E
COPTIC ORTHODOX
PATRIARCHATE

RETURN TO GOD
BY
H. H. POPE SHENOUDA III
2

Title
:Return to God
Author
:H. H. Pope Shenouda III.
Translated by
:Mrs. Glynis Younan
Press
:Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.
Edition
:August 1989 - Ist edition.
Legal deposit
:No.:5607 /1989
Revised
:COEPA 1997
3


H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
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5

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER 1 SIN IS BEING SEPARATED FROM
GOD
Sin is the state of being separated from God
and His saints
Sin is being cut off from the community of saints
The serious consequences of being cut off from God and
the possibility of returning to Him.
CHAPTER 2 THE RETURN TO GOD
The story of man's separation from God.
What does it mean to return to God?
God wants us to return
Prayer is the means of returning
Adversity as a reason for returning to God
CHAPTER 3 RECONCILIATION WITH GOD
Sin is contending against God
Sin is being unfaithful to God
God is reconciled with us
How reconciliation takes place
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In The Name Of The Father,
The Son And The Holy Spirit.
One God. Amen.
As long as sin is a state of being separated from God, then
repentance will be the means of returning to God.
As long as sin is being opposed to God, or being unfaithful to
Him, then repentance will be the means of reconciliation with
God.
This book deals with these two subjects.
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INTRODUCTION
The first part of this book deals with two themes:
1 Sin is being cut off from God:
I gave two lectures on this subject in the Cathedral at Cairo in
October 1976 and July 1979.
2 The return to God:
The three lectures which I gave on this theme, in the Cathedral,
were entitled, 'Return to me and 1 will return to you' (August
1977), 'The return to God' (June 1980) and 'Returning to God'
(July 1981).
The second part is about 'Reconciliation with God'
This is based on lectures which I gave in March 1975 and
November 1976 in the Cathedral, along with two others,
entitled, 'How can I be reconciled with God', given in
November and December 1970. In addition to these is another
lecture entitled, 'Sin is disloyalty', which was given during Holy
Week in 1973.
This book is the fruit of these ten lectures.
Shenouda III
9

E
CHAPTER 1
SIN IS BEING SEPARATED
FROM GOD
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Sin Is The State Of Being Separated
From God And His Saints
What is the spiritual life? Is it not being close to God, as the the
Psalm says "But it is good for me to draw near to God." (Ps.
73:28).

It is indeed! it is however, something more than this closeness.
It means to abide in the Lord, according to what He told us:
"Abide in Me, and I in you." (John 15:4).
A person whose life is firmly established in the Lord, enjoys His
companionship and His love. He keeps God in his heart, while
he himself dwells in God's heart.
Is a sinner someone who abides in God, who remains steady in
His love? No, not at all! The sinner follows another path,
not God's path.

The sinner has cut himself off from God through his behaviour,
his manner and his will. His will has become something other
than God's will. He begins to want what God does not want.
He becomes a person who challenges God fearlessly and breaks
His commandments. In breaking God's commandments, he will
have also cut himself off from God's love, because the Lord
says: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in
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My love." (John 15:10) and, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep
My word
." (John 14:23).
Therefore, sin is the state of being separated from God's
love and from His commandments.
It is the life of a person
who has renounced God and His kingdom in order to be
independent and who has begun to follow his own desires
without putting God before him.
Such a person has become cut off from God and persists in the
belief that he has an independent personality which can stand on
its own and determine whatever it pleases for itself, quite apart
from God's guidance and direction. This is just what happened
when the Israelites demanded a king to rule them instead of
God and God said to the prophet Samuel: "for they have not
rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign
over them
." (1 Sam. 8:7).
They rejected the life of submission which the children of God
live in obedience and submission to His will. Saul, the king
whom they took for themselves, also followed his own desires
and asserted his independence from God. He did not want God
to order things for him, or direct his affairs, but began to
administer everything according to his own personal ideas,
without asking what God's will would be!
Sinners cut themselves off from God's will and also
dissociate themselves from His guidance and direction. God
has expressed this separation with His words, "They have
rejected me and forsaken me "
. He said, "They have forsaken
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Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves
cisterns; broken cisterns that can hold no water
." (Jer. 2:13).
Quite simply then, sin is the state of being cut off from God, of
having abandoned Him and rejected Him. The sinner feels no
love towards God, nor any special intimacy with Him. He has
cut himself off from God, not only in his behaviour and
manner, but in his heart, in his love and in his feelings too.

His heart has begun to love other things which have taken the
place of God. His concern is no longer for God, because he has
started to be concerned about other things apart from God.
These are what occupy his thoughts now and take up his time
and divert his heart!
In the state of sin, the heart is cut off from God, in proportion
to the extent that it loves the present world. If ones love for the
world is total, then its separation from God will be total too,
because "friendship with the world is enmity with God " (James
4:4)
and "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is
not in him
." (1 John 2:15).
It is quite impossible for anyone to reconcile the two opposites,
love of God and love of sin. He has to choose: either one or the
other.
If you live with God, you will automatically be separated
from sin and if you live in sin, you will consequently be
separated from God
. This means that you will be cut off from
Him, from His kingdom, His will, His commandments, His
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love, His work and from fellowship with Him. As the Apostle
says: "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say
that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie
and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:5-6).

God is light; sin is darkness. The Bible says: " what communion
has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14).
Whoever lives in
darkness is obviously cut off from the light, meaning, from God.
It was said about those people who cut themselves off from the
Lord Jesus and rejected him, that they "loved darkness rather
than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19
).
Therefore, when you live in sin, you are rejecting fellowship
with God. What is this fellowship?

The spiritual life is fellowship with the Holy Spirit, as we hear it
said in the blessing at the end of every service (2 Cor. 13:14)
and through this partnership we "may be partakers of the divine
nature " (2 Pet. 1:4).
This does not mean that we become
partners in the actual divine substance or divinity. Rather we
become partners in activity.
The Spirit of God participates with us in our lives, working in
us, working with us and working through us. If you are in sin,
how can the Spirit of God have fellowship with you?
Have you broken this fellowship and cut yourself off from
the work of the Spirit, by saying to the Lord: "You have
your way and I have mine?"

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By breaking away from the Spirit of God like this, you are
going against the warning which the Apostle gave, "Do
notquench the Spirit." (1 Thess. 5:19).
"Do not grieve the Holy
Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of
redemption.." (Eph. 4:30).

The sinner is not only cutting himself off from partnership with
the Spirit, but what is more serious is that he is resisting the
Spirit, as St. Stephen said in his rebuke to the people. (Acts
7:51).

Sin is to be separated from the Holy Spirit and from the
Son too,
for the Son is "the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1:21).
Therefore, one can reckon that anyone who is clearly foolish,
must be cut off from the Son, otherwise his behaviour would be
more prudent.
The Bible gives us an example of this in the parable of the
foolish virgins (Matt. 25:2). The type of behaviour that comes
from sinners is foolish behaviour, because it is unconnected to
the divine wisdom of God. It is 'the foolishness of your people'
of which we speak to the Lord during the Mass. Thus it was
said in the book of Ecclesiastes, "the fool walks in darkness."
(Eccl. 2:14).

Sin, therefore, is being separated from God, the very substance
of wisdom.
Christ said to us, "you in Me, and I in you " (John 14:20).
How can He be in us while we are committing sin?! How can
we be in Him at the same time as we are in sin?! It is obvious
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that if there is sin in us, then, at that time, we are in a state of
being cut off from Christ.
While we are in sin, how can we be a temple for the Holy
Spirit?!
How can the Spirit of God dwell in us (1 Cor. 3:16)
while we are committing sin, for the temple of God is sacred? (1
Cor. 3:17).

There is no doubt then, that sin is a state of being separated
from God and from His fellowship.
It is to be separated from that holiness without which no
one will see the Lord,
for only the pure in heart will see God
(Matt. 5:8). Whoever loses the purity of his heart through sin,
will not set eyes on God. In fact he will be isolated from Him.
Thus throughout history, sin has stood as a barrier between
God and Man.
That intervening barrier came to be represented in the Old
Testament in the Tent of Meeting.

This barrier, or curtain, which separated the people from the
holiest of holies, so that they could not enter into the sanctuary,
(Ex. 26:33) is a symbol for their separation from God through
sin. This was the barrier which Christ destroyed by his
crucifixion and which we, with our sins every day, try to build
up again!
The Bible says about the foolish virgins, that "the door was
closed" and the foolish girls stood outside. Between them and
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the Lord was this divide, the closed door. Though they begged,
"Lord, Lord, open the door for us!", he did not open it for
them. In fact he said to them "I do not know you". (Matt.
25:11).

They cut themselves completely from Him and from His
kingdom and His throne and also from the other wiser virgins.
We read of the same kind of separation, in the story of the
rich man and Lazarus.

While Lazarus was in the arms of his father Abraham, the rich
man looked on 'from afar". Our forefather Abraham said to
him, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed". (Luke
16:26).

In the life to come, the righteous will be in the heavenly
Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with His people. No
one unclean can enter here, nor anyone who is defiled, but only
those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Rev.
21:27).
It is here that the righteous will be separated from the
sinners for ever.
God will divide the righteous from the sinners, the wheat
from the chaff and the sheep from the goats and the wicked
will be thrown into the outer darkness.

The darkness here means being cut off from the light, which is
God and from the shining city of the heavenly Jerusalem. And
the term "outer", applied to the darkness, signifies that the
sinners will be beyond the group of the righteous, triumphant
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martyrs and far away from the Saints, whose lives were so
remote from sin and were separated while on earth.
Thus, the sinner will be cut off in the afterlife from all those
whom he had loved in this world.

Here on earth everyone is together: saints and sinners. In
heaven however they will be separated. If anyone on earth
loves a righteous person, he will not be able to see him in
heaven, unless he repents here on earth and becomes righteous
like his friend. By doing this, he will become entitled to a place
in heaven alongside the righteous man.
If he remains a sinner, however, his connection with his loved
one will be broken forever, whether that loved one was his son,
brother, father or friend. He must become like his righteous
friend, in order to enjoy his companionship in the eternal life.
If the two who love each other are both sinners together, what
would happen to them then? I can tell you that the suffering
which each one would find in the hereafter would give him no
opportunity to think of his friend and even if it did, the suffering
of the other would be an additional torment to him. They
would derive no comfort from their companionship.
The only solution, then, which unites those who love, in order
that they can enjoy each other's close companionship, is for
them to live in righteousness here on earth, which will entitle
them to be joined together in heaven.
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Thus we see that sin separates a person from God, from the
Saints, from his loved ones and from the angels too.
The Bible says that "The angel of the LORD encamps all
around those who fear Him, and he delivers them." (Ps. 34:7).
If you are among those who fear the Lord, you will enjoy the
companionship of the angels here in this world and in heaven
too. As for sinners, though, they cut themselves off by their
actions, from the hosts of angels, for the angels cannot bear to
see the sinners' awful deeds. As they sin, they are also
surrounded by devils, who encourage them further in whatever
wrong they are doing.
Sin is not just being cut off from God, but also from His
angels, His saints, His heaven and kingdom, both here on
earth and in the life to come.

