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God’s Restoring Grace
As I thought about this concept of God’s restoring grace what came to mind is the promise Jesus gave to His disciples of the Holy Spirit.
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NKJV)
Jesus knew that our relationship would probably end like most human relationship if someone greater than ourselves didn’t intercede and in this relationship give us the power to grow and mature.
So He promised that another like Himself would come and pick up the slack after He left.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17a NKJV)
It’s the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit within us that will help our relationship with Jesus to grow and mature, because no relationship ever remains the same. We are either growing closer, or drifting further away. Relationships never remain stagnant.
We don’t just become a Christian and that’s it. We’re either growing closer to Jesus or we’ll find ourselves drifting further away. Either are hearts are growing warmer, or they’re growing colder.
This is seen in Jesus address to the church of Laodicea saying they had grown lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.
All of us probably know someone who was once on fire for the Lord, but today they’re nowhere to be found, especially within the church. After experiencing the struggles of life they’ve cashed in their chips and called it a day and/or a life.
The good news, however, is that while they may have drifted away, Jesus is ready to receive them back.
It’s called God’s Restoring Grace.
God’s in the business of restoring this relationship by His grace, and so when we blow it, when we walk away, when we stumble and fall, Jesus holds his arms wide open saying, “You can come back to Me.”
This is what the prophet Jeremiah prayed.
“Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; renew our days as of old.” (Lamentations 5:21 NKJV)
How we get the joy back? God desires to restore us and renew our days, and He wants to give back to us all that has been taken, and so much more.
In our time together I’d like to look at some common causes why people step away from the faith, and to do so I’d like to look at an incident in the life of Peter. The story is found in Mark 14. They had just finished the Passover and are heading to the Mount of Olives, and this is where we pick up our story.
Read Mark 14:27-31
The first thing we see in our story as to why people step away from the faith …
1. Prideful Self-Confidence
Some would call this overconfidence.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3 NKJV)
Look now at what Peter said.
“Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be … If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’” (Mark 14:29, 31 NKJV)
You can almost hear the swagger in Peter’s voice. “They may leave, but not me. Even if death stared me in the face, I will never deny you.”
And we’re no different. We all believe that if push came to shove we would never deny Jesus or step away from the faith, but we need to be careful not to try in our own power what only the Holy Spirit can do.
That’s how it begins. We think we can handle whatever comes. We say, “That can never happen to me.” And with these words and attitude we’re setting ourselves up for a fall.
Before his fight with Joe Frazier, Mohammed Ali said that they were going to decide once and for all who’s the real king in the ring. He said there wasn’t a man alive who could beat him. He said the only way he could be licked is to become a postage stamp. He’s too smart and too pretty. He said, “I’m the greatest.” By the way, Ali lost the fight.
When we think we couldn’t possibly fall, that’s when we do, and that’s because everyone is capable of sin. Jeremiah says that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above everything else, Jeremiah 17:9, that is, we lie not only to others, but also to ourselves.
Paul said, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV)
Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 NKJV)
The word, “ego,” stands for self as the highest form of thought, but I’d like to introduce something different. The letters E.G.O. could stand for “Edging God Out.” When we get overconfident we’re actually edging God out of our lives and beginning to head down a slippery slope of rationalization and sin.
And so the first reason why people step away from their faith is a prideful self-confidence.
People become indifferent to what’s going on around them, especially in the spiritual world, and it produces laziness toward the things of God.
We see this indifference when Jesus addressed the Laodicean church. They were no longer fully following God, and Jesus calls them lukewarm and tells them their fate.
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:16 NKJV)
Let’s look at this indifference in our story
Read Mark 14:32-42
Jesus instructed Peter to watch and pray. But three times He had to wake up Peter along with James and John.
“Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?” (Mark 14:37 NKJV)
Like Peter we get lethargic. Good habits like praying, reading God’s word, and fellowship fly right out the window. We say, “I just don’t have time for that right now.”
In Israel they would build watchtowers. The purpose of these towers was to keep watch for the enemy or anything else that may be harmful.
We need to set up watchtowers in our lives, especially in those areas where we are weak and susceptible to attack. This is what Job did when he made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a young woman, Job 31:1.
Keeping watch is not easy, however. It’s tiring work because it’s harder to do what’s right than it is to do what’s wrong. Right takes energy, while wrong takes no effort whatsoever. With such an outlay of energy, it isn’t hard to imagine our developing an apathetic indifference to the things of God.
