The Joy of Restoration

Restoration is a very powerful byproduct of a life well-lived in Christ. Define reconciliation and restoration in your own words. Sometimes we use them interchangeably, because being made right with God involves both words. Change that happens to a life is summed up in these two words.

  1. Describe how you came to know Christ.
    1. What was your life like before you received Christ?
    2. How did your salvation story happen?
    3. What is your life like now that you have Christ?
  2. Put into words the feeling you have about forgiveness and the newness you have in Christ.

Video Questions:

  1. How is forgiveness a necessary step toward restoration?
  2. In what area of your life do you need to experience restoration or new birth?
  3. Standard definitions:
    1. Reconciliation: From the Greek meaning to change or exchange; literally to change in one’s relationship to God (from enemy to friend).
    2. Restoration: synonymous with renew, best described in David’s use in Psalm 51, to restore is to make right (after a sin against God). New birth can be described as restoration.

Bible Study: John 21:15-19

  1. Peter understood the concept of restoration. He was outspoken and said he would never deny Christ… but he did, and Jesus came to him and offered restoration.
  2. Jesus repeatedly asked Peter if he loved him (agape-unconditional God-like love) and Peter responded with phileo (a brotherly love). We wonder if Peter really understood the depth of Love that Jesus had for him.
  3. Peter affirmed the Lordship of Jesus (John 21:17) and that Jesus knows all things. The response ultimately is NOT in Peter’s response to Jesus but in God’s knowledge of Peter’s heart. The instruction is for Peter to do the work of a shepherd (feed, shepherd and tend his sheep).

Bible Study: John 21:1-4, 22

  1. Notice where Jesus encounters his disciples in this post-resurrection appearance. What are they doing?
  2. Peter had gone back to where he had started, on a boat doing what he was doing when Jesus first called him.
  3. When Jesus asked if Peter loved him more than these (John 21:15) he could have meant the FISH.
  4. Peter is concerned about what will happen to John (what about this guy?) but Jesus hammers on the call he cave to Peter, “You follow me.”

Bible Study: Acts 2:36

  1. Peter goes from a denying, fearful man to a person with power and authority, and confidence.
  2. He is so different here than back in Mark 14:66-27.
  3. So, does Peter now appear affectionate toward Jesus (phileo) or passionately committed to him (agape)?
  4. How have you experienced God using you in light of being forgiven and restored?
  5. Restoration involves allowing God to do a work of renewal in our lives. Christ did the work of restoration by his work on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
  6. Restoration takes time, and we may not see the lasting effects until we get to heaven. Where do you need to do the hard work of restoration in your life?

At the end of the film, we see Cindy’s redemption but Hannah does not. We are left to wonder whether the relationship ever went beyond the written note.

A Guide to Biblical Restoration: *

Failure among God’s people is nothing new; biblical history is filled with failure. Samson failed. Abraham failed. Solomon failed. Jonah failed. The Hebrews failed. All twelve of the disciples of Jesus failed; Even King David, who was a man after God’s own heart failed; “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27). So all of these committed willful disobedient sin after having once pledged fidelity to God. In both Testaments, the evidence of failure is both overwhelming and sobering.

There is the overwhelming evidence that God is also in the restoration business. The Bible is the astonishing record of the God’s effort to reclaim and to restore those who are his, but who in a moment of weakness betrayed their allegiance to him. The potential for restoration plainly exists. In Galatians 6:1 we are told “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Needless to say, there are verses that mention restoration, and these verses outline a process and responsibilities that if embraced, have the potential of releasing the believer from their bondage and restoring them to God.

What are Steps of Restoration?

1. Confession:

Restoration hinges on the honest and straightforward admission of failure. Sin can never be addressed if it is not named. It cannot be purged if it is not identified. It cannot be cleansed if it cannot be seen.

Occasionally we comprehend our sin alone, without the help of an outside voice. Guilt, shame, and loss of peace all creep into our souls and remind us of our error. Others may not be aware of their error, but we know. We fear discovery. We comprehend the enormity of our sin, as did David in Psalm 51.

More often than not, however, we rationalize our sin, deluding ourselves into believing that our behavior is acceptable or not that serious. We refuse to look at ourselves honestly, we ignore the stirrings in our conscience, and we avoid responsibility. We become defensive when questioned and find ourselves postponing the inevitable.

In either case, confession must take place, either at the prompting of the Spirit or by the approach of another believer, following the commands of (Matthew 18:15) and (Galatians 6:1).

Confession is the cleansing of the wound. It forces to the surface of the infection that has festered and stained us. It can be painful and humbling, but there is no other way for restoration to begin. Confession must be clear and straightforward. It cannot be couched in excuses or minimized by stubbornness. This confession must be made to God first, but it should also be made publicly to the church if the sin is publicly known. However, if the sin is unknown publicly then it should be properly dealt with privately. As a general rule, confession should be made to anyone directly injured by our sin. Confession of sin is a necessary step toward restoration and renewal. Confession to God opens the door for his forgiveness. Confession to the one offended opens the door for the victim’s forgiveness. Confession to the offended opens the door of opportunity for the church to demonstrate forgiveness.