In the story of the prodigal son, it is obvious that the young
man was separated from his father. He dissociated himself
from his father.
This was what he had sought and had actually
brought about himself, by his going away to a distant country
(Luke 15:13).
At the same time as he was cut off from his father, the son was
cut off from his home, which is a symbol of the Church, the
house of God and he was cut off from the members of' his
family who symbolise the community of believers.
The same thing happened to the lost sheep: he parted from the
shepherd and from the fold and the rest of the sheep ... and the
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story of the lost coin also tells of the same kind of situation
(Luke 15).
Sin is a state of separation from God, which means that it
is a separation from the very nature of righteousness and
goodness.
It means to be cut off from the divine plan which
God laid down for your salvation and to be cut off from the
divine course which God wishes you to take. This all comes as
a result of being separated from the Truth and following what is
false; for the Truth is God. (John 14:6).
The separation from God began from the first sin, that of
Adam's.

Adam cut himself off from God's love and from that close
companionship and fond intimacy which had existed between
them. He began to fear God and to hide from His face and if he
heard his voice, he would flee in order not to meet Him,
because he could not bear to face Him. How could he face
Him?!
There is another aspect to Adam's sin, which is that he became
cut off from the Tree of Life, from the Garden of Eden and the
place of meeting with God (Gen. 3:22-23). And what else? He
was cut off from that divine image in which he had been
formed. After sinning, he was no longer in the form or likeness
of God.
The result of Adam's sin was that he was separated from
God and being separated from God was itself a sin. But
how did it all come about?

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God used to order things for Adam in the Garden of Eden and
drew up for him the plan that he was to follow. Adam, in his
sin, began to go his own way, independently of God and began
to decide for himself what he thought was good and the kind of
future he desired when he and Eve would become "like God,
knowing good and evil". (Gen. 3:5)

The first human being began to choose friends and advisers for
himself, to whom he listened more than to God and he began to
behave as if he were an independent person, determining his
own life, with no need for God. That is how he disobeyed
God's command and became cut off from Him, through the
actual sin he committed.
Cain, when he sinned, was also separated from God. He
became a restless wanderer on the earth, fearful and afraid,
because in his separation from God he became cut off, not only
from righteousness, but also from the help and safety which
God had provided. Accordingly he requested from the Lord,
(full of bitterness and grief), "Surely You have driven me out
this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from
Your face." (Gen. 4:14).

Perhaps it was the same fear which the Prophet David had felt
when he said, "Do not cast me away from your presence and do
not take your Holy Spirit from me." (Ps. 51:11).

The phrase "How long will you hide Your face from me?" (Ps.
13:1)
describes a situation which is much easierfor a person to
bear than to be banished from God's sight, as happened to Cain.
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Saul's punishment was even harder, for "the Spirit of the
LORD departed from Saul "
, (1 Sam. 16:14) and it was said
that directly afterwards "an evil spirit from the Lord tormented
him." The moment Saul was cut off from God, he became
under the domination of the devils. He became like an
unfortified city, like a house without protection, an easy prey
for the devils.
How difficult it is when you are caught up in that
regression away from God!

It starts with disobedience against God and leads to contending
with Him and being separated from Him. God's face becomes
hidden to the individual and the Spirit of the Lord departs from
him. He is cast out from God's face and evil spirits descend
upon him to torment him.
But there is a condition still worse than being cut off from God,
which is, to be "thrown into the fire and they are burned" (John
15:6 and Matt. 13:42),
as was said about the branch which
does not bear fruit. This is truly a very painful end for a branch
which had once been part of the vine, but which now finds itself
cut off from it and from the other branches.
From this example, then, we see that sin is also
separation from the Church.

EEE
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Sin Is Being Cut Off From
The Community Of Saints
The Church is the community of saints who live in obedience to
God. In the Creed we say, "we believe, in one Holy, Catholic
and Apostolic Church." Even the church, as a building, is a
place that is sacred to the Lord. In the Psalms we say,
"Holiness adorns Your house" (Ps. 93:5). God says to his
people, "your camp shall be holy" (Dent. 23:14).
Therefore the sinner, because of his sin or because he has
turned his back on God and the Church, is cutting himself
off, through his behaviour, or his way of thinking, from the
holy community of believers. But it, too, dissociates itself
from him.

It is only the actions of the sinner which set him apart from the
believers. His life bears no resemblance to theirs, his principles
differ from theirs, his behaviour and form, his ways and
methods, all these set him apart from them, spiritually, mentally
and in the direction of his life. In fact even his speech and
expressions differ from the language used by the saints, just as
it says in the Bible: " your speech betrays you ". (Matt. 26:73).
The Apostle John speaks about this separation when he says,
"In this the children of God and the children of the devil are
manifest." (1 John 3:10).

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It is a separation of different types, according to their behaviour
and the extent of their love for God. It is a clear distinction
between the qualities of the sheep and those of the goats.
The Church is supposed to be united in thought, belief and
spirit. Whoever detaches himself from this position, is
expressing his personal wish to dissociate himself from this one
spirit. By doing this, he becomes a danger to the holy
community, which in turn cuts him off from its membership,
after he has made it clear through his own action that he has
withdrawn himself. The Bible says in such a case, "put away
from yourselves the evil person."
(1 Cor. 5:13).
This process of detaching itself, which the Church undertakes,
is in order to retain the sanctity of its membership. Concerning
those who have turned away from the faith, the Apostle John,
who spoke about love more than all the other apostles, says , "If
anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not
receive him into your house nor greet him." (2 John 1-10).

The sacred assemblies at the time of the Old Testament also
used to separate off those who diverted from the faith and
the principle of being "shut out of the camp" (Num. 12:15),
as it was known in the Old Testament, was applied to those
individuals.

This is how the process of separation takes place, so that
whatever is characterised by sin and whatever is unclean, takes
place outside the camp. Like what happened to Miriam, the
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sister of Moses and Aaron, whom God struck down with
leprosy as a punishment, because she spread lies against Moses.
" So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days." (Nu. 12:15)
Owing to this, the sacrifices which were offered to atone for the
people's sins and by the blood of which they were enabled to
enter into the sanctuary, were burned outside the camp, so that
the camp remained holy. "For the bodies of those animals,
whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for
sin, are burned outside the camp " (Heb. 13:11).

In the Old Testament, the peoples of the world were parted
from the holy people because of their sins. The Ark, too,
was an example of this division.

Noah, his sons and their wives, who were in the Ark,
represented those who obtained salvation and who became
directly under God's guidance.
The unbelieving sinners, however, were left outside, under the
rule of death, for the waters to sweep away, thus destroying
them and destroying their sins with them. They had refused to
enter, with Noah, into life, since their acts were unlike his.
They had separated themselves from God who had created them
for life.
Saint John the Beloved said of such people: "They went out
from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us,
they would have continued"
(1 John 2:19) They had cut
themselves off from us and no longer belonged to us.
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The phrase "they were not of us", is like the phrase of our
Lord, "I never knew you". (Matt. 7:23).
Look at Judas: although he was one of the twelve, the phrase,
"they did not really belong to us", which John spoke, could well
have applied to him. He was one of our number and in the eyes
of the people he was one of us too, but he was not one of us
from the point of view of his heart and intentions. Thus he had
not really been worthy to sit at the Last Supper with the other
disciples. Therefore, when he took the morsel of bread, Satan
entered him. The Bible says that as soon as Judas had taken the
bread, he went out; "Having received the piece of bread, he
then went out immediately"(John 13:30)
and by going out, he
isolated himself from the disciples forever.
Paul's disciple, Demas, went the same way as Judas.
He had started off as one of us, one of the senior preachers, one
of Saint Paul's assistants. The Saint mentions him in his letter to
the Colossians next to the name of Saint Luke the Physician
(Col. 4:14) and he mentions him in his letter to Philemon, along
with Mark and Aristarchus and puts his name before that of
Luke (Philem. 1:24). It appears that he did not truly belong to
us because, by loving the present world, he dissociated himself
from the apostles, which is why Saint Paul says, in his final
word on the tragedy of this man. "Demas has forsaken me,
having loved this present world " (2 Tim. 4:10).

Demas dissociated himself from Saint Paul. His love for the
world divided him from the entire ministry. His name was
mentioned no more in the Bible, nor was he mentioned again as
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being among the community of believers. History records that
he came to a painful end. He had not been able to bear the
cross of Christ in the ministry and so had cut himself off from
the life in Christ.
Sin is often a separation from the Cross of Christ.
It is to be cut off from the narrow gate by which the Lord
ordered us to enter (Matt. 7:13). It is also to be separated from
the hardships about which the Apostle told us, when he said,
"We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of
God."(Acts 14:22).

Sin is love of the world and the wide gate and the broad road.
None of which accords with the Cross of Christ, about which
Saint Paul said: " I have been crucified with Christ; it is no
longer I who live, but Christ lives in me ". (Gal. 2:20)
.
Whoever dissociates himself from the cross, dissociates himself
from God and the community of believers.
How easy it is for a person who has allowed himself to sin
and who has become used to sinning, to be cut off from the
Church.
He separates himself from the company of saints and
seeks another group, whose members will agree with his
behaviour and not reprimand him for his sins.
He also dissociates himself from the Church, the spiritual
meetings, the Communion and confession. He plans a new
course for himself in which he can engage in his sinful ways
without being criticised or censured by anyone. What is more is
that he also deprives himself of the benefits to be gained
27

from reading the Bible and spiritual books, because he is unable
to carry out the spiritual practices which they instruct.
It is not the Church which has cut itself off from him, but
he who has detached himself from the Church.
He has
withdrawn from within, from inside his heart and feelings, in his
way of thinking and in the direction of his life which he has
taken. He has come to love, instead, the cravings of the body,
or the lust of his eyes, or boasting of what he has or does (1
John 2:16).
Or he has come to love wealth, like the rich young
man who withdrew from Christ and went away sadly, because
he was very rich and was not prepared to give up his wealth to
follow Jesus. (Matt. 19:22).
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The Serious Consequences Of Being Cut Off From
God And The Possibility Of Returning To Him
As for you, my friend, do not let the Devil cut you off from
God, or lead you away from Him step by step, until he has cut
you off altogether and has cut all the spiritual ties which
connected you to the Lord's love.
Wake up quickly and spare a thought for your salvation. You
can be sure that by being cut off from God, it is you who
will be the loser,
for you will lose your purity of heart, your
good standing and your eternal life. You will lose the true life,
which is one of delight in the Lord and you will lose your soul,
since you will lose your blessed eternity and the companionship
of the saints. In return for that you will gain nothing here, as
the Lord Jesus said: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains
the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26).

