Midweek Fellowship – June 29, 2016
“Spirit of Restoration”
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
Last Sunday Bishop Ariel shared with us a powerful passage: “You do not know what spirit you are of.” Tonight, I want to take this same thought and direct it to another area. Not only do we in the CEC not always understand the spirit of the Communion which God has given us, we do not understand the Spirit which God has given the Church. We do not understand our approach, our attitude, our paradigm, toward everything we do and face. The Spirit which God has caused to dwell within us is aptly spoken in Galatians 6: 1: “You who are spiritual, restore.” This is the sum of God’s agenda, and the gist of our calling. Whenever we encounter the fallen, our immediate mission is to restore.
We live in a throw-away society today. Once something gets old, outdated, damaged, or even just dirty, we throw it out. With technology proceeding at its rapid pace, we find we have to throw away perfectly good equipment and gadgets, because they won’t work anymore with the new advances in infrastructure. Not too long ago when you bought a new automobile, appliance or piece of furniture, you expected it to last a lifetime, or at least a generation. Not anymore. Once it begins to have problems, we toss it out. This is the spirit of the age - the spirit of discarding. But God’s agenda is always restoration, especially when it comes to the hearts, souls, and lives of His children.
In Revelation 21: 5 the Lord says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He didn’t say, “I am making all new things, throwing away the old.” He says, “I am taking what was old, damaged, mistreated, misused, and even non-functional anymore, and restoring it to its former beauty. I am taking that which has lost My glory, and making it glorious once more.” This is how God works, how He approaches things.
This principle is seen strongly in the Psalms. Psalm 19: 7 states, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” We are all familiar with Psalm 23: 3 which says, “He restores my soul.” Three times the writer of Psalm 80 implores the Lord,“O Lord God of Host, restore us, and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.”
God is a God of restoration, and He expects us to walk in His image in this matter. We, too, are to be instruments of restoration. In Mark 3: 5 there is a very revealing story. There was a man in the synagogue with a withered hand, and those in that place had made no effort to restore him. Instead, they were planning to use him as a tool to accuse Jesus. It says there, “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” You have to understand, this is the only place in the whole Bible where it says Jesus was angry. What made Him angry? When the leaders of the synagogue refused to try to bring restoration to the man who needed it. Think about that for a while!
After the Transfiguration the disciples were a bit confused. They were wondering why, if Jesus was the Christ, some of the things their teachers had taught them had not yet happened. When they asked Jesus in Matthew 17: “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He answered, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things. But Elijah already came.” One Elijah had come already; another was on the way, with the purpose of restoration. Who is this second Elijah? Most will answer, “The Church.” And our mission is the same as that of the first Elijah: “To restore”, as the last verse in the Old Testament, Malachi 4: 6, tells us. We are to prepare the way through restoration. And as we saw with Jesus’ reaction in the synagogue to those who did not share His heart on this, He is not happy when we refuse this commission.
The Lord often speaks through events in our lives. They become object lessons, living parables, which teach us and those around us important principles. God worked this way through Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Jonah, Joseph, and many others. Of course I don’t put myself in the same category as those men of God, but I can tell you something the Lord taught me about restoration through an event that just happened in the last few weeks.
One of the families in our Church is starting a new business, and they needed to decorate and furnish the workplace. They had the option of buying all new fixtures, or using some old things they had sitting in storage. Since I have some experience in that area, I was asked to look the things over and evaluate their usefulness. Most of the things looked pretty bad, but actually all they were requiring was what we used to call “good old-fashioned elbow grease.” Also included in the lot was a table. I couldn’t see it very well because there were a lot of things piled around and on it, but I assumed it was in a similar condition to the other items. I told them to deliver the items to my house, and I would see what I could do. I expressed to them at that time what I am telling you now: God places great value on restoration, rather than replacement. They agreed.
A few days later the things were delivered to our place, and I got my first good look at the table. I began to think I had made a mistake. It was quite distressed, its finish had undergone much abuse, some parts were missing, and it was so wobbly it could hardly stand. It looked like a good candidate for the scrap pile. My wife told me, “Gary, I think you can deal with the other things, but that table is beyond hope.” I tended to agree. But then they told me that the table used to belong to one of the popular elite hotels in this city. They had placed it for sale to the public when they were remodeling their hotel. I realized that if the table came from that hotel chain, it was well made and had started off life a special piece of furniture. Then I heard the Lord whisper in my heart, “Take the challenge, and I will show you something.” That was why I accepted the job of attempting the restoration of the table: one, as a challenge to my abilities, but two, because I realized there was a special treasure hidden underneath all the distress and damage.
