One time at the zoo, I watched a gorilla puke out the contents of its stomach. This alone was disgusting, but I was appalled to watch him return to his vomit and start to eat it, only to puke again and restart the cycle. This happened over and over until I was whisked away to watch the shenanigans on display in the next exhibit.
You want to know something?
The Bible teaches that we can be just as nasty and disgusting.
This prior week, I was at youth camp with our students, enjoying the worship and Word. I saw many of our students take intentional steps toward Jesus. I was encouraged and amazed and overjoyed.
As the time came for us to have our last devotional together, I had been reminded of the realities of the broken world we live in. Many of our students were exiting the camp high, just to enter the darkness of broken homes, broken communities, broken hearts, broken dreams. Worse than this, many of our students were returning to friend groups that would guide them away from Jesus, not to them.
Falling back into the same old actions and sins is a foolish thing.
Look at this passage with me.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” – 2 Peter 2:20-22
Peter is addressing those who were in sin, heard the truth, and then returned to sin.
I told our students this week that it would have been better for them to have not come if they were simply going to return into the same lifestyles of sin (not sin struggles, that’s different. That’s going to war.) after camp.
Peter’s teaching is honestly pretty harsh. We don’t like harsh. But here it is anyway.
So where are you at?
Have you had an experience where God has recently clearly called you out of a certain sin in your life, but you find yourself back in the same lifestyles that Jesus rescued you out of? If you are, the Bible describes that aspect of your fleshly desires and actions as a dog returning to vomit.
If I’m being honest, I’m like that gorilla.
I return again and again to the same vomit.
I return to the same sins instead of using my knowledge of Jesus to redeem my thoughts, words, and actions.
Let me offer us some hope as well though. Look at this verse from the next chapter.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
God is patient with us. God has a desire to see us come to repentance rather than perishing.
So how do we choose Jesus rather than the vomit?
The answer I’ve found is this.
We must be taking small and intentional steps toward Jesus.
I personally am not a fan of altar calls, emotional songs playing as everyone cries and makes shallow decisions for the Lord. Because in the face of brokenness, emotional decisions brought about by borderline-coercive and manipulative moments fall flat. They aren’t followed through on. August and September steal away emotional decisions. When school starts back, students fall into the same rhythms they had in the Spring.
That’s why in my youth ministry we don’t do them. We share the gospel every week through the lesson and then tell our students to come talk to one of our leaders if they need to. If a student isn’t able to forsake volleyball and gaga-ball to talk about becoming a Christian, then they are likely not ready to go all in with Jesus. They haven’t counted the cost.
While I believe kids and teens are most susceptible to this emotionalism, adults can fall into it too.
There is one big decision in the life of a Christian, and that is the salvation decision, where we actively place our faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross.
Every other decision is small, ordinary, boring even.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18
This passage is always so encouraging to me. We are being transformed into the image of Jesus from one degree of glory to the next. It comes from the Spirit, not our own discipline or actions.
So, for you, maybe you need to just take a step.
Set that alarm for five minutes earlier than normal and pray. Read through a book of the Bible over the course of a month. Share a percentage of your income with others through church offerings and non-profit involvement. Meet with a younger or older man or woman to grow in your faith.
Take a step.
Invite your neighbors into your home for a meal and conversation. Volunteer at the local food pantry. Find where the foreigner and refugee are in your midst and provide them with the necessities of life. Call your estranged sibling or parent or cousin. Repent to a friend. Confess sins. Forgive.
Take a step.
Grandiose proclamations of life change more often than not don’t pan out. Simple, small steps toward Jesus always produce results.
So what step can you take this week?
In His Name,