The Process of Restoration

The Process of Restoration

All too often, I witness baptized Christians, including myself, returning to the sins they committed before they professed Jesus Christ as their Savior. I also hear flippant excuses for their behavior, such as, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace”, or “Once saved, always saved”, and “I’m OK with God, I just have this weakness.” With no conviction, they praise God with their lips, and declare, “Only God can judge me!”

God will judge and it should scare them! Some of the most frightening verses in the Bible are:

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Contrary to what we think, we are not following Christ while we are sinning. We are not fulfilling the Great Commission if we are not teaching people to OBEY everything Jesus taught. If you think you can go on sinning after baptism and escape judgment, you are deceived.

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Since there is no sacrifice for our deliberate sin that will put us back into a right standing with God, except that which Christ Jesus has already made, and all of us are guilty of deliberately sinning, what do we do now? Fortunately, there is a process of restoration. It is not a pleasant process, but we all must go through it. The outcome is intimacy with God, a clean heart, and a right spirit within us. It involves confession, brokenness, repentance, and sanctification.

Psalm 51:1-12 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

King David wrote out this confession and prayer after the prophet Nathan had confronted him about breaking at least five of God’s Ten Commandments. David coveted another man’s wife, he committed adultery with her, he lied to cover up the affair, and he had her husband intentionally killed in battle so that he could steal her as his own wife, for she was pregnant with David’s child.

But, the Bible says that this lustful, lying, wife stealing, adulterous, man-slaughtering murderer was a "man after God’s own heart."

Acts 13:22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

I can identify with David in Psalm 51. Not with everything he did, but with failing to pursue God’s heart and do His will, with pursuing the impurity in my heart, and with his sense and need for forgiveness, repentance, and restoration.

After baptism, some Christians have committed adultery (at least in our hearts), homosexuality, fornication, and murder (i.e. abortion). We were saved and began pursuing God’s heart, but now we are full of pride, lying, lusting, hating (murder in our heart), gossiping, robbing God of tithes and offerings, blaming others, and covering up or hiding our sin. We are no better than David.

Our sin separates us from God and that is why we don’t feel as close to God as we did in the past. Fortunately, this psalm gives us hope if we will be honest and open about our sin.

First, it shows us that David was convicted of his sin and his guilt. David had not fooled anyone, not even himself. He knew that what he did was wrong in God’s eyes and in his own eyes. He realized that his disobedience and sin had broken his relationship with God.

Notice, David’s prayer did not stem from fear of punishment or concern with future success. He accepted responsibility for his sin, humbled himself, and realized he had offended God. That scared him. Realizing the seriousness of his sin, David’s spirit and heart were broken; broken to the point of contrition. He had foolishly destroyed a precious relationship and he cried out for a restored fellowship with God.

Contrition is a condition that few of us ever reach. We are too flippant about our sin and so we remain separated from God. Contrition means to have godly sorrow, remorse, shame, and regret for our sin. Contrition brings us to our knees before God. A contrite heart realizes the great offense our sins are to God and we run to Him for mercy. Contrition is the condition that a sinner must have to truly repent, be forgiven, and be healed.

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says, He who lives forever, whose name is Holy: “I live in the high and holy place, but also with him who is of contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

In the spirit of contrition and brokenness David pleads with God, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

We all need God to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit with us. Preaching and counseling can expose our sin but it cannot renew us or restore us. We need to come to God in genuine brokenness and open ourselves up to Him at the deepest dimension of our lives, because Jesus is the key to our spiritual healing and restoration with the Father.

To illustrate the need, our spirit is similar to a house with many rooms. Sometimes we allow God into the living room of our hearts, but we don’t allow Him into the basement where all the junk is stored or in the bedroom where we hide our private lives. God wants to cleanse us in the inner depths of our being. God wants to destroy the strongholds of evil in our spirit and make us completely free from sin.

Sometimes we think we are serving God; but in the depths of our spirit there is lust, anger, deception, selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, pride, and bondage. God wants to go down into the basement of our spirit to expose the sin and deliver us from its bondage. But we don’t want to open the door to Him. We don’t want to look at what is in there and we don’t want it exposed. As a result, we keep God out, we keep it hidden, and we remain slaves to sin.

Romans 6:19-23 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Although David’s heart was crushed by his shame and sorrow over sin, he did not run from God, whom he sinned against. He ran to God and pled for His mercy and restoration.

Further in his prayer, David humbly offers to God his sin and its consequences as an example to teach other transgressors. That is why we see it in the Bible. It is there to teach us. Likewise, God can use our testimony of sin, repentance, and recovery to help others, but we have to go through God’s process of restoration to be set free from our bondage. Then God is glorified.

This process begins when we recognize we have offended and hurt people, but most of all, when we recognize and confess that we have hurt and offended God. We can’t just give mental assent to this, saying, “Yes, I am a sinner. I’m sorry God. Please forgive me.” No, we must to come to God with a spirit of confession and contrition. That’s what David did.

