The definition for justification is often said to be "just as if I never sinned." That definition fits well, because the true definition of justification is to prove that someone has lived in complete accordance with the law. It doesn't mean that someone has sinned, yet they have been made free, though that is the case for us. Instead, justification means that, in God's eyes, we have never sinned. Truly His promise stands true when He says in Heb. 9:12, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." And just in case it isn't clear, we are justified, or made just, at our salvation (Rom. 4:25; 5:16, 18; James 2:21-23).
Regeneration simply means to be made, generated, again. When it comes to salvation, regeneration (Titus 3:5) has to do with being born again (John 3:3), made alive (Eph. 2:1), made a new creature (II Cor. 5:17), made a new vessel (Jer. 18:4), and passed from death unto life (John 5:24).
Read II Chronicles 11:1-17
II Chronicles 11:1-17 gives an interesting account of the actions taken immediately following one of the greatest mistakes ever made by a king of Israel. Chapter 10 dictates to us the events leading up to this mistake. Rehoboam the king chooses to forsake the advice of the elder, wiser counselors, and instead follows the advice of his younger peers, who instructed him to increase the labor burden of the Children of Israel. This decision produced a rebellion, resulting in the splitting of the kingdom. Rehoboam would see 10 of the 12 tribes he ruled over depart almost overnight.
Before continuing with this story, I want to stop and relate this to us briefly. Each of us have had those times where we make mistakes, and the result makes our heart sink into our stomach. At times these mistakes seem to come from out of nowhere and were completely unintentional. Often, if we were honest, we would admit that we knew exactly what we were doing when we made the choice not to do what we know the Lord was clearly showing us to do. We end up experiencing a Jeremiah 18 moment, where our life is broken under the hand of the Master Potter. He then does His marvelous work of rebuilding us into another vessel as it seems good unto Him, a vessel that will be fit for the use of the Master.
Let's examine the actions of Rehoboam following the split of the kingdom. Rehoboam is often remembered for the great mistake he made, but I think there are some lessons we can learn from what he did to pick up the pieces.
First of all, he obeyed God instead of following his personal ambition.
When we make mistakes, almost always, our flesh kicks in with a first reaction of what we want to do to fix the problem. When I mess up, I get so worked up and do whatever it takes to get things back to the way they were. I work so hard at it, and unfortunately it consumes my mind, and it is hard to drag me away from the task. I work on computers a lot, and I am very guilty of doing what I just described - messing something up and stressing about it until I have it all back together.
The first reaction of Rehoboam here was to do just that. He needed to fix the problem. He was going to take his army and force the rest of Israel to submit to him. This would be an understandable reaction for a king. After all, that is exactly what we did here in the United States. In the mid-1800s, a group of states decided they did not want to unite with the rest of the states because of various issues. Our country went into the Civil War, because we didn't want to see our union split in half. King Rehoboam was going to reunite the Children of Israel under one government once again.
I don't know if this was a pride issue. I know pride often motives our quick reactions. I don't know if this was a frustration issue. I know that motives us at times too. Whatever the motivation was, he had in his mind what he was going to do.
But then, a prophet of the Lord shows up with a message from God. God told him not to go to war. Despite the ambition he had to fix what he messed up, the king made the choice to obey what God had told him to do.
This first reaction of Rehoboam's was not in accordance with God's will. Often, that is the case for us. Our flesh kicks in with that first reaction. Many times, that first reaction is made without seeking God. We don't see anything recorded about Rehoboam ever seeking God for direction about whether to go to war or not. Clearly it was self-motivated. It was only by God's grace that He revealed His will when Rehoboam wasn't looking for it.
A repentant spirit was shown when Rehoboam chose to obey God. This was a step in the right direction. I thank the Lord for His conviction that He brings when I try to take a step after my own volition. We need to react to that conviction like Rehoboam did, and humbly submit to that which God is leading us to do.
Secondly, he strengthened that which remained
When the king and his armies returned from going out against their brethren, King Rehoboam went to work on that which he still had control over. He built cities for defense and fenced cities. He fortified the strong holds, gave them military leadership, and gave them food and supplies.
In the book of Revelation, in the beginning of chapter 3, we read of God's letter to the church at Sardis, a city in modern day Turkey. He rebuked them for their deadness. Though they had a name that they lived, deep down inside, they were dead. The exhortation that God gives this dead church is that they should strengthen that which remains. Clearly this church had made mistakes. I don't mean a trivial mistake, where one would say "oops" and moves on. I mean, they were at a point where God said their works were not perfect before Him. Again, He said they were dead. But they still had hope. They still had something that remained that they could use to serve God. They still had a few names which had not defiled their garments. They had ground to build on. Though they had lost much, they could still strengthen what they had, so they could use that to bear fruit and have works that were right before God.
This was the heart of Rehoboam. Though he had lost much, he knew he could still use and protect the remaining land. So, he built it up.
Maybe you feel dead inside, like the church at Sardis. Maybe you have made mistakes and have lost ground. You have lost opportunities, time, and resources. There are pieces you must pick up. Your walk with God is not near what it should be. Can I exhort you - Strengthen that which remains. You may have experienced loss, but you can take what time and ability and resources God has given you and use it for Him. God can use whatever you have left. Give it to Him.
Can I exhort you churches and families, that have lost people or children - Take that which you have, and build it up for God's glory.
Can I exhort my country, the United States of America, or whichever country you, the reader, are a citizen of - Things may be going south, but there are still strong churches, and there are still souls that can be reached. We can move forward for God and use what is left of this country to make an impact on this world.
