Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Joy of Restoration

Two years ago, Italy’s Sienna University conducted a survey regarding the decline of happiness among Americans. Combing through data collected from 1975 – 2004, the researchers discovered that Americans are far less happy today than thirty years ago. Why is that?

…while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.
"The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital -- increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair," said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.
"Social contacts have worsened, people have less and less relationships among neighbors, relatives and friends.(1)

We must agree, that on some level, these findings are correct. As Christians, though, we must ask the question, “Is there a deeper and more significant cause of unhappiness among Americans?” What changes in our lives would actually cause us to REJOICE in our circumstances? Our brother Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us the answer! In his concluding thoughts in II Corinthians 13, he tells us to “Finally, brothers, rejoice.” Rejoice in what, Paul?
1. “Aim for restoration”
2. “Comfort one another”
3. “Agree with one another”
4. “Live in peace” (2)

Over the next several weeks we will examine Paul’s prescription for a life of rejoicing. Today, we examine Paul’s request that we “aim for restoration.” Paul, among other things, was history’s very first restoration leader! Wait a minute Russ! Didn’t the Restoration Movement take place in the 18th and 19th century led by Stone, Campbell, Scott and others? Yes, these men did initiate “A” restoration, but they were far from the first! Paul, called for the “restoration of the ancient order” as early as ca. 49 a.d. in Galatians 1! Listen to his clarion call to “restore the gospel:”

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.(3)

Not long afterwards, Paul issued a similar appeal to restoration and unity to the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 1 when he taught against the dangers of denominationalism. In our quest for joy and happiness, we must begin by restoring the first principles of God’s will in our lives. We cannot dilute the gospel in anyway lest “we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1) We must remain dedicated to the fact that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17) that everyone who would come to God must repent of every sin, (Acts 2:38) that everyone who would come to God must confess before witnesses the Name of Christ (Acts 8:37) and that everyone who would come to God must be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1ff).

Those who would relegate “restoration” to some kind of singular historical event in the 18th and 19th century are in error. Those who would say that, instead of being simply Christians, we are just part of the “Stone-Campbell Movement” are in error. Those who would say that the early American Christians were just dupes and robots of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers are in error. Paul enjoins us all (EVERY Christian in EVERY age) to continual “restoration” as our “aim.” By doing so, we have much cause to rejoice! Every individual Christian and every Christian generation must engage in it’s own “restoration movement.” Let us all rejoice as we “aim for restoration” and share that good news with a lost and dying generation that are seeking true and lasting happiness. Thank you, bro. Paul.


(1)Deepa Babington, “Americans Less Happy Today than 30 Years Ago – Study,” Reuters, Friday, June 15, 2007
(2)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA All rights reserved, II Corinthians 3:11
(3)Ibid., Galatians 1:6-7
(4)For more information on the history of the Lord’s church through the ages, these two sources are quite valuable:
Mattox, F. W., The Eternal Kingdom – A History of the church of Christ, (Gospel Light Publishing Company, Delight, AK, 1961)
Powell, J. M., The Cause We Plead – A Story of the Restoration Movement, (21st Century Christian Publishing Co., Nashville, TN, 1987)

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