The following article is from the desk of David Bobbitt, one of the men at the Madisonville church of Christ. We invite you to give his words some thought.
Most baby boomers grew up watching television shows which featured talented animal "actors" achieving remarkable feats of intelligence, agility, or heroism. In the 1950's and 60's, we followed the adventures of Lassie, marveled at the acrobatics of Flipper, and cried during the closing scenes of Old Yellar. Mr. Ed, a horse, had even talked! By the 1980's, Disney had discovered that the American public more readily warmed up to our furry friends who talked, hence the beginning of the era of the talking pet. Disney championed the humanization of animals, and perhaps not coincidentally, it was also the era during which the animal rights movement began to gain momentum. And Americans swallowed it hook line and sinker! There are now pet saunas, pet salons, pet motels, exotic pet foods, clothing for pets, and even cemeteries for pets. Banks give doggie biscuits to customers with pets who use the drive-thru window (cats are out of luck), and many ice cream shops offer a "pup cup!" In a nation where poverty, homelessness, and hunger are still major issues, how can we as Americans justify spending more than $60,000,000,000 a year on our pets?
Animals are part of God's creation and have played an important role in the emergence and growth of human civilization. They made large-scale agricultural production possible, carried our warriors to victory, served as sources of companionship and entertainment, and in many other ways made the trials of human existence easier to bear. Yet God never places animals on a par with humankind. The world pushes its liberal agenda because it denies mankind its God-given right to "rule over and subdue" the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Though it may be hard for some to believe, mankind is the crowning achievement of God's creative act. We are made in the image of God and specially gifted intellectually, morally, and spiritually like no other creature under the heavens. While God may love all his creatures, he has clearly differentiated between the value of human beings and the value of animals. In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus said:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
In Genesis 9:1-3, God gave the animals to Noah and his descendants as food. Interestingly, at that time there were no restrictions placed on man as to which animals he could and could not eat. All of that would come with the Mosaic Covenant. These Scriptures raise some important questions. If mankind is of more value than the animals, and the animals have been given to us as food, then what rights do animals really have? Some Christians believe that their pets will be with them in heaven! Do animals have souls? If so, how are they redeemed? Should we baptize our pets? If we speak of the "humane" treatment of animals, are we humanizing them? Certainly, we should never abuse or needlessly harm one of God creatures, but make no mistake about it, they have been put here by God for our benefit.
Why does any of this matter? Because those who would rationalize God's word in small matters will eventually do so with larger, more important ones. A lack of respect for God's word breeds error. Hear what the apostle Paul says to Timothy in chapter four of his first letter:
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer." (I Timothy 4:1-5)
Many people embrace the Scriptures only to the extent that they justify whatever lifestyle they subscribe to. But whether we are like Thomas Jefferson and literally cut those Scriptures which are not to our liking from our Bibles, or we rationalize God's word to suit our own purposes, the result is the same – we generally do as we please.
So go ahead and enjoy your pets. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Abstain from eating meat if you so choose. We have a responsibility to keep our bodies fit for God's service and for some, a vegan or vegetarian diet is the only way they can do so. Yet beware of radical, anti-God messages which have no place in the church and don't forget where animals rank in the overall scheme of things. Animals don't possess the same rights as mankind, they don't have souls. In spite of what Disney says, no dogs go to heaven.
Not long ago, few questioned the reality of truth in our world. To deny established facts and well-known principles was viewed as foolish and unhelpful. Even among groups with bitter disagreements, they could still acknowledge a universal standard of truth that governed their purpose even while debating how it applied to their situation. Today, 58% of our countrymen in the United States deny moral absolutes.1 They instead affirm that morality is up to each person to decide for themselves. When that statistic is further investigated, the results become even more shocking. It reveals a nation full of people who refuse to accept reality for what it is. No, for they have found a better path: their own version of truth. Indeed, it is far easier to invent your own truth so that you do not have to conform to that which is universal for all people. After all, every person faces unique circumstances that exempt them from the norm, right?