How do we strengthen that which remains? Let's take a look at what Judah's king did in this situation.
Rehoboam fortified the land with leadership and authority. The Bible says he put captains in the cities. We all must be sure that our submission is in the right place. Far too often we have a hard time with authority. We don't like to submit to others. Yet, the Bible says a great deal about what we are to submit to. There are 4 main institutions that require submission on our part: God, your family authorities, your church, and your government. I don't have time to go into all of that, but a biblical study of the authorities that God has put in our lives will reveal to us that things go wrong when we step out from under those authorities. The first important step is to be sure you are under the proper authorities and willing submitting to them.
Next, the king fortified the land with nourishment, victuals. Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life in John 6:32-35. If you have accepted Him as your Savior and as the only way to have a right relationship with God, He is your bread that has given you life. The Bible says in Matthew 4:4 that God's word is bread for our life, and that man shall live by it. We must be in the scriptures to strengthen and fortify ourselves. Jesus said His meet is to do the will of Him that sent Him, which is the Father. We must be actively following God's will to be nourished and built up.
He fortified the land with comfort and healing. It says he provided the cities with oil and wine. These were the same items used to comfort the wounds of the beaten man in the parable of the good Samaritan. Praise the Lord for those who God puts in our lives for comfort. Based on 2 Corinthians 1:4, we all should be busy comforting one another, but don't forget the comfort that we all have provided to us by God. We can seek that comfort at the times when we are rebuilding from past defeats.
He fortified land with protection. He built cities of defense in his kingdom and supplied them with shields and spears. The Bible says he made them exceeding strong. We must guard our lives by the strength of God. Satan will try to kick us while we are down. He will try to take that little that remains, but we must guard it so we can strengthen it for God's service. Ephesians 6:13 says that we are to take on the whole armor of God so that we will be able to stand in the evil day. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says we must guard our mind to be obedient to the Lord. We must protect and strengthen ourselves, so that which remains can bring glory to God.
Psalm 27:1 says that the Lord is our strength. All the mentioned things that we can do to strengthen that which remains must have God at the center. He is the only one that can do that working to make this happen. We must not attempt it in our own strength or that will be a mistake that will cause us to lose more and more. Psalm 28:7 says the Lord is our strength and we must trust in Him. He has the power to help.
Psalm 29:11 says, "The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace." How do we pick up the pieces in our homes, churches, communities, countries, and in our own lives? Strengthen that which remains. Strengthen it by the Lord.
Lastly, the king chose to worship and serve God
Rehoboam differed from the northern kingdom's king very much. King Jeroboam, of the northern kingdom, brought the tribes that split off from Rehoboam's kingdom into intense idolatry. He removed the God-honoring priests and Levites from their service and replaced them with priests that worshipped devils and idols. On the other hand, Rehoboam left behind the past mistake of forsaking wisdom, and turned back to his land to true service of God.
We see that this is the case when the Godly priests and Levites uprooted and came to Jerusalem, in Rehoboam's kingdom, because they could worship and serve God there. Jerusalem was given to God to such an extent, that it was worth it to them to travel there. Not only that, but verse 16 tells us that all from the northern kingdom who had set their heart to seek the Lord also came to Jerusalem.
What an incredible testament to the mercy of God, to help a hurting kingdom back to their feet, and help them to move on for the Lord. The king and his people did just that. They moved on.
It is so easy to get discouraged after we sin. We feel like serving God is hopeless, that we will just give in. The only escape is to do just what we expect will forever happen, give in again. We continue to live in defeat, forgetting who God is and the power He has to fulfill Philippians 1:6, which says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." We see David falling into a slump after his sin with Bathsheba. Peter did the same thing after denying Christ. Even Adam hid himself from God after partaking of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Discouragement often tears down individuals and churches, hindering them from being used by God in the way they should.
King Rehoboam did not let discouragement get to him. He kept moving forward. He had the same attitude as Paul did in Philippians 3:13, 14 - "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." What an amazing thing it is that we can completely forget past failures and move on for Christ out of a pure heart.
In spite of the peer pressure of the other kingdom to fall after the things of the world, they stayed faithful to God. Because of that, they positively influence others to serve God. They attracted those with right hearts.
Because of all this, God strengthen them. Verse 17 -"So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon." Because the pure-hearted came unto them to worship with them; because they walked in the righteous ways of David and Solomon; because they avoided idolatry; because they obeyed God's voice and didn't go to battle after their own first ambitions; because they strengthen themselves and went after God – they were made very strong.
We need strength in our Christian walk. We have battles. We live in our flesh. Though we make mistakes, we can take a lesson from King Rehoboam and his people, and turn from the backsliding, the slump, or whatever mistake we have made, and move on, serving God with His strength and power on our lives.
Choose you this day who you will serve. You can serve God now, even if you have never made the choice to serve God prior to today. You may be living a life of mistakes, sin after sin, living defeated, never having victory. The victory can only come through what Jesus did on the cross. Our sin is our own choice to be God's enemy. Our sin has indeed caused us to have no relationship with God. BUT God has made a way for us to be forgiven. Not by the actions we take to be "better." BUT only by choosing to accept the sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the cross, shedding His blood, and raising form the dead three days later. By accepting that as your only way for salvation, making the choice to let Christ free you from your wrong, filthy, wicked sin, you will be saved. Jesus is the only parachute you have, and you are falling fast to the ground. You can harness that parachute and let it out, so Christ can make you free. And then you can move on from your past mistakes.
Any of us, even those who have had victories in the past, can allow God to pull us off our back after we make mistakes. Choose to serve Him. He will give you strength.