I hate to be late for a wedding - and I was. I had a carload of teenagers with me, and we were racing to make it to the church by 11. We pulled up at the church at 10:55 - and the parking lot was totally empty. Immediately my detective mind detected that something was wrong here. I drove over to the house where the reception was going to be held - they gave me the bad news - wrong church. I said, "Well, then, how do I get back to the main highway?" I was hoping for a shortcut, but no - I had to go back to the point where I shouldn't have turned and start there. We did get to see the bride go up the aisle - because I went back to where I went wrong - and then went right.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You about "Going Back To Where You Went Wrong."
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Luke 19:7. Zaccheus was a tax collector - a man who had used his position to get rich by ripping off the poor and overcharging people. Then Jesus comes to town - and of all the people in town, Jesus said He wanted to go to Zaccheus' house for lunch. That started a little buzz!
"All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.' But Zaccheus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.' Jesus said to Him, 'Today salvation has come to this house...the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Lost. That's an interesting word to describe a man or woman who's away from God, doing things their way. Lost is what I was that day looking for the wedding - lost is what Zaccheus was. But he encountered Jesus - and he wanted to shape up his life. And he did. Notice how he did it - he went back to the point where he went wrong and made things right. He retraced the steps of his sin - and repaired the damage he did each step of the way.
Maybe you've been lost for a while - and you've done some things that you now acknowledge are sin. Maybe you've confessed your sin and asked forgiveness, and promised to do better. But you're not all the way back until you do what Zaccheus did, what I did that day I was off track - go back to the first detour and make things right there. When we don't, our spiritual comeback is compromised by unfinished business.
Biblical repentance always goes hand-in-hand with restitution - making things right at the point where you went wrong. That might be restoring money to someone, undoing some lies or some damage you did to someone's reputation, maybe asking forgiveness of those who you sinned against sexually, sinned with sexually, or maybe of those who have been hurt by you anger. Whatever the sin, the Holy Spirit of God will make it clear what needs to be made right.
Sin always leaves damage behind - damaged reputations, damaged people, damaged trust, damaged futures. That's why it's so important that you retrace those steps you took when you were on the wrong road - and try to fix whatever got damaged along the way. It will also complete the circle of your comeback in such a way that you will be a lot less likely to fall that way again. It really commits you to a new way of living - a lot more than just a few "please forgive me" words in a prayer.
Take it from someone whose sense of direction has often gotten him on the wrong road - if you want to get on the right road, you have to go back to where you went wrong. From there, you can really be on your way in a wonderful new reaction.