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Starting Over With God -- AGAIN

by David A. DePra

     The title of this message carries special significance. Christians

START with God when they turn to Him for salvation. But once we

are saved, and begin to walk with Jesus Christ, many problems

arise. Some of us get side-tracked. And by the time we are done,

we have to, as it were, "start over" with God. For many, this kind of

thing happens many times during their life. Thus, the title, "Starting

Over With God -- AGAIN."

     Starting over with God, of course, speaks of forgiveness, and as

mentioned, restoration. The basis of salvation and of our

relationship with God IS forgiveness. THAT results in restoration.

It is what salvation is all about.

     However, it is a fact that most Christians do NOT understand the

forgiveness of God. We mostly understand it on an intellectual or

doctrinal level -- and that is good. But it takes awhile for us to really

grasp the moral depth of it in a way that effects a lasting change in

our lives.

     Ask yourself as to how much condemnation, guilt, and defeat,

due to your failures, that you live in. Examine yourself as to how

you react when you get a good dose of your completely inability

to obey God. Have you a grasp on the forgiveness of God that

has set you free from these terrible bondages? Is the forgiveness

of God TRUTH to you, that has set you free?

Seeing Our Need

     WHY don't Christians grasp the forgiveness of God through

Jesus Christ? The very thing that saved them?

The answer is sobering.  The reason you and I don't clearly see

or grasp God's forgiveness for us in Jesus Christ is that we don't

truly see our NEED. To a greater or lesser degree, we are callous

to it.

     Now, before we panic over this, we must understand that to an

extent, this is normal. For who could possibly bear a vision of

their need? Who could stand in the light of a revelation like that?

No. God doesn't grab us and expose us like that all at once. He

does it a little at a time -- as He sees we are able to face it.

     The trouble is, many of us tend to resist even that. When the

Holy Spirit does a work of conviction on us -- and He does do this

continually -- we may try to side-step it. It just hurts our pride too

much, that is, our spiritual pride. Or perhaps we are just too afraid of

the ramifications.

      The ironic part about it, is that if we would just open ourselves to

the light of God, and let Him expose our need, we would

immediately see the PROVISION: Jesus Christ. But some won't.

Consequently, many Christians do not grasp the provision -- which

is the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. Many won't "start over

with God --again" through the shed Blood.

A Danger

     It is actually a dangerous thing not to grasp our need for the

forgiveness of God, and to fail to walk in the forgiveness of our sins.

We can see this by turning to the second epistle of Peter:

Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge,

and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and

to patience, godliness. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to

to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and

abound, they will make you neither be barren nor unfruitful in the

knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacks these things

is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was

purged from his old sins. (II Peter 1:5-9)

     Note what this verse is really saying. It doesn't say that if you are

lacking in all the good qualities mentioned that it is because God

will not forgive you. No. It says that if you lack those qualities it is

because you have "forgotten" God HAS forgiven you.

     Do you see that? He who lacks these things has forgotten he

was purified from sin. Forgotten he was forgiven, and that God's

forgiveness changed him. THAT is WHY the person lacks the

qualities mentioned. The lack is the result of unbelief.

     The consequences of not living in the forgiveness of my sins

are not EXTERNAL. You do not read one external consequence

listed here by Peter. The consequences are all internal. They

are all spiritual in nature. Just as living in the forgiveness of God

will lead to the manifestation of the character of Jesus Christ in my

life, so will failing to walk in that forgiveness result in the lack of

such. The pivot either way is therefore seeing my NEED, and

then embracing the forgiveness of God as the PROVISION.

The Prodigal Son

     The parable of the prodigal son is a perfect blueprint of God's

attitude towards those who, once saved, then turn and walk away

from Him. It is in that parable that we find out how God deals with

such ones. It is found in Luke 15.

And he said, A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them

said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to

me. And he divided to them his living. And not many days after, the

the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a

far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And

when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and

he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen

of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he

would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat:

and no one gave anything to him. And when he came to himself, he

said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough

and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my

father, and will say unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven,

and before thee. And am no more worthy to be called thy son:

make me as one of thy hired servants.'" And he arose, and came

to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,

and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven,

and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." 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

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."

(Luke 15:11-24)

     Here we see a story of a son who moved out of his father's house,

taking with him his inheritance. Thus, it is NOT a story of salvation,

but of one who was ALREADY saved -- but who chose a path away

from the will of God. This is, of course, what might be called the

story of a "backslider."

     The parable, however, can be applied, not only to those who

make terrible choices to walk away from God, but to those who

make minor choices to do the same. For afterall, if God restores

those who sin greatly, will He not more easily restore those who

sin to a lesser degree?

     This son moved out of his father's house, which, in those days,

was equal to severing his relationship with his father altogether.

