A church leader recently said that he wonders what his church congregation will look like when they are able to resume gathering together after the pandemic. Will people have stood firm in their faith, kept connected by what is offered online and reached out to care for others? Will some have become discouraged or discontented and turned away from the faith they once professed?
The pandemic has lasted a long time and we still have a way to go before we are free to make our own choices again. Instead of seeing this as a negative time, maybe we could look at it as a positive time when God is able to change our hearts, where they need to be changed, and prepare us for His future plans. His desire is always to draw us closer to Himself and sometimes this comes through testing and trials.
The warning about turning away from God is a thread through the Bible. The writer of our text for today was in earnest as he wrote to a church which was going through hard times and suffering persecution. He reminded them that, when Moses was a long time up the mountain in the presence of God, receiving the commandments, the Israelites turned from the living God, made an idol and worshipped it (Exodus 32). Idols are always replacements for the most precious thing we can ever have – intimate relationship with God.
Turning away from God is not always something that happens suddenly. But it always begins in the heart and is rooted in unbelief. This causes us to the reject or compromise the truth for a lie. ‘Compromise’ is an ‘in’ word, used to accommodate things that go directly against God’s word and God’s heart. Often before turning from God we can be drifting (Hebrews 2:1). The interesting thing about drifting away from God is that we drift and don’t recognise that we are drifting. The dangerous thing about drifting is that we can be carried along by a current into muddy waters, where we find ourselves going away from God, rather than being drawn to Him.
If Jesus is who He claims to be, we must listen to what He says, pay close attention to the truth in His word and absorb it in our hearts, so that we don’t eventually turn away from Him. There are usually recognisable signs of turning away from God. We find we have lost the sense of His love, joy and peace and have become indifferent to Him. Consequently we are no longer motivated by the things that matter most. It becomes easy to cover up, justify or rationalise sin, which needs to be dealt with at the cross, so that we can be restored to Him. When we’re turning away it’s easier to compromise our moral beliefs, because sin doesn’t trouble us as it did when we walked with Jesus.
Once we recognise the signs of turning away from the living God, through repentance, we can go in the opposite direction and turn towards Him. Repentance is a deep sorrow, which the Holy Spirit puts into our hearts. It turns us to the cross for cleansing, forgiveness and a new start from a renewed mind. However you’re feeling to-day, or whatever you may be struggling with, remember that Jesus is all that you need. So, don’t turn away from Him and look in the wrong places for your needs to be met. Turn towards Him and He will be gracious to welcome you back into His arms of love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I come to You today and ask You to examine my heart. Thank You for the grace of forgiveness and restoration through the cross. I’m sorry for the times I’ve turned from You. I now turn towards You and ask You to change and renew my heart. Please fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit and enable me to live my life for the glory of Jesus and the extension of His kingdom. Amen.
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