You see, sin separates us from God and our spirits feel that. We may not know what it is at first, but our spirits do. There is a longing within us to be in relationship with God, to be close and to see God. With each sin we commit, we get further and further from God.

Sin is like garbage in our spiritual lives. And in a sense, we all are equipped with a garbage bag. We inherited it from Adam and Eve. When we’re born the bag is empty, but as we go through life, we slowly fill it up. With each sin we turn away from God. We can sin so much and get so far away from God that we feel totally cut off, hopeless, and alone.

Confession is an honest look at what is in our bag of sin and at our relationship with God. Confession has at the heart of it a desire to set things right with God. Confession is letting God know—that we know—what we did was wrong. He already knows this, but we are humbly confessing what He knows and declaring He is right and we have sinned against Him.

Confession is taking each sin out of the bag and exposing it to the Light of Jesus Christ. We look at it and acknowledge we have committed that sin. We are responsible and no one else made us do it. We have offended God with our sin and He is just if He sends us to Hell.

We all need confession, but confession isn’t enough. You see some of us don’t mind confessing at all. We use it as an excuse to continue sinning, explaining to others that it’s just the way we are and we can’t help it. Some of us even love to pull it out and show it off like some badge of honor, declaring how “bad” or “tough” we have been. So confession isn’t enough.

We need to be contrite or broken over our sin! Confession without brokenness doesn’t really do any good at all. Confession without brokenness is just mental assent that we have done wrong and we justify ourselves by saying “Sorry, please forgive me”. Confession without brokenness doesn’t mend the relationship with God or anyone else we have offended. All it does is name those things that separate us from God and hurt others.

Contrition, brokenness, and godly sorrow must accompany our confession, for those are the things that produce repentance and a hatred for sin.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Godly sorrow makes us humble, gives us hatred for sin, and produces repentance. Repentance is turning away from sin and making amends where possible. Repentance is also turning from being your own god, determining for yourself what is right, and humbly following Jesus—going His way, denying ourselves, picking up a cross daily, and obeying His Word.

At this point in our restoration, we are afraid, because we know we can’t walk in repentance very long in our own strength. We may be broken and contrite, but we also are aware that we are too weak to follow Jesus very far. We must have the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, which is why David asked God not to take the Holy Spirit from him.

Therefore, after confession, brokenness, and repentance, we need to cry out, like David, for a "clean heart and a new and right spirit." We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to have power and grace to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit is God in us. When He is in us, we have grace to hear Him and obey. We act differently. We do differently. We live and walk by the Spirit and we don’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Instead, we exhibit His character or fruit while He sanctifies us, cleans us, makes us holy, and sets us apart for God. During that process, we begin to experience freedom, peace, and joy.

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Therefore, after confession, brokenness, and repentance, ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so you have power and grace to daily deny yourself and to crucify your flesh with its passions and desires, so you can follow after God’s heart once again.

Luke 11:11-13 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Walking in the Spirit requires a consistent and continual prayer life with the Father. It also requires meaningful Bible reading every day. This will create an intimate love relationship with God. From this relationship, true worship in the Spirit will be expressed as we focus on Jesus and obediently go after God’s heart.

Although David was forgiven, the consequences of his sin remained; all except one. He was no longer separated from God. His relationship with God was restored.

Our sin has separated us from God and created many unpleasant consequences that we cannot change. We need to recognize it is our fault and we have offended God. If we don’t stop our deliberate sinning, there is “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries”.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

“They were cut to the heart”. We often skip over this important point and focus on what they did. That is a mistake. Before they were baptized, they had come to realize, like David, that they had offended God by crucifying His Son. And the consequences of their sin could not be changed. They were convicted, contrite, and feared judgment. What could they do now?

The consequences of your sin cannot be changed, but if you realize you have offended God and are “cut to the heart” or have godly sorrow for what you have done, there is hope, as we see in the next verse: Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are already a baptized Christian, who has deliberately sinned, the pathway for restoration is the same as David’s: confession, brokenness, repentance, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Don’t run from God, whom you have offended. Run to Him and contritely confess, repent, and ask Him to create in you a clean heart and a right spirit. He will lovingly take you through the process of restoration, forgive you, and fill you with His Spirit. He has been waiting for you to return to Him. He wants deliver you from sin and He wants to abide in you. He also wants you to abide in Him.

If you are still in bondage to some sin, don’t say you have gone through this process but it didn’t work. Truthfully, you did not give God all your heart. You are still giving in to your fleshly desires. God cannot fail to save you, deliver you, and set you free from bondage if you pursue HIM with all your heart. Don’t give up. Run to Him like David did and expose it all. If necessary, get someone to help you through the process of restoration. The worst thing you can do is to continue to ignore your sin or hide it.