Monday, May 29, 2006

God's Heart for His Prodigal Church.

I have been greatly enjoying reading Charles Simpson Ministry's magazine, "One-to-One", articles of which can be found online. The editor is Charles Simpson's son, Stephen and the articles are insightful and very inspiring. One article in particular, by Charles Simpson himself, really "got" me - as it addresses the issue that is so on my heart at this moment - Restoration. Here are some extracts that particularly spoke to me.

"Where is the Church going? ... To discuss what I see ahead, let me first share about something from the past. It was 1966, a year when there were many thousands of small home prayer and Bible study groups emerging across America. People of all social and religious segments were seeking God. I had just concluded such a meeting where the Holy Spirit had visited powerfully; I was waiting there with a brother who had just been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

It was then that the Lord spoke something to me that changed my entire worldview, and my view of the church: “I will restore the Church.” What was lost first, will be restored last; what was lost last, will be restored first. You will see this in the story of the Prodigal Son.”I cannot fully describe my response, but wonder, amazement, and joy, all at the same time, would be a start. I was not a “restorationist,” doctrinally-speaking. In fact, I was a pre-millennial-dispensational-fundamental-evangelical Southern Baptist (and I’m not making fun of that label). The Rapture and subsequent events were my focus—not restoration. Needless to say, after that experience, I began to see abundant Scripture to support the restoration of the Church.

As I read the story of the Prodigal, something became evident. Jesus was not simply talking about the story of a lost son, but He was revealing the nature of our Father in heaven. He is revealing the Father’s heart for the lost sons and daughters. The Father is wealthy, generous, and forgiving. He allowed for free will to err, but waited for repentance. The two sons therefore represented his two chosen people. Israel, the older son, and the Church, the younger one. The older son was law-oriented, dutiful, and unforgiving. The younger son was adventurous and learned mercy through serious error.

Genetics are a mystery to me. But they are tiny, ticking clocks that one day sound an alarm. In the course of tragic events, the young man “came to himself.” He finally got to who he was. He was a son of a wealthy and gracious father. “How many of my father’s hired servants have food enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my Father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’” In essence, he made three declarations: I will arise - I will repent - I will serve.

As the son drew near, he rehearsed his confession, “Father, I have sinned,” but he never got it all out. The father, with compassion, ran to meet him and began to hug and kiss his son. “My son was lost but now is found!” Grace had allowed the journey and grace awaited the return. There were no “I told you so’s.”With joy, the father began giving orders to the servants, “Bring the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.” The robe, ring, and shoes were restored. This is more than a natural father greeting a wayward son; this is the heavenly Father greeting a wayward Church and restoring it in righteousness, sonship, and Kingdom proclamation.“Bring the fatted calf and kill it! Let us eat and be merry, my son who was lost is now home.” The father threw a party! There was a great celebration, a feast with music and dancing. The son had come home, and was restored. The Church will come home, too.

Another question is what will be the last thing restored? Righteousness by faith is accepted truth in many quarters. Our sonship through Christ is generally understood. In the last two hundred years, we have gotten our shoes back with world evangelization. But the message to the world is the kingdom of God. There is more: spiritual power, a divesting of a world system for church government. It was apostolic unity that was lost first. Will it be restored? I pray and believe so. When that occurs, look out Hell! The Church will have a celebration and a feast".

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