We are hearing some rather strange expressions these days. A man was telling us recently that he had gone forward the Sunday before to be "reinstated." A woman said she was thinking of "going back into the church." Are such expressions a problem in terminology? Or are we faced with a problem in concept? Are people thinking of the church as an organization similar to the P.T.A., in and out of which they can go at will, returning simply to be "reinstated"?
Unfaithfulness is not just a matter of dropping out of the church for a while. It is a matter of trampling "the Son of God underfoot"; of insulting "the Spirit of grace"; of giving "occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme"; of turning one's back on the Lord and His promises; of living in sin and flirting with eternal damnation. Imagine a person's being in such a position, and then coming forward to be "reinstated"! What that person needs to do is repent, fall on his knees before God, confess to Him and to his brethren, "I have sinned," and cry to God for mercy.
We are not questioning God's mercy. He is prepared to forgive His wayward child; to run to him, fall on his neck, and kiss him; to place the best robe on his back, a ring on his finger, shoes on his feet; to kill the fatted calf and be merry. But this abundant forgiveness is for that wayward child who returns with a full recognition of his sin and unworthiness, who confesses his sins, who asks, not to be "reinstated" as a son, but to be received back only as a hired servant. Forgiveness is for the penitent.
May the Lord help us to see sin in its true ugliness, to "abhor what is evil" and "cling to what is good," to remember the price paid by our Lord for our forgiveness, to be faithful, and to humbly acknowledge our sins when we do fall. And when we are forgiven, let us not speak glibly of "going back into the church," but let us speak of the grace of God that could save "a wretch like me."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).