That is just the problem: it is not right. Truth is not a matter of circumstance or occasion. It is a bedrock foundation on which all that we are is built. To deny truth is not just a denial of facts and principles but a denial of what the Bible teaches. One cannot read the Scriptures and come away with the conclusion that truth does not exist or is irrelevant. When Jesus spoke of truth, He referred to it as a life-altering reality. He powerfully taught that truth sets us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-32). Denial of truth, then, is denial of liberty. When you deny the truth, you deny yourself liberation from the trap of sin. What you end up doing is submitting to Satan, who despises truth (John 8:44). Conversely, when you accept truth, no matter how challenging it is, you will find genuine freedom. That freedom will call you to abandon the paths of sin and live a life of righteousness for the Christ who purchased that freedom for you. Why then would we deny the truth?
Later in John’s gospel, Jesus stated that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). One cannot follow Jesus without accepting the reality of truth, for Jesus Himself is truth. That refers to His existence, nature, and teachings. All that we read about Jesus in the Scriptures helps us see truth more clearly. Denial of the truth, then, becomes a denial of Jesus. That is perhaps one of the most disturbing parts of the thinking we find among the people of our land. The same people who deny truth will claim to accept Jesus and follow His ways. Such is an impossibility. We cannot reject the truth while simultaneously accepting the Savior who said He is the truth! If we refuse to accept the truth, then we will in effect refuse Jesus. Why then would we deny the truth?
In His final recorded prayer, Jesus requested that the Father set His disciples apart by the truth (John 17:17). That truth of which He spoke was found in the word the Father revealed. To Jesus, God’s revealed word—which we have available today in the form of the Bible—is truth. It is not a half-truth or a partial truth, but the truth. It is no wonder that denial of truth tends to produce denial of what the Scriptures teach. All throughout the United States there are people who see the Bible as a book of fairytales and clever fables designed to deceive the minds of the simple. According to what Jesus taught, denial of the truth becomes a denial of the Scriptures. When we see the truth as subject to each person’s whims, no amount of evidence will change our minds. One person can take the Bible as the standard for all people while another can take it as a book of fiction and that will be alright to us. That perspective flies in the face of reality, fact, and principle. Archaeology, textual criticism, and other fields have proven the Scriptures to be true, but we must accept that truth exists and can be learned. It is through the Scriptures we learn truth and how it applies to our lives. When we learn it, we can then practice it and be pleasing in God’s sight. Why then would we deny the truth?
Friends, the truth has not become a matter of interpretation. There remains a universal standard to which all people must conform. When they do, they will find liberty, Jesus, and the power of the Scriptures. While your own version of truth may bring you comfort and affirmation, it will not last. Eventually reality will come and demand your attention. Accepting truth may bring hardship and denial, but, in the end, it will bring lasting satisfaction that is not based on circumstance but on the bedrock of what is right. Let us all give the truth some thought.
Within our fleshly families, we count our brothers and sisters either as some of our closest confidants or some of our most bitter enemies. One anonymous author quipped, “Siblings: your only enemy you can’t live without.” That may define the relationship some have with their brothers and sisters in the flesh. Sadly, it most often defines the relationship we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Siblings in Jesus have been afflicted with interpersonal conflicts and divisions from the first century to the present day. Wherever such an affliction is found, we quickly find a host of other ailments that, if left untreated, will produce more disease and, inevitably, spiritual death. How we view our brothers and sisters in the faith makes a great difference in our own spiritual health and the health of our congregations.
Consider how some are quick to dismiss the conscience of their weaker brethren. Rather than treat them with kindness and deference, the “stronger” brothers and sisters treat the weaker like punching bags. They actively mock the weak and hold them in contempt for their perspective. The opposite is also true: the weak view the strong as immoral and false. The weak then treat the strong in accordance with their viewpoint. Friends, neither the strong nor the weak have the right to trample on the other one’s conscience. The Holy Spirit is clear that liberty in Christ should not become a stumbling block, nor should we allow a weak brother to perish over some indifferent matter (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). Furthermore, we cannot allow our personal scruples to become a doctrinal issue that divides us. It is fine to have personal convictions that are not in Scripture, but it is wrong to bind such on others (Romans 14:22-23). Whether we are strong, weak, or somewhere in between, let us not be dismissive toward each other. That is a sure way to treat our brothers as bothers.
