How to Restore Your Relationships
How to Restore Your Relationships
Hans worked his way up from being a miner to owning a number of mines. His eldest son, Martin, was very intelligent and went to university at the age of seventeen. A respectable career as a lawyer lay ahead of him. Suddenly, to his father’s dismay, he cancelled his registration for the law course and became a monk and then a priest.
Martin wanted to live a righteous life. He fasted for days and spent sleepless nights in prayer, but he was still plagued by his own unrighteousness before a righteous God. Around the age of thirty, as he was studying Romans 1:17, the penny dropped. He later wrote:
‘I began to understand that in this verse the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous man lives by the gift of God, in other words by faith; and that this sentence, “the righteousness of God is revealed”, refers to a passive righteousness, ie, that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “The righteous person lives by faith.” This immediately made me feel as if I had been born again and entered through open gates to paradise itself.’
This experience occurred 500 years ago. It not only changed his life, it altered the course of human history. He became one of the pivotal figures of western civilisation, the founder of the Reformation – the seedbed for social, economic and political thought. His name, of course, was Martin Luther.
In essence, righteousness means a right relationship with God, which leads to right relationships with others. It is a gift made possible through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Here lies the secret of restored relationships – first of restored relationship with God and then all other relationships.
Enjoy the blessingsPsalm 84:1-7
Dwelling in the presence of God is where the greatest blessings are found. This is one of mine and Pippa’s favourite psalms. We had it read at our wedding. We love it because it describes the blessings of living in a restored relationship with God.
- Longing for God’s presence
In every human heart there is a spiritual hunger, which can only be satisfied by living in a right relationship with God. In the presence of God, the soul’s longing (v.1, MSG) is satisfied and the heart’s cry is answered. The psalmist writes, ‘How lovely is your dwelling-place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God’ (vv.1–2).
- Blessing of God’s presence
As you spend time praying, listening to God through the Bible and worshipping him, you will find that there is no place you would rather be than in his presence. ‘Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you’ (v.4).
God’s presence is a place of blessing, praise and refreshment. It is like rain on thirsty ground (v.6).
- Strength from God’s presence
When our strength is in God (v.5), the difficult places, tough situations and the valleys of life can be turned into springs (v.6). As you draw your strength from God in these times, you will find yourself going from ‘strength to strength’ (v.7).
Having made the tabernacle and temple the place of his presence in the Old Testament, now, through Jesus Christ, God dwells and is present by his Spirit in the church (Ephesians 2:22) and in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of your presence with me. Thank you for the way in which you strengthen me daily with your presence.
Receive the giftRomans 1:1-17
You cannot do anything to earn or deserve God’s love. You receive it as a gift. Jesus has made you righteous. Through his life, death and resurrection, you can live in a right relationship with God.
How is it that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, world history took a new direction? How was it that the life of every man, woman and child on the planet was eternally affected?
In this ground-breaking and hugely influential document of Christian theology (written around AD 59), Paul, who had encountered the risen Jesus himself, takes the well-witnessed fact of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and thinks through its implications.
It appears that the establishment of a Christian community in Rome had come about, not by any great evangelistic enterprise, but by the presence of Christians in the workplace discharging their ordinary secular duties. If you are in a secular job you can have as big an impact as any full-time evangelist.
Paul is longing to see his friends in Rome (v.11). They are inexperienced beginners, yet Paul has the humility to recognise that he will learn something from them in addition to them learning from him (vv.11–12). ‘You have as much to give to me as I do to you’ (v.12, MSG). I have found that in every Alpha small group, I learn as much from the guests as they do from us.
It is not only those outside of the church who need to hear the gospel. Paul is eager to preach the gospel to the Christian community in Rome (v.15).
He knows full well the temptation to be ashamed. It can be so easy to allow our fears and worries about what other people will think about us to stop us from speaking about Jesus. Yet Paul writes, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (v.16a). He knows also the extraordinary power of the gospel to transform the lives of both Jews and Gentiles (v.16b).
There is no greater privilege than preaching the gospel, ‘for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ (v.17a). Paul does not contrast this with the Old Testament; rather, he uses the Old Testament to support his argument: ‘as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”’ (v.17b, see also Habakkuk 2:4).
Paul is going to say a lot more about this ‘righteousness from God’. The good news (gospel) is that God has enabled us to live in this right relationship with him. This righteousness comes from God. It is his gift to you. You cannot earn it. You receive it ‘by faith’. You no longer live under guilt and condemnation. Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you (Romans 8:1–39).
Lord, thank you that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you make it possible for me to have a restored relationship with you and with others. Thank you that I cannot earn it but receive it as a gift by faith.
Continue to obey2 Kings 23:1-24:7
God had always intended that his people should live in a right relationship with him. This relationship is described in terms of a covenant. God had rescued his people from Egypt. He committed himself to them totally. He then described to them how they could stay in a right relationship with him. He gave them the commandments to guard right relationship with God and one another. The purpose of these laws was to enable them to flourish.
Again and again, we read in the Old Testament how they did not obey these laws. Disaster came as a result. Occasionally there is a glimmer of hope when they recommit themselves to the covenant relationship with God.
One such glimmer of hope appears in Josiah’s reign. ‘The king stood by the pillar and before God solemnly committed them all to the covenant: to follow God believingly and obediently; to follow his instructions, heart and soul, on what to believe and do; to put into practice the entire covenant, all that was written in the book. The people stood in affirmation; their commitment was unanimous’ (v.3, MSG).
Josiah did carry out a number of reforms (vv.1–25). Sadly, they did not seem to have a lasting impact on the people and after Josiah’s death, things went back to the way they had been before. Josiah’s life was far from easy, and ended tragically, yet he sought to follow God in all that he did – ‘with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength’ (v.25). He is remembered as one of the heroes of faith.
Thankfully, under the new covenant, the laws are written not on tablets of stone but on your heart. The moment you put your faith in Jesus all the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in you. You receive righteousness from God. God gives you the Holy Spirit to enable you to walk in a restored relationship with him and a restored relationship with other people.
Lord, I turn to you today with all my heart and soul and strength. Fill me with your Spirit and help me to obey you fully.
‘They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.’
This is an encouragement to finish well in life, to keep going and to believe the later years can be more fruitful than the former years.
Verse of the Day
‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…’ (Romans 1:16).
Graham Tomlin, Luther and His World, (Lion Books, 2012), p.58.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.