A source of spiritual growth too many Christians ignore is to supplement their regular Bible study with the reading of classic Christian authors from across the ages. If we believe the Holy Spirit has been active since the dawn of the church age, then it goes without saying that we would benefit from listening to our brothers and sisters from other generations.
One author that imprinted on me in seminary was a 16th-century Puritan preacher and writer named Richard Sibbes, who left us with a substantial collection of his sermons. Sometimes I find great encouragement pulling up Mr. Sibbes on my Kindle and letting him speak into my life. So the other day, I was perusing through a devotional he wrote on Hosea 14:1, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.”
How do we return to God? Sibbes outlined 3 stages a wandering soul must go through:
“There must be examination and consideration whither our ways tend. There must be stopping considerations.”
I love how he puts that! There must be stopping considerations. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus said. We’ll never change our habits or the course of our lives until a sense of inner poverty arises within us. We say to ourselves, “Doing this makes me a poorer person. I’ve gotta stop this or this isn’t going to turn out well.” The road back to God begins with reflection.
“There must be humiliation, with displeasure against ourselves…taking shame to ourselves for our ways and courses; and withal, there must concur some hope of mercy.”
The thought of changing is just the first step. Unless there is some sort of emotional buy-in, we’ll not return to God. “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus said next. Shame is not a bad thing if it sounds an alarm inside of us to our need for God.
“There must be a resolution to overcome impediments. For when a man thinks or resolves to turn to God, Satan will stir up all his instruments, and labor to kill Christ in his infancy, and to quench good while it is in the purpose only.”
Reflection that leads to remorse is pointless until it prompts teachable resolution. “Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus then added. The thought I should return to God which deepens into I must return to God is completed by saying I will return to God. And with the resolve comes action.
Some of you reading this right now need to return to God. You’ve wandered far too long, and you’re not better off because of it. Listen to the words of this follower of Christ from five centuries ago.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.