Living a Life of Restoration

James concludes his letter with the exhortation in 5.19-20 as, simply, a nutshell summary of the entire teaching – to confront those who have wandered from a living faith.

James is trying to move us beyond the intellectual agreement which many call faith, to move us beyond the mind-only understanding that many call Christianity, to a real, active, living, loving, giving, serving faith. 

Rather than read 5.19-20 and think; let’s go and bring a load of people back. Let’s go restore people, redeem people and be the hero. Rather than try and be the hero, we ought to read 5.19-20 and see that WE are the restored, not the restorer, we are in daily need of restoration. We ought to go and tell people about the great Restorer, the great Redeemer.

The book of James ends pretty abruptly and pretty suddenly, there is no blessing, no prayer, no long and luscious goodbyes…it’s almost like look “I’ve told you what you need to know, so, off you go and do it“.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5.19-20

In this text, we are the sinner brought back from wandering, our souls have been saved from death, a multitude of our own sins has been covered.

Let us live in this truth, live a life of living faith, and tell others about the Great Restorer!

Living a Life of The Heart

We’ve said this before with James and no doubt we will say it again, but so often he demands from us that which we cannot deliver and this makes us go with all the more urgency to the refuge of the Gospel, where Jesus said “It is finished”.

Because, honestly, after reading James 4.1-10 how many of you can say yes, I can resist the devil, yes, I can cleanse my hands from all unrighteousness, yes, I can purify my heart, I can love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength in my own power and of my own accord?

How many of you can say yes, I grieve over my sin and I do so because all on my own I realised that it is sin?

In Ezekiel 36 we read of a prophecy for the nation of Israel. We are not the nation of Israel, but we can look at the principle of what is promised and see that, you know what, there is now no Jew or Greek, we are all one in Christ Jesus, so whilst there are specific promises regarding the nation of Israel, in principle, the spiritual promises we can look at as being for us too.

So in Ezekiel 36 we read, 

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

This is the spiritual transformation that we all need, a new heart. James 4.1-10 talks about your heart; what do we need to do with it?

It’s broken, isn’t it, it’s deceitful, it will tell you what you want to hear in order to get what it wants, which is fleshly and all too human. We need restoration, we need fixing, we need a new heart.

To his original readers, James is instructing them to take seriously the truth that this new way of life is deeper than surface level religious acts and you need to change from within. For you and me, going from there to here, we need to take a serious look at ourselves and be honest about our condition, about the condition of our hearts.

The moralistic teaching of this passage would say something like this – You need to work hard to fix the problem of your heart.

A Christ-centred view, however, would say this – You never will, give it to Jesus.

The Gospel in Micah

In Micah’s day, both Israel and Judah, deserved God’s judgment for their oppression, idolatry, and corruption. 

They lived out this wickedness right alongside the motions of offering sacrifice, and they expected that they could cancel out the bad by doing more good.

“God deals with sinners in one of two ways: deserved justice, or undeserved grace.”

God is a righteous Judge who carries out deserved judgment, he is also a merciful Savior who gives undeserved grace and full forgiveness and restoration and a sure and steadfast hope for the future to those who believe Him and turn to him in repentance.

 The hope Micah presented was the promise of a Shepherd-King, a sacrificial Saviour who would gather his faithful remnant back in the land, tenderly care for them, and give His life for them to defeat their great enemy. 

The result would be that people from all nations and tribes and tongues would come to worship God. 

To God’s people who had suffered under a line of failed kings and oppressive foreign regimes, Micah announced coming restoration and peace.

Jesus Himself is the long-anticipated Shepherd-King who has made peace with God through “the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1.20). 

He did not come to destroy but to be destroyed, laying down his life for his sheep (John 10.15). 

He now rules over his people in perfect justice and abundant mercy, empowering his people, by his Spirit, to walk humbly in his just and merciful ways (1 John 2.6)— the very life Israel in Micah’s day had abandoned.

“God deals with sinners in one of two ways: deserved justice, or undeserved grace.”

All those who look to Christ in trusting faith experience the undeserved grace rather than deserved justice.

As believers in Jesus we can expect that God will “pass over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance” 

Micah 7:18-20    

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

19 He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities underfoot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

Our transgressions have been put upon God’s Son, His imprint in a human body, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ (Romans 3.21–26). Christ will “bear the indignation of the Lord” on our behalf (Micah 7.9). 

Though we may suffer and fall in our life’s battle with evil, we shall rise, as the prophet believed he himself would, due to the Lord’s vindication (Micah 7.8–9)—and, as indeed will all those who are united to Christ by faith (Romans 6.5). 

This is the wonder of the gospel in Micah.

 

Adapted from an excellent article written by Nancy Guthrie.

Revelation 22.1-5 – The great restoration

Over the summer we spent time at my parents house in the U.K., and they were in the middle of watching a tv series about a couple who bought a French Chateau (a big old castle) and were renovating and restoring it room by room. It was fascinating to see how the old building came back to life, almost, and how things looked and worked so much better when they were just as they were intended to be. The hydraulic lift/elevator was a 21st century addition though!

Here in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible we see a great restoration…

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb right through the middle of the street, and this was prophesied in Psalm 46,

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The tree of life is there for all to eat of, a complete restoration of Genesis 3.22-24. We read that no longer will there be anything accursed, again a complete restoration of Genesis 3.16-19, where in relationships, the ground, its produce, even our lives are now subject to conclusions they were never meant for. Restoration indeed!

The tree produced fruit which literally gives health, we read for the healing of the nations, but this tree produces fruit and leaves that give us health in the new city, so nothing is accursed, and there is no need for a throne and an altar, God simply dwells with and received worship from His people.

In possibly the most dramatic restoration we will see his face. Think back to Exodus 33.20-23, wherein Moses was denied the wondrous experience of seeing the face of God, but now we are told we will have the privilege, the honour, and the absolute pleasure of seeing his face.

Things work so much better when they are used for their intended purpose. We are made for fellowship with God, for relationship with God, to honour God, to be with God, to worship God, and for all eternity. These few verses show us that God’s intended purpose for us all will one day become our reality.