By Lim Chong Teck
When we become Christians, I dare say none of us plan to fall away. I doubt even Judas Iscariot having been chosen to be an apostle had a scheme drawn out to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. It was something that came about later at the end of three years of being with Jesus. Perhaps he was disappointed with not achieving the desired fame and wealth associated with being with Jesus and decided he would at last still profit from giving up Jesus. There are many reasons why a child of God could fall away.
- It could be he has drifted from the teachings that Christ have given and has taken another’s teachings ( Gal 1: 6-9, 5:1-8, 2 Tim 2:16-18).
- One can err in truth as moving away from the path of truth which includes our teachings and conduct (James 5:19-20).
- One could be overcome by sin. Heb 10:25-27 describes a life of willful sinning as a habit or practice of sin which would render the sacrifice of Christ without effect to the person, hence a falling away from grace.
- It could be his faith could not hold in the face of threats of persecution as it happened to Simon Peter whom Jesus himself prayed for his restoration (Lk.22:31-34). And in the event of going through an actual persecution, one still has to hold on to his faith. This is seen by the exhortation in Rev 2:10.
- It could be one has decided to choose the way of the world as opposed to the way of Christ as seen in the person of Demas (2 Tim 4:10).
- It could be one has lost the total sense of appreciation for God’s word, gratefulness for the sacrifice of Christ and the blessings bestowed by God (Heb 6:4-8). But in all these the bible gives us a beautiful picture in Luke 15 of how a child of God could come to his senses and return to Him.
We noticed from Luke 15 that the return of the child of God must first begin with him coming to his senses (Lk 15:17-20). This could come through his own contemplation or through words of guidance, teachings and love from another (James 5: 19-20, Gal 6: 1-2, Jude 1:20-23). His senses came back as he reflected on the goodness of his father. He must make his “journey of return” and come before his father to confess and ask for forgiveness. It must be said that this “journey of return” is not without resistance from the
devil who would want to have him in his clutches (2 Tim 2: 24-26). And to his credit he managed to put it firmly in his mind and with whatever means bring himself before his father. The picture of a loving father ever ready to forgive with hope and anticipation of his lost son’s return should dispel any thoughts of rejection and be an encouragement to all who have second thoughts to come back to arms of our heavenly father. The joy of the father and the comfort of acceptance to the child bring to us an end which is unspeakable to the one going through it. What a blessing of reconciliation.
In the return of the exiles from captivity in the book of Zechariah, God reassures his love for his people when he states “I am zealous for Jerusalem”(Zech 1:14) and “you are the apple of mine eyes” (Zech 2:8). As those who have returned to God, we need to be assured just as the prodigal son was. “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began
to be merry” Luke 15:22-24.
And with this reconciliation, all the privileges and protection of the father are once again accorded to him. Let all those who have returned have no doubt of God’s assurance of his love. And as we go through our Christian walk with God, it does not mean that all the challenges are no longer present but in facing all these challenges, God assures us of His presence, protection and help (Heb 13: 5-6). It would be good to always reflect on God’s inherent goodness and the special relationship we have with him to have faith to overcome all challenges and not fall back again. This is the best encouragement to continue our walk with him and finish the race
set before us. This is the first thing one needs to remember upon his return to God.
Secondly, one needs to serve following his return to the father. Yes, there is no doubt there were servants in his father’s house and his expectation would be to serve as one of his father’s servant (Luke 15:17-19). I have no doubt that with his return, he shall serve his father even as his elder brother did in his father’s house. “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: “ Luke 15:29.
The Thessalonians were reminded of this in 1 Thess. 1:9” “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Paul’s message was for the Gentiles to repent and turn to God. And in turning to God to reflect this with works meet for repentance. Act 26:20: “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” I do not believe the prodigal son having returned to his father sat idly or followed his past ways of insubordination to his father’s instructions. The remnant exiles returning from captivity were told not to be like their fathers who did not hear nor heed God’s word (Zech 1:4).
The returnees were exhorted to hear and heed God’s word. Similarly as one returns to God, he needs to hear and heed God’s word. That means availing himself to assemble and hear the words of God in public services and make time for his own personal studies. It is important that as one returns to God’s family that we find areas that we can serve in the Church. This will help us grow and to build our relationship with our brethren. We are to remember we have turned from idols and a self-serving life to one of serving the True and Living God. It is indeed a blessing and honor to serve him as our heavenly Father.
Just as Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that He might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.”
Similarly, those who have returned can become a brother who can establish or strengthen his fellow brethren. What a change to his faith and service to God.
Lastly, let us not be the “elder brother” in Luke 15 but let us be like how Barnabas was to Paul (Acts 11:25-26). He helped Paul fit in and for the brethren to openly receive him into their midst. This helped Paul and the rest of the brethren to work effectively together for God’s glory. How wonderful if brethren can come together in love and unity and serve
our heavenly father.