In the year 1892, William J. Kirkpatrick published a hymn entitled, “Lord, I’m Coming Home.” The song consists of only four short verses and one tiny chorus. However, the message of the song is profound and of timeless importance. The song depicts a wandering child of God grappling with the decision to come back home after many years of navigating the paths of sins. This hymn addresses subjects such as disgust for sin, the tragedy of being lost, the important choice to repent, and the open arms of the Father waiting to restore an erring child. The song closes with the powerful declaration, “Coming home, I’m coming home, and nevermore to roam!” What a remarkable concept! A child of God can fall away and spend many years living in sin, but if they choose to sincerely repent, they can be restored to walk with the Lord forever! What lessons can be derived from this song? What does this song teach us relative to apostasy, repentance, and restoration?
First, this song teaches the possibility of apostasy. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “apostasy” with two meanings: 1) “renunciation of a religious faith,” and 2) “abandonment of a previous loyalty.” The word is derived from the Middle English apostasie, the Late Latin “apostasia,” and the Greek “aphistasthai,” meaning literally “to revolt.” Perhaps this was the picture intended by William J. Kirkpatrick when he penned this hymn. The song begins with the statement, “I’ve wandered far away from God, now I’m coming home; the paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home.” The character in this song has abandoned his loyalty to God, renounced his allegiance with Him, and revolted against His divine will. The possibility of apostasy has become a reality in this person’s life.
The Bible also clearly speaks of the possibility of apostasy. Many in the religious world still believe in the Calvinistic doctrine of “once saved always saved.” However, the Bible says a “righteous man” can “turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity” and ultimately “die in his sin” (Ezekiel 3:20). Paul warned his Galatian audience, who were “the sons of God” (Galatians 3:26-27), to repent lest they are ultimately “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The Hebrew writer pleaded with his recipients to “take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). He further wrote about those who are saved backsliding to the point where they “fall away” and “crucify unto themselves the Son of God afresh” (Hebrews 6:4-6). Peter painted a graphic picture of apostasy when he depicted erring Christians as a dog returning to its own vomit and a clean pig returning to the filthy mire (2 Peter 2:20-22). Paul stated a Christian can be “overtaken in a fault” and need to be restored (Galatians 6:1-2). James said a Christian can “err from the faith” and need to be saved from death again (James 5:19-20). There is a real possibility of apostasy in the life of every child of God, and in the tragic case of some Christians, this possibility has become a reality.
Second, this song teaches the possibility of restoration. s the character of this hymn struggles with their unfaithfulness, they soon realize they have “wasted many precious years” and they are “tired of sin and straying” (verse 2, and 3). They choose to “repent with bitter tears” and “trust Thy will, obey Thy word” (verse 2, and 3). Even though they have been gone from the Lord for many years, they have not gone too far to repent. They are joyously restored back to the fold of God, and they now commit themselves to living for the Master the remainder of their days. This is a beautiful picture of the possibility of restoration!
Thankfully, the Bible frequently reminds us of the possibility of restoration. When a person wanders away from the Lord, God has a second law of pardon in place. To be restored, they must bring God a penitent and broken heart, humbly seek divine forgiveness, and bear the fruits of repentance in their changed life. Peter told Simon, who was an erring Christian, to “repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22). Beyond this passage, texts like Luke 15 offer great assurance relative to the prospect of restoration. The prodigal son “took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). However, he soon found himself in the hog pen of sin, and he realized it was far better in the father’s house. Therefore, “he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). The son brought home a broken and contrite heart, and the father welcomed him home in full restoration. You may be tired of sin also! You may be fed up with straying from the Lord! Why not come home and allow the gracious God to receive you into His house again? As long as there is breath in your lungs, time left here on Earth, and a desire to change in your heart, there is the possibility of restoration!
After studying with an individual about the subject of salvation, he responded, “I just don’t think it really means that.” We had just read from the scriptures. No comments on the passage. No explanation. We just read the verse. But he didn’t agree with what it said.
With a great emphasis on “political correctness” in our society today, it is indeed strange that many religious people do not believe that God means what He says. Many seem to think that God will save them no matter what they believe. The question which will be considered in this article is, When God gives instructions, does He really mean what He says? And, must we comply with His instructions in order to receive the desired blessing? Does God really mean what He says?
ASK ADAM AND EVE. God said to Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:1617). Did God really mean what He said? Read on: “Because thou hast eaten of the tree…cursed is the ground for thy sake… thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou returnest to the ground…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19). Yes, Adam and Eve found out that God meant what He said.
ASK UZZAH. God gave specific instructions about moving the holy things of the sanctuary, including the ark of the covenant. The ark was to be carried by staves, which were passed through the rings on both sides of the ark. Furthermore, they were not to touch it. The penalty for disobedience: “lest they die” (Num. 4:15). During the days of King David, the ark of the covenant was being transported back to Israel, but God’s plan was not followed. As the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached forth his hand to steady the ark and the Lord’s anger was kindled against Uzzah and God struck him dead (I Chron. 13:3, 9-10). Even King David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (I Chron. 13:12). The answer was simple: just do what God said. When David followed God’s instructions the ark was moved successfully (I Chron. 15:11-15).
ASK NAAMAN. Naaman was a general in the Syrian army. He was also a leper. Leprosy was a dreaded disease; it was chronic and there was no cure. A servant girl in his house (an Israelite maiden) told him of a prophet in Samaria who could heal him. When he finally went to Elisha, the prophet sent a messenger out telling Naaman to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed of leprosy (2 Kings 5:10). At first Naaman was angry and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5:12). His servants persuaded him to follow the instructions of the prophet and when he “dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God…he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14). Naaman was not cleansed until he did what God, through the prophet, told him to do.
Jesus says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The Lord still means what He says.
You can’t pursue happiness and catch it. Happiness comes upon you unaware while you are helping others. As someone once said, “Help thy brother’s boat across, and lo! Thine own has reached the shore.”
Happiness does not depend on a full pocketbook, but a mind full of thoughts that are rich and heart full of rich emotions.
Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you but on the inside of you; it is measured by the spirit in which you meet the problems of life.
Happiness is a state of mind. Lincoln once said, “We are as happy as we make up our minds to be.” Happiness doesn’t come from doing what we like to do, but from liking what we have to do. Happiness comes from putting our hearts into our work and doing it with joy and enthusiasm. It does not come from doing easy work, but it is the afterglow of satisfaction that comes from the achievement of a difficult task that demands our best.
Happiness grows of harmonious relationships with others based on attitude of good will, tolerance, understanding and love. It comes from keeping constructively busy.
Happiness is found in little things: a baby’s smile, a letter from a friend, a kind word, the beauty of nature.
The master secret of happiness is to meet the challenge of each new day with serene faith that “all things work together for good to them that love God” and to prove our love for God as we give help and encouragement to our fellowman.