Returning to the Lord

We sometimes speak of an unfaithful brother or sister needing to RETURN to the LORD. Frequently we offer up prayers for a member who has been disloyal to his Father to RETURN to the LORD. And… each one of us has probably at some point in our lives given ourselves a serious, truthful self examination and determined “I need to RETURN to the LORD “. What do we mean by this expression and is it a Biblical concept?

The word RETURN means “To go back or come back to a particular place, condition, or practice”. (Webster). In Scripture, the word carries a similar connotation and literally means “To turn back or to turn about”. (W.E. Vine).

Based on the definitions given, when we speak of RETURNING we mean turning back or going back to a place or position we once held or once were in, but is not true of us any longer. Specifically, RETURNING to the LORD refers to someone having once been a child of God and follower of Christ, but who is no longer faithful to Them.

The concept of God’s people RETURNING to Him after falling away is commonly addressed in the Old Testament. As Isaiah preached and prophesied to a stubborn and rebellious Judah he spoke these words from Jehovah. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him RETURN to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our GOD, for He will abundantly pardon”. (Is 55:6-7). The message of RETURNING to the LORD while there is time is evident here, and the RETURN involves an abandonment of all evil. MERCY and PARDON await all who comply with GOD’S will.

Nehemiah through God, may have been the first prophet to warn the citizens of Jerusalem concerning this matter. “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you RETURN to ME, and keep My commandments and do them…I will bring you to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name”. (Neh 1:8b-9). Any wayward child of God who desires to RETURN to HIM must leave his sinning behind, and focus on keeping God’s laws.

“Yet even now’, declares the LORD, RETURN to ME with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. RETURN to the LORD YOUR GOD, for He is gracious and merciful..”. (Joel 2:12-13a). Biblical RETURNING to GOD involves every emotion and every aspect of our very being, and it starts with the HEART.

The prophet Malachi teaches that no matter how long one has been away from the LORD, our loving God always stands ready to accept him back. “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. RETURM to ME and I will return to you says the LORD of hosts”. (Mal 3:7).

In the New Testament, the apostles preached the necessity of RETURNING to the LORD. “Therefore repent and RETURN, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the LORD”. (Acts 3:19). In this context, the crowds listening to Peter’s sermon were not Christians. In fact most, if not all had never heard the Gospel message. But they were away from God because of their sins and the apostle commanded them to REPENT and RETURN to the LORD.

One of Jesus’ chosen apostles knew firsthand about FALLING AWAY from the Lord and needing to RETURN to Him. Peter’s denial of Christ followed by his gut wrenching sorrow and bitter weeping, ultimately him led to repentance and RETURN. This event from his life along with many other experiences as an apostle greatly influenced his writings to warn of the possibility of FALLING AWAY from God and urging all who do so to RETURN to a faithful walk with Him.( I and II Peter).

In II Peter chapter 2, the apostle speaks of false teachers and the possibility of apostasy for any who would listen to them. He closes that discussion with a very stern warning and condemnation for those who would be LED AWAY from the LORD and not RETURN. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit’ and ‘A sow, having washed , to her wallowing in the mire”. (II Peter 2:20-22).

In chapter 2 of Peter’s first epistle, he lays out the Christian’s hope of salvation based on a proper relationship with Christ. He goes on to speak of the lofty position children of God hold in His kingdom, and how blessed we are. Peter reminds all that we have fallen short and not lived up to the example that Jesus left for us to follow, but he closes the discussion with this powerful statement: “For you were like sheep GOING ASTRAY, but now have RETURNED to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”. (I Pet 2:25).

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts – Love, Mercy, Grace, and the Blood of a Crucified Lord!

The words to a song we often sing here at Wesonville express some of these points very well:
God is calling the prodigal, COME WITHOUT DELAY.
Hear , O Hear Him calling; calling NOW FOR THEE;

Thou you’ve WANDERED SO FAR from His presence, COME TODAY,
Hear His loving voice CALLING STILL.
Patient, loving, and tenderly STILL the FATHER PLEADS,
Hear, O Hear Him calling, calling NOW for Thee.

Oh! RETURN while the Spirit in mercy INTERCEDES, Hear His loving voice Calling STILL.
Calling NOW for Thee, O weary prodigal COME
Calling NOW for Thee, O weary prodigal COME

The Savior is still PLEADING and His voice is still CALLING to each one of us, but one day the PLEADING and the CALLING will stop for everyone!

Do I need to RETURN to the LORD in Any Way? or Some Way? and Do You?