yet wondered if maybe his father would reject him because of what he had done to him. He was so low that he felt a deal like this would be better than what he had fallen to while away from the father.

By faith, he decided that his father's grace and mercy was good enough to accept him back. It was that faith that led to him to return. What he did not yet realize was that his faith was all he needed to come back.

When he was barely in sight of his father's home, the father saw him. Even as he drew nigh to the father, the father drew nigh to him. When he saw his father running toward him, he must have wondered if his father was coming to lash out at him and send him away. Finally, they reached each other, and the father fell on his neck and kissed him. It was time for the son to present the deal to the father. He began his speech, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But wait. He did not finish. What happened to the rest of his speech? Did he forget it?

Before he could finish it, the father said to the servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

The son never finished his speech. Why? Because the deal was called off as soon as the father saw the son was coming home. All that the son had to do was come and the father accepted him by faith, just as he was, without any deals. There was nothing the son could do to make his father accept him except to return to him by faith. The rest was up to the father.

That is the only way back to God for the person who has left His will. We may think that we have hurt God so badly that the only way that He will accept us back is to make deals with Him, but we are wrong. Faith is all God demands or even accepts as a condition to return. All the deals in the world will fall short in restoring a child of God to his position with the Father. Try as we might,God accepts no deals. Why?

1. Because God never changed His love towards us. He loved us the same when we left as when we were still in close fellowship with Him. God's love is not contingent on our behavior.It is always unconditional and unchanging. If we had realized how much He loves us, perhaps we would not have left in the first place. Love makes no deals. Love already made provisions for our sins. They are already atoned for, and nothing else is necessary to cleanse us, but the faith to come back to Him and accept that forgiveness.

God loved me for no reason, other than the fact that He is love. He loved me the same after I left as He did before I left. He loved me the same while I was away as He did before I left. We often make the mistake of assuming that God's love is like ours. Ours often is determined by other’s actions, but God's is determined by Who He is. It is wonderful to know that He loves us enough when we are away from Him to want us to come back to Him, even as we are.

Our problem is that, we have a human definition of love that places conditions on that love. We are unable to trust God because we assume that He loves us in the same way that we love others. God's love is unconditional and the only thing that keeps us from it, is our lack of faith. All that we have to do, is walk in that love and it is ours to enjoy. We have to do nothing to be loved, but we must have faith in Him to accept His love if we are to enjoy it.

There is such a void in Christianity of emphasizing the unconditional love of God. We place so many conditions on people that we make them believe that those conditions are conditions of God's love, but they are not. People need to know that God loves them no matter what they do. When a person is away from God we must emphasize the fact that God loves them, just as much now as He always did. We must not make them think that somehow they have lost that love and that they will have to change to get it back. God's love is the greatest tool to lure someone back that there is. It is too bad that we do not use it more often.

One of the greatest days of our lives is, the day that we realize God's love for us had not been diminished by our failures. Rather than trying to earn our way back to His favor, all we must do is come back and allow Him to restore us. The tendency is to try to work our way back, but that is a quick way to become discouraged.

Let me share a comparable truth from God's Word that is important for a child of God. God never provokes His children to a sense of hopelessness that makes them wonder if they can regain His favor and confidence. The Bible also warns in Colossians, that fathers are not to provoke their children to anger, so that they do not become discouraged. Nothing discourages a child more than a parent who makes them feel they do not love them anymore because they disobeyed, or that they will love them more if they do obey. A child who feels they have to earn their parents love will eventually be a child filled with anger. That anger will eventually turn into discouragement that may destroy the relationship. I have seen this many times.

The same thing is true in Christians who feel they must earn God's love. They will become angry and eventually discouraged to the point of giving up entirely. That almost happened to me because I allowed myself to believe that I needed to earn God's love back. Why does that cause anger? It is because of the insecurity of not knowing when you have done enough to earn it back. It is like an endless cycle.

Many people who are angry with religion became that way because of the emphasis of earning something from God that He offers freely. They eventually translate that anger into an attitude of discouragement that leads them just to give up entirely.

Serving God to earn His love produces discouragement, while serving God in His love produces joy. That distinction is so very important to the child of God who has failed the Lord and gone into sin. We must serve Him because He loves us not so that He will love us.

2. Because our position never changes. Once we are His children, there is nothing we can do to change that fact or to cause us to lose our position. We are His children. The prodigal was just as much the son of his father when he was in the pig pen as he was before he ever left home. We become His children by faith, and once we are born into His family nothing can pluck us from His hand. When I was away from God, my position as His son never changed. I did not take advantage of my position and enjoy it, but it never changed. As a son, sin never takes away my right to have a relationship with the Father. He always wants His children to come home.

