The Route To Returning
“And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3)
In the mid-18th century, British preacher and hymn writer Robert Robinson composed a worship song that has since come to be one of the most treasured Christian hymns of all time. That hymn is titled, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing“. And in this hymn, the author masterfully summarizes the sinful condition of fallen humanity and the natural disposition of our idol-producing hearts when he writes these words,
“Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love…”
What the author of this hymn understood, is that even as regenerated, born again, genuinely converted believers…we are still “prone to wander”…we are still….”prone to leave the God we love”. The Bible teaches us that our indwelling sinful nature instinctively tends toward backsliding. As human beings we are prone to acts of idolatry. We are inclined to walk away from God and His will for our lives.
In Hosea 11:7 God tells us that, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.” Left unchecked, our sinful nature tends to turn us and our gaze away from our first love (Jesus) and towards that which will never truly satisfy. In Jeremiah 2:13 God tells His people, “for My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.“
It’s because of our propensity to backsliding that the Scriptures consistently calls us to “return to the LORD“. In Isaiah 55:7 we read, “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Again in Hosea 6:1, the prophet cries out, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.”. In Joel 2:12 we read God pleading with us saying, “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning”.
What does a genuine “return to the LORD” (i.e. repentance) look like? In 1 Samuel 7:3 the prophet Samuel gives us three keys to genuine repentance.
First he tells us that if we are to “return to the LORD” with all our hearts…we must begin by “putting away the foreign gods…“. In other words, genuine repentance requires putting away our idols. It necessitates that we remove or get rid of any and everything that draws us away from God.
Second, Samuel tells us that returning to the LORD requires that we “direct our hearts to the LORD”. That word “direct” literally means to fix; to arrange or to determine. In other words, genuine repentance requires fixing our gaze on God’s Word. It requires that we let God’s word lead us. That we give up our own plans, wills and desires and to make the conscious determination to live by the Book!
And finally, as we read in verse 3, a genuine return to the LORD requires that we “serve Him only“. That word “serve” means to do work for or to worship. Genuine repentance requires us to humbly obey God’s commands…to serve Him…to worship Him…to live our lives for an audience of One. A real return to the Lord requires us to say, along with Joshua, “choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
If you have come to realize that you are currently in a season of backsliding, today the Lord is calling you to return to Him. The question you need to ask yourself is this, “What do I need to need to put away? What do I need to walk away from that has been pushing Jesus out of my life (i.e. sinful entertainment; habits; relationships; temptations)? Secondly, you need to ask yourself the next question, which is, “What do I need to recommit myself to today?” (i.e. reading my Bible, LifeJournaling, daily time in prayer, weekly gathering for Sunday worship, etc.).
Jesus, today I am returning to my first love! Amen