One of my favorite pastors in college shared an analogy that has stuck with me through life. Referring to the power of sin over human beings, this man believes sin will take you further than you ever intended to go. Meanwhile, sin will remain with you longer than you ever expected to stay. Finally, sin will alter right and wrong, blinding minds with an expanding layer of gray. When you’re too far gone, deceived and spit out by sin, the long road back to God is a humbling journey.
Then three years later, I did go up to Jerusalem to become [personally] acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any of the other apostles (the special messengers of Christ) except James the brother of our Lord. 20 Now [note carefully what I am telling you, for it is the truth], I write this as if I were standing before the bar of God; I do not lie, Galatians 1:18-20.
In the passage above, Paul writes out his personal testimony as if standing in front of the Church at Galatia. As a former zealous Pharisee who oversaw the death of Stephen, mere words wasn’t enough to persuade first century apostles of his conversion. Rather, Paul spent 3 years at home, growing, maturing and sharing his faith wherever he went. Despite turning over a new lease on life, many apostles and disciples were skeptical, believing this was a ploy to infiltrate and persecute church leaders. If it wasn’t for Barnabas, who pleaded on Paul’s behalf, the road back to God would have led to a dead end.
Then I went into the districts (countries, regions) of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And so far I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea (the country surrounding Jerusalem), Galatians 1:21-22.
Nearly 2000 years later, everyone has their own prodigal story, Luke 15, disappointing God at one point or another. Depending upon how far you have strayed from the Lord, the long road back won’t be easy. Beside confession and reconciliation, there will be growing pains as you attempt to break away from addictive behaviors and bad habits. Purging yourself from these earthly pleasures may involve some sort of intervention from a Christian brother or sister. Yet, the sooner you make a u-turn back toward God, the quicker the healing process starts. May this Christmas prompt your heart to start the long road back to God.
by Jay Mankus