Restitution is for people under grace. Here’s why. Suppose I am not a Christian and am short of money. So I go into the First National Bank and hold it up. I put $100,000 in my bag and walk down the street. I come to a park where there is open-air preaching going on. There is singing, testifying, and preaching, and a crowd of people listening. I join the crowd. I am convicted of sin and call on the Lord.
After the meeting, I go up to the preacher and say, “I did what you said. I prayed to God. I feel wonderful! What does that mean?”
The preacher says, “That means you have been born again.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means your sins have been forgiven.”
“Oh,” I say. “How many?”
“All of them!”
“All of them?”
“Yes, all of them.”
“Oh boy,” I reply. “Now I can enjoy this $100,000.”
“In my bag. I just relieved the bank of some extra money.”
The preacher looks at me. “Let’s take it back.”
“What do you mean, ‘Take it back’? You just told me I’ve been forgiven.”
“Yes, but it is not your money. You were forgiven for stealing it, but when you decided to keep it, you just stole it again.”
You may think that needing to return it is obvious. Yes—because it is $100,000, and the theft happened less than an hour before the repentance. But what if it is a candy bar you took twenty years ago? The amount stolen and the time since the theft do not make it yours. Take it back!
There are many Christians who are living subnormal Christian lives because they are too proud or too afraid to make restitution. They are like people with low-grade fevers; they are not sick enough to be in bed, but too sick to do anything worthwhile. Even if no one knows about the thefts, these Christians are poor witnesses for Jesus Christ. They may have confessed and repented in words, but if they do not make restitution, it is not true repentance, and they are not forgiven. When Christians act on this truth, there will be a revival in their own lives. When many Christians do it, there will be revival in the city, the state, and the country.
Excerpted from Repentance & Restitution—the Missing Ingredient in Repentance, available at ccmbooks.org and Amazon.com.
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