What will you gain by cutting yourself off from God, His angels
and His saints? You will just be making your fate the outer
darkness in the lake of fire and brimstone. (Rev. 20:10) And
you will be given the divine sentence against which there is no
appeal.
But there is still an opportunity before you now to return to
God.

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It is unlikely that you will able to continue to be separated from
God in this way. In your heart is a rebellious voice calling out
to you to be reconciled to God. And God Himself wants you to
return. For your separation from Him is not your proper
position, nor is it the divine purpose of your creation.
I feel sure that you are bound to return.
You will find no peace in this troublesome world and so will
turn back to God. Perhaps that lovely phrase which was used
about the dove in the story of the Flood, could be applied to
you, that when it found no place to set its feet, it returned once
again to the Ark. (Gen. 8:9).
The Ark is the ship of rescue to which God is calling you and it
is the place where you will be safe from the storms of this
world. Do not wait until you are sent some kind of hardship
which brings you back, but come back by yourself, out of
love for God, love for the good, or love for the eternal
kingdom.

I realise that sin has set you apart from all that is good and has
given you nothing in return, you have lost God in return for
nothing. The Apostle Paul called all the desires of the world
worthless and said that for the sake of the Lord, "I have lost all
things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be
found in him, " and in fact he went on to say, "Yet indeed I also
count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).

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Do your best to put an end to this separation. if you cannot,
then cry out to God and say to Him: "O Lord, I can't bear
to be parted from you for one moment longer, not even for
a split second."

You are life itself to me. Christ is life for me. If I am parted
from you, I shall be lost and have no purpose. My life will have
no meaning. It will be as if I am dead or do not exist. My real
existence is in you. I cannot bear to be cut off from you, but if I
should become separated from you for a while, be absolutely
sure that it is only a temporary situation, something abnormal
and something which I do not want.
So take me back to you, Lord, by any means. Restore my
soul,
because without you I cannot live. In you I live and move
and have my being. (Acts 17:28).
If I am separated from you, I am cut off from power and grace
and I am reduced to nothing. I will return to dust as I was, or
rather become like the chaff which is scattered by the wind. (Ps.
1:4)

Dear Lord, do not let me be parted from you. Take me back,
guide me along the paths of righteousness for your Name's
sake. (Ps. 23).
Glory be to you, now and forevermore. Amen.
EEE
31

E
CHAPTER 2
THE RETURN TO GOD
"Turn to Me with all your heart, " (Joel 2:12)
"Return to Me and I will return to you," (Mal. 3:7)
"Repent, therefore and be converted, that your sins may be
blotted out, " (Acts 3:19)
32

The Story Of Man's
Separatiopn From God
The relationship between man and God began very
happily. It was one based entirely on love
. It was God who
began this relationship, by creating man and infusing him with
the breath of life. He made him in His own image and likeness
and placed him in the Garden of Eden, where He gave him
authority over all the creatures.
God formed a relationship with man and would appear to him
from time to time and speak with him. Man was God's friend:
he enjoyed meeting Him in the Garden and learning directly
from Him. God was man's spiritual guide in everything. He
was the one who gave him the first instruction, with the first
commandment.
So how did the sin occur? How was it carried out? What did it
consist of?
Sin, in short, is separating oneself from God. It is when a
person breaks away from God and renounces Him, so that
he can do what he pleases. The result of this separation
gave rise to all other problems and all other sins.

So, how did this separation come about then? How did it
develop and what were its consequences?

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1. Man was cut off from companionship with God:
When man became cut off from an intimate relationship with
God, he began to form a relationship with another intelligent
being. Unfortunately, though, that new relationship was with an
enemy of God, with the Devil, that ancient serpent!
2. He became cut off from God in knowledge:
After having acquired his knowledge only from God, man began
to acquire it in another way; from the advice and deceptions of
the snake. He also expected to learn from the Tree of
knowledge, which God had forbidden him to do. Thus he fell
into a further separation.
3. He became cut off from God's command and His holy
word.

4. He became cut off from God through the lusts of his
heart;

He began to desire the Tree and to crave for its fruit and he
found it, "good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes... "
(Gen. 3:6)
This was how man fell into the desire for gratifying
his instincts and for material things. The reason behind his
desire to eat from the Tree in the first place, was a desire to
become like God, as the serpent had tempted him. (Gen. 3:5).
34

5. Through being cut off from God, man was separated
from the Truth:

Since God is Truth, if a person is cut off from Him, he is
automatically cut off from the Truth and follows what is false.
It is well known that the Truth is constant and never changes,
but that which is not the Truth is very changeable. When a
person is parted from the Right, he enters into the Wrong and
thus enters into a perpetual state of change. Each day brings
him a new stance and a new feeling and he becomes a
changeable creature, unstable in his outlook.
6. By being cut off from God, man became cut off from
Life: for God is Truth and Life. (John 14:6).

If a person is cut off from the real life, which is to be firmly
established in God and have a stable faith in Him, he becomes
dead from the spiritual point of view, according to what was
said about the prodigal son by his father, "for this my son was
dead...." (Luke 15:24).
And the Lord's words, "you have a
name that you are alive, but you are dead.."(Rev. 3:1)
will
begin to apply to such a person.
7. By being cut off from God, man became cut off from
power.

The source of his power had been God. But by being separated
from God, he became cut off from power and became weak.
35

The Devil overcame him and even the beasts gained power over
him, as did his fellow men. Likewise, his own personality began
to dominate him and he became a weak creature who could not
stand upright or fend for himself.
8. Through being cut off from God, man forfeited his
authority:

He became cut off from the authority which he had been given
by God over the other living creatures. He no longer had the
same authority over the beasts of the earth.
9. He also forfeited his dignity and respectability:
The respectability which he had enjoyed, through being in the
image and likeness of God, departed from him and he lost this
divine image with his fall into sin. As a result of losing his
respectability, he was expelled from the Garden of Eden and
stood before God like a guilty offender who deserved
punishment.
When the Devil saw man banished from God's presence, guilty
of sin and punished, he found it an opportunity to dominate him
and so the Devil set himself up as the lord of this world. That is
how his title became "the ruler of this world". (John 14:30).
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10. As a result of his separation from God, man began to
collapse and fear entered him:

He began to be afraid of God, instead of loving Him and
enjoying an intimate relationship with Him.
Then he began to be afraid of his fellow men, like when Cain
was afraid and said, "anyone finds me will kill me". (Gen.
4:14).
Man also began to fear the animals and anxiety,
confusion and worry came over him.
11. With his separation from God, man became separated
from the life of the Spirit.

Thus he came to be dominated by material concerns and by the
body. He fell into the sins of the flesh. The sins of the flesh
began to attack even the prophets and men of God, such as
Samson, David, Solomon and others. It was said: "For she has
cast down many wounded, And all who were slain by her were
strong men.." (Prov. 7:26).

12. Through being cut off from God, man went deeper and
deeper into sin:

Little by little his sins began to grow and step by step man
began to fall further, until he had gone to extremes in doing
what was evil and squalid and in devising cunning tricks and
arts and until his sins outnumbered the hairs on his head.
37

This, then, is the history of sin on the earth and man's
separation from God
. It is a history that records man's
tragedy and from which we learn that sin never relaxes its
efforts until it is brought to completion.
When the Devil makes someone fall into sin, he is not content
simply with that, but continues to get the person more and more
involved until he is unable to resist any longer. Then the Devil
destroys him.
What is the solution then?
The only solution is to return to God and form a
relationship with Him.

If sin is dissociating oneself from God, then the only cure is to
dissociate oneself from sin and return to God. There is no other
remedy besides this.
Separate yourself from sin, with all your heart, not only because
it will wear you out, or because you are afraid of the Judgment
Day and punishment, but because this sin of yours will take you
far away from God and will cut you off from His sweet
companionship.
38

What Does It Mean
To Return To God?
In short, it means... forming a real and sincere relationship
with God in your heart.

When I say a relationship, I do not just mean the external
signs and practices of religion.
Some people imagine that to
return to God means that all they have to do is follow a
programme of prayer, fasting, spiritual exercises, spiritual
readings, meetings and mataniyas (prostrations).
All these are, fine, but do they spring from a heartfelt
relationship with God, or not? In all these devotions, is there a
love for God or not?
Without this relationship of the heart and without this love, you
will not really have come back to God, however much you pray,
fast, read and perform mataniyas.
It is only through a relationship with God, which is one of love,
that these spiritual means take on their effectiveness and
strength. So the feeling must come from the heart first of all
and then these practices will naturally follow. This is why the
Lord says in the book of the
Prophet Joel, "Turn to Me with all your heart". (Joel 2:12).
39

God says, "Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with
weeping, and with mournin rend your heart and not your
garments. Return to the LORD your God". (Joel 2:12-13).

It is the return of the heart, therefore, which is required: the
heart first of all. And it is from this returning heart, which is
crushed in remorse before God, that fasting and tears of
repentance gain their strength.
It is amazing how many people get caught up in the means
to reach God, such as the devotions, the spiritual exercises
and the disciplines, but forget the end to which they are
directed, which is God!

For example, there is the type of person who has set his heart
on reciting a group of psalms, who becomes disheartened when
he fails to reach his target, but who becomes happy if he
manages to complete them, regardless of whether he has had
any connection with God during this recital!! No, this is not the
way.
The Psalms have a tremendous spiritual force, they have
blessings and effectiveness and a profound influence of
their own, provided that they come from a heart that is in a
relationship with God.

Without this relationship and without the feelings of the heart,
even though you pray, your prayer will be marked by apathy
and by a confusion and wandering of your thoughts.
40

If you pray without any feelings, without enthusiasm or faith
and without feeling God's presence, then the whole thing turns
into just an empty exercise, without the relationship within the
heart giving this practice any weight or value.
A person might fast, for example, but he might not bring
God into his fast.

All he is interested in is the period of abstinence and in seeing
how long he can continue it and in his abstention from food and
his asceticism. Perhaps he has set himself not to eat anything
sweet, or anything cooked, or perhaps he has decided to restrict
himself to bread, water and salt. If he manages what he has set
himself to do, then he feels pleased with himself and feels that
he has been successful in his fast. As far as the idea of using
fasting as a means of bringing him closer to God is concerned,
this idea has probably never occurred to him!
The heart is the fundamental element and it is by the heart
that we can distinguish between two types:
One person
might pray the Psalms and cast out devils by them, while
another might pray the same Psalms and it is as though he is not
praying at all, since he does not have any relationship with God
in his heart. Needless to say the prayers of the second type
produce little effect.
One person might fast and obtain mercies and forgiveness from
God, as did the people of Ninevah. Yet someone else might
fast and not receive such blessings, because he has not admitted
God into his fast, like the Pharisee.
41

The heart, then, is the deciding rule. We want the return to
God to be with the heart.
The return to God also means a firm and lasting return. It
should be one in which there is no backsliding, for some people
imagine that they have returned to God, yet live unbalanced
lives, swinging from one thing to another. They might spend
one day with God, full of enthusiasm for Him, while the next
day they are caught up with the desires and lusts of the world.
What was said in the story of the Ark, about the raven which
Noah released after the Flood, that it " which kept going to and
fro" (Gen. 8:7
), could well be applied to these people.
Do not let your return to God be just a return for the sake of
special occasions, or for the fasts, or for the sake of following
certain instructions from your spiritual father, or because you
want something in particular, because this would make it a
return of convenience. After the particular reason for your
return to God had passed, you would simply go back to your
previous sinful ways and once again be separated from God!
You can learn a lesson about returning to God, from the
stories of the saints.