We need to constantly plug into heaven’s power on a daily basis through prayer, reading God’s word, and asking the Holy Spirit to fill us.
We need to keep watch, because in this life there’s a whole lot of stress, which is why Jesus said,
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NKJV)
We have to keep our guard up, because when we let it down due to apathy and indifference, the enemy comes in to steal, kill, and destroy, John 10:10.
3. Seeking Man’s Approval
“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.”(1 Thessalonians 2:4 NKJV)
Read Mark 14:53-54
Our biggest problem is that we’re concerned at what others think, so we seek their approval, because we don’t want to be rejected.
Peter reveals by his actions that he was more concerned with other people’s opinions than he was concerning the Lord’s.
“But Peter followed Him at a distance.” (Mark 14:54a NKJV)
Peter’s following Jesus, but not real close. Rather he’s following far enough behind so no one could identify him.
How close or how far are we following Jesus? Are we following close enough to keep our eye on Him but far enough away so people don’t know we’re Christians?
Someone said that if the government were to suddenly outlaw Christianity, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
One sign of a person stepping away is that they’re ashamed to be associated with Jesus or with the church. Bibles remain in the home; we feel uneasy or don’t pray over meals or out in public. We don’t hang with other Christians because we don’t want to be known as one.
The Bible says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 NKJV)
Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 NKJV)
If we’re ashamed of Jesus here, then Jesus will be ashamed of us there.
Notice what it says now at the end of verse 54.
“But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.” (Mark 14:54 NKJV)
We want faith as long as it’s comfortable and convenient. While Jesus was on trial for His life, Peter is sitting around the enemy’s fire trying to fit in.
If we want to enjoy the warmth of this world, then we’re going end up getting burned. Many believers start off strong, but end up on the sidelines because they left when it became inconvenient.
If we step away from the faith, how does God respond? He responds with His restoring grace.
The Bible says,
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 NKJV)
That word, “No,” is powerful. It’s the strongest negative in our language. No means no. It doesn’t mean maybe. If God says there is no condemnation then there isn’t.
But we need to distinguish between condemnation and consequences. When we get out of God’s will, when we ignore God’s word, then there will be consequences, but there is no condemnation.
The Bible says that God will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us, Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5.
A. Unconditional Love
God’s love is unconditional, which means it never comes with an “if” or “because.” God loves us no matter what, and He will never stop loving us because of His grace.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”(Lamentations 3:22 NKJV)
God’s love never fails. It never ends, and that’s because there are no conditions attached.
B. Salvation by Grace
Our salvation is not performance based, rather it’s based on God’s grace. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our effort; rather it depends solely on God’s grace.
No one can earn their way, work their way, or even bluff their way to heaven. If we’re not saved by God’s grace then we’re not saved.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
C. Jesus Paid the Price
Under American law, there’s what’s known as the law of double jeopardy. This law states that a person cannot be tired, convicted, or punished for the same crime twice.
This is right out of God’s word, because we cannot be tried for our sins, and that’s because Jesus already paid the penalty price for our sins.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)
D. Jesus Knows Our Weaknesses
Jesus knows and understands our frailties and faults. He knows what makes us tick and how we’re wired. And the wonderful thing is that in spite of this he still loves us.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NKJV)
While on the earth Jesus faced the same temptations we face, but he never gave into them. Therefore, He can be sympathetic and understandings knowing just how difficult they are.
The good news is that no matter how far we stray, we’re just one step away from complete restoration.
“If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me.” (Jeremiah 15:19a NKJV)
Jesus restored Peter by His grace.
I’d like to end with two examples of God’s restoring grace in Peter’s life.
First is when Jesus rose from the dead and the angel told Mary to go tell Jesus disciples specifically pointing out Peter, Mark 16:7. Jesus knew how devastated Peter was, but after the resurrection Jesus was in essence telling Peter, “It’s okay, all is forgiven.”
The second example again comes after the resurrection. The disciples were fishing on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus appeared on the shore. Peter immediately swims to where Jesus is sitting and is now warming Himself at Jesus’ fire.
Note, Peter is no longer at the enemy’s fire, and that’s because of God’s restoring grace. And it was at Jesus’ fire that Peter confirmed his love and devotion three times, which more than likely corresponded to the three times Peter denied Jesus on that fateful night.
That’s God’s restoring grace.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Psalm 51:12 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study