This was a tribal society, with lands, possessions, and inheritance

being the means of handing down wealth from one generation to

another. Thus, to ask for an inheritance beforehand would be

considered a major thing -- actually a major insult to the family. It

was equal to disowning the family, and deciding that you wanted

to be on your own -- away from them.

     So what we have here is a picture of a son of God moving out

of the house of God -- that is -- moving out from under God's

authority and kingdom. We see a picture of a person who has

already received salvation and an eternal inheritance, choosing

a path in which he will squander it. This is clearly a person who,

as Jesus said, "seeks to save his life." But he will, in fact, lose it.

     God lets him. Once the choice is made, God WILL let us do as

we please. He has to. At that point, we will have passed over all

of the warnings and chances to stop. So now God must allow us

to take this path so that our own actions will chastise us.

     This is what happened to the son in the parable. He spent his

inheritance on "riotous living." And eventually, he burnt himself out

and came to nothing. His sin and choices began to take their toll.

He began to suffer the consequences of his actions.

     We always do. There are ALWAYS consequences for sin. If

not external, in the form of circumstances, then internal. God is not

mocked. What we reap we WILL sow. Not sometimes, but all the

time. Unless we repent and turn. And then God may, or may not,

lift or prevent some of the consequences. But if we persist, we are

going to drink the full measure of the cup we have chosen.

      But let's not misunderstand this. The reason God allows us to

experience consequences for our sin is NOT because He is being

mean. It is not because He is angry, or seeking to punish us in

some punitive way. No. That's how WE act, but not how God acts.

God allows us to face consequences for our actions because He

loves us. He is chastising us as a loving Father would a son.

     God uses our sin, and the consequences it brings -- even that -- in

a REDEMPTIVE way. He uses the terrible consequences for sin in

our lives to chastise us and bring us to nothing. THEN we see our

need. THEN we embrace the provision. God is a redemptive

God. Always.


     In the parable, the son finally came to see how wrong he had

been. He saw his need and confessed it. He repented.

Now, this does not always happen. There are some who do not

repent. The more they sin, the more they reap the consequences.

But instead of repenting, they dig deeper trenches, and move

futher and further away from the Father. They will not confess their

need and will not return. God does not force them. But He does

continue to chastise them.

     Notice how this son had to be brought to nothing. All of us, to one

degree or another must be brought to this place. But it is not God's

highest that we be brought there through our own willful rebellion.

Rather, God would desire that we fall into HIS hands. If we do, God

will orchestrate situations which will bring us to see our need. What

we reap, in that case, will be by God's hand, not our own.

     We must see this distinction. All of us are sinners with great need.

God must show us this need. He will orchestrate all kinds of trials

and situations -- some of them impossible -- for the purpose of

showing us our need, and His provision in Christ. These will be

difficult and cause suffering. But that is different from US rebelling

and making things much harder. If we do, then much of our suffering

could have be prevented, had we just trusted God and fell into HIS


     It is good to know, however, that even if we do rebel and make

some catastropic choices, that God will nevertheless use those in

our lives. It is good to know that even if we, through our own choices,

find ourselves in the position of this young son, that we too can

turn and surrender ourselves to God. Then the situation which WE

have created changes ownership. It becomes God's situation.

     This young son came to nothing. And then he confessed his sin

and saw his need. Both are essential. And one won't be real

without the other. Confession of sin is not merely admitting that you

did wrong. It is calling your sin what it is in the atmosphere of

desperate need. This then, causes you to acknowledge that God

has already provided for you the solution.

     This son confessed that he had sinned against God. This is

important. It is a GODLY sorrow. (see II Cor. 7:10) Godly sorrow

leads to repentance because it is a sorrow for sinning against

God. "Worldly sorrow," however, is a sorrow because I got caught.

It is the result of having to reap the consequences. It never leads

to repentance.

     Repentance means to "change one's mind." We see this

happening with the younger son in the parable. Through coming

to nothing, and being laid bare, he saw his great need. Through

having to "reap with he sowed," he changed his mind towards sin.

No longer was it a light thing. No longer was it fun. No longer was

it a game. Now it was a dangerous, terrible, unholy thing.

     This young son also "changed his mind" towards his father. He

now wanted to go back to him. But notice something here. There

is not the slightest doubt in his mind that the father will take him back.

None. Sure, the son did not expect to receive the welcome he was

to receive, but he somehow KNEW that his father would love him.

Even in his sin, there remained a remnant of knowledge of the Truth.

     This young man had been brought, through the consequences

of his own sin, to a Godly sorrow. He realized he had sinned

against God and against his father. This sorrow led him to a full

repentance. But there was more. This repentance led him to make

another choice: To return. To start over with his father, even if it

meant being a servant.

     Here we see another parallel. If we have truly repented of sin, we

are not going to live as if we haven't. Sure, we will continue to sin as

long as we live. But despite our failures, we will have "changed our

mind" towards sin. We will have a resistance towards it which we

did not have before.

