When I look into the mirror, or into the lives of friends and family, or into the lives of people I don’t know, sometimes it makes my heart heavy and sad. I’m looking into the eyes of those who have walked away, or are progressively walking away, from the ways of God. This is nothing new, people have been doing it since the garden of Eden, but just because it is tradition does not mean it should continue to be done.
Throughout biblical history, we have been given examples of the walk away, but there’s also always the comeback call to answer it. And here we are in our generation, taking our turn at walking away, and God’s voice ever remains and calls us back to His heart. And now, we have the choice: whether to follow our own prideful hearts, with our prideful thoughts, thinking we know better than God, or humbly repent and confess and get back on the path that is best for us, the one that leads to life. Will we heed the comeback call?
If I asked you if I could speak to your heart today, what would you say? What would you say if God asked you that question? My voice is in these written words, gently speaking to your heart. God is also gently speaking to your heart with His written Word, the Holy Bible. Time after time, His voice calls out to His people to return to Him and to walk in the paths He has designed. They are laid out on paper, accessible to us, where we don’t have to question His plans.
“Have we really left Him?” you may ask. Yes. Some of us are just beginning the departure, others have gone far, far away, but no matter where we are in the process, two truths remain: we are not walking with God, and He is rich in mercy and is calling us back. None of us are too far gone; if we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive.
How are we leaving Him? We leave Him in different ways. We listen to any voice but His. We are prone to wander from Him and take up following after the crowd instead. We try to convince ourselves that what we are doing is right. We try to rationalize and justify behavior that deviates from His way. We might honor Him with our lips but keep our hearts far from Him. We might follow Him for a while and then veer off in another direction. Sometimes, we try to add more words to His words so we can keep a foot in both worlds, but He tells us we cannot be following both; it is one or the other, Him or not Him. We tempt Him, limit Him, and forget Him. We are not steadfast in keeping His ways. We lay up treasure for ourselves and follow after our own hearts instead of laying up spiritual treasure and following after His heart.
We tune Him out, drown Him out, shut Him out, and cut Him out. We close our eyes, plug our ears, stiffen our necks, harden our hearts, and turn our backs on Him. And after we turn our backs on Him, we defiantly walk away, and maybe even run. Despite all these methodologies we might employ, however, His love calls out to us again and again. He wants to have a relationship with each of us that is the best for us, but when our feet are on the wrong paths, they take our ears and hearts with them. We decide not to listen, we decide not to follow His ways, and we decide not to come close to His heart.
He is a balm for our soul, a healer for our deepest wounds, a help in troubled times, and the hope for always, but we refuse Him. We go instead to the next relationship, self-help book, party, container, store, and screen, trying to fill the void, ease the pain, bury the trauma, and advance our own cause.
What starts this process, and how do we turn it around? We need to know what God’s voice says, and we need to know there is competition for our hearing. Who we allow to speak the loudest into our lives matters. There are voices coming to us from sources such as culture, lust, Satan, false teachers, addiction, friends, family, newscasters, the stage, and our own hearts. Will we listen to and be influenced by these, or will we listen to the One who created us, God Himself? Anyone and anything can compete with His voice—our own hearts can deceive us. And making up our own plans and neglecting or changing His plans will not be what fulfills us or gives us peace. It will ultimately leave us empty, wanting, and restless; and we will start the vicious cycle of trying to fill the void all over again. If we are listening to the voices of the world, we are not listening to the voice of God. We cannot do both. Either we are hearing Him, or we’re not, and we subsequently act on what we hear.
Where are our hearts going? To whom do they belong? We always have a choice. We can always turn away from the dead-end roads and come back to Him. We can make God’s voice the priority. We can leave our contrary behavior behind and be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Our behavior no longer needs to alienate us from Him. The hope of the gospel can connect us firmly to Him, and we can continue from this day forward to live our lives in Him—rooted, built up, and strengthened in our faith.1
Is it easy? Not always. People do not want to be told what to do. But there are some things which God says to do, and there are some things which He says to avoid doing. There is right, and there is wrong. God makes a distinction. He has set the standard, and we should not be modifying His design. There is a prescribed order to His world, yet we are often busy trying to unmake it and remake it; and we have created chaos in the process. Some people will try to excuse their behavior by claiming freedom in Christ, but freedom in Christ does not mean the freedom to sin and abuse His grace.2 Some will try to twist His words and take them out of context to make them fit their own desired circumstances. We need to remain aware and vigilant as the words on social media screens, in the newspapers, books, training sessions, and the talk on the street—or even from the pulpit—are more and more often contradicting the ways of God. God told us this would happen, that the days will become more evil as His return for His own draws closer. What do we do about this?
We should seek the things above, putting off our old man and putting on the new one made in the image of Christ.3 Everything we say and do should be done in His name. If we say we are following Him, we need to make sure our actions are not saying otherwise. If our hearts are not right with Him, we are not living in congruence with His teaching; and incongruency is not a good thing—it’s not a good thing for us, and it is not a good thing for the world. How will they see Jesus when we look nothing like Him, when we misrepresent Him, and when we bring shame to His name? We need to do more than hear the words of God, we need to live them. We need to do more than remember who He is with our brains, we need to let Him flow through our hearts and lives.
I’m going to invite us to come back, to listen to the longing of His heart for us. Do we know the urgency of the time? Let’s not be prodigals headed for a far land void of God’s presence. We have a message to share and a short time to do so. We have a finite number of days to hear and heed the word which the Lord has spoken, and we should not spend that precious time following the ways of those who do not believe. We sometimes exchange the truth for a lie, but right now we have the opportunity to exchange the lies for the truth. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but He who does the will of God abides forever.”4 God’s voice is the voice of truth. Will we heed the comeback call?
Listen to counsel and receive instruction,
That you may be wise in your latter days.
There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.5
1 See Colossians 1:21–23 and 2:7.
2 See Galatians 5:13 and 1 Peter 2:16.
3 See Ephesians 4:17–32.
4 First John 2:17
5 Proverbs 19:20–21
Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 10, 2022