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.
- Describe how you came to know Christ.
- What was your life like before you received Christ?
- How did your salvation story happen?
- What is your life like now that you have Christ?
- Put into words the feeling you have about forgiveness and the newness you have in Christ.
- How is forgiveness a necessary step toward restoration?
- In what area of your life do you need to experience restoration or new birth?
- Standard definitions:
- Reconciliation: From the Greek meaning to change or exchange; literally to change in one’s relationship to God (from enemy to friend).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Notice where Jesus encounters his disciples in this post-resurrection appearance. What are they doing?
- Peter had gone back to where he had started, on a boat doing what he was doing when Jesus first called him.
- When Jesus asked if Peter loved him more than these (John 21:15) he could have meant the FISH.
- 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
- Peter goes from a denying, fearful man to a person with power and authority, and confidence.
- He is so different here than back in Mark 14:66-27.
- So, does Peter now appear affectionate toward Jesus (phileo) or passionately committed to him (agape)?
- How have you experienced God using you in light of being forgiven and restored?
- 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).
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ]