The purpose for last week’s blog was to establish a philosophical foundation for today’s blog. The title of my site is Depression and Restoration. It reveals my two primary interests. Depression, because I have a major depressive disorder, and Restoration, because I was and am a former minister and fallen Christian seeking redemption and restoration. The article today is primarily concerned with restoration.
The mercy and grace of God threads through all of Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – weaving a blood-washed garment available for all to wear, even the fallen. You know Adam and Abraham and Moses and Miriam, Samson and David and Peter and Thomas. And as you recall the most famous sinner of all: Paul the Apostle. We can add Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Aaron, Gideon, Job, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and the nations of Israel and Judah. All sought and found a place of forgiveness after great failure.
There are some fundamental truths underlying the entire discussion of Christian restoration.
First, God is love. (“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:8). Love is not simply an attribute of God, or something God does. Love is descriptive of the very nature of God, something God is. Love is at the core of the very essence of God.
According to Christian theologian, H. Orton Wiley, “The motive for the atonement is found in the love of God. This is sometimes known as the moving cause of redemption.” John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” (“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8) (“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” I John 4:9) Wiley states that soteriology or the doctrine of salvation cannot be properly understood without “God’s righteous and holy love.”
A second fundamental truth is “Christ died for sinners.” (See Romans 5:8 above.) (I Corinthians 15:3, “. . . Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.) (I Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. . .”) If the love of God is the “moving cause of redemption” then Jesus Christ is the direct cause. The ancient Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus was born, suffered, crucified, dead, buried, rose, and ascended. The Nicene Creed tells why Jesus did all these things, “For us and for our salvation.”
That all humans have intrinsic value is the third truth. Genesis records that we are made in the “image” and “likeness” of God. (“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . . .’” Genesis 1:26) In addition, humankind became living beings by being infused with the breath of God. (“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7) Christians believe that this is what separates humankind from the animal kingdom and all other created things upon the earth. Human life is precious.
It is this truth that also supports the Christian belief of the soul. It is in the spirit and soul of humankind that the image of God exists and must be rescued and revived from the ravages of sin. This soul is eternal and will live on in eternal life or eternal death. Therefore, both the life of the body and the soul are of utmost importance in the Christian faith.
A final truth is found in the nature of the Church. The pastor and author, Jack Hayford, rightly stated that the nature of the Church is a reflection of the nature of God. (Restoring Fallen Leaders) One of the major reasons for the Church is to share God’s love in seeking and saving lost humanity.
The first truth above is an eternal truth just as God is eternal. There has never been a time nor will there ever be a time when God is not love. The other truths are universal truths. As long as there is an earth and humankind dwell upon this earth, these truths are operational.
So, I ask the question again. What good is truth if we do not believe it? “But,” we object, “We do believe these truths.” Yet our actions betray our testimony. How can we believe God is love if we are indifferent toward our brother or sister in Christ? (“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” I John 4:20) How can we believe Christ died for sinners if we do not look for the lost coin, search for the lost sheep, and long for the lost son? (See Luke 11:1-32 The Parables of the Lost Coin, Lost Sheep, and Prodigal Son.) How can we believe in the value of human life and the eternal nature of the soul if we do not attempt to regain our brother or sister who sins? (“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Matthew 18:15) How can we believe in the mission of the Church if we do not actively seek to restore those who wander from the truth? (“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20)
Beliefs unpracticed are not beliefs at all. If we betray our belief system by not actively participating in its tenets than we are fooling ourselves about what we believe. If our beliefs flow from an accepted standard of truth than we will implement principles of living that support our belief. To fail in this is the height of hypocrisy.
O God, save me from not practicing the things I say I believe, and practicing the things I say I do not believe.
The LORD be with you.