Evil suspicion is another way to treat our brothers like bothers. Oh, how often we have heard a brother or sister gripe about another and speak ill of their motives! They have said, “Surely brother so-and-so just wants to take control of the church for his own benefit.” Or they have stated, “Sister so-and-so does not care about anyone, but they sure like to make it seem like they do.” Do either of these statements sound like those who would say them are seeing the best in their brethren? We need to take heed to ourselves lest we dare speak evil of the motives of our brethren. It could be that we say more about who we are when we make such statements. Scripture clearly teaches us that genuine love does not think evil of others but instead looks to what is best (1 Corinthians 13:5). As a united family in Jesus, we should be willing to show such love toward one another.
High-mindedness will also lead us to treat each other like bothers instead of brothers. At the heart of evil suspicion and enforcing matters of conscience is someone who elevates themselves above others. When someone views himself as better than those around him, he will naturally see anyone who disagrees as an opponent. If they do not fall into line, then he will seek to destroy them. Yet Scripture admonishes us to not think more highly of ourselves than is appropriate (Romans 12:3). Some are so busy seeing themselves as God’s gift to the brethren that they do not see the discord they are sowing through their attitude. Let us not walk with arrogance but instead adopt the same mind toward each other, realizing our opinions and ideas are not on a higher level than others (Romans 12:16). Brothers and sisters in Jesus must never forget that we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. It could be that such a reminder would help us avoid conflicts with our spiritual family.
There yet remains one thought to consider: do you view your brothers as bothers? If you dismiss their conscience, view them with suspicion, and think yourself better than them, then you are eaten up with spiritual disease. You may think these perspectives are harmless, but inevitably, they will spread like cancer that devours the people of God. Friends, let us be quick to repent of these perspectives that lead us to view our brethren as lesser. We have all been bought by the blood of our Savior Jesus and should rejoice together in Him. Jesus’ desire is for His people to be united, not divided up over personalities and attitudes (John 17:20-24). We must then strive to abandon conflict and work to have strong relationships with each other that glorify God. Then, and only then, will we show a divided, chaotic world the Lord we serve.
Shame, guilt, and sorrow often define our past. When we consider our former deeds and how we handled our lives, it causes significant regret. We wish we could be a time-traveler and return to those critical moments so we could have another opportunity to make things right, yet we know that is impossible. Perhaps it was an angry word spoken that could not be unspoken or neglect we wish we could change into action. Whether we like it or not, our past is part of what makes us who we are, but we cannot allow it to define us in the present, nor can its impact be so great that it hinders our future. However, that is precisely what many people are doing. They have no prospects for the present or the future because they are so busy looking behind them. Even Christians become weighed down with these thoughts. Is it God’s will for His people to think this way?
Throughout the Bible, God uses the term “remember” in a positive sense. Memory should not always be that which we view poorly. Consider how God wanted Israel to remember Him and His commandments (Deuteronomy 8:1-20). Through their remembrance of the Lord, they would call to mind His mighty deeds on their behalf. In addition, they would recall His commandments and seek to carry them out. The apostle Peter understood that remembrances had a place in the lives of God’s people, for when he wrote his second letter, it was to remind them of what they already knew (2 Peter 1:12-15). Our view of the past—whether our own or from the history the Lord has taught us in His word—should bring us gladness when we consider who the Lord is, what He has done for us, and what He has taught us. Without calling the past to mind, how will we know the path to travel in the future? We are not imprisoned in the past when we use it the way the Lord intends through remembrance of Him and His ways. The past becomes that from which we grow and learn rather than something we regret.
We all know that this positive perspective on memory is often not the way the past is seen. One troubling problem we have with the past is paralysis. Put simply, we are overwhelmed with shame and guilt to the point we believe we can never do what is right. Let us be honest with ourselves, friends: this is often an excuse to refuse change. Even if it is not an excuse, it is a self-imposed obstacle. Scripture repeatedly affirms that we can change our ways to align with God (Ephesians 4:20-24). To deny this in our lives is a denial of what God has taught, which we cannot abide. We do not have to allow the past to imprison us to the point that we never grow, mature, or abound in what is good. There remain opportunities to carry out God’s will so long as we draw breath. The challenge is whether we will seize upon them.