So I told the couple, “Give me a while to look at it more closely, and I will let you know about it.” The following Saturday I began to dissemble it, piece by piece. I had to find out why it was so wobbly. What I found broke my heart. Many of the pieces inside that held it together had been broken somehow, and someone had attempted to repair it with nails indiscriminately driven through the top, its legs, and everywhere else. Then they had covered over the fine original finish with an inferior vulgar red varnish in an attempt to hide many sins. It had also obviously been left out in the elements, not for a day or a week, but for a long time. This had led to deterioration of some structural parts. In other places there were telltale signs of former cockroach infestation. As I took it apart and examined each piece, I actually felt sorry for the table. If furniture had feelings, this formerly proud and regal hotel fixture would testify of great pain and sorrow. It sounds silly, but as I said at the beginning, this was an object lesson for us.
I removed all the nails, dozens of them, replaced the damaged dowels which were supposed to hold the table together, and then began to strip away all the sins in the table’s finish. It was a long process; some things I removed with lacquer thinner, some with paint stripper, and some could only be dealt with sanding - lots of sanding. All these things played havoc with my hands, but I didn’t care - I just had a heart to restore the table. And finally, after spending all my spare time for six weeks on the project, it was back to its former glory. It could go right back to the hotel chain as a valued member of their fancy furnishings. But no! It went to the premises of the new business.
As I dwelt on this process through hour after hour of disassembly, sanding, refinishing and reassembly, I began to understand God’s principle of restoration more than ever. How silly was it that I had compassion on an inanimate object like this table? As I told the owner after that first day working on it, “We spent a few hours getting to know each other.” But the Lord put this strange thing in my heart, to show me how He felt toward - you, me, us, His people.
Now I understand the parable of the hidden treasure in the field like never before. (Matthew 13: 44) Hidden underneath all the effects of time and abuse, this table was actually a beautiful treasure. The hidden treasure of the parable is us, and only God sees our value. But he was willing to pay any price - the blood of His son, in fact - to acquire the field and claim the treasure. God redeemed the whole world, so he could restore us.
I learned something else. As a part of the restoration process, the table had to be totally taken apart, and the destroyed parts replaced. This is what Matthew 21: 44 is talking about: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces.” As a part of God’s restoration process, He sometimes must take us apart, break us to pieces, and deal with the things in us that are making us weak and ineffective.
Another part of the process is pain: ours, and God’s, as He realizes how much we are suffering. It says in Psalm 56: 8that He keeps our tears in a bottle, and each one is recorded in His book. But our pain is a necessary part of our restoration. In the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21: 28-32) Jesus shows us that what led the second son to change his mind was regret, a form of pain. He then tells the chief priests and elders that they were missing out on the Kingdom of God because they did not feel remorse, another type of pain. It is through the pain of regret and remorse that God brings healing and restoration. That is what St. Paul means in 2 Corinthians 7: 10 “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation.”
As we pray tonight, I want us to remember someone we know who is in need of restoration, and I want us to pray for them. As James 5: 15 tells us, “The prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” See, this isn’t just talking about physical sickness, but the spiritual sickness of separation from God, as well. Remember, God wants to restore them! He wants us to be vessels of that restoration, and prayer is a good start! Pray that the Lord can begin that restoration process, as they fall on the stone and are broken to pieces, if necessary, and that they will turn this godly pain and sorrow into repentance.
How can we know that this is God’s will? How can we know that the person is not beyond hope? Remember how I knew that the table was worth most any effort I could give it: because I knew where it had come from. I knew its former owner. I knew there was a treasure hidden underneath all the sin and scars, because I knew that that hotel chain didn’t stock any junk!
It’s the same with God. He knows how He made us - very good! He has deemed us worth His restorative powers. In His great love He continually reaches out, no matter how helpless we seem. But it all begins with prayer.