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Coming Back Home

James 4:8
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NIVUK)

The sign on a church notice board read, "If you feel far from God, guess who moved?" The answer is not complicated. God does not change at all; if a broken relationship is to be restored between us and Him, we need to come back to Him. Jesus' parable of the prodigal son explains it well (Luke 15:11-32). The wild youth wastes his father's assets and ends up with nothing. Reduced to being a labourer on a pig farm, he comes to his senses when he realises that his father's servants are cared for while he is destitute. So, he decided to admit his sin and ask for mercy; he will beg just to be a servant in his father's house. The next part of the story is remarkable: the father who loved him had been looking out, waiting for just such a change of mind (the Bible calls it 'repentance'). At the first sign of the son's return, the father ran to meet him and welcomed him home - not as a servant but as a forgiven son.

James states the crux of the story: if you turn to come back to God, He will shorten the distance and speedily come close to you. Of course, if there is no repentance, there can be no reconciliation. The prodigal son had to admit his sin and choose to turn from it. He needed to accept that his lifestyle was offensive (dirty hands), that he was double-minded and that his heart was not pure or holy. In seeking his father's mercy, the prodigal needed to come clean. There was no place for double-mindedness; either he stayed with the pigs or he came home to father. He made the right choice and was restored to the family.

James summarises the interplay between hands (which do evil), hearts (which want the evil and forbidden thing) and minds (which craft devious plans to achieve the evil desires). All three are involved in repentance, and follow the pattern of Psalm 51. We need to be washed clean and have a change of heart. As we come humbly to the Lord with our sin-stained clothes, our only hope of cleansing is in the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 7:14).

You will know if you have a close relationship with God. If you do not, then today's verse is more than an encouragement: it is a command to come back to God. The journey starts with genuine repentance, and practical decisions to turn your back on a wrong lifestyle. God is waiting for that moment. He will come to assure you of His love and forgiveness and help you to make the journey home as a child of God. Only God loves you enough to pay for all the wasted years (it cost the blood of Jesus Christ). And only God can help you make the changes, however difficult that may be. So, are you close to God? If not, then turn around and accept His merciful and gracious help, because He longs for you to be close to Him. Don’t be half-hearted towards Him: Jesus was fully committed to sacrifice His life for you.

Gracious God. Thank You for being loving and compassionate towards sinners like me. Convict my heart of the awfulness of my sin; and convince me of the wideness of Your mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus. Help me to hear Your command to 'come' and choose to turn my back on old ways that displease You. As I come to You, please keep Your promise and come close to me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams