What do you need to return to?
Better said, who do you need to return to? That’s the first question.
The ‘who’ proceeds the ‘what.’
Throughout the Old Testament, you read of the phrases such as…
- Come, let us return to the Lord – Hosea 6:1
- Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity – Hosea 14:1
- Now return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and compassionate – Joel 2:13
- If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored – Job 22:23
Notice the object of the return? It is not a ‘what’, but a ‘who.’ To the Lord, to the Almighty…
The idea of returning to the Lord, indicates repentance. That’s what the prophets were calling people to in the Old Testament. To repent and return to the Lord. And to repent and return, is the same call we see in the Gospels as John the Baptist and Jesus begin their ministries, and into the book of Acts, as the early church launches.
Isaiah 53 tells us that like sheep, we’ve all wandered and strayed away from the Lord. That was our bent at birth. But the Good News of Jesus, is that He, as the Good Shepherd, has come to call us and bring us back into the fold that we were created to live in and enjoy.
1 Peter 2:24-25 says, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Because of Jesus’ work, compelled by love, on the cross, we can die to sin, live for righteousness, be healed of our sin, and return. All by grace alone and through faith alone. Amen and amen!
Notice how Peter says we have returned to a who, not a what. Returned to the Shepherd and Overseer. Jesus Christ!
Don’t miss this! Remember, the greatest command is to love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It is a ‘who.’ It is a relationship with the Lord Almighty, who has come in the flesh to rescue and set free, and who is coming again to judge the living and the dead and make all things new.
I think when it comes to repentance, we often talk about the ‘what’, before the ‘who’. We say things like…
- Read your Bible
- Pray and fast
- Gather with the church and believers
And those, and so many others, are true and good. If repentance doesn’t lead us to outward action, then it is no repentance at all. It is simply lip service. In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist says to ‘produce fruit consistent with repentance.’ So let the outward actions of our lives, reveal that inwardly in our hearts and minds, we are agreeing with the Lord and His Word, ways, and wisdom.
But don’t miss that what is driving the ‘what’ and the outward actions, is first the ‘who.’
We first and foremost are people who return to the Lord, our Good Shepherd and overseer of our souls. We return to Him. Notice how Paul talks about knowing the Lord in such a personal way.
Philippians 3:7-8a says, But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Nothing beats knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. The relationship with our Good Shepherd drives, compels, and motivates the activities. So for instance, we read our Bibles not out of religious obligation, but because through His Word, we grow in knowing Him better in relationship.
The ‘what’ matters.
But the ‘who’ motivates and moves us.
For to know Jesus and be known by Him is of greatest value.
Let’s be people who return to the Lord.