Return to the Lord

Return to the Lord your God,
     for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love
(Joel 2:13)

The God, we Christians worship, is one who loves us deeply and desires that we return to him.  Though he loves us, he is also just and there are consequences for our wrongdoing and even our wrong thinking.  That wrongdoing and wrong thinking is called sin.  He wants the best for us but we are very self-centered and what we desire is many times bad for us.  It is easy to see that we are broken.

God’s initial creation was good, very good, but Adam and Eve disobeyed God and broke themselves and all of creation.  Ever since then God has desired to bring us back to him.  He put a restoration plan into action.  Beginning with Abraham and Sarah, he set out to make a people for himself that would bring blessing to all people (Genesis 12:1-3).   From Abraham and Sarah came the people of Israel.  They were to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).  They failed over and over again, but God was not stymied. His plan for restoration still moved forward.

Out of love, Jesus came into the world (John 3:16) to do what we could not do.  He was the Israel that Israel could not be.  He lived a perfect life.  He fully loved people and God.   He went to the cross to take our sin upon himself.  His death was the death we deserved.  He paid for our sin on the cross.  And then he rose from the dead.  Because he did all this, we can have a full life in him.  With the Holy Spirit, we can be the people of God and bring blessing and restoration to all people.  We are to be “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) like Israel of old, and like Israel we still fail and fail again, but God is still at work.  His restoration plan continues until when he will gather all who believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior together with him in Heaven.

So what does this all mean to us?  First, we need to recognize that we are not good.  We are not even a little bit good.  We are corrupt through and through.  Oh, we may do “good” things but deep down inside is that self-centered selfish side of us that taints everything we do.  We all are bad.  And God wants perfection.  Picture of  a “totally white sheet of paper” as perfection. The very best we can manage is a “dark gray sheet with some black spots”.  We can not by ourselves even come close, but Jesus was perfect, that “totally white sheet of paper”.

Second, we need to recognize that even though we may be a “grimy black sheet of paper”, God still loves us and desires to be in relationship with us.  That is good news and that is why Jesus came so that we can become a “totally white sheet of paper”. Or in other words, we are set free and cleansed from all our sin.  We can then live the good life God has in store for us, and worship and serve him in all purity.

Third, we who follow Jesus are not there yet.  We need to daily turn from our sin and return to God to follow him and do what he desires.  The Holy Spirit continues to be at work in us, transforming us.  One day when we are united with God we will be whole, that “totally white sheet of paper”.

If you don’t have a church home consider attending a worship service at a church near you.  This time of year is a most important time. It is when we especially remember that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead so that we can have a full life in him.  This year, Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, is  March 28.  Maundy Thursday, when Jesus celebrated Passover and changed it into the Lord’s Supper, is April 1.  Good Friday, when Jesus died, is April 2. And Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead, is April 4.  Many churches will have special worship services on these days. Do consider attending a worship service.  (In Loveland, Colorado, I attend Immanuel Lutheran Church and School.  You are welcome to join me and attend there. Or join us online (Youtube or Facebook), if you have Covid concerns.)

And if you want more information about the Christian Faith, feel free to contact me.

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