Wayward Christians Aren’t the Only Ones who Need to Return

The beautiful account of the Prodigal Son returning home always touches my heart.  But Luke fifteen’s account of the wayward isn’t the only type of return God wants.  I don’t know if “return” is a key word in Luke, but it appears 21 times in that gospel of the 35 times it’s found in the entire New Testament.  Notice the ones who returned:

  • His twelve apostles.  Jesus “sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  They “departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.”  Then “the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done” (9:2,6,10).
  • The seventy.  Jesus “sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.”  He sent them into the cities to heal the sick and preach about the kingdom of God.  “Then the seventy returned with joy” (10:1,9,17).
  • The grateful Samaritan.  Jesus healed ten lepers.  “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.”  Jesus expressed disappointment in the other nine who didn’t return (17:11-19).
  • The women who followed.  They followed Him to the cross.  They followed Him to the grave.  “Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils.”  After the wonderful discovery of the empty grave, “they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest” (23:27, 55, 56; 24:1-10).
  • The two on the road to Emmaus.  They were discussing the empty tomb.  Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t recognize Him.  He preached to them and stayed with them.  “And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem” and “they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them…” (24:13-35).
  • Jesus.  After being filled with the Holy Spirit, He returned to face the tempter (4:1,2).  After forty days of temptation, He “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (4:13,14).  He always returned to the multitudes, even when exhausted, grieving, or facing death.

Everyday, we make the choice whether or not to return to Jesus.  When completing one task for Him, will we, like the apostles and the seventy, return to seek another?  Will we return to Him with thanksgiving for our salvation and our daily blessings?  Will we return to tell others what He has done for us?  Will we return to Him even when weary, when it’s inconvenient, when we’re caught up in our own sorrows?  The original Greek word for “return” also means “be again” (Louw-Nida).  It’s a brand new day…will I be His again?

Final words of the gospel of Luke:  “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.  Amen” (24:52,53).

Prayer for Today:  If I am not returning to You, I am wandering away.  Help me, Lord, return to You each and every day.


Making the Most of My Time for God

My brother-in-law has a birthday today.  I’m attending a funeral this morning.  Birthdays and funerals always make me more aware of the passing of time.  The older I get, the more quickly time passes somehow.  I once heard “time” defined as “the period between two eternities.”  Life is brief.  The Bible compares the shortness of life to a shadow (1 Chronicles 29:15), a cloud (Job 7:9), a flower (Job 14:1,2), a vapor (James 4:14), a sigh (Psalm 90:9), grass (1 Peter 1:24), and a breath (Job 7:7).  Standing before Christ, each of us will give an account for our brief time here on earth.  So how can we make the most of our time for God?

Focus on Our Treasures.  What do we treasure?  Certainly we know what the answer to that should be.  But what if strangers were asked to answer that question for us?  How would they go about finding the answer?  They would watch where we spend our time, energy, and money.  These three things are dedicated to what we treasure.  Jesus told us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19,20).  In other words, our priorities must be spiritual, heaven-minded.  How can we make sure we’re laying up treasures in heaven?  We must put the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33).  We must love the Savior more than our own family (Matthew 10:37).  We must love Him more than we love ourselves (Matthew 10:39).

Focus on Our Influence.  The scope of our influence is broader than we think.  People all around us are watching us walk, talk, and shine the Light.  What is my role in my Christian family?  What can I do?  Paul told some Christians that the way they received the Word with joy became an example to other Christians around them.  He said, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth…Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8).  The influence of these Christians saved Paul, Silas, and Timothy some work.  Are we saving anybody some work?  Perhaps the elders?  Some teachers who need a break?  The minister of personal evangelism?  Our influence can make a difference in the kingdom!

Focus on Our Mission.  “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).  Jeremiah sent these words in a letter to Jews who were in captivity in Babylon.  They weren’t where they wanted to be.  They certainly weren’t where they planned to be.  Jeremiah was reminding them that God had a plan for them, a purpose.  Some of us are happy and content.  Some of us aren’t where we had hoped to be at this point in our life.  Jeremiah gave the Jews a two-part program:  prepare for the plan and pursue perfection.  No matter where we are in life, we must keep ready for action.  We must keep ourselves in spiritual shape for the mission God has for us.  We mustn’t wait for a better time!  Henry David Thorough said, “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”  The only way to tell the difference between wasting time and investing time is to know our purpose, our mission.  What if you’re not sure what it is?  Christians can all adopt the two missions of Jesus.  He came “to do the will of the Father” (John 6:38) and “to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Focus on Our Eternity.  Now is the time to build our faith, strengthen our foundation, and put on the whole armor of God.  We can make the most of our time by challenging ourselves to obtain the high mark Jesus set before us (Philippians 3:12-14).  Paul challenges all of us with several charges in Philippians.  Develop the mind of Christ (2:5-8).  Serve without complaining (2:14,15).  Find our joy in the Lord (4:4).  Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything (4:6).  Meditate on holy things (4:8).  And be content with God’s help (4:11-13).  These are six different things.  We can take focus on one each week and see if we can tell a big difference at the end of six weeks.  If we practice all of these things, we’ll become Christ-like, humble, content, happy, calm, filled with the glow of purity.  We will be prepared for eternity.

Am I satisfied that I am making the most of my time for God?  Not really.  But I can pray for wisdom so I can discern where God wants me to be and what He wants me to be doing right now.  Finding out if I am making the most of my time is not going to happen by accident.  Am I focusing on my treasures (making God my top priority)?  Am I focusing on my influence (are my actions leading others to Christ)? Am I focusing on my mission (looking for ways to serve now instead of waiting for the right time)? And am I focusing on eternity (weighing everything against the ultimate goal of Heaven)?

Prayer for Today:  Thank you for each new day, Lord.  May I recognize it as a gift and make the most of my time for You.

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