“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”Galatians 6:1
During our short sojourn on this earth, there are several ongoing tasks which our God has entrusted to us. In His infinite wisdom, He leads us to the place of His choosing in His vineyard, and then both equips and enables us to do the work He calls us to do. Perhaps second only to the work of evangelism in importance, is the task of seeking those among God’s own people who have gone astray, and to see them restored to fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Principle of Restoration
Luke 15 gives us three very poignant accounts of restoration. In complete harmony with the blessed truth, we know as the eternal security of each Christian, we can readily observe that the sheep were still sheep, the coin was still a coin, and the son was still a son. They had each gone missing under different circumstances, but none of them ceased to be what they were. They were only lost in terms of their being away from their proper place, which is key to our understanding of Luke 15.
Whether any of us are carelessly lost (the sheep), hopelessly lost (the coin), or willfully lost (the son), we can take steadfast comfort in knowing that there is always One Who is looking for our restoration. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. And as the sparks fly upward, He knows that every human is few of days and full of troubles. So, whether the sparks are flying upwards, or we are degrading ourselves downwards, His omniscience never loses sight of us for one second… never. And it is only because of this truth that the principle of restoration exists. Without our Good Shepherd’s ever-watchful ambition in seeking our restoration, there would be no hope.
The Possibility for Restoration
On the night our Lord was betrayed, His disciples had accompanied Him to Gethsemane. No doubt their heads were spinning with all the information He had explained to them in the Upper Room. They had watched Judas depart to betray Him. They had participated in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. They had heard—if not fully understood—that He was about to leave and return to the Father. And as they witnessed His prayerful agony in the garden, the sound of approaching soldiers grew louder. In the heat of the moment, and at the height of their fear, we read that they all forsook Him and fled. So much for their trumpeted bravado only a few hours earlier!
Where they each ran or how far we are not told, and John is also included as a deserter in the word “all” which both Matthew and Mark use. We understand something of John’s humble disposition, as it was, he who had asked earlier “Is it I, Lord?” when they were told by our Lord that a traitor was in their midst. The following day, John describes himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” as he commonly did, while observing our Lord’s crucifixion at the foot of the cross. We do not know how far he ran the night before, but there was essentially only one step back to the Lord’s loving Presence. Beloved, we can be sure that no matter how far we roam or how low we sink, one step of repentance gives us the firm assurance that He loves us and welcomes us. Restoration is always possible, with no exceptions.
The Potential for Restoration
The great potential for restoration lies in His manifold wisdom. Paul assured the Philippian Christians that “He Who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). This work will eventually see that we are conformed to His own image, a purpose to which He has predestined every believer. During our time here, we can be willing or unwilling participants in this transformation, but it is indeed His work, and He will complete it.
How He works towards our restoration is a wondrous marvel in itself. Many of us can testify of those dry periods of our lives, where He worked through the many circumstances of life to remind us of His care for us. The ways and means He has used are far too numerous to mention, and well outside the realm of mere coincidence. He leaves us no doubt that He is speaking to us about our situation, and that the potential for restoration exists. Zechariah 10:6 gives us a thorough and very lovely description of restoration from God’s viewpoint, in relation to His people Israel: “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them: for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their God and will hear them.”
The People of Restoration
Perhaps the greatest wonder is that He very often uses people—everyday Christians whom we know—to speak to us about our condition and His yearning for our return. We know this requires great wisdom, utmost humility, spiritual courage, and an investment of the whole person to do this work. It is little wonder that He entrusts this work to “ye which are spiritual.” Although this is not soul winning as we know it, it certainly is soul rescuing; and it surely requires a similar measure of wisdom such as we read about in Proverbs 11:30.
Most of us know something of what it means to walk as spiritual men and women in trusting obedience. We know that walking in fellowship with our Savior involves keeping short accounts about unconfessed sin, and daily contact with Him through prayer and reading the Scriptures. We also know where we can go to ask for wisdom and help in the times of our own troubles, or during the times of another’s troubles. In short, there are no lack of resources available to us.
The real question is, do we care enough to be willing instruments of restoration in the Master’s hands? Each of us can only answer that for ourselves in His Presence. By His ever-enabling grace, may He equip someone who is reading this article to seek the restoration of a brother or sister who has gone astray. And may you take joy in knowing that the Lord Himself will be working with you, with the warm smile of His approval upon you—yes, you!—for undertaking this most needful task. May He bless each one of us as we consider these things.