Restoring The Fallen
Years ago a man bought a beautiful piece of land on which he was going to build a large custom home. On the back of that land was an old house covered over by vines and foliage. From a distance, it looked to be merely a remnant or a shell that would probably have to be torn down, but upon further investigation he discovered that the old house was a dilapidated New England Victorian style mansion.
For years he had been buying and restoring antique pieces of furniture, so he decided that he would also try to restore the old mansion.
He cleaned the outside of it, cut away the overgrown brush, stripped the chipping paint off of what used to be perfect woodwork, replaced pieces of wood that were missing, and fixed little nicks and notches in the woodwork.
He would go to junkyards and find parts that were discarded and worthless by themselves, but were the missing piece for some antique door, fireplace, or stairwell. He used those pieces to fix and repair those things in the house.
He furnished the house with furniture that he had started purchasing as a very young man at junk stores and garage sales. He would find an old piece of furniture that someone had painted, and would strip it, clean it, and restore it to its original luster and beauty. Slowly, but surely, he restored and furnished that old house until one day it was finished. It was beautiful, and he was so very proud of what he had done to a house that once had seemed worthless.
Those visiting his home were taken on a tour, and told of the history of each piece of furniture in each room. They learned how he had found each one, what it looked like originally, and what it was meant to look like. Then he would explain all of the work that had gone into making it look as good as new.
In most cases, those restored pieces were much more valuable than when they were new. It was incredible what he had done to restore things that once were considered mere junk.
What a perfect example of restoration. It is amazing what could be done with a discarded home, a discarded little piece of wood, or a discarded piece of furniture, when one who is a master craftsmen, and who envisioned what it once was and what it could still could be, with his loving hands begins the enormous task of restoring it.
Because of the work of the master, that old restored home and its restored furniture was far greater than it was originally. The glory that it brought was not just to itself; it was also to the master who had done the handiwork of restoring it. He was so proud, so pleased, and so delighted with what he had done with those discarded things. There was an obvious glow about him as he explained all he had done to restore them.
He did not talk of these pieces of furniture as worthless pieces of junk. He spoke about them as precious possessions. When he had purchased each one, he had done so with a vision, a plan, and a preconceived idea of what it could become.
Those pieces of furniture were now collector’s items, worth thousands of dollars, and the home would probably be valued in the millions of dollars, with all of its antique contents. Yet, there was a time when all of it was virtually worthless to most people. Once upon a time when they were new they were worth something, but they had been discarded, or painted-over until they had eventually become junk.
Then, one day someone saw what they could become again, and the master was able to restore them to even greater value and usefulness.
That is a perfect picture of what restoration in a church is all about. Many a person, born-again by the Spirit of God, goes into the Christian life with great hopes and dreams. Many a pastor sees these young converts and wonders what great things they will be able to do. They become a showpiece in the church.
My, how proud we are of these unblemished Christians. How excited and how delighted we are to show them off to everyone. Their beauty is our pride and our joy, but one day something happens. That beauty is tarnished by sin. Eventually, that once worthwhile life becomes worthless, discarded, junk.
There are tens of thousands of Christians who tragically have fallen away. Lives that have been tainted, shattered, cracked, now have coats of sin that cover their once beautiful life. Most people consider them as junk that have no more use. The Christian world virtually discards them as useless trash.
It is a tragedy of the church that there are not more people who have become masters of restoration. Maybe the most beautiful lives are those that were built from pieces that have been discarded, and that had to be rebuilt by someone who could see a vision of what they still could be.
There are tens of thousands of people who once were worth something, who pastored churches, who taught Sunday school classes, who sang in the choir, or who won many souls to Christ. These people were everything we believed the church was supposed to be. Maybe we believed wrong.
Maybe for too long we have believed that the church is a new furniture store for displaying our perfect pieces of furniture that have never been marred, splintered, or broken. Maybe we have put on a pedestal the works of men that were never stained, rather than displaying the great works of God's grace.
We fill our churches with people out of the custom-made furniture store rather than bought at a garage sale and remodeled, fixed, and restored. The church needs to be more like that restored Victorian mansion. We need more people who look at the broken lives of those who once held value and see the potential of even greater value.
