Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Real Church Restores People (PrayerLife)

This car needs restoring - in Monroe County
One of my father's hobbies was woodworking and refinishing. My mother joined him in the refinishing part. I can see them in the basement of our house, stripping away layers of old paint and varnish to reveal the beautiful original wood finish. 

This is called "restoration." It's about stripping away things that have covered up what was there at first. When restoration happens to people it is a beautiful thing. Some of the most heart-moving things I have ever seen are when Christians experience this, return to their first love, and use their gifts and talents to minister to the people of God and beyond. Just this past weekend at Redeemer I heard two testimonies from young men who were drug addicts but got released from that captivity and have been restored to God's family. One of them gave his testimony and then was baptized.

God not only can restore fallen followers of Jesus to fellowship, God's job description includes loving to do this. God is able to restore people; God desires to restore people. God can strip away the false layers that have covered up the heart's real, first love.

The classic restoration story is that of David. To say that David fell away from the heart of God is to understate things. David went after another man's wife (Bathsheba), and then out of fear orchestrated things so that her husband (Uriah) would be killed on the battlefield. David was involved in adultery, lying, and murder. In spite of all of this God eventually restored him and used David to further His purposes.

One of the precious deposits the Lutheran church left in me as a young boy was the singing, liturgically and repetitively, of many of the biblical psalms. Even though they seemed to mean little to me at the time, when I became a Jesus-follower some of them kicked-started my spirit. Psalm 51 was already inside me. The words became very important to me. It's David's song of repentance and cry for restoration.

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 unto me the joy of your salvation
and uphold me with your Spirit.

Over the years I have sung this song a lot. When I take the Lord's Supper these words are often doing a number on me. I sing them and love them because I have needed restoration, many times. Any follower of Jesus who lets an ounce of evil contaminate their heart needs it stripped away. That, I believe, includes all of us.

Sadly, I am aware of stories where churches cooperate with the enemy and shoot their wounded. This is the Judging, Condemning Church; the Anti-Jesus Church; the Church of Banning and Shunning. 

The Real Church is different. God-as-Redeemer heals wounded warriors, restores the fallen, and in the restoration defeats the enemy. The Real Jesus does not avoid fallen people like they are the plague, he moves towards them. God's people rejoice and cry for joy when they see this happen. And, we who say we love Jesus are to join Jesus in The Restoration Movement.

Thankfully, our fallen failures do not permanently disqualify us for ministry and full life in the kingdom. Otherwise I would dwell outside the city walls among the untouchables. The most beautiful Jesus-followers I have ever met have been lifted out of the quicksands of their failures. God loves to not only restore a person but to do an in-your-face-to-the-enemy by calling them, like he did David, "a man after God's own heart." You can learn a lot about yourself and about the Real Jesus in the process of being stripped away by love.

Restored people are not marked as "adulterer," "liar," or "murderer," but wear the cleansing blood of Christ which declares "I am His child forever!" 

This is the heart of the Gospel. 

So give thanks.