Take St. Moses the black for example. When he returned to
God, he returned with all his heart and never went back to his
earlier sins. In fact he kept on growing and growing in his
spiritual life until he became a spiritual guide and example to
many.
42

There was also Mary the Copt, Pelagia and Augustine and
others, all of whom returned to God, never again to part from
Him. Moreover, they all went on to progress continually in
their spiritual growth, from a life of repentance, to a life of
holiness.
To return to God means to return with a new heart.
God Himself says concerning this: "I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit within you" (Ezek. 36:26)
St. Paul says:
"be transformed by the renewing of your mind", (Rom. 12:2)
which means adopting a new way of thinking and weighing
things up, according to a new scale of values, rather than the
old one. When St. Paul began to value the importance of
thinking about spiritual matters, sin lost any influence over him.
Let the return to God be with fasting and self-abasement,
just as the people of Nineveh returned to Him.
They heard the Prophet Jonah's warning that after forty days the
city would be overturned (Jon. 3:4), but they did not lose hope
of God's mercies and they returned to Him with fasting and
humility. So what did they do?
"They declared a fast and all of them, from the greatest to the
least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of
Nineveh, "he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.". (Jon. 3:5-6)

43

Thus all the people covered themselves with sackcloth and cried
out vehemently to God and returned from their wicked ways.
Thus God returned to them.
In the book of Joel, we see the same fasting and self-
abasement, when the Prophet said,
"..Consecrate a fast, Call
a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the
congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and
nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who
minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar."
(Joel 2:15-17).

We see the same situation in the fast of the Prophet Daniel and
his humbling of himself before the Lord. He said: "Then I set
my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and
supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed
to the LORD my God, and made confession." (Da. 9:3-4)
and
"I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant
food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint
myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled." (Da. 10:2-
3).

In the individual, the return to God is distinguished by an
eagerness, a careful and painstaking attitude and a serious
approach.

Whoever returns to God is very joyful about his return and is
enthusiastic for this reconciliation which has taken place
between them. He is also very careful so as not to let any
44

backsliding or relapse occur to make him fall back to what he
was.
He has experienced before, the problems that come from being
too easy going and tolerant about sin. He has learned how if he
is careless about his way of thinking, it soon changes into a
feeling in his heart and then into a desire which flares up within
him. This is how sin begins to dominate him and it becomes
difficult to escape from it.
He therefore examins every thought and feeling carefully.
He is careful about those sins which seem little in significance,
as about those which are significant. His attitude is like that
found in the Song of Songs, when it says: "Catch us the foxes,
The little foxes that spoil the vines ". (Song 2:15)
& to the sin
itself, at its outset, he says: "Happy the one who takes and
dashes Your little ones against the rock " (Ps. 137:9).
By
doing this he is being faithful in little things...
By such careful examination as this, you can test your
faithfulness in returning to God.
For if you are easygoing
about sin and not strict with yourself, you are not being sincere
in your return to God. Your heart is weak inside and will be
easily brought down.
The true return to God is one of strength. It is a return in
which God will give you a strength which you will feel in all
aspects of your spiritual life: the strength to overcome sin, a
strength to grow spiritually and to rise up. As mentioned in the
book of the Prophet Isaiah, "He gives power to the weak, And
45

to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the
youths shall faint and be weary... those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like
eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and
not faint".(Is. 40:29-31).

Samson, the strong man, lost his strength when he sinned,
because the grace of God departed from him. But when he
returned to God, his strength came back to him.

Ask the Lord, then, to give you strength to return and to give
you a strength that will stay with you as you return to Him,
strength from His Holy Spirit... a strength which you can feel in
everything which your hand touches, so that you will be just like
the righteous man mentioned in the first Psalm, "Whatever he
does shall prospers." (Ps. 1:3).

Take for example a person who was very ill but who, after a
blood transfusion, found that his strength and vitality
returned quickly as the new blood entered him.
In just the
same way, the penitent returning to God, will feel his strength
and vitality flowing back to him, through the action of the Holy
Spirit entering him.
Whenever you find yourself feeling weak, look up and say to
the Lord with absolute sincerity: "Why do I feel so weak?
Has your grace left me because I have sinned?' "Restore us,
O LORD God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we
shall be saved!"
(Ps. 80:19) What a beautiful Psalm this is
which the Church sings to God, addressing Him in humility:
"Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from
46

heaven and see, And visit this vine..... which Your right hand
has planted" (Ps. 80:14-15).

Will God return and watch over this vine? Does God want
us to return to Him?

47

God Wants Us To Return
God calls us in love, "Return to Me and I will return to you."
(Mal. 3:7)
; This phrase carries a great deal of emotional
significance:
1. God is reminding us that our true and original state is
with Him and that sin is something foreign that enters us
from outside.

It is as if He is saying to us, Your separation from me is not
your true and original state. Your true position is to be firmly
rooted in me, to abide in me, because I am the vine and you are
the branches. (John 15:5) and in nature the branch is always
firmly attached to the vine. " I am the head and you are the
body, you are the limbs." (Eph. 5:23). So for you to be firmly
established in me is something natural.
I am not calling you, then, to come to me, but to return to
me.

Return to the natural position which has been yours since the
beginning. Return to the divine form which was yours on the
day that you were created. This separation of yours is
something that has happened accidentally, just a temporary
situation. It is not right for you to remain in this state.
48

The life of righteousness and holiness is not something new to
you, but is your original nature in which my relationship with
you began and in which you will live with me in eternity."
2. The words "Return to me" bear proof of God's loving
kindness:

What were we but dust and ashes, before God called us to
return to Him?! It is God's love, which is inexpressible, which
reminds us in the hymn "O my beloved come back to me", that
God wants our relationship with Him to be close and
permanent. He, whose name is Immanuel, meaning `God with
us' (Matt. 1:23)
takes delight in the sons of man. It is He who
says to us, "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that
where I am, there you may be also.." (John 14:3)
It is He who
has made the heavenly Jerusalem, the dwelling of God is with
men and he will live with them. They will be his people and
God himself will be with them and be their God. (Rev. 21:3).
3. It is good if you take the initiative, in your return to
God:

For He is always the one who begins everything and He is the
one who asks and He is the one who calls us to Him. What is
more, He sent the prophets to us for this purpose and laid down
for us the mystery of repentance.He promised us that if we
return, He will forget the past entirely and never mention it
again. (Jer. 31:34).
What does it mean, though, when He says, "Return to me and I
will return to you "? Does it mean that our return must come
49

before His, or that it is a condition of His return?! No, far from
it! All He means by this is to say:
4. My return to you is guaranteed. The important thing is
your return.

At any time that you call me, you will find me with you. In fact
I am standing knocking at the door of your heart, that you
might open it to me (Rev. 3:20). But the difficulty comes from
your side. "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will
come in and eat with him and he with me." That is why I say, "I
will return to you", meaning, open the door of your heart that is
shut against me, then "I will return to you". By this, God means
'I shall enter those hearts of yours, from which you have cast me
out, by rejecting me in your sinfulness'.
'Come back to me, for I am with you, even though you do
not feel my presence'.

St. Augustine was certainly right when he said, "You, O Lord,
were with me, but I was not with you". God is with us and acts
on our behalf, even when we are deep in sin. He is searching
for us even though we have strayed from His fold and He calls
us, 'Come back to me'.
What does it mean, then, that He will return to us, if we return
to Him?
His return to us means that we will feel that He is present
with us.
God's 'return' does not mean that He was away from
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us and is then going to come back. All that is necessary is for
us to become aware once again that He is with us. If this
feeling comes back to us, we will feel that God has returned to
us.
Sometimes we imagine that God has left us, while it is we who
have left Him. This reminds me of a time (in 1957) when I was
so moved by the departure of the sun at the time of sunset and
aware of how wrong we are to think that the sun is leaving us
for the night, that I wrote in my journal: "I said to myself at
sunset: it is not that the sun has hidden its face from the earth,
but rather that the earth has turned its back on the sun".
Yes, the truth is that the sun is fixed! It is The earth that
revolves. What we call the 'sunset' is just an expression for
the revolving of the earth around the sun.

This is analogous to the relationship between us and God. We
feel that He has vanished and left us just because we have
turned our backs and are no longer facing Him.
If we return to God, we feel that He is with us and we feel
His light shining upon us, because God is the same for ever
He does not move around or change "whom there is no
variation or shadow of turning". (James 1:17).

Look, for what has taken you away from God.
Ask yourself at what point on the road did you part from
Him? What sin divided you from Him and His love? know
for sure that this separation has come from you.

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"Remember therefore from where you have fallen ! Repent... "
(Rev. 2:5).

Your feeling that God is far away from you is a feeling that the
intimacy which had existed between you no longer exists, as a
result of the fading of your love for Him, or because your sin
has taken you away from Him.
5. The phrase "Return to me" also carries another emotive
meaning, which is: God wants us to follow Him with all our
hearts and will and love, which is why He says, "Return to
me".

It is as if He is saying, "I cannot force you to love me, nor
would I put pressure on you to form a relationship with me.
The matter depends on your free will. If you want me to return
to you, I shall return to you. And if you do not, then you are
free to follow your own path."
However, a person might say: "I want to but I am weak...,"
In this case, it is enough that you wish to return, God will do
the rest for you. As one of the Saints put it, "Virtue simply
wants you to desire what is virtuous and nothing more than
that..."
Throughout history, it is God who has begun the
relationship with mankind.

It was He who began the relationship with our forefather Noah,
by choosing him saving him and setting him apart from evil
52

and the wicked. It was He who began the relationship with our
forefather Abraham, whom He also chose and set apart from
evil and the wicked similarly with Moses and his people. It was
God who began the relationship with the twelve disciples when
He said to them: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and
appointed you... " (John 15:16).

Trust in God's desire for you to return to Him. At the same
time, know that it is essential that you cooperate with Him
in the desire and the action.
You must believe absolutely that
you need God in your life and that without Him you can do
nothing. (John 15:5)
You must come to understand, from deep within, how sweet it
is to live hand in hand with God and how sublime and beautiful
it is to lead the spiritual life and to return to the image of God,
to that purity and innocence which Adam once had.
You must recall the vows which you made to God at your
baptism,
when you promised to fight the Devil and all his evil
deeds, all his wickedness and stratagems.
That was the time when you made a lovely new beginning,
when you were born again of God and clothed in Christ. (Gal.
3:27)
It was when you shed the old person in order to live a
new life (Rom. 6:4-6) and when you became cleansed of every
sin.
Little by little you forgot your vows and forgot that you were a
son of God. You abandoned your purity and dissociated
yourself from God and now you want to return to Him.
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In order to return to God, remember that you belong to
Him.

You do not belong to yourself and are not free to behave as you
please. You belong to God who created you and who
redeemed you. St. Paul says to us: "Or do you not know that
your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom
you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were
bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in
your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

The Devil has wrested you away from God. But God, out of
his love for you, is holding you fast, because you belong to Him
and He is saying. "Return to Me".
"Return to your purity, which you had before when you
were abiding in me. Return to your calm and peace, for
you will have none without me."

All those who go far away from God, or who are separated
from Him, find no peace for themselves and live wearisome and
troubled lives. St. Augustine experienced this and said to the
Lord, "Our hearts will always be restless, until they find their
rest in you."
The Lord, who wants us to return, says to us, when we are
caught up in the troubles and anxieties of the world, "Come to
Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest ". (Matt. 11:28).

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If you return to God, all your problems will be solved. You
will live without a problem, because the only real problem in
your life is to be separated from God. All other problems are a
result of this. So if you return to God, you will live in peace: in
peace with God and peace with yourself and with peace in your
heart. "This is what the Sovereign Lord... says:
"In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and
confidence shall be your strength." (Isa. 30:15).

Therefore, return to the Lord. Return to the light, so as not to
walk in darkness. Return to the Spirit, so as not to live for
material things, or according to the flesh. Return to life, for sin
is death.
In this way your youth will be renewed like the eagle's.
(Ps. 103:5) You will feel comfort in your spiritual life and
enthusiasm will flow back into you as you go about your daily
affairs. Your life will become interesting and will take on a
purpose. You will feel that God is within you and that He is
with you. You will experience His kingdom and learn the
sweetness of living closely with Him. You will know the
meaning of the phrase, "it is good for me to draw near to God".
(Ps. 73:28).

God wants us to return to Him. He wants us to have
salvation and wishes us to love Him as He loves us.
That is
why He says: "Turn to Me, with all your heart". (Joel 2:12)
And the Divine Inspiration records this beautiful phrase for us,
"Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?"
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says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways
and live?" (Eze. 18:23).

God wants us to return to Him so that we might live... which is
because sin is a state of spiritual death on earth and its
consequence is eternal death.
God wants us to return, then, for our own good.
In addition to this, there is His loving kindness, for He does not
delight at the death of a sinner. The death of a sinner is
something which saddens God's heart, without any doubt.
When a sinner returns to Him, "there will be more joy in heaven
over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons
who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7).

The Apostles rejoiced and told the good news about the return
of the Gentiles, to their disciples. (Acts 19:3).
The Bible uses the term 'return' in connection with the Gentiles,
because faith in God was man's original condition, which
applied to all people, long before the Gentiles separated
themselves from this faith and from God. When they believed,
this was considered return to God. (Acts 15:19).
An important fact which you must understand, my friend,
is that God wants you to return to Him, more than you
want it!

A sinful person may not care about his personal salvation and
may not think of returning to God. Or he may enjoy sinning
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and prefer to continue to sin, feeling that a return to God would
deprive him of all his pleasures.
In all this, God is striving continuously to bring back such a
sinner to Him, by every means.
There are many great stories which show how God strives
after sinners.

In chapter 15 of the Gospel according to our teacher Luke, the
story of the lost sheep and the lost coin are mentioned. St.
John's Gospel mentions how Christ strove to bring back the
Samaritan woman at a time when she had no idea at all that she
would encounter Him.
There is also the way that God stands at the door knocking,
asking the soul to open and let Him in. I'm likely to get carried
away telling you all these examples... The important thing to
note is that all the missions of the Prophets have concentrated
on this subject, which is God's desire that we should return to
Him and not just this desire of His, but also the action which He
takes to achieve it.
At this point, we might ask: 'If our return to God is something
pleasing to Him and God desires it and strives for it and we too
desire it... how then do we return to Him?' Are you wondering:
How do I return to God?
The most effective means to help you return to God is prayer.
EEE
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Prayer Is The Means Of Returning
Pour out your heart before God and say to Him: 'O Lord, I
want you. I want to come back to you. Please rescue me from
my state and draw me back to you once again.
Without you I am nothing. When I lost you, I lost my life.
I lost my happiness and delight. My life became without any
meaning or interest. I want to come back to you, O Lord, but
"those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved " (Ps. 13:5). "
Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in
God."". (Ps. 3:2).

I lost my strength when I went far away from you. Give me
some of your strength. Please give me the divine assistance to
help me to return to you.
Cast yourself before the Lord and wrestle with Him and say to
Him: 'I shall not get up from here unless I have received
your special blessing and feel that you have taken me back
and count me among your children. I do not just want you
to forgive my sin, I want you to remove from my heart any
love of sin, once and for all
. I cannot come back to you, if
there is any love of sin in my heart. What should I do? Should
I wait till the desire to sin has gone from my heart and then
return to You? Yet it is only by You that I can be saved from it!
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So I come to you with my sin, just as I am. You are the one
who can take it from me.
If it were within my power to abandon the love of sin, I
would have returned to you long ago. Save me from it, so
that you can lead me in the procession of your victory.

Take any desire to sin from my heart and remove any
domination which sin might have over my will. "Purge me with
hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter
than snow" . (Ps. 51:7).

Just as you have given me the instruction to return, O Lord,
give me the strength to carry it out.
Believe me, my friends, the person whose prayers are
successful is the person whose repentance is sincere.

St. Isaac The Syrian was right when he said, "Anyone who
imagines that there is another way to repentance besides prayer,
is deceived by the devils". Thus by prayer, you gain the
strength with which to return to God. So force yourself to
pray, rather than to engage in any other spiritual activity. In
your prayers, wrestle with God, struggle with Him and talk to
Him, even when you are still in the state of sin from which you
wish to be saved.
Be determined in your prayers, that you will get from God
the strength to return to Him.

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Some people imagine that when they pray they are giving ...
giving God words, time and feelings. But at its deepest, prayer
is a process of taking, during which you feel that you have
gained from God spiritual delight, blessing, strength, help and
holiness in life. In fact, just for you to have made a connection
with Him during your time of prayer, is enough to bring this
into effect.
God is ready to listen to your prayer and to give, but the
problem is this: that many people, in their prayers, do not
wait until they have received..!

For example, someone might say a few words in prayer, become
bored quickly, or fed up with praying any longer and so he
leaves it without having gained anything..! God looks upon such
a person and wonders, how he could have gone off so quickly
without waiting to receive even a promise or some comfort.
So hold fast to God, and say to Him, "I shall not leave
you... I shall not let you go, until I feel that you have
accepted me and taken me back into your love."

Prayer requires patience. It requires a struggle with God, in
which you must prove that you are serious in what you ask.
You must show that you are serious in your prayer of
repentance and in your request for help to return to Him, so that
when God answers your prayer and gives you strength, you will
use it well and not waste it.
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Talk to God in a very personal way in your prayers and ask
Him: Do the weak fail to reach your kingdom, O Lord? Here I
am, see how weak I am and how incapable of getting there with
my human strength! Hold my hand and do not leave me to my
weakness. Cleanse me and purify me, as you have cleansed and
purified others. Didn't you say, "Ask and it will be given to
you"? (Matt. 7:7)
Here I am asking and didn't you say, ".. my
Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.. "? here I
am making my request.
O Lord, I shall hold on to all your promises and ask you for
them. At least I shall hold on to your words.
"I will give you
a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the
heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
"I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My
statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them".
(Eze. 36:26-7).

Dear Lord, in my case, where are these promises?
Here I am standing here, holding on to the horns of the
alter
. I am not one of those who pray for a couple of minutes
and then leave. I take my stand and wait here for You, O Lord.
I shall not abandon my prayer until I can leave it, feeling that I
have had your grace bestowed on me for my repentance and
until you have taken me back to you.
Nevertheless, dear Lord, please forgive my boldness, for I am
only a child of yours and have just gone astray. Please treat me
as a young son who knows nothing, while You, as a
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compassionate father know how to give your children good
gifts. (Matt. 7:11).
Keep striving with God, as you would with a close loved
one, with persistence, with humility, with perseverance,
with tears and by talking to him and by whatever means
you can, until you receive.

Trust that by such a struggle, you will receive comfort and
enthusiasm, from your prayers or during your prayers and that
you will feel that your state of separation from God is over once
and for all. You will feel, too, that you have not just been
repeating empty words in vain, like the unbelievers, but that you
have been pouring out your whole soul before God, as did
Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
Hannah prayed very hard and wept very bitterly and made very
strong vows and did not leave the temple until she had received
a promise that the Lord would give her the desire of her heart.
(1 Sa. 1:15-17).
Let it be the same for you. Do not leave your prayers,
unless you have formed a new relationship with God and
have returned to Him.

After such prayer as this, it would be highly unlikely that you
would abandon your praying and go off and sin against God!
You would certainly feel ashamed of your prayers and of having
told God, that you would never leave Him.
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This is how prayer teaches repentance and leads the person
back to God and to His love.
But perhaps you might say: "I don't feel like praying at
all."

My advice to you, then, is to pray just as you are and say to
God, "Forgive me, dear Lord, if I pray without enthusiasm, but
I pray out of the emptiness which is in my heart. It is you who
gives me enthusiasm and warmth. It is you who pours your
heavenly fire into my heart. Accept my prayers as they are,
with all their faults. Things never start off perfect, for
perfection only comes from you.
I am praying, even though it is without any spirit! I believe
that you will give me of your Spirit.
I would be mistaken if I
said to you, O Lord, that with my human strength and
willpower I could change into a spiritual person. There is no
way that I could do that, for it is only by Your strength, Your
blessing and grace and by Your Holy Spirit, that I could ever
take on the image which You want me to have. It is only
through Your guidance alone, with You holding my hand,
leading me step by step, as You would lead a little child who is
just learning to walk, that it can happen."
This is how I want you to pray and to receive from the Lord.
Listen, during your prayer, for the voice of God, speaking
in your heart.
As David said in his Psalm, "I will hear what
God the LORD will speak, For He will speak peace To His

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people and to His saints; But let them not turn back to folly"
(Ps. 85:8).

David began the Psalm with a request, then after feeling God's
response, he ended the Psalm in thanks. He said: " O LORD,
do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot
displeasure "
And at the end of the Psalm he says: " Depart
from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the LORD has heard
the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my
supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer "
(Ps. 6: 1&8-9).

This is the sort of prayer which indicates that you feel that
the barrier which has been between you and God has
disappeared
. You feel as if the angels are climbing the steps to
heaven with your prayers and bringing back down to you what
you have requested. (Ge. 28:12).
You feel as if God's hand is stretching out to wipe every tear
from your eyes and as if the prayer of the Prophet David, in his
great Psalm, is being brought into a reality within you. " Let my
supplication come before you". (Ps. 119:170).
You feel, as if
one of the twenty four priests has taken your prayer and placed
it in a golden brazier and raised it as purifying incense to the
throne of God. (Rev. 5:8).
You feel as if one of the Seraphim has taken a burning coal
from the altar and touched your lips with it and has said to
you: "Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged "
.
(Is. 6:7).

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Truly, I say to you, by such prayers you can return to God. Let
us cry aloud to Him, saying: " Restore us, O God of our
salvation," (Ps. 85:4)
and "Restore
our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the South." Then our
mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing ...
" and we will say, The LORD has done great things for us, And
we are glad '" (Ps. 126:2-4).

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Adversity As A Reason
For Returning To God
The troubles which afflict us are not all of one kind:
There are troubles that afflict a person which are like a cross
that he must carry for the sake of God, in order to obtain his
crown, as happened to the Apostles and men of faith.
(Heb. 11:36-7).
Other difficulties are there to test our faith, or to teach us to
pray, (James 5: 13) or that we might have the opportunity to be
examples of patience, as happened to Job. (Job 5: 11). There
are other adversities which are designed to make a person
aware of his weakness and to teach him to be humble, as
happened to St. Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). There are yet other
problems which come upon us because our sins have cut us off
from God's grace. It is this last kind which I would like to tell
you about now.
These adversities which come as a result of our withdrawing
from God's blessing, will not disappear byway of human
wisdom, or through the use of human strength. There is only
one means of solving them and that is by following God's words
to us:
+ "Return to Me and I will return to you." (Mal. 3:7).
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If a person returns to God with prayers and fasting and by
humbling himself and if he returns to Him with sincere
repentance, then he will once again have an awareness of God
in his life. God's grace will return to him as it had been before
and will no longer be withheld from him. Consequently, the
person's problem will also come to an end, as the factors
causing it will have disappeared.
In the book of Judges, there are great many examples
which illustrate this clearly.

The Bible says: "Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight
of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the
LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the
land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the
gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed
down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They
forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And
the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered
them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He
sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that
they could no longer stand before their enemies." (Jg 2:11-14)
The Israelites were unable to stand, since the hand of the
Lord was no longer with them.

When the hand of the Lord had been with them, the Red Sea
had parted for them and drowned Pharaoh and his troops. The
rock had split open to give them water and they had beaten
Og, king of Bashan (Josh. 12:4) and Sihon, king of the
Amorites (Josh. 13:21) and all the nations on the earth.
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On this occasion, however they had been delivered into the
hands of their enemies and had been unable to withstand them.
The word of the Lord stood before them: "Return to me and I
will return to you". When they cried aloud to the Lord, He
heard their weeping and saved them.
How extensive is the Lord's love, even at a time when His
blessing has been withheld! For the Bible says that He came
back and "saved them out of the hands of their enemies ... for
the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those
who oppressed and afflicted them. (Judg. 2:18).
In all your troubles, do not say: "What should I do with my
enemies, who have triumphed over me?" But rather ask
yourself: "Is the hand of God with me or not?
Have I left
God and has His blessing left me, though it was with me
before?" Listen to God's words, "Return to Me and I will
return to you"
and then, quickly return to the Lord and you will
find that the divine aid, returns to you, making you, as it did to
Jeremiah, " A fortified city and an iron pillar, And bronze
walls..... They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail
against you. For I am with you," says the LORD, "to deliver
you." . (Jer. 1:18-19).

The story is repeated in the book of Judges... The people
sinned and did evil and worshipped Baal and the Lord sold them
into the hands of Cushan, king of Aram (Judg. 3:8). Then they
cried aloud to the Lord and he raised up a deliverer for them,
named Othniel and he rescued them.
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The Spirit of the Lord was upon Othniel and the Lord gave
Cushan into his hands, "So the land had rest for forty years".
(Judg. 3:11).

On every occasion that they faced a dire adversity, they
returned to God and He returned and saved them. Then they
went back to their sins and to worshipping idols and so their
troubles returned. This made them cry aloud to the Lord and
He came back to them and rescued them.
As we go through history, we hear about the captivity in
Babylon and Ashur.
This also happened because the Israelites
had done wrong and had worshipped idols. We read in the
Bible of how the children of God wept by the rivers of Babylon
and hung their harps on the poplar trees. (Ps. 137).
Yet all the while they were captives, the phrase "Return to me
and I will return to you" echoed in their ears. During their
captivity, there appeared holy men, such as the prophet Daniel
and the three young men who were in the fiery furnace and the
Prophet Ezekiel and various men of faith, such as Nehemiah,
Ezra and Zerubabel, showed them examples of holy zeal. Then
the Lord returned from the heat of His anger and restored His
captive people.
How did the Lord return to them?
He returned because of the tears of Nehemiah and Ezra.
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When Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem had fallen
and that its gates had been burned by fire, his heart blazed with
anger and he said: " I sat down and wept, and mourned for
many days; I was fasting and praying ..... then I said .. "O
Lord... I confess the sins of the children of Israel which we
have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have
sinned. "We have acted very corruptly against You....O Lord
let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant......"
(Neh. 1:3-11).

And so the Lord returned. He bestowed His blessing upon
Nehemiah before the eyes of the King of Persia and Nehemiah
was able to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there was Ezra, who wept for the sins of his people
and rent his clothes.

At the time of the presentation of the evening sacrifice, Ezra
rose up from his self-abasement and knelt down in his torn
garments. He stretched out his arms to God and said: "O my
God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to
You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our
heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens....... You our
God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and
have given us such deliverance as this, "should we again break
Your commandments...? "O LORD ... You are righteous! , for
we are left as a remnant." (Ezra 9:3-15).

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Ezra fasted and his people fasted with him. (Ezra 8:21) He
wept and he made the people weep bitterly with him. (Ezra 10:1)
The Lord heard and returned to His people.
With his fasting and prayers and weeping, Ezra was able to
bring all his people back to God and God returned to them
.
In the previous stories, the sinfulness of the entire people had
angered God and so His blessing had been withdrawn from
them, yet the prayers and crying of one person were able to
bring God back to His people.
In other cases, it may have been that the sin of just one person
was the cause of the whole trouble, like the sin of Achan, son of
Carmi (Josh. 7) and like the fleeing of the Prophet Jonah from
God (Jon. 1).
Thus return to God, not just for your own sake, but for the sake
of those around you too. In every trouble that surrounds
you and them, consider how you can return to God.

Do not think about those people around you who are causing
you trouble, but think of yourself and of your relationship with
God and of your return to Him. And have faith that the
harshest and most powerful of enemies will not be able to
maintain their stand when a pure eye, flooded with tears, is
raised up to God, or when a pure heart speaks with God, or
when innocent hands are stretched out to Him.
Our relationships with other people are only superficial,
secondary relationships.

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The most important thing is our relationship with God. As for
our relationships with other people, these are only a
consequence of our relationship with God... they change as our
relationship with Him changes.
When the Sabeans took the cattle and the donkeys of the
righteous Job and the Chaldeans took his camels, (Job 1: 14-
17)
he did not complain or blame God that they had taken them,
he just said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away"
(Job 1:21).
Return to God and He will restore everything to
you.
If you return to God, evil and the wicked will have no
power over you.

Not only your enemies who rejoice that you have fallen, will not
have any power over you, but even the Devils will not be able
to overcome you; however much they might surround you, like
bees round a honeycomb, they will die out as quickly as burning
thorns. (Ps. 118). As the Prophet David says: " Many a time
they have afflicted me from my youth; Yet they have not
prevailed against me." (Ps. 129:2).

Niether sin nor lust would be able to overcome you, because
the Lord is with you.
He will give you strength and help and
will lead you in triumphal procession in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). If
His heavenly grace leaves you, then the least thought will be
able to overcome you and will weaken your resistance.
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Then you will hear the voice of the Lord in your ear: "Return to
me and I will return to you". Raise your heart to God and
return to Him, that your strength might come back.
What does the phrase, "I will return to you" mean?
It means, "I will return to you with all my strength and help and
I shall return to you with all my love: and we will be as we were
before. It will be as if your sins had never been." For I will
forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
(Jer. 31:34).
In short, "I will return to you" means, "we shall
be reconciled".
Let us now go on to talk about reconciliation and being at
peace with God.
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74

E
CHAPTER 3
RECONCILIATION WITH GOD
" we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading
through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to

God" (2 Cor. 5:20)..
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Sin Is Contending Against God
It is wrong to put yourself on the opposite side to God.
A sinful person is one who opposes God, who defies Him and
breaks His commandments. He abandons God's will in order to
carry out his own wishes, making himself independent of God
and dissociating himself from God. He loves sin more than he
loves God, however much he might claim, with his tongue, to
love Him!
The sinner flees from God. He does not like to talk with Him.
And if he stands in prayer, then the Lord's words, "This people
honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me,"
(Mark. 7:6)
apply to him. Thus his prayers are without love,
without emotion and without any spirit and are probably only
said for the sake of performing a duty, or to satisfy himself.
The sinner does not talk much about God and does not feel any
loving intimacy with Him. The sinner also feels estranged from
God, because sin has created a barrier separating him from God.
Sin may develop from this level of contending against God, to
the level of actually fighting against Him. St.
James the Apostle talking about this said: "friendship with the
world is enmity with God". (James. 4:4)
and St. John the
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Evangelist says: "If anyone loves the world, the love of the
Father is not in him." (1 John 2: 15).

Since sin is a kind of rift between man and God, we begin
our masses with the prayer of reconciliation.
Before we
raise the Ebrosfarin (large linen covering the oblations) to pray
the mass of the Saints, we pray the prayer of peace and
reconciliation, because we must reconcile the people with God
first of all, before we can pray and before we can offer the
divine mysteries.
Thus we address God, the Son, in the Gregorian Mass saying,
"You interceded for us with the Father and You broke down
the barrier separating us and destroyed the old enmity between
us. You reconciled those living on earth with those in heaven."
The worst aspect of sin is that it is directed against God
Himself:
David, the Prophet, knew this fact well, which is why
he said to the Lord, in his psalm of repentance, "Against You,
You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight ".
(Ps. 51:4).

David had obviously wronged Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba,
Uriah's wife, just as he had wronged himself, by spoiling his
chastity, his purity and his morality. Nevertheless, none of this
was of chief concern to him, when he said to the Lord, "Against
you, you only have I sinned". That is because David could see
that his sin was fundamentally against God, against His
commandments and against His love and as a consequence of
that, it was against others too.
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The righteous Joseph also realised that sin was first and
foremost an offence against God, during the scene with
Potiphar's wife, when he said: "How then can I..... and do
such a wicked thing and sin against God?"
He did not say,
"and sin against Potiphar, or against Potiphar's wife", he simply
said, "and sin against God". (Gen. 39:9). This is because sin is
disobedience against God and opposition to Him. It shows a
lack of love for God and shows that He has been banished from
the individual's heart. It is a rebellion against God and a
scorning of His commandments.
It was for all these reasons that Adam became afraid, after his
downfall and hid from God's sight, for he knew that he had
angered God by sinning.
It is a sad fact that whenever we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit
of God. (Eph. 4:30) The first consequence of sin is that it
upsets God, the second is that it destroys the person. To atone
for the result of the first, burnt sacrifices were offered (Lev. 1).
To atone for the result of the second, sin offerings were
presented (Lev. 4).
The Lord Jesus came to serve as the act of atonement for both
of these sacrifices: so that he would appease the heart of the
angry father, like a burnt sacrifice and so that he would save
mankind, who was doomed, by being an offering for his sin.
Probably what causes most pain of all to a person's heart, is not
only the realisation that he has sinned against God, but rather
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that he has created a rift between himself and God and that God
is no longer pleased with him.
The sacrifice of a burnt offering, in the Old Testament, was
to appease God, to satisfy His angry heart
. Thus the first
sacrifices were made under the Mosaic law. It is mentioned in
the first chapter of the book of Leviticus. It said that "when the
burnt offering was to be presented it had to be offered "at the
door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD" (Lev.
1:3),.
so that it would be acceptable to the Lord." Three times in
the same chapter it is spoken of as, "a sweet aroma to the
Lord." (Lev. 1:9, 13 & 17).

Its purpose was confined to this one point, which was to please
God and fulfil His justice. Its purpose was not to save man,
because that was the intention behind the sacrifice of sin. For
this reason, no one partook of it, as they did of the sacrifices
given for sin. It was consumed entirely by the fire, until it
turned into ashes. (Lev. 5:8 & 13). The fire represented divine
justice.
It is as if the person presenting the burnt offering is saying to
the Lord, as it is being offered: "What concerns me now is
not my salvation, but that you should be pleased."

"What am I but dust and ashes?! I am the person least worthy
to offer sacrifices on my behalf. Whether I am saved or not, is
not my chief concern, but what is most important of all, O Lord,
is that your heart should approve of me. After this do with me
as you wish. I have sinned against you and I want to be
reconciled with you. After I have become reconciled to you,
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will come my request for forgiveness and I know that you will
forgive, without my need to ask."
What you should feel is the kind of feeling felt by a son,
whose only concern is that his father should be pleased with
him. It is not the feeling of the slave, whose only concern is
to be saved from punishment.

Are you as keen as this to please your heavenly father and be
reconciled to Him? Do you strive to heal the rift between
yourself and God? Or do you do like Adam, who fled and hid
himself from God?! Do you say as the righteous Job said, "Is
there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us
both," (Job 9:33)?
Do you feel that sin has put you far away
from God and created a breach between you?
There is something else which I need to tell you about, which is
that:
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Sin Being Unfaithful To God
In general, sin is disloyalty to God and a betrayal of Him. The
sinful person is unfaithful to the love of our compassionate God,
who loved us and showed us the full extent of his love. (John
13:1)
and showered us with His good gifts.
Since God has considered us to be His children and has become
a father to us, when we sin against Him, we are really letting
Him down as a father. When we sin, we are also being
unfaithful to the promises which we made to God at our
baptism and which we have made on those occasions when He
has saved us and which we have made whenever we have taken
the Communion.
We are being unfaithful to God, because we, His children
and chosen ones, join forces with His enemies, the Devils
and we deny Him in preference to gratifying our own
desires.

God asks us to be faithful, saying to each one of us, "Be faithful
until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10).
But we, by sinning, betray this fidelity. Our hearts do no abide
in God's love, but are shaken by every whim and by every
desire. They do not possess that steadfast, faithful love.
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If we sin against God, we are really doing something worse than
His enemies are doing, for their attacks are only considered to
be hostility towards Him. Their enmity does not contain that
element of betrayal which is involved in our sins, because of our
position as sons of God, called after His name. How can we
attack Him like this and join forces with His enemies? How can
we sell our souls, which He bought with His blood and how can
we banish His Holy Spirit from our hearts? Is not all this
considered to be the utmost disloyalty?
Perhaps those who did not know God before have an excuse.
But those who have known Him and lived with Him and
experienced Him and upon whom He has bestowed His holy
mysteries, who have then gone on to reject Him, how can they
not be seen as traitors to His intimacy and love?!
God Himself called this desertion of Him, being unfaithful,
when He said, "For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
Have dealt very treacherously with Me". (Jer. 5:11).

The theft committed by Achan the son of Carmi was considered
a betrayal of the Lord. (Josh. 7:1). And marrying foreign
women was also considered an act of unfaithfulness. (Ezra
10:2).

The Bible says, that king Saul, ".. died for his unfaithfulness
which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not
keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a
medium for guidance " (1 Chr. 10:13).

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The negligence of the priests and the Levites in the service of
the house of the Lord, was considered unfaithfulness, which is
why the good king Hezekiah said, " our fathers have trespassed
and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have
forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling
place of the LORD... and put out the lamps. and have not
burned incense or offered burnt offerings ... " (2 Chr. 29:6-7).
As long as sin continues to be contention against God and
unfaithfulness towards Him, then there must be
reconciliation with Him.

The heart must return to Him and confess its betrayal. It must
feel remorse and humble itself before Him, in order to be
forgiven and so that a new relationship from a faithful heart can
begin.
The intention is that the reconciliation be enduring and
irreversible. Because if you are reconciled with someone and
behave as if you were his friend, but then come back the next
day and upset him and insult him, this is not a real
reconciliation. Reconciliation is the return of love, a true and
lasting love.
The history of sin ends in reconciliation with God. The
amazing thing, however, is that it is God, whom we have
rejected, who strives for this reconciliation by every
available means.

EEE
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God Is Reconciled With Us
What was the work of all the prophets and apostles whom God
sent to the world, except to establish peace between God and
man? Look at St. Paul, who says: " we are ambassadors for
Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore
you on Christ's behalf. Be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20).

It is the Lord Jesus, then, who sends these ambassadors to us,
asking us to be reconciled to Him. What a wonderful love this
is!
It can be quite difficult for you if you decide to go to a person
to make it up. You keep wondering whether he will accept
your overtures of peace or not. Here it is God who wants
reconciliation and who asks for it and who sends messengers for
that very purpose, through whom He works with His grace and
Holy Spirit. He says to mankind, "Come now, and let us reason
together". (Isa. 1:18).

Not only this, but God even strives to be reconciled with those
who are disobedient and stubborn, for He continues: "All day
long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and
contrary people." (Rom. 10:21).

Imagine God stretching out His hand all day long to befriend
these stubborn people. The "all day long" means that He is
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doing it with all His patience and with hopeful expectation. He
does not get tired of striving to reconcile sinners. It is He who
looks at your heart and says: "This is My resting place forever,
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it." (Ps. 132:14).

It is He who says to your soul, which is so precious to Him, "
Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; Forget your
own people also, and your father's house The King will greatly
desire your beauty " (Ps. 45:10-11).

In actual fact, the reconciliation of the Lord with man, was
the reason for the divine incarnation.

Saint James AI-Sarugi said, "There was a rift between God and
man and since mankind was unable to restore peace and be
reconciled to God, God came down to man, in order to be
reconciled to him."
The reconciliation of man with God, is also the aim of the
redemption.

The blood of our Lord Jesus was the price of this reconciliation.
The Apostle says concerning this: For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him ".and by Him to reconcile all things
to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in
heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."
(Col. 1:20).

See how dear the price of your reconciliation was and how
precious your soul is to God. For we " were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son." (Rom. 5:10) "that God was in

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Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their
trespasses to them." (2 Cor. 5:19).

What part did Christ take in this reconciliation? The Apostle
says: "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one,
and has broken down the middle wall of separation... through
the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.." (Eph. 2:14-16).

Christ reconciled us to the Father by putting an end to the
hostility and removing the barrier which divided us from Him.
But we still sin and need to be reconciled with God every
day. This is why there is the "ministry of reconciliation"
which is the work of the apostles and the various orders of
priests.

St. Paul says concerning this, that God "has given us the
ministry of reconciliation"
and that he "has committed to us the
word of reconciliation".
"We implore you on Christ's behalf..
Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:18, 19-20).

All the pastoral work of the priests, preachers and teachers is
this "ministry of reconciliation" in pursuit of peace between God
and man and for the most part, this is also the work of the holy
sacraments.
God wants to be reconciled to you by every possible means.
He says to you: "This rift between us has gone on for long
enough, let us begin a new relationship, however much you run
away from me, even if you go to a distant country, or hide
behind the trees, or take you heart far away from me, I shall
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still send messengers and prophets for the sake of your
reconciliation. I shall send you ministers and shall send you my
blessing. I shall provide the spiritual means and prepare the
opportunities."
What else will God do?
God is also ready to send difficulties, either to us or to our
loved ones, if need be, for the sake of our reconciliation.
Perhaps a person will not come to God out of love, but will
come after a blow of some sort, like Joseph's brothers, who
were led to reconciliation through adversity. (Gen. 44).
The Lord says: ".. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will
deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." (Ps. 50:15).
When
adversities oppress you and you find that only God's tender
loving heart shows you kindness, you will become reconciled
with Him as you remember His love.
Every adversity whispers in your ear: Be reconciled with God.
Remember, too, that God reconciles you to Him, for your own
sake. He also reconciles you to Him in order to restore you, to
cleanse you, to purify you and to make you holy. His love for
you is so great that He will not abandon you, in case you go
astray, or the enemy of Goodness, the Devil, preys upon you.
God is afraid that you will perish if you go far away from Him
and that you will change your principles and ideals and become
like the other people in the world, worldly, materialistic and
concerned with physical things. Thus He seeks reconciliation
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with you in order to save your soul. It would be a great pity if
you were to lose this opportunity to be reconciled with God.
Great are the benefits that you will gain from this
reconciliation.

In making peace with God, you will find forgiveness and
salvation. The Lord will wash you so that you become whiter
than snow. (Ps. 51). He will wipe away your sin and not
remind you of your previous sins. (Jer. 31:34). In
reconciliation you will gain inner peace and you will be
reconciled to your own soul too. There will no longer be a
struggle inside you.
Through reconciliation you will return to God's fold, you will
no longer feel estranged from His house and His kingdom. In
fact you will become one of those who dwells in the house of
the Lord. (Eph. 2:19) Through reconciliation you will win
eternal life, because according to the Lord: "For what will it
profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own
soul?" (Mark 8:36).