It is easier to win a lost person and make a new piece of furniture out of him than it is to take a saved person that is fallen and let Christ restore him to even greater value than he was. But both are important, and both must be viable ministries of the church. We need to reach the point where we never lose sight of what God can do in the life of someone who has been restored.
What Is Restoration?
1. Restoration is recognizing the future value of a person's life. It is recognizing his true potential. It is looking beyond the surface of paint stains, nicks, and scratches that sin has brought, and seeing what would happen if we could restore him. We have a garage sale mentality. However, instead of looking for garage sale pieces of furniture, we are holding too many garage sales of our own.
Many of our churches basically auction off their sinners. We put them out as garbage. We leave them with no place to go and, more often than not, others come along and snatch them up in an attempt to restore them. Why? Because we are afraid of them! We are afraid to take on that challenge.
Perhaps we fear it would taint our separatists' image to take on someone who has fallen. Perhaps we do not truly believe in restoration, or perhaps we have never examined the value of a life that was once worthwhile, and thought of what that life could be again.
When Jesus was looking for someone to lead in the great revival of Pentecost, He did not use a new piece of furniture that had never been scarred. He went down to the sea and found Peter, who had cursed and swore and denied that he had ever known Jesus.
Jesus brought him to the shore, fed him, and worked a miracle of restoration on him. When you look at Peter's life, do you ask what might have been had he never denied Christ, or what might have been if he had never cursed and swore, or what might have been had he never denied that he knew Jesus? Of course not! You look at the life of Peter and see the grace of God that would restore and use such a man as this.
I wonder just how many valuable lives are being wasted because of the lack of a spirit of restoration that exists in so many of our churches. We have young people who have grown up in our churches and graduated from our Christian schools yet have fallen away from the Lord. Many of these are still tender and would love to come back, but they do not know if they will be treated like garbage by other Christians. We must recognize their value to the Lord and respond in a way that reflects that value.
2. Restoration is placing upon our shoulders the responsibility of bringing a fallen person back to a point of usefulness. It is the church accepting the responsibility for those within it who fail and fall, not to excuse his sin, but rather to lift that person back to a place of usefulness. That requires the meekness and patience to work with a person, believing that there is still hope to restore him to a state of usefulness.
If it is not the job or the responsibility of the church to reclaim these lives, then someone else must claim them. All too often Satan is willing to claim them for his own. Many times lives that once were useful for God fall away because of sin and are accepted willingly by the world. Satan finds great use for them.
The tragedy is that in many cases those lives could have been very effective. Because of a sense of hopelessness, or a sense of no place to go, or no way to come back, they never return to that usefulness they once experienced. A broken life is always a tragedy, but how much greater is the tragedy when that broken life could have been restored. Yet, because of our unwillingness to accept the responsibility, that life simply wastes away.
We must not allow that to happen. We must do our best to actively work in the process of restoring lives. It is not easy, nor can we expect the results to always come quickly, but in the end the reward is in seeing a life restored back to usefulness for the Lord.
3. Restoration is the recognition of the value that God places upon each and every one of His children. Sometimes, Christians fail to place the same value upon each other as Christ does. We are talking about restoring the life of a human being who is bought and purchased by the precious blood of Jesus.
We are talking about restoring someone God loved enough to send His Son to die for. We are talking about restoring someone who has the very Spirit of Christ living within him. We are talking about restoring a brother or sister in Christ.
Why is it that we do not recognize that the love of God extends to the fallen saved as well as the fallen lost? Why is it that the church seems unable to recognize that Christ loved us so much that when He saved us, He indwelled us with His Spirit in order to retain possession and ownership? Why is it that when we sin, God does not discard us, does not take back that spirit, and does not withhold the eternal life that He gave us? Yet, we as a church tend to discredit and disregard that life.
When the Bible speaks of restoration it says, "ye which are spiritual." In other words, ye who have the spirit within you, and who have a spiritual nature, restore those others who also have a spirit. In other words, if you are spiritual, there is a bond and a love. There is disgust in many of God's people for fallen brethren. It is almost a feeling of contempt. The Bible says, "herein shall ye know that ye are my disciples because you love one another."
The Bible does not say you love one another only when you do not sin. Often there is contempt for saved people who have fallen. The Bible says restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself.
The idea is to watch yourself. Do not allow yourself to slip into the sin. Yet, the Bible does say restore. Who? "Ye which are spiritual." The true mark of a spiritual person is the ability to restore another Christian. Why would that be? That is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus was in the restoration business, and if we are to be like Jesus, we, too, must accept that as part of our responsibility.
We need to understand what the Bible means when it says, "when a man be overtaken in a fault." The Bible is not speaking here of a man being possessed by a fault. The Bible says overtaken by a fault. What exactly does this mean?
A runner is running a race and attempting to reach the finish line. As he runs there is something behind that runner trying to catch him, and stop him from finishing the race. Finally, it overcomes him, knocking him out of the race. The job of a Christian is to restore that person who is overtaken in the race. It is not talking about someone who has decided that he wants to live the life of sin. It is someone who ran the race, fell, and lies bruised and battered in the midst of the race.
Peter was trying. He sinned, but he was trying. He failed, but he was trying. He denied Christ, but he was trying. He cursed and he swore, but he was trying. When it overtook him, he wept bitterly. His heart was broken. Peter wanted to run the race. Peter wanted to serve the Lord. Peter wanted to follow Jesus. He was trying, but he was overtaken. Jesus came to him and said, "I want to put you back on the track and use you again." Restoration should be first and foremost to those who have been overtaken in a race; those who have been knocked out of the race; those who have been out there on the front lines and fallen.
The most maligned people in Christianity are the pastors and Christian leaders who fall into sin. Often times these people have been overcome and have no way out. They did not know how to escape, but they kept on running.
Why? It is because they wanted to serve the Lord. They meant well. Their hearts were right in their desire to please God, but they did not know how to get rid of the fault, and it eventually overtook them.
Often, when a preacher is overtaken by sin in his life, we call him a hypocrite. That is not what Jesus did. Jesus understood. He appreciated Peter for what he tried to do. He did not praise him for his mistake, nor did He malign him for his efforts. He knew he meant well. He knew he was flesh. He knew that this was a humbling experience already. Jesus wanted Peter to know that He still wanted him to run. He could get him back on the track, and restore him to usefulness.
We should not be quick to discard the preachers, the teachers, and the people that are out there on the lines trying to serve God who are overtaken.
Why is it that they are the ones we cast before dogs to be devoured? They are the ones who have proven their desire to run the race. Perhaps we would see a lot less of the world judging our own if we would restore our own.
The world takes a life that has been destroyed or overtaken, tears it up and uses it for kindling, and laughs as they do. If the church would take those pieces and restore them, the world would see exactly how great a God we have, how good the grace of God is, and what He can do in a life. That is what the world wants. The world wants to go somewhere where people truly love sinners.
If we love those that sinned who are among us, is that not even a greater proof of our love for those who are not among us? When we love those who disappoint us, who have let us down, and for whom we had high expectations, would that not prove even more to the world the sincerity of our love?
If we show them that God never discards his own, would that not cause more of those who are lost to want to know that God? We are living in a day of true tragedy in the church, because we have not realized the greatness of the restoration powers of God, and have not been willing to accept restoration as our responsibility.
4. Restoration is seeing a person all the way from uselessness to usefulness. It is one thing to bring a person out of their sin and clean them up; it is quite another to keep working with that person until we have helped them find a way to be used of God again. Often times we like to see a person salvaged from sin, but we do not see a place for them to really be used of God. We clean them up and keep them in the closet and their lives never find a place of great ministry for God.
When an individual is restored there may be some things that they will never be able to do for the Lord, but instead of concentrating on what they cannot do, we must immediately begin looking for things they can do.
God saves people to use them and He restores them to use them as well. Let us not limit those we restore to a place of worthlessness. Restoration in itself demands a place of service or usefulness.
Somehow, we must capture the spirit of restoration, and commit to reclaiming lives once useful for God.
Look around at some of those in the junk pile of Christianity and see what could be if the Master restorer were ever allowed to do His marvelous handiwork. Restore such an one, for Jesus' sake.