ARTICLES

Return to God

January 29, 2021

In the present circumstances with which the whole globe wrestles, Christian leaders have utterly failed to issue the clarion call that the world (and the church) needs to hear. We have pointed to the mystery of suffering, and the practicality of caring for those who are suffering. Some have bemoaned political drift to the right, others political drift to the left. Few, precious few, if any, have pointed to the crystal clear biblical teaching about such obvious providences of God.  

Our forebears would have known what to say. Listen to John Owen: 

“There is a voice in all signal dispensations of providence… The fingers that appeared writing on the wall the doom of Belshazzar did it in characters that none could read, and words none could understand, but Daniel; but the present call of God in these things is made plain… If the heavens gather blackness with clouds, and it thunder over us, if any that are on the journey will not believe that there is a storm coming, they must bear the severity of it…”i 

Those who have rung the alarm bell, though, have tended to blame others. This is a mistake of gargantuan proportions. Listen again to Owen:  

“The cause of the present storm may as well be the secret sins of professors [that is those who profess faith in Christ] as the open provocations of ungodly men. God will punish with severity those which he hath known, Amos iii.2 [‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for your iniquities’].”ii 

This response to disaster was known in the past as a “Jeremiad,” from the example of the prophet Jeremiah. When a famine or earthquake or plague hit a city—let alone a globe—the preachers of the gospel called for fasting and prayer for repentance among God’s people. They viewed these “signal dispensations” as signs of God’s displeasure. They did not merely call upon the “worldly” non-Christian to repent; they called upon God’s people to repent.  

Who has done that this time? Which preacher or pulpit has made their response to Covid-19 a call for public repentance? Instead, we have warred foolishly about the science and the politics of the matter. Instead, we should return to God—before it is too late.  

The Bible makes it very clear that if we return to God, he will return to us.  

Listen to God’s Word: 

So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.” (2 Chronicles 30:6) 

Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:7) 

Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 1:3) 

And unless you think this is only “an Old Testament thing,” listen to Jesus: 

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5)  

Return to God… and He will return to you. How? 

  1. Repent of any known sin. Ask the Lord to convict you of faults and failures regarding which you may not be aware. Ask him to show you if there is any way in you that is displeasing to him. And turn from those sins and ask God for his forgiveness. 
  2. Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand. Don’t rail and complain about the hardness of your life. Kiss the rod; accept his strange dispensation in these awful days. Humble yourself and instead of moaning about others and their problems, ask God to do a new work in your life through these circumstances for your own good and for his glory.  
  3. Ask God to have mercy upon you and upon his church and his world. Our God is a merciful God, slow to anger; ask him to show mercy to you and those you love, your friends and neighbors, your church and the world.  
  4. Ask him to create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you. Ask him to give you new desires and delights in him and his work. To turn from ingratitude and bitterness to sweetness and the fruit of his Spirit.  
  5. Commit your life to him in wholeness of devotion. Put him first and foremost, seek first his kingdom and his way, let God be God in your life, and come back to be the person that he wanted you to be, to become the person he has designed you to be, in fullness of life in Jesus’ name.   

[i] The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh, 1965), Volume 7, page 309.

[ii] Ibid.

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