I have rarely decided to simply abandon the truth. What happens more often is that I tend to wander. It happens gradually. It happens when I don’t have any particular goal. I lose my moorings and I drift. You might not be surprised to learn that this is especially true regarding my recovery program. Although there have been several contributing factors to my six relapses since starting a 12-Step program in 2001, complacency and wandering were two consistent reasons.
As humans, our hearts and affections are fickle. Even as Christians, we can wander off like dull sheep, following other paths, chasing other goals, considering other gods, falling in love with lesser things. When we give our heart to Christ, our fleshly nature doesn’t die. We’re given a renewed spirit, but we still have a mind and a body. We’re still driven by emotion. The moment we quit walking in dependence on the Holy Spirit, we’re in danger of misplaced affections. We risk wandering off.
When we wander away from the Lord, we lose sight of His love. God’s love is like air for us. We cannot live without it. Love comes from God. 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Obviously, wandering away from God severely limits our ability to love and to feel love. As our capacity to love becomes compromised, we begin to feel alone. Emotionally down. And, eventually, spiritually bankrupt. This makes it harder to find our way back to the Lord. Accordingly, being cut off, we begin to live in fear. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Things become more complicated when we wander. Our mind becomes corrupted and we forget the simplicity of being in Christ. The Gospel is simple, but lose sight of God’s love and everything becomes murky. It’s as if we say I know God loves me, but. Suddenly the good news is not so good. It needs qualifying. We feel an unholy need to balance His grace with our works. We start thinking there’s more than one side to every scripture verse. The Bible is full of paradoxes, and God is a mystery. This causes our interpretations to vacillate. Confusion sets in. Consequently, our Bible begins to collect dust.
As we stray, our conscience begins to condemn us and shipwreck our faith. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The entire chapter of Romans 8 rings with victory. It begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. In between there is no defeat. Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now contrasts that peace with the time before we enjoyed emancipation from sin through Christ’s justification. We forget, when we wander, that as believers our judgment has been satisfied at the Cross. We forget to treasure what Christ has done for us.
If we wander away from the truth that the sacrifice of Christ has washed us 100% clean, it won’t be long before we lose our freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again by the yoke of bondage.” When the Galatians trusted Christ, they were freed from the law’s yoke of bondage in which they tried to gain God’s favor by carefully heeding His rules. It seems our default setting is to try to work our way to salvation, expecting reward for being good and doing good. But no matter how many laws we keep, we still fall short. James 2:10 says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The law was a temporary teacher to keep the immature in line until they encountered the life-giving Spirit of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Spirit enters in, the law is dismissed, and the Spirit takes over as guide and counselor, leading the Christian to “do the will of God from the heart.” (Ephesians 6:6) When we walk freely in Christ, we live under control of the Holy Spirit, who provides the very kind of life the law pointed to but could never produce. By the Spirit, we also learn that liberty (freedom) is not license. Just because we’re under grace, we cannot continue in sin so that grace may more abound. We were not set free just to give us the prerogative to do whatever we want, but rather the power to do what we ought to do. True spiritual freedom means that we submit our own desires to that which is best for others.
Most of the Christians who went astray in the Bible did so with pure motives but misguided zeal. The Ephesians were working hard for the Lord. The Galatians honored the law. The Colossians were very religious. However, all three groups needed correction. All of them went astray to one degree or another. Perhaps you have wandered away. If so, there is a way to get back on track. Revelations 2:5 says, “Remember the height from which you’ve fallen! Repent, and do what you did at first.”In other words, stop wandering and call out to Jesus. In Luke 15:4-7 Jesus says, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance.”