“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7)
A high fever, a tooth ache, a tingling hand, an irregular spot–a good doctor or dentist will examine these symptoms to determine the root cause of the problem then treat the cause to restore health. No doctor in their right mind would examine your child experiencing high fever, an earache, elevated white cell count, and a red ear then recommend that your child wear a hat to cover the red ear! The real problem is an infection. The solution to the symptoms is to treat the root cause…not the symptoms.
Sin is a spiritual sickness with its own symptoms: conviction, guilt, unanswered prayer or prayerlessness, absence of God’s presence, lack of God’s protection, natural consequences of our sinful attitudes and actions, conflict in relationships, “other gods,” failure to obey God’s commands, no desire for the Word, and more. These symptoms are not the real issue. They are signs of a deeper problem…the root cause of these symptoms: a heart that has departed from an authentic and genuine love relationship. The way to eliminate the symptoms is to treat the root problem: repentance! Return to a love relationship with God.
Which of the following do you think best describes God’s call of “return to me” to his people:
- “Don’t worry about our broken love relationship. I’ll bless you anyway.”
- “If you don’t want to come back to me with your whole heart, I’ll settle for 75 percent.”
- “Repent and live, or keep going the way you are going and die.”
- “If you won’t accept my terms, I’ll accept your terms.”
God’s call is one of repentance. We experience the fullness of real life when we live it in an unhindered love relationship with God. If we go it alone…outside of a love relationship with God…on our own terms…we suffer the consequences of the symptoms of our sin…we die a slow spiritual death!
Symptoms: Do you sense a need for repentance in your life? Have you seen any symptoms of a spiritual problem in your heart? Your marriage? Your family? Your relationships?
Solution: First and foremost, cry out to God in repentance. Humble yourself before God. Confess your sin and admit your need for him. Draw near to God in heart-felt prayer with absolute honesty. Turn away from your self-centered sinfulness. Rely on God’s powerful presence to keep you away from sin. Return to your love relationship with God. Treat the spiritual “root cause” first, then with God’s help…and the help of others…address the “symptoms.”
[Click here to listen to Psalm 51, the classic prayer of repentance written by King David.]