Another common problem we find with the past is nostalgia. In an era where responsibility and obligation are routinely avoided, it is not surprising that people both young and old would see the past through rose-colored glasses. That is, to them, what came before is better than what exists now. They feel this way because the past brings them more comfort than the present. The past did not challenge them to improve, nor did it call them to do better. This is not to suggest that all nostalgia is problematic but that some of its motivations are. Solomon wrote that those who see the old days as better are unwise (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Friends, we cannot be imprisoned in the past to the point that we always think it was so much better. When we look to the past with such delusions, we miss out on what is available to us in the here and now. We also neglect to press forward into the future. The apostle Paul reminds us that we need to neglect what is behind and focus on what is ahead in God’s service (Philippians 3:13-14).
When we focus on the past at the expense of the present and the future, then we have made it into a prison. We have enabled ourselves to suffer at our own hands rather than press forward to what God has in store for us. The Lord Jesus Christ holds the key to that prison door we have created, and the key is remembering Him and His commandments. Surely, we can all appreciate a Savior who, though He knows all that we have done, still offers a path forward in His service. Will you accept the key He provides through His word?
The following article is from the desk of David Bobbitt, one of the brothers at the Madisonville church of Christ.
When someone says “You need Jesus, I need Jesus, we all need Jesus,” what ideas do these phrases evoke in the minds of most people? Certainly, they convey the notion that the need for Jesus is universal, but in a practical sense, what does the idea of “needing Jesus” mean? How does it manifest itself in the lives of people? Does “getting Jesus” mean just being right with God, or is there something more?
According to the Bible, when we emerge from the waters of baptism, we are new creations. (II Cor. 5:17, Col. 2:12, Rom. 6:1-5) We are new creations because our sins have been forgiven and our slate wiped clean, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have the same struggles that we did before. Temptation doesn’t just vanish, neither does our way of thinking change overnight. Yet if we have truly surrendered to the will of God, we will commit ourselves to doing our best to live as we should. That in and of itself is a major concession, but many people, when they first put on Christ in baptism, have no idea how to live better lives. This is where our “need for Jesus” comes into play.
The Bible clearly states that not only is Jesus the head of the church, but also that he is the church! In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul writes, “Now you [the church] are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” To tell someone that they “need Jesus” is not some hollow, meaningless phrase. To “need Jesus” is to need the church and all the benefits that come with being a part of it. Those who believe that they can be “Christians are large” without being in fellowship with Christ’s body are greatly, and sadly mistaken.
Someone might ask, “Besides being forgiven of our sins, what other benefits come with being a part of the church?” To answer that question, let us first consider the situation that a typical new convert might face. If, for example, a homeless person puts on Christ, he is a “new creation” because his sins have been forgiven, but how does he move forward to live a productive life for God? He may have a drug or alcohol problem and he may not be employed. It may seem that his prospects for improvement are small, but in fact, being a part of the church provides him with everything he needs to turn his life around.
If he has truly surrendered his will to God, then he will be thinking about ways that he can become a good citizen and a productive servant of God. He may genuinely not know how to do that, but his brothers and sisters in Christ can help him. To become a good citizen, he needs to get a job, earn is wages, pay taxes, and learn to be responsible for his own care. Addressing a drug or alcohol problem likely will be one of the first things he needs to do. If he “turns these problems over to God” a solution can be found through the help of fellow Christians. Once sobriety is achieved, he can begin to look for a job and affordable housing. Again, fellow Christians can help because they can point him in the direction he needs to go. Resources are available to help him and Christians can be conduits through which he can find and embrace those resources. Christians can help by providing transportation to job interviews. Christians can also provide food and clothing temporarily until the new convert “gets on his feet.”
Belonging to the church also conveys spiritual benefits. Christians can pray for, and with, the new convert to help him find the strength to move forward. They can teach him God’s word, provided that he continues to attend faithfully. Eventually, the new convert will start to develop a sense of “belonging” to the family of God. He will begin to cultivate hope and develop a vision for what he can become. He will be firmly planted in an environment where he can flourish physically, mentally, and spiritually.
For those who have determined in their minds to “surrender to God,” all of these things are possible. There will be difficulties along the way, but the church can help even a homeless convert have a productive and meaningful life. To tell someone that they “need Jesus” is not just a phrase composed of happy thoughts and wishful thinking, but it is an invitation to become everything God wants them to become through his church.
Without a doubt you have heard the following saying: “Family comes first.” Maybe you have heard some in recent times say, “Put yourself first.” These statements come in various forms, but they all teach us about our priorities. For most people, both sayings we have shared are the sum of their priorities in life. They are like the tongue-in-cheek joke shared by a preacher from the past that says, “Lord, bless me and my wife, Joe and his wife, that’s four no more. Amen.” To them, all that matters is their own status and that of the people in their immediate circle. Their highest calling is simply to benefit themselves. They would surely protest if they were labelled as selfish or self-centered, yet their actions speak far louder than any words could.
While it is not wrong to prioritize your family and even your own wellbeing at times, there must be One who holds greater sway than anyone, or anything, else. It is God’s intent that we make His Son Jesus the One who holds that sway. Consider the following inspired statement:
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:17-18).
After reading that text, can you see any room for exalting someone or something above Jesus? If you go back to verses fifteen and sixteen, you quickly discover that Jesus is the One through whom the Father created the universe! Could anyone be more significant and consequential than Jesus? We would not even exist were it not for Jesus. Furthermore, we would have no avenue of restoration to God were it not for Him. No wonder the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write what he did. Truly Jesus must be preeminent, or first, in the hearts and lives of those who follow Him.
What then is the problem? Why are so-called Christians hasty to exalt everything but Jesus to the first place in their lives? Part of the dilemma is the sad reality that for many Christians, Jesus is but a small fraction of their lives. Make no mistake: they attend worship, they read the Scriptures, and they offer prayers. At day’s end, however, their faith does not define who they are. It is a convenient tool they can unpack and use when they deem it necessary, but otherwise, it is kept locked away. They prefer to be identified by their wealth, prestige in the community, family heritage, and everything else except for the Lord. Jesus is just a nice-to-have role model they can call upon in distress and neglect in times of ease. Like the hypocrites in Ezekiel’s day, they love to hear about Jesus but refuse to follow His ways (Ezekiel 33:30-33).
Friends, we must ensure Jesus occupies the first place in our lives. We cannot afford to give that place to another. Now is the time to exalt Him to His proper place. How can we make this a reality in our lives?
There remains only one question for you: does Jesus occupy the first place in your life? If not, then get to work putting Jesus in His proper place in your life. Let us all give these ideas some thought.
The story of the Titanic is one of tragedy, and one of the worst parts of that tragedy is the pomp and pride that surrounded it. One unknown deckhand was quoted as saying, “God Himself could not sink this ship.” That hubris proved fatal when the ship struck an iceberg and sank to the ocean floor. Thousands of people lost their lives because they refused to believe such a grand ship was in peril. In a sense, all the arrogant, proud, and boastful people will face a similar fate if they refuse to face facts. As the Savior once said, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
It is doubtful that most people, especially children of God, would consider themselves proud, arrogant, boastful, and filled with hubris. They desperately want to believe they are humble and submissive to the Lord. They think that all they do is done exactly as the Lord expects and desires. Yet we have brethren who overflow with these destructive qualities that tear congregations apart. Diotrophes has many kinfolk in the kingdom today (3 John 9-10). Here is a so-called child of God who slandered an apostle of Jesus Christ! Can you imagine? One does not have to look too long to find people who would do the same and worse today, though.
A brief examination of one’s conduct quickly reveals whether he has the same spirit Diotrophes had thousands of years ago. Consider how someone may end up with such a spirit within them.
Such is a mere sampling of the problem. The result of all these attitudes and actions is harm against Christ and His church. Friends, many congregations have been torn apart, not because of persecution or external pressure, but because of arrogant men and women who just had to have their way. Rather than admit that they are mistaken or that the congregation does not need to carry out their whims, they double-down on their hubris. They undermine godly leaders, target perceived opponents, and gather yes-men who will do their bidding. At day’s end, all they do is divide and destroy.
Humility, not hubris, is the way of Christ. It is His will for His people to humble themselves before Him. In fact, one cannot even begin to follow Christ without humility. What arrogant person would deny himself when he thinks he is perfect just as he is (Luke 9:23)? Yet it is not just our initial humility and submission to Christ that should be considered. These qualities must continue to remain with us. Consider how someone can manifest humility and submission rather than arrogant pride.
These qualities build up Christ’s church. Just envision in your mind’s eye the beauty that unfolds when you see every brother and sister in the Lord putting each other before themselves. Imagine, if you will, brethren withholding their personal opinions and judgments on indifferent matters for the sake of others. Consider how good and how pleasant it is when brethren desire unity in the truth rather than division over doubtful things (Psalm 133:1). We need a triple-dose of humility in our lives. Then, and only then, can we be unified in Christ and carry out His will. Arrogance, pride, boastfulness, and hubris must then be cast aside. It is time to humble ourselves to each other and to our Heavenly Father (1 Peter 5:5-7). Friends, let us give this serious thought.
Contentment is essential for disciples of Jesus. It is, as the apostle Paul wrote, great gain to us (1 Timothy 6:6). Yet contentment in every part of life can be troublesome. When contentment turns into complacency, complacency gives way to laziness. Laziness then brings forth apathy, and apathy almost always leads to hardened hearts that care little for the things of God. That well describes the condition of many people both within and without the kingdom of Christ today. Are they content? Oh yes! They are content to warm a bench, contribute their obligatory pittance, and live whatever lives they choose. Any sort of challenge or opposition to their settled way of being is dismissed as “judgmental,” “harsh,” and “un-Christlike.” They are content, but in all the wrong ways.
Restoration shakes us out of our complacency, laziness, and apathy. At least, that is its intention. Restoration demands change on a personal and collective level; that is, it transforms our character and our congregations. It forces us to evaluate how we live, work, and worship against the teaching of Scripture. That evaluation is a challenge, and few want to bother rising to face it. It is easier to declare that we have reached the goal of restoration when we have barely started the process. That is precisely why so many of us have not grown an inch in Christ over the course of several decades. We have deceived ourselves into thinking we have already made it. To borrow from Hebrews, we have become “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11). The inevitable conclusion of such self-deceit and dullness of hearing is eternal condemnation.
Throughout the history of the Old Testament, many restorers sought to realign God’s people with His ways. King Hezekiah resolved to break down the dearly held idols of his people and woke them up so they would turn back to God (2 Kings 18:3-4; 2 Chronicles 29-31). He started and continued the process of restoration. As the story progresses, however, we find that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, rolled back the positive changes his father made (2 Chronicles 33:1-9). The restoration Hezekiah started promptly ended when Manasseh took the throne. While he eventually came around, it did not change the damage he had caused. Restoration began again with Josiah many years later, but it too was short-lived (2 Chronicles 34:1-7).
Oh, how familiar these accounts should be to us! All too often people who wish to please God seek to return to His ways revealed in Scripture only for it to be turned aside not a generation later. We speak not only of so-called liberals but even of the so-called sound and strong. The process of restoration initiated by their forebears turns into a contest of who can circle wagons the fastest rather than a genuine desire to continually cleanse our hearts, develop trust in God, and align our congregations with Scripture. Apathy steadily sets in, and any inkling of restoration dries up. It is also the case that the dominant culture infects the process of restoration and turns it into a matter of seizing on the latest trends to draw crowds and please people, not God. Neither path will suffice. How can we break the cycle and get back to the work of restoration?
The process of restoration must begin with confession of the problem. We have got to come to grips with the reality that we are complacent, lazy, and apathetic. It is only through confession that we can find forgiveness and get back on track (1 John 1:9). It will also take humility to understand that God’s ways, and not our own, are the way we must go (Proverbs 3:5-7). Restoration continues with self-examination. We must place ourselves under the microscope and determine if we are in alignment with God’s expectations. Our dearly held traditions, thoughts, and feelings are all on the table. The Corinthians, who desperately needed to engage in the process of restoration, were challenged by Paul to examine themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). It could be that when we examine ourselves, we find some things wanting. We must then seek to shape our lives after Scripture.
Finally, restoration forces us to acknowledge that we are on a pathway that requires daily effort to walk. Our goal is heaven, and to get there, we must keep pressing forward in personal and collective restoration. The apostle Paul ever moved toward the “goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Friend, are you pressing forward or standing still? There is no plateau for our faith, nor do we ever make it to some spiritual zenith that sets us up for life with no further effort required. There is always room for growth and improvement. Restoration in this life calls us to continually seek out God’s pathways and continue walking in them. There are no detours or shortcuts, nor do we get to take the first exit we see and proclaim that the destination has been reached. Are you engaging in the process of restoration? If not, why not? Let us all think on these things and consider where we stand.