Get Up and Return

     Notice that Jesus does not portray the father leaving his home

and dragging the son back into his house. No. Rather, Jesus

pictures the father allowing the son to do what he pleases, and

waiting for the son to make the choice to return.

     This is important. This son is a type of saved person. If he were

a type of unbeliever, Jesus would have told the parable differently.

An unbeliever has no power to come to God. Jesus said so. In that

case, God DOES draw him to Christ. But in the case of a believer

who goes astray, there is a history. This person KNOWS what they

must do. It is up to them to get up and make the choice to return to


     But it isn't like God is uninvolved. No. He has been working all

along to bring the person to nothing. And notice how Jesus pictures

the father in the parable. It is almost like he is eagerly waiting and

anticipating the son's return. Indeed, the moment the son chooses

to get up and return, the father races out to meet and embrace him.

     This is such a picture of God's redemptive love and forgiveness.

But it is not the God many of us imagine. Some of us might have

expected that this son would have to search and hunt for his father.

Then, upon finding him, we might have expected that the son would

be required to do all kinds of things to get his father to love him all

over again. Indeed, this is, to a degree, what the son did expect.

He thought that he was going to have to re-enter his father's house

at a lower level -- that of a slave.

     When the son, approached, however, the reception he received

was beyond his hopes. Not only did the father run to embrace him

while he was yet far away, but he was fully restored to sonship. The

items of clothing, etc., which the father had put on this son were ALL

items worn, in those days, by the son of the house. Instead of being

a slave, this young man was once again a son.

     This always happens. When we come back to God and start

over with Him, it is always much more wonderful than we expect.

Because we have been forgiven much, we love much, and are

able to appreciate the love and forgiveness God has for us.

Full Restoration

     Some Christians don't like the idea of full restoration for a person

who had turned away from God, but now has returned. But if we

read the parable, this is what it says. And in fact, it even

admonishes those who who be offended by this -- by picturing them

as the older brother who protested against it in the parable.

     How could God fully restore someone who has done such a

thing? Is there no price for sin?

     Well, first of all, there IS a great price for sin. But isn't that what

Jesus paid? The FULL price for sin?

     Think about this. If I demand that those who have turned away

from God be somehow eternally reduced before God -- in a way

that will never be lifted -- then I'm really demanding that THEY pay

a price for their sin. Right? Sure. The price is that reduction. There

isn't any other way to define it. I am therefore saying that, sure,

Jesus paid the full price for their sin -- but not quite the full price.

They must still pay some price -- in the form of a reduced reward,

or a reduced standing in His kingdom.

     The price we pay for our sin can be terrible -- in the form of the

consequences we bring upon ourselves in this life. And if we will

NOT turn and embrace the full payment Jesus paid for it, then yes,

we will pay an eternal price for it. But NOT if we turn and repent.

If we turn and repent, the price is paid in Christ. THAT is why God

can fully restore us and be just in doing so.

     Full repentance ALWAYS results in full restoration. Always. If

the Redemption of Jesus Christ does not result in full restoration,

then it is no redemption at all.

     The older brother in the parable did not like the fact that the

younger son received full restoration. He protested because he

felt as if HE had not sinned like the younger brother, yet the younger

was again made equal to him. Indeed, there was a celebration

when the younger returned -- a celebration which the older never

received simply for staying and NOT leaving.

     This reaction is only human. But it is wrong. Jesus said that we

should rejoice when someone repents, not keep score and

compare ourselves to them. We simply have no business telling

God what He ought to do with a repentant person.

     There is, however, an even greater danger here. If I am offended

because God embraces a repentant sinner, and fully restores them

to Himself, then what does that say about MY heart? Sure, maybe

I have not left my Father's house, but what is becoming of me IN it?

Am I thinking myself righteous because of all of my good works?

     What we see here is the possibility that this older son, despite

not sinning in the same way as the younger son, may have been

guilty of an even greater, if not more subtle, sin. This older son

clearly had no grasp of his OWN need. He thought of himself as

better than the sinning younger son.

     This is exactly what Jesus was illustrating. If you read back to

the beginning of Luke 15, you will find that Jesus told this parable

to the Pharisees because they were murmuring against Him. They

didn't like the fact that He associated with sinners. That He would

possibility embrace them if they repented and turned to God. They

had not sinned like these people, and felt themselves righteous


     The reason we resent God's forgiveness towards others is that

we do not see our own need. Period. If we did see our own need,

we would rejoice with the Father over a lost son who is now found.

We would know that the same love and forgiveness is what we

need, and what God has provided for us in Christ.

     In Jesus Christ, there is full forgiveness and full restoration. That

is what redemption IS. And it is good to know that God never

withdraws or hides from us the finished work of Jesus Christ -- the

provision. It stands eternally in place. Thus, it is always possible to

start over with God, for God has never given up on us.

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