2. Repentance:

To repent is to change course, to reverse direction. Once confession has been made and forgiveness received, repentance must be demonstrated. A firm commitment to turn away from the offending behavior must be made. According to Proverbs 28:13, God’s mercy is extended only to those who confess and forsake their sinful practices.

As with confession, the commitment to repent is most effective when rendered first of all to God and then secondly to the one injured by our offense. One’s confession of guilt to those sinned against accelerates the healing process for all involved in ways which secret promises cannot. In the same way a marriage vow is made before witnesses, a renewed commitment to walk with Christ is best made before witnesses.

Even when the sin is private, a specific plan outlining how the penitent person will make spiritual corrections will maximize success. An accountability system has great power to guard our steps. A spiritual mentor can help identify weaknesses, circumstances, and vulnerabilities and help steer a clear course. Enlisting a spiritual member of the church to work with us in being faithful is wise. Such “repentance plans” may be necessary for months or years, depending on the nature of the infraction and personal history, but every effort at restoration needs such a plan.

3. Restitution:

Some sins require restitution, the attempt to restore the loss someone else has suffered by our sin. Restitution typically involves a formal apology to the injured party and evidence of the offender’s intent to repent. The spiritual intent is to “gain the brother,” not to lose him. Restitution helps the wounded person understand that restoration is possible.

4. Discipline:

Establishing an accountability partner and disciplinary policies for restoration can be of great benefit. If the sin was public enough to require church discipline, it requires a commitment on the part of the church’s leadership to stand fast and consistently in implementing church discipline procedures.

Those representing the church must confront sin in the spirit of meekness and sincere humility, with each one acknowledging their own vulnerability to the enticements of sin. Discipline must be redemptive, not punitive. It must be forgiving and not judgmental.

5. Restoration:

When honest and straightforward confession has been made, repentance has been acknowledged and demonstrated, restitution has been pursued and completed, and a structure of loving discipline has been enforced, a formal end to the process should be recognized. The memory of the sin should be sealed and removed from all conversation, and a celebration of the Lord’s goodness and mercy should be enjoyed. After a proper time-frame, the wounded person may take his or her place back in service, free of the past and empowered spiritually to face the future.

No two circumstances are alike, but biblical guidelines are always valid helpful. Many wounded saints can be honorably returned to worthwhile service, if the appropriate steps are taken over a sufficient period of time.

When we come to our senses as did the prodigal in Luke 15, we can step back into the purposes for which God originally created us.

 * [ Adapted from Gantt Street Baptist Church ]

Related Images:

We Need to Develop Character

It is good to know the reasons that character development is so important:

1. Because the Image of God in Mankind was Marred at the Fall:

  • Genesis 1:27, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
  • Colossians 3:10, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

2. Because We are Fallen Human Beings:

  • Genesis 2:15-17, Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
  • Genesis 3:4-6, The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
  • Romans 5:12, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22, For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

3. Because We Live in Guilt and Shame:

  • Genesis 3:8-9, They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

4. Because We Devise the Wrong Solutions:

  • Cover Up – Genesis 3:7-8, Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
  • Blame – Genesis 3:11b-12, Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

5. Because We are Not Born with Good Character: Character is developed.

  • Psalm 51:5, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
  • Psalm 58:3, The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.
  • Proverbs 22:15, Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

6. Because We are Born with Sin Tendencies:

  • Exodus 20:5-6, You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Years ago there were two men, Jonathan Edwards and Max Jukes. These two men lived as contemporaries and their family history was traced for a certain number of generations. Max was a drunken criminal.

  • Max Jukes had 1,026 descendants. 300 were in prison. 190 were prostitutes, and 680 were alcoholics.
  • Jonathan Edwards had 929 descendants by contrast and 430 were ministers of the gospel. 86 university professors, 13 university presidents, 75 wrote good books, 7 elected to congress and 1 a vice-president of the United States.

Tell me that generations are not affected by what we do. You can break the generational curse when you develop character.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Related Images:

Divide and Multiply

After the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:4, 5), Paul and Barnabas wanted to go back through the cities of the first missionary journey to strengthen the believers and see how they were doing (Acts 15:36). When the Spirit of God moves we need to be in a position to not only hear from Him but to act in obedience to His call. If we don’t, we will be miserable. One encouragement for me is that God does not use perfect people, but flawed ones like you and me.

On this second journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark (Acts 15:37) but Paul sharply disagreed (Acts 15:38) because of John Mark bailing on him back in Pamphylia (Acts 13:5, 13-14, 15:38). So Barnabas took Mark and Paul enlisted a young man named Silas (Acts 15:40); basically two teams going out rather than only one.

