Saturday, July 2, 2011

Celebrating What We Should Be Celebrating

Today I am going to a vow renewal ceremony.  While many of my readers may presume that I am going to write against such a thing, I am not.  In fact, I think it is a good thing.  More than that, I think there is a lesson in this for everyone.  As we all know, marriage is a picture of our relationship with Jesus.  In that, much of what we do in terms of our marriage has a spiritual corollary in terms of our walk with Jesus. 

I know that there are several reasons for a couple to rededicate themselves.  Today I want to talk about one and that one is the restoration of a broken relationship.  This relationship could have been broken in a number of ways whether it be abuse, adultery, abandonment, or any other or combination thereof.  Whatever the reason, restoration is always the goal.  While it is true that God allows divorce in the case of adultery, it does not mean He prefers it.  God hates divorce, for any reason.  What God loves is restoration.  God loves an adulterer who repents of his ways and a husband or wife who shows the grace of Jesus to the offending party.  God loves an abandoner who sees the sin in his decision and repents of that choice and returns to his or her family.  God loves the man who learns to love his wife as Christ loved the church or woman who learns to submit to the authority of her husband even after years of rebellion.  God loves grace and God loves repentance and that is what this kind of vow renewal ceremony signifies.  It is the celebration of one party who repented and another party who showed grace. 

More than that, it is a beautiful picture of our relationship to Jesus.  So many have walked away from the church and many of them have that desire to come back.  They don't because of fear. They don't because they are afraid God won't accept them back or they are ashamed to even ask.  Please do not ever have that heart.  God wants you to come back, God desires to restore that relationship with you.  There is nothing you could have done to make God not love you.  Just look at the parable of the Prodigal Son.  That son squandered his inheritance on sin.  He shamed himself and his father and came to the end of his rope.  He came back to his father.  He was ashamed and dejected and ready to live as his father's servant.  He returned to his father knowing it could mean his death (Jewish law called for death for the shame he brought to his family). And you know what?  His father was waiting for him!  His father was not waiting for him to kill him or punish him, but waiting will all hope that his son return so he could love him.  He forgave his son and restored him to his status as his son.  His son repented of his sin and his father showed grace. 

So please, if you have walked away from God do not ever think that you can not come back.  You do not have to try to find Him as He is waiting for you.  You do not have to prove that you love Him because He knows your heart.  You do not have to make yourself clean as God will cleanse you with the blood of Jesus.  You do not have to be alone, God wants to have that fellowship with you that you once shared. 

I know there is a temptation to not trust someone who repents.  I know we like to make sure we keep an eye on them to make sure they are not going to just slip back to where they were.  You know what?   They might.  The adulterer may become and adulterer again. The abuser may abuse again.  The abandoner may abandon again.  That is not our business, though.  We can not treat someone as though we think they may sin again someday.  In fact, if you treat someone like they are going to do wrong, they are more likely to do it because you keep putting it on their mind.  What you should do is encourage righteousness. What you should do is encourage accountability not just for the brother or sister who return but also for yourself.  What you should do is encourage the work God is doing inside them.  We must remind ourselves of the prodigal's brother and never strive to be like him. 

Repentance is a beautiful thing and something that should be celebrated.  There is not enough of that going on in the church today.  If a sinner returns to church, we should not look at that person with distrust but throw them a party.  I mean it too.  The prodigal's father had a great feast for his son.  The angels in heaven celebrate over one sinner who repents.  When the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he calls his friends to celebrate.  When the woman finds her lost coin, she calls on her neighbors to celebrate.  More than the meaningless celebrations of birthdays and imaginary holidays, let is celebrate what God celebrates.  Let us celebrate repentance and that is something I am priviledged to do today.
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.   Luke 15:7

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