"Arcadia" by Karoy Marko, 
She will go after her lovers, but she won’t catch up with them;
she will seek them, but she won’t find them.
Then she will say,
“I will return to my first husband, for I had it better then than now.”
-Hosea 2:7 (CEB)

There is at truth that may seem paradoxical to some people.  It is that to return to God, we do not have to first clean up our act and that we return to God out of pure self-interest.

These were, pretty much, the motivations of the prodigal son (Luke 15).  What is really interesting is that we call it the prodigal son story, but it really is the story of lost and found, with the emphasis on the finding.  If you want to try to exegete a title from Jesus, for that story, it would be, "the two sons".

When Jesus told the parable of the two sons, who do you really think the story was designed for, and where was the 'punch-line' section, in which the listener was supposed to have an 'ah-ha' / 'eureka' / 'epiphany' moment?  I will tell you.  It is when the older brother was mad and refused to celebrate the return of his brother.

We, who are sons and daughters, need to have God's heart towards the people who are choosing a purely sinful life, and pray for their return.  We need to celebrate when they return to God.

Sin does not satisfy.  God will let you pursue sin, but not be satisfied by it.  Pursue, run after, and chase; but there is no peace and no joy.  Sin is not satisfying.  Pick up a biography of any famous person who did not walk with Christ and you will read about emptiness and a never satisfied appetite, delusion, deception, and destruction.

Christians who backslide tell stories of destruction and regret.  But when they return, God restores and revives them.

"While we were still sinners. Christ died for us."  This means that he paid the price for our sins while we were sinning.  It is a deep delusion or deception that Christ's death pays for your sin after you repent.  The full debt was paid before you came to the table.

"Come just as you are.  Hear the Spirit call."  Our only part is to return, to come.  You are ashamed, you feel unworthy, you have regret.  Just come.  Return to God.  Repent.

"But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8)  Sinning makes a person dumb, but then the light begins to come on.  We get it that we need to go back to God.  We see it as a better deal.

Newly born again believers or newly returning people are not expected to be mature.  When you are backslidden or out of the sanctification process and not a disciple, you are completely self-focused and selfish and driven by self interest.  This is not a shock and is to be expected.

The important thing is the returning.  "Come let us return to the Lord" (Hosea 6:1).  After you return, the holiness project begins (not before).  Authentic repentance is a return to the savior.

People in sin return to God, for their own selfish and sometimes good reasons.  But we, the people of God, who have stepped over into God's light, should not call others to return for spurious reasons.  

It is a mistake to call people to repent and return, based on anything other than Christ.  It is a misleading and a false gospel message to promise wealth, health, fame, healed marriages, or that you will now be a winner; if you come to Christ.  That is not the gospel.  The good news is that Christ came to save sinners and we can have a life under his rule and reign.

Rather than promising, "the good life, now", Jesus said to those considering following him to, "count the cost" (Luke 14:28), because it will cost you everything (Luke 14:33).  If you don't give up everything, following him will not work (Luke 14:26-33).

When a person decides to return to the Lord, for their own selfish reasons, they will find that what God offers is even better than they imagine or dream (Eph. 3:20).  They will learn that coming to God is not a good deal, but a life (John 10:10).  Jesus gave his life for us and we give our lives up and over to him (Song of Solomon 7:10).  He makes a mess into something beautiful for him and useful to him (Phil. 3:8).

Come home.  Return.

The painting above is, Arcadia, by Karoy Marko