You can’t go back

No U TurnWe have all heard someone say, “You can’t go back!” It usually refers to our inability to return to a particular place to find people and things unchanged. In many respects this is true. Those who return to their hometown after a long absence, expecting things to be the same, are often disappointed. Even if a person finds things back home have not changed much, she/he  usually has. In such cases, you can’t go back any more than you can un-ring a bell, once it’s been struck.

This is not surprising. We are all in the process of changing, being shaped by our relationships, education and life experiences. This being understood, it is important that we not simply accept this adage as an absolute truth. There are times when “going back” has enormous value in our lives—times when going back is necessary.

In one of the most power-packed phrases in Scripture the Holy Spirit succinctly instructs us to keep going back. 2 Timothy 2:8 reads, “Remember Jesus Christ…” Why is this so important? Because we need to be sure we do not lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ is to be at the center of our hearts. It is interesting to note that this imperative falls in the midst of Holy Spirit’s instructions to the evangelist Timothy about ministry matters. It is as though He uses Paul to urge Timothy (and all of us) to realize that, in spite of the fact that he is engaged in the work of preaching the Gospel and building up the church, keeping his eyes on Jesus still requires his energy and focus.

There is a lesson in this for all of us:

In the midst of our busyness, whatever we are called to do in Kingdom service, we must be sure to remember Jesus Christ. We must make a concerted effort to keep Him at the center of our thoughts and on the throne in our hearts!

This, I believe, is why the Lord wants us to keep going back to the cross in observance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul stresses this in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. He reminds us that when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper He stated: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Oh, how important it is for each of us to remember Jesus Christ is at the very heart of our worship to God! We must not let the horrible death Jesus suffered and the glorious victory over the grave He experienced slip from the forefront of our thoughts. Both are central to our faith. The Lord’s Supper emphasizes that Jesus is the focal point of our worship. It is as though God understood how easily we could lose sight of this reality. So, He gave us this Sacred Supper to remind us all to keep going back to Jesus, underscoring the fact that worship really is all about Jesus!

Along with our need to remember to keep Jesus at the center of our ambitions and endeavors, I’d like to suggest three additional times when “going back” is essential.

First, life seldom offers Mulligans. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call one any time we felt we needed to? Most of us could sure use a “do-over” now and then. The fact of the matter is that we sometimes get so far off course we need to remember to go back to the God-breathed message of the cross to get our bearings straight. As Paul pointed out in 2 Timothy 3:16, the Scriptures are, among other things, profitable for correction. Here the text reads: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Going back to God’s written revelation of Himself will help us get back on track in life. Frequently, the only way to go forward in faith is to go back to the Bible for a midcourse correction.

Second, from time to time we lose our spiritual spunkiness. It is as though the cares of life and the things of this world cause us to forget what it is like to live Divinely empowered lives — to soar high on wings like eagles. That’s when we need to remember the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary… He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless! (cf. Isaiah 40:28ff) When you think about it, this is precisely where many of the Christ-followers at Ephesus ended up not too long after they decided to follow Jesus. We know this to be true because of the Lord’s message to them recorded in Revelation 2:5. Here He said, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…” They had some “going back” to do, right?

Third, we must not forget that, occasionally, the only way to move forward in our relationships with others is to go back and say, “I’m sorry.” This may be the hardest “going back” of all. Proverbs 18:19 counsels, “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” Going back in circumstances like this requires humility and courage. But it needs to be done before too much time passes and there is no going back. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a heart-felt “I’m sorry,” it is important to consider just how courageous and humble a person must be to decide to come back to you. More importantly, though, it is important to remember Jesus Christ, whose grace and mercy covers all our offenses against Him!

You can’t go back! Well, that’s true some of the time. At other times, you can’t do anything but go back. Sometimes going back really is the best way to move forward.

© Bill Williams
June 13, 2015