When we have strayed from God, how do we return to a place of intimacy with Him?
This is a common question for the believer, who, though saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, continues to sin. No Christian is immune to sin. Despite our best intentions and efforts to avoid failure, we still sin. As a result, we may find ourselves without joy and seemingly far from God as we live in the flesh and not in the Spirit.
The Bible affirms this experience, when it declares "What person can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin'”? (Prov. 20:9). No one is ever free from sin in this life, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Eccl. 7:20). Though we have been saved from the penalty of sin, continued sin in our life (i.e., straying from the Lord) still has a negative impact on our relationship with God during our earthly life. Sin interrupts our fellowship with Him, in the sense that it is a reflection of living in our flesh rather than in the Spirit.
Obviously, our sin doesn’t sever our relationship with God, which is eternal and can’t be broken because Christ has secured it. Our relationship with God is unbreakable, yet our fellowship with Him can be interrupted. One is unconditional; the other is conditional. Our abiding in Him is an act of the will (see John 15).
The first step to a restored relationship with Christ following a period of wandering or disobedience is a confession of sin and a repentance to walk differently in the future. Confession is made easier when we remember 1John 1:19:
1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Understanding God’s willingness to forgive is essential to walking back to him. Remember, the Prodigal Son returned to his father because of his recognition that his father was kind and forgiving.
Secondly, rededicate yourself to a life of Bible study, prayer and fellowship with like-minded believers. The word of God teaches us the importance of patience and diligence and sacrifice, as we look forward to the Kingdom. It draws our attention to our problems and weaknesses and onto His power and promises. Prayer brings us closer to the Lord, so we may hear from Him more clearly. And fellowship offers the opportunity for accountability, godly counsel and encouragement.
These spiritual disciples become “insurance” against further disobedience, wandering and despair. They grow us up in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we might withstand the temptations of the enemy and not grow weary in the battle.
As we grow spiritually, we will come to value a pursuit of righteousness more and more, and consequently, sin will diminish over time. But sin will never completely disappear from our lives. Sin is every present to some degree, so must remain vigilant against its effects. Otherwise, it stands ready at all times to rob us of our joy in Christ by cutting us off from fellowship with Him. By confessing our sins to the Lord and taking up the full armor of God, we can truly know the cleansing of His blood and be restored in fellowship with Him.