Can I come back to this church?

wordswag_1495019856976The story that spilled out in the confession was not pretty. There were sins, regrettable choices, human failures, and disappointments. After telling it, the person asked, “Can I come back to this church?” The question hurt! What a misunderstanding of what the church is and why she exists. More on that in a moment, but first, let me ask you –  do you find yourself avoiding the company of other Christians, or concealing your past, or wondering if you belong?

I did not dismiss the sins of that person as insignificant. They were ugly, sordid.  God does not look at my sins, or yours, and wave them off as inconsequential either. We are not made whole by excusing ourselves, by comparing ourselves, or by insisting that ‘everybody does it.’  We need to be loved, forgiven, and justified.

And, that is exactly what Jesus Christ offers to those who receive Him in faith. John reminds us that “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10, NIV) Our self will, our pride, our greed, our hatred were evidence of our true state; sinful, deserving of destruction. “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)  No one should ever forget that grace gift is his or her only hope.

Moreover, the Word reminds that God goes beyond forgiveness. “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV)  The profound love of the Father invites us to be ‘at one’ with Him.  He does not merely tolerate us, trying to overlook our past; He makes us ‘just as if we had never sinned.’  The stain is erased and we are reconciled completely to Him, accepted wholly into His holy family. Shame and guilt are to drive us to the Father, but once we have confessed those things, they are no longer needed for “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NLT)

That is why that question about coming to church, about belonging, need not be asked.

First, those who come to Christ stand on level ground before the Cross, none greater or less.
Second, the church is a place to find wholeness, to be healed, to have the wounds that  sin and life cut into us healed by His mercy and the love of the people of God.

Remember the story Jesus told (my favorite, one I cannot tell without tears of love and thankfulness spilling over) about a wayward, selfish, sinful son? The man abused his father, rejected the love freely given, and was ultimately ruined by his sins. He thought he could make a deal with his father so he headed for home, his defense and appeal readied.  But, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20, NIV)  Take note of that little phrase tucked into the story – “He ran to his son.”  God is not waiting for you, glaring, loaded with condemnation, ready to heap scorn on you.  He is looking for you to come home.

And when you do, He will RUN TO YOU, with amazing, scandalous grace that offers love, forgiveness, justification, and a place at His table.

So, come on home!

______________

When God Ran  (listen at this link)

Almighty God the great I Am
Immovable Rock omnipotent
Powerful awesome Lord
Victorious Warrior
Commanding King of kings mighty Conqueror

And the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run
 (Was) when He ran to me\
Took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest
Said My son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
He said son do you know
I still love you

He caught me by surprise
(He brought me to my knees)
When God ran 

After I left home I knew I’d broken His heart
I wondered then if things
Would ever be the same but one night
I remembered His love for me
And down that dusty road ahead I could see
It’s the only time

The only time I ever saw Him run
I saw Him run to me
And then I ran to Him
I was so ashamed all alone and far away
But now I know He’s been waiting for this day

  (And then) He ran to me
Took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest
Said My son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
(I felt His love call me again)

 He said son He said son
My son do you know I still love you
He ran to me
When God ran

Benny Hester | John Parenti
© 1985 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

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