The story is deeper since Mark was more than just a fellow believer, he was Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10). Blood was thicker than water, they were a team, and Barnabas was still the “son of encouragement.” Strong emotions can bring on sharp disagreements, and both men were upset at this argument. Disagreements tend to cause people to take sides. I wonder if someone always has to be right or has to be wrong. Sometimes we just disagree.

Both men are assumed to be under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit cannot have two separate opinions, can He? Regarding John Mark, I suppose the Spirit could have said “yes” to Barnabas and “no” to Paul, both following the Spirit’s direction. As a result of this disagreement, these two preachers became four. While the Bible is clear that unity is a value that needs to be in the church, sometimes God wants to divide in order to multiply. People in churches today argue over worship styles and music, but does someone have to be right and the other have to be wrong? Why not both, not two services can reach even more people.

I discovered a four item checklist for resolving conflict:

  1. Identify the real source of the argument (Job 16:3): In Job’s case, the question is basically, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep arguing?” The Message puts it this way, “I’ve had all I can take of your talk. What a bunch of miserable comforters! Is there no end to your windbag speeches?” Ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on the true source of the disagreement. Sometimes God will reveal selfishness or an unwillingness to change. The Holy Spirit reveals our motives.
  2. Submit the issue to God (James 4:7): Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Do not let sin or anger give the devil a foothold in your life. Ask God to remove all worldliness and selfishness and watch the issue come down to size.
  3. Resist the temptation to sin in your anger (Ephesians 4:26-27): While anger is not a sin, what we do in our anger is often quite sinful. Sin that comes out of anger will create regrets over what we said or what we did.
  4. Pray for the other person involved (and maybe pray with that person): Philippians 4:6 invites us to pray about everything. Imagine the enemy’s defeat by two quarreling believers down on their knees in prayer, praying for God’s glory.

Application: None of this is easy. Don’t let fear or difficulty keep you from doing what will bring God the most honor. Think about how you have handled disagreements over the past few months: at work, in your marriage, with your kids. What could have made the situation win-win rather than “I win” and “you lose?” Have you ever felt like John Mark, when someone perhaps did not want you on their team (on the playground or in the board room)? Have you treated others poorly just because they might disagree with your opinion or decision? Sometimes people just have to agree to disagree, and then let it go. Seek the Spirit’s guidance on the direction you need to take.

Have you ever took a John Mark under your wing to bring encouragement and restoration to them? Paul may not have wanted John Mark on the team for this second journey, but at the end of his life, Paul recognized how valuable John Mark was to him (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark even spent time in prison with Paul where they apparently bonded together during this difficult mission (Colossians 4:10). Thank God that our Father is a God of second chances. Let’s give others that same opportunity.

Related Images:

What About Church Discipline?

The church, at times, must exercise discipline toward members who have sinned. Granted it is not done much, but why do you suppose? Could it be that people take the words of Jesus (about not judging, or getting the plank out of your own eye first) to keep us silent on correcting a fellow believer? Perhaps we don’t do it because we are very aware of our own sinfulness and failures to talk to someone else about their sin. But according to the Bible, church discipline must be handled carefully, straightforwardly, and lovingly.

The situations we find:

  1. Unintentional error and/or private sin.
  2. Public sin and/or those done flagrantly and arrogantly.

The steps we follow: (Matthew 18:15-17)

  1. Go to the brother or sister, show the fault to him or her in private.
  2. If he/she does not listen, go with one or two witnesses.
  3. If he/she refuses to listen, take the matter before the church.

The strategy we foster:

  1. Remove the one in error from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:2-13).
    1. The sin of others should bring on mourning and shame (1 Corinthians 5:2).
    2. The offender should be removed from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:2).
    3. The church calls a meeting (1 Corinthians 5:4).
    4. The unrepentant person is to be thrown to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5).
    5. What? Why? A little bit of yeast affects the whole lump of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7).
    6. Don’t pal around with people who indulge in sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5:9, 11).
    7. It is the responsibility of the church to judge believers who are sinning (1 Corinthians 5:12).
  2. The church gives united disapproval, but forgiveness and comfort are in order if he/she chooses to repent (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).
    1. Oppose the offender, but after the discipline, you must,
    2. Forgive and comfort him lest he get discouraged (2 Corinthians 2:7).
    3. Then affirm your love for him (2 Corinthians 2:8).
  3. Do not associate with the disobedient person; and if you must, speak to him/her as one who needs a warning (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15).
  4. After two warnings, reject the person from the fellowship (Titus 3:10).

Tough stuff, but how much is the marriage or the family of another man worth? When you see the dead end lifestyle and the failures in a professing believer, how can we not intervene, warn or sound the alarm? It’s not an issue of our superiority over the failing person, or that we have it all together, but it is an act of love and kindness to confront a man with his destructive habits or marital infidelity. Reach out a hand when you see a man about to step onto a slippery slope that brings tragedy and regret.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images: