I have a question about restorations. I am helping a sister to return to the church, and am uncertain as to whether my friend is still in the darkness. She has been coming to services, having quiet times, and dealing with the issues that caused her to leave in the first place. She claims that she is in the light again, and I cannot find any scriptures to share with her that would show that she is in the dark until the day we take her good confession in front of the church reworded. Thank you so much for your help. -- Vivian Homan

Biblically, "restoration" is something we all need, whenever we are wilting (Psalm 23) or caught in a sin (Galatians 6). I have no desire to argue about words, but when someone wanders away from the flock (James 5:19), and then returns, I think "restoration" is an unfortunate choice of word. That's because restoration is something for those who are saved, not for those who are lost. Now, as to when exactly someone who gives up on the life of discipleship is lost, I do not wish to hazard a guess. God knows. Yet God's word states that those who continue to live the worldly lifestyle will not make it (Galatians 5:19-21). How long he or she can "fall away," I cannot say either. All of us have bad moments.

Question for you, Vivian: If someone in a crisis of faith attends church Sunday, "quits" on Monday, and returns Tuesday--before the Wednesday midweek service--was that person lost for a day? How we answer the question probably says more about our understanding of God than about the true status of the individual who is struggling, since we do not know the heart nearly so well as Jesus Christ does. Yes, I am aware that people's words give us a good clue as to what's inside, as Matthew 6:24 says, but still I think we have to be careful about judging people's hearts, thoughts, and attitudes, which is best left to God (Hebrews 4:12-13). I don't know how much arsenic I can have in my bloodstream before I will actually die, but this uncertainty does not make me want to drink arsenic in small doses!

Finally, I hope you will be able to read what I have written in the appendix of Shining Like Stars on restorations. My view is that it will be very hard to prove biblically that someone who has already come back to the fold is still in the darkness. I hope you don't mind this little "homework assignment."

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