Dear Pastor Charles: I used to be an active church member. I felt that I had a good relationship with God and everything seemed to be going well for me spiritually. Then, some things happened in my life that caused me to fall away. For several years I gave God and the church no thought whatsoever and was quite content with my relief from church committee meetings, time consuming visits, special offerings and getting up early on Sunday mornings. Then one day I happened to read one of your columns about being able to know for sure if one is going to heaven. Something hit me very hard in that article that took away my peace of mind. I now know that I need to get back to my relationship with God but I don’t know where to begin. Since falling away, I have picked up some bad habits and lifestyle situations that are making it very difficult for me. What can I do to start over? Down And Out.
Dear Down And Out:
You sound like the commercial that says, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Seriously, your problem is not unusual. In fact, I have personally been in your situation and I understand how hard it can be. For this reason, I feel uniquely qualified to answer your question. First, let me say to you that I do not believe it was an accident or that you just ‘happened’ to read that particular article. God speaks to us through His Word and somehow He manages to get it before our eyes when we need correction. He uses it effectively to bring His children under the conviction of the Holy Spirit when our habits and lifestyles are not pleasing to Him. In fact, the Bible tells us that this is exactly how God cleanses us as Christians; Ephesians 5:25-27, “. . . Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” That ‘conviction’ is what is making you miserable. It is very, very important for you to pay attention and to respond to Him while you are under this conviction.
So let’s get practical. You were in a serving relationship with God. Things got tough for you when you faced some kind of difficulty in your life. Then, instead of turning to God for comfort, you turned away from Him. Now you are ashamed and embarrassed to come back to Him for fear that He might reject you for your lack of faith. Also, you do not want to surrender your acquired habits and lifestyle situation because it will be difficult for you and the others with whom you are involved. I hope this is an accurate summary of your situation, and I sincerely hope you do not think I am trivializing your circumstances because that is not my intention.
However, now comes the hard part. If you truly want to be restored in your relationship with God you will need to look honestly upon your condition. Remember the prodigal son? He willfully chose to leave his father’s house. He turned his back upon the security and love that he had in order to indulge in riotous living. You know the story, he lost everything and eventually ended up in the pig pen eating with the pigs. Only then was he able to realize how far he had fallen. It was his desperation that caused himself to say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Well, guess what my friend. None of us are worthy to be called His son. Only Jesus is worthy. Do you not think that He still loves you? Remember Romans 5:8, “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was Jesus who prayed for His tormentors while hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” God loves you my friend. Just imagine this, the Creator of the entire universe is personally taking the time to call you back to Himself. Why? Because He loves you and misses your fellowship. You simply must respond to a call like that. You cannot afford to say to Him, “Sorry God. There are things in my life right now that I don’t want you to be involved in. I am placing my habits and lifestyle ahead of any relationship with you. Please leave me alone and quit bothering me.”
I believe that if you are truly a child of God, you will get up out of that pig pen and head for home where your Heavenly Father is waiting for you with wide open arms. He is waiting to hug you, clean you up and sit you down at His table of fellowship once again. You can go back. You can go home again. He will make a way where there seems no way. That is what He does best. You just need to decide that His fellowship is more important to you than the sin in your life. Go to Him right now in prayer and confess your situation to Him. Ask Him to help you come home. Tell Him that you are willing to do whatever it takes, with His help, to be restored. Then, knock the dust off of your Bible and get back into a Bible preaching church to be thoroughly bathed in the Word of God. Also, I advise you to seek Godly counsel from a trusted, mature Christian or Pastor. God bless you my friend. I know that you can do it because I am living proof.
God Bless, Pastor Charles…