People do not get right with God for the same reason they do not get saved. They do not realize that all they have to do is accept His forgiveness by faith. First, they are afraid of all they think they have to do, so they never come to Him. Second, they are afraid of what He will demand of them after they have come to Him. Those are big misconceptions. God expects nothing from us to accept us, and demands nothing of us for coming to Him. In contrast, He gives us everything we need when we do come to Him by faith. All we have to do is come.

There is something about Christians that makes us feel that once we have been saved we have to earn our way back to God if we ever fall away. Many times it is that very thing that frustrates them when they think about coming back to the Lord.

They try in their own power and wisdom to orchestrate their own return and they keep failing and cannot figure out why. Unfortunately, many stronger Christians do not realize that their problem is that they are trying to make a deal with God, and God does not make any deals. They prescribe programs for their restoration that appear to be appeasements to God. Rather than persuading the person of the fact that God will accept them back by faith, they go along with the persons feeble attempts to earn their way back.

If we cannot earn our redemption, we certainly cannot earn our restoration. The prodigal started out trying to make a deal, but it was the fact that he came by faith to the Father that allowed the Father to accept him back as a son. His faith was weak, but it was all he needed to return. What steps did the prodigal have to take to return home to the father? Let's examine it and find out.

1. He had to recognize his condition. You cannot come back to the Father until you realize that the condition you are in is not acceptable. That is why even a Christian sometimes has to hit the bottom before realizing how bad their sin is. In my life, I was spiraling away from the Lord as a way of escape from the pain of what I had lost and the rejection I felt. I had hit an emotional bottom, so I began to deteriorate spiritually as well. I wanted to excuse myself by blaming everyone else for what was happening to me. When in truth, it was my own wrong choices that caused all of my pain. Finally, in despair, I came to the point of total hopelessness. It was then that I realized that I was desperate for the Lord to take control of my life again.

I could not return to the Father until that happened in my life. I was not sorry for all I had done to hurt God. I was sorry for all I had done to hurt myself. I was at the bottom, and did not know where to go. I knew something had to change. The prodigal did not become convicted by what he had done to his father. He began to hurt for what he had done to himself. He was looking for a way out of the mess he had gotten himself into.

God is not concerned that we want to come home for the wrong reasons initially. He just wants us to come home. As selfish as we may be for the reasons we want to return to Him, He loves us so much that He does not want us to stay away any longer than we already have.

Most of the time people get saved to stay out hell rather than to be reconciled to the Father. Does that mean they cannot get saved? No. God wants us to get saved because He loves us. If it takes a fear of hell to get us to that point, it does not forfeit the opportunity to get saved.

That is why the Bible says that the Father chastens those who are His children. He chastens those He loves in order to get them to see the error of their ways, and not because He is angry at them. His goal is to make them uncomfortable enough with their condition to want to do something to change it. That is exactly what the Lord did in my life. I wanted to come back to God, but not bad enough to do what I needed to do. I was not broken enough to get up and return to Him. God chastened me and allowed me to become so uncomfortable that I was willing to come back to Him.

At the time I was not happy for the condition I was in, but now I am grateful that the Lord let me hit bottom because it drove me back to Him. If you are at the bottom, consider yourself fortunate because maybe now you will see how desperate you are for the Lord. That is also a reason we should be tender and loving to the person who has reached the bottom. This may just be the time that they will come back to the Lord if we show them that He wants them back.

My condition did not change my position with God, but it did cause me not to be able to enjoy my position. Accepting the fact that my condition was not acceptable to the Father caused me to be able to restore the privileges of my position.

2. He had to recognize the goodness and grace of his father. The prodigal began to realize that his father took better care of his hired servants than he was being cared for in his condition. He began at that point to realize just how good his father was, and how much better off he would be as a hired servant of his father than to stay away from home any longer. He decided at that point to present himself to his father's mercy and goodness.

That is the next step in coming back to God. When a person comes to a place that they realize God is gracious enough to want them back and that He will accept them back, they are well on their way to making the decision to come home. I was away from God long enough to know that I missed the joys I once knew when I was home, and that my God was far better to me than my sin had been. I feared what I was facing, yet I began to realize that the pain of recovery was worth the benefits of being right with Him. A person gets saved by realizing that God has provided a way for them to get back to Him. A person gets right by realizing that the same way exists to come back to Him. Although you do not have to get saved again after you have fallen, you do have to come back in much the same way you did when you got saved.

How does God want us to come to Him? Just as we are. God's grace demands nothing except our faith. We cannot clean ourselves up and come back. We need to know that He will take us back exactly in the condition we are. That is what God's grace is all about. We see ourselves in the way men see us, but God's view of us is entirely different.

3. He had to recognize his own sinfulness and unworthiness. As the prodigal began to ponder his return home, he realized that he was not worthy to be accepted as a son because of all that he had done to hurt and disappoint his father. He was willing to confess that fact,and that confession was a major part of bringing him home. Notice that he did not say that others had caused him to sin. He accepted the full responsibility for what he had done and blamed no one but himself.

Many times when an individual begins to think about coming back to the Lord they are hindered by the fact that they are still looking for someone else to blame. They want to make excuses to God rather than making confession to Him. God does not accept excuses. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is the way back to God and the way to be cleansed.

4. He had to recognize that he had to make the first step back to the father. Once he took that step, the Father was more than willing to run to him and meet him more than halfway. Once the father saw him coming home he ran to meet him. The son did not have to clean up his act before he could come to the father. He did not have to straighten out all of the messes he had made. He did not have to earn enough money to pay back what he had wasted. He did not have to figure out a way to earn back the love of his father. He simply had to begin the journey home, just as he was.

Coming back to God requires nothing more than just coming back. We cannot repay God for all we have wasted, nor can we make restitution for all the wrong we have done. If we try to do so, it will only keep us from coming back. Satan will try to convince us that He will not accept us back the way we are, but Satan is a liar. That is the only way God will take us back. It is accepting His grace by faith that allows us back into fellowship.

Many people never come back because they are trying first to straighten up the messes they have made in their lives. They cannot do it, so they become frustrated and fall further and further away from the Lord. You cannot work your way back to God. You can only come just as you are.

There were so many things in my life that were messed up, and I kept trying to figure out how I was going to fix them all. The longer I waited the worse it got. There were so many times I just wanted to lay it all on the line, but my pride and selfwill did not allow me to do so. Finally, one day I reached a point where I was backed into such a corner that I had no way to come back except just as I was.

I will never forget the favor my enemies did for me the day they had my life in the palms of their hands ready to destroy me with my own sins. Suddenly, there was no way out. I was dead, broken, hurt, scared and desperate, and I came to God and laid it all on the line. I thought that all I would ever be was a hired hand for God, and that my dreams were over; but I was wrong. God took me back as a son and not a hired hand. His grace and my faith brought me back home. What they meant for evil, God meant for good. I can honestly say that I am grateful to them for what they did for me. Mostly, I am glad that my Father loves me enough to chasten me as a son.

One day, the Pharisees did something similar to a lady who had been caught in the act of committing adultery. They brought her to Jesus, not to be forgiven, but to be judged, condemned and destroyed. Jesus loved her, and knew she was a broken lady. He demonstrated to this lady, who expected to be condemned to death, the fact that He cared for her, and by faith she accepted His grace and mercy. When the accusers were gone she was left in the greatest position of her life. She was alone with Jesus, the Son of God. They had done her the greatest favor they could have done.

By faith the son arose. By grace the father did the rest.

By faith, I arose ready to settle for less than a position of son. By grace my Father took me back as a son. No conditions. No deals. I came back to God the same way I had come to Him in the first place. By grace through faith. That is the way and the only way to return to God after a fall. If anything was required to earn the position back, it would be grace.

I am convinced that this is the missing message of restoration. Too many people never come back to God because they do not know what to do. They are in the pig pen of sin, and they want to return, but we have sent them messages of conditions they must meet that just are not in the Bible. We preach a works return and a grace through faith Salvation. Both are by grace through faith We must make the message loud and clear to those who have wandered away from the Lord. All that they need to do, is arise and come to the Father and they will be accepted just as they are.

Why is it so hard for Christians who have fallen to come back without trying to make deals with God? Let me answer this by giving a personal testimony.

When I began my slide away from the Lord, it was a result of changing the focus of what I was doing from serving in love to earning love. I lost the joy of the Lord in my life and began to become works oriented in my relationship. The more I did for God, the more I felt He would accept me. I kept trying to earn His love, rather than serving Him in His love. I became impressed with all the "sacrifices" I had made for God and with all the accompanying "accomplishments." I lost sight of the fact that my works were a reciprocal expression of love to Him, rather than an instrument of earning more favor. Somehow, I became oriented towards a works mentality, that left me thinking works every time I thought of returning. Getting right with God became more an idea of what I could do to appease God than just simply coming to Him by faith. Faith is what pleases God.

Pride also enters into this. Pride makes us feel that we can do something to make things right with God in our own power. It was doing things in our own power that caused the fall in the first place. Somehow, I wanted to work my way back to God in the same way a lost person wants to work their way to Heaven. That is prideful thinking. There is nothing we can do that is not filled with our own unrighteousness. The ensuing victory over the sins in our lives must come from the power we get from the Holy Spirit when we have come back to God by faith.

Sometimes, a person thinks they have to have the victory over the sin which has beset them in order to come back to God. That is far from the truth. In fact,the victory can only truly be won by coming to God just as we are. We can no more conquer our sins before we get right than a lost person can conquer their sins before they get saved. Once a person is back in the right relationship with the Lord, they are able to enjoy the protection of being in His will and care. The Father will provide those things necessary to win those victories.

When I decided to come back to the Lord, it was after I reached a point of realizing that all of my works were filthy rags to the Lord, and that He wanted me for who I am rather than what I could do for Him. That gave me such a hunger to do things for Him, and made every thing I did for Him even more enjoyable and fulfilling. It was done not to earn His love, but to express my love to Him in His love. What a difference that makes.

It is interesting to note that no conditions were ever given to the prodigal by his father upon his return. The father merely wanted to celebrate and enjoy the fact that his son was home. Once the son was home, the father showered him with his love. That is how God works. It is difficult to explain how God expresses His love to one, when they have returned to Him. In all of my Christian life, I never enjoyed God's love as much as I have since I came back home. It is as though He has bestowed more attention and affection on me just to make certain that I am fully aware of how much He loves me.

Finally, it is also important to note the fact that no one else had to accept the prodigal back in order for the father to do so. The elder brother could not change the mood of his father toward his returning son. God does not get the opinion of anyone before deciding to accept us back. Others may place conditions on us before they will accept us back, but God does not. The danger is for us to think that we must meet their conditions before we can come back to God. Man's conditions are not God's conditions. Do not allow the pressure of man to keep you one more day from the Father.

Men will make you feel that if you do not get right according to their plan that you cannot be right. Watch out. If you are not careful, you will try to please men, which may be what caused you to fall in the first place. Come by faith and accept the restored relationship with the Father that cannot be orchestrated by men.

There are many who have not yet accepted me back because I have not proven to them that I will stay right and not fail the Lord again. There are those who will never accept me back. God accepted me back as soon as He saw me getting up and starting the journey home. He did not wait to see if I was sincere. He did not test me for my motives. He did not scrutinize whether or not He felt that I had conquered my sins. He did not check to see if I was totally clean. He accepted me as soon as He saw me coming. That is what makes coming home so wonderful. I do not need the approval of men to be right with God. I am His son. He loves me just as much as He always has.

Let me give you a few pointers for coming back to God by grace through faith. Some of these were things I learned the hard way. Because of my pride I wanted to come back in the wrong way and pretended that I had not even been away. Notice how the prodigal reacted to the father's treatment of him.

1. Come back unworthily. The son did not presume he would get the treatment that he did. He had a very humble spirit. I do not care what you were before you fell, you are not that now. The one thing you are, is a son. When a person gets saved, we do not thrust them into positions of leadership. We allow them to grow. When you return, do so with an attitude of unworthiness much like when you were saved. There is no entitlement here. Do not think you have the right to come back to the same position you had when you left. Your position with God will be the same, but your position for Him may not.

2. Come back unexpectantly. You have no right to expect anything other than the fact that He will accept you back. All the blessings bestowed upon the prodigal were gifts from the father that he had no right to expect or demand. Just being allowed to return is enough to make you shout with joy.

3. Come back unpretentiously. The son did not try to pretend that he was better than he was or that his sins were not as bad as everyone had possibly heard. He came back honest with the fact that he had messed up very badly and had become a disgusting mess. It does not matter how bad people think I am as long as the Father will take me back.

4. Come back uncontentiously. Be careful that when you return you do not do so with an attitude of blame or accusation. Many fallen Christians come back with an attitude. What if the prodigal son had come back and blamed the elder brother or started pointing out his flaws. You worry about yourself and let God sort out the failures and problems of others.

5. Come back unhesitantly. I love this. Once the prodigal came to himself, he considered his situation and the love of his father, and did not hesitate to think about what his friends or even his father’s servants would say or think. He just arose and came. You have heard the saying, “He who hesitates is lost.” It is true,and many fallen Christians came to themselves and thought about coming home, but then they waited too long. Their hesitation to take action gave Satan an opportunity to talk them out of it. Get up now and come home. The longer you wait the harder it will be.

One day I was out in sin and far away from the Father. My life was broken and I had no place to go. I wanted to go home, but I had no way to get there. I decided that the lowest position with God would be better than where I was, so I decided to go home and try to make a deal with God to see if He would accept me in that lower position. I arose from the depths of my sin and circumstances and began the journey home. The moment I did that, He embraced me and filled me with the assurance of His love.

I started to make my speech that I had rehearsed to strike up a deal with God, but before I even had the chance, He took me in and treated me as a son. The deal was off. His grace was sufficient just as it was before I had ever left. All I had to do was come to Him,by faith. It was almost like getting saved all over again except this time I was coming back to Him to restore my fellowship with Him. It was not for anything I said or did, but because of His marvelous grace.

Oh, and by the way . . . it sure is good to be home again.

 

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