If on occasions you spend a great deal of effort to make it up
with other people, with whom you have only a temporary
relationship on earth, then it stands to reason that you should be
much more concerned about being reconciled to God, with
whom you can have an eternal relationship that will never end!
Be sure that you realise, then, how important God is for you
and how important it is for you to be reconciled to Him.
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Just look at how much effort the Lord has spent for the
reconciliation of man, who is really only dust and ashes. But
does man, this pile of dust and ashes, feel the same about
being reconciled with his Creator?!
I fear that what the Lord
said to Jerusalem and her people applies to us: " How often I
wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her
chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
." (Matt.
23:37).

The Lord is standing at the door, but we do not open it to Him.
How can reconciliation take place? What are the obstacles that
hinder some people from responding and what is the solution?
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How Reconciliation Takes Place
The first condition, without which there can be no
reconciliation, is:
1. That you have a sincere desire to be reconciled to God:
The aim of all the means of grace and spiritual influences and all
the other things which are conveyed to us by our spiritual
guides, is to implant this idea in your heart, whereby you say
with sincerity, "O Lord, I want to be reconciled with you." If
your desire is honest and comes from deep within your heart,
then without doubt you will find the means to connect yourself
to God. God Himself will unite you to Him.
2. By having the desire, you begin the process, providing
you are serious in your desire:

There are some people who may say that they want to come
back to the Lord, but they have a thousand voices in their hearts
crying out, "I want to sin".
The desire for reconciliation with the Lord, comes only from
their lips; it is not in their hearts. Someone might say "I want to
be reconciled...", but deep down he does not really want it,
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because being reconciled to God will deprive him of many
things which he loves and will cause him to enter by the narrow
gate, which is against his wishes.
Perhaps the real reason behind all this is a favourite sin within
his heart, or a habit which dominates him, or a fixed
characteristic of his, or an intractable will.
Perhaps the thing that is hindering you from being reconciled
with God, is that you are in the kind of state which our teacher,
St. Paul, described in his Epistle to the Romans: "for to will is
present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not
find.."
(Rom. 7:18) and "For the good that I will to do, I do not
do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. ..... it is no
longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." (Ro. 7:19-20).

If this is your problem, my friend, my advice to you is to:
3. Strive hard to follow God, so that He can change your
heart:

Say to Him, "O Lord, save me from my heart and from my sin
and from my natural inclinations. Let none of this be an
obstacle in the way of my reconciliation with You. You have
changed many peoples' hearts and probably their state were
even worse than mine. I wish that I could be one of those
whose hearts You changed. O Lord, you changed the hearts of
Moses the black, Augustine and Mary the Copt and Arianus and
others... Is it so difficult for You to change my state?"
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Consider my situation to be a complicated one, but when
placed before your boundless power, it will not be hard to
solve.

O Lord, I am unable to restore my own heart and make it
peaceful, which is the first thing that I need in order to be
reconciled with you.
It is only You who can mend this heart of mine and put into it
the holy feelings appropriate for this reconciliation.
My son, why don't you say to God, "give me your heart".
(Prov. 23:26)
"take it as it is..."

Purge it with your hyssop and it will be clean. Wash it and it
will become whiter than snow. (Ps. 51:7). I am not asking you
just to mend this heart of mine, but to create within me a pure
heart (Ps. 51) and give me a new spirit. (Ezek. 36:26). If there
is no love for you in my heart, then please give me this love.

Do not blame me for my lack of love, but just pour out your
love into my heart by the Holy Spirit, according to the words of
your Apostle. (Rom. 5:5).
Consider me as a little child, who wants something but does not
know how to get it; who desires something but is unable to
attain it and "Direct my footsteps." (Ps.119) for I stumble so
often.
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If I am not serious enough about the salvation of my soul, it
is sufficient that you, O Lord, are serious about redeeming
this soul of mine.

If my willpower is not strong enough to save my soul, then
certainly Your grace will be strong enough to save it.

If I do not yet really want to live with You because of the
blemishes in my character, then it will be enough that You
want me to live with You. Your will can do whatever is
necessary.

If You, O Lord, abandon me to my own will and to my
weakness, then I shall perish. Consider me as someone who
is ill, who is not strong enough to heal himself, or to go to
the doctor. Say the word so that your servant will be
healed. (Matt. 8:8).

Offer to the Lord a prayer from your heart, that if your effort is
not strong enough, then your prayer can make up for the
deficiency. For "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous
man avails much." (James 5:16).

In being reconciled to God, do not rely too much on your own
understanding, or on your human strength. "Trust in the LORD
with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
(Prov. 3:5).
Just take from God the strength which will support
your weakness.
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What God wants from you is your heart and will and faith.
What is meant by 'will' is not some tremendous show of strength
and determination, but rather the desire to be close to God. For
a person might be weak, yet God can give him the strength to
act. In fact God Himself might even work through him and
work with him. As St. Paul said: "for it is God who works in
you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13).

God wants your desire for reconciliation, because He never
forces anyone to be reconciled with Him.

If you can offer Him this desire, He will act together with you. I
am not saying that He will do it all alone, otherwise this might
encourage a person not to make any effort. On the other hand,
your effort in working together with Him, will indicate the
seriousness of your desire to be reconciled to Him.
So far, then, we have said that you must have a sincere desire
for reconciliation and that when you are serious about your
desire, you should try to carry it into effect by praying and
asking for help to overcome any obstacles which you might
encounter. What else do you need to do?
4. Avoid anything in the future which might upset God, so
that your reconciliation does not suffer a relapse and you return
to the state you were in before. If you are reconciled with God,
don't then turn back and join forces with His enemies.
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Endeavour to avoid all potential areas of sin, because very often
the heart yearns for God, but then its desire grows cold, under
the influence of some kind of opposition. People are easily
influenced and you can see how easy it is for human nature to
go from one extreme to another, if it has not yet become firmly
and fully established in God.
Make sure that you realise, too, that to be reconciled with God
does not just mean that all you have to do is to say the words 'I
have sinned'. Many people have said this before but have not
benefited from it, because their words were not sincere.
Reconciliation with God means to live a life that is
distinctive by its being one that is pleasing to God.
It means
a productive way of behaviour in which the individual strives, in
practical ways, to please God and win His love. It is not
enough just to be confined to a negative approach, such is not
entering into any new form of hostility towards God, or
opposition to Him. There has to be a positive orientation in
which the reconciliation is turned into love.

5. Therefore I advise you to live within the realm of divine
influence:

Spend your time with God and occupy your thoughts with Him.
Do not let your relationship with God be only for that one day a
week which we call 'the Lord's day', but let it be for the whole
week. Let it be a relationship which lasts a whole lifetime.
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Do not imagine that reconciliation with God just means that you
only ever do what is righteous. It is, of course, very good if
you can behave virtuously, but always bear in mind that virtues
are not the goal but the goal is God Himself.

Virtue, in the sense of doing good, is only a means in which you
can express your closeness to God, but your real goal is to
achieve this closeness with God, in continuous love.
If you follow a life of virtue and righteousness, do not be
tempted to consider yourself more highly, or expect others to
consider you someone special. But rather let it be that by this
piety you become bound much closer to God, so that your heart
becomes worthy to remain in His dwellings. So be very alert
and careful!
Do not leave God's circle for your own personal one, or even
for the one of virtuousness.
Let the center of your interest and the focus of all your efforts
be God and His love. Let your heart always be aglow and keep
your relationship with God always strong.
A mistake which many people make is to practice various
virtues and doing good, but without having an awareness of
God in their lives, or in their emotions. But as far as you are
concerned, say to God: "I want to feel Your presence, O Lord
and I want You to make Yourself known to me. I want to be
alone with You and open my heart to You. I want to love You
more than anyone else and more than anything else. I am
prepared to lose everything for Your sake and I count it all
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worthless in comparison to finding rest in You and finding my
existence in You. (Phil. 3:8).
This is the fervour that comes from reconciliation and
which turns into love.

In this enthusiasm, hold fast to all spiritual means which kindle
your emotions towards God and strengthen your relationship
with Him.
6. Read about the Saints of Repentance who were
reconciled with God and who loved Him.

Mediate on the lives of the Saints and how God filled their
hearts and how eager they became to please Him. Their stories
will kindle within you a love for God and resurrect a love for
goodness hidden in your heart. For there exists deep within
everyone, however much he falls into sin, a longing for
goodness. For God created man in His own image and likeness
and evil is something extraneous which intrudes into the human
character.
Whenever a person does something bad, he hears a voice
inside him protesting against it and there comes a time
when he can no longer silence this voice.

When he reads the biographies of the Saints, or sees an example
of true virtue, his heart will easily be stirred from within and he
will feel his inferiority. His eyes will be filled
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with tears and he will acknowledge that spiritual excellence is
truly the highest thing of all, whether he aspires to it and
progresses towards it or not. Any person who is enslaved to a
particular desire, must have inside him something which
protests against it, however much he tries to ignore it.
7. In your reconciliation with God, do not feel any regret at
those pleasures of the world which you have left for His
sake. For these are wars from Satan.

Do not be like Lot's wife, who looked back as she was leaving
Sodom. (Gen. 19:26) On the contrary, you should rather feel
happy that you have been saved from this past. The sinner loses
any sense of his own worth in his own eyes and in the eyes of
others.
If Satan tempts us to sin now, he will condemn us with it on the
Day of Judgment before God and other people and he will
consider us to be among his troops because we were led by him.
He will consider himself to possess any of our limbs or organs
that have submitted to him. We can remain hopeful of success
in our fight against the Devil, if we remember what our Lord
said about him: "for the ruler of this world is coming, and he
has nothing in Me.." (John. 14:30).

8. If you are reconciled with God, take care to continue
your reconciliation. Give a considerable thought to the
prospect of eternal life and the kingdom of God.

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Let your thoughts be far-ranging and not confined only to those
few days which we live on earth, with all their ties to material
things and the body. If you have laboured for the Lord and
have carried a cross in your reconciliation with Him, then say to
yourself that: " I consider that the sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall
be revealed in us".. (Rom. 8:18).

Those who live in a good relationship with God live fixing their
eyes "not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but
the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:18).

9. Be on your guard against new concepts which might
upset your spiritual balance,
Which say to you: What is wrong in doing this? or which play
down the enormity of sins, or which call them by another name
or offer justifications to excuse them all. Under such influences
sin no longer appears to be wrong and the spiritual feeling
disappears and the person does not feel that he is upsetting God
in any way by what he does. He probably imagines that God is
angry with him for no reason at all!
A person in this state, therefore, does not find any justification,
or see any reason, for asking for reconciliation, since he does
not feel that he has done wrong! One of the obvious and
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essential conditions or reconciliation, though, is for the
individual to feel sorry for his sins. This can only come about if
a person holds fast to the proper healthy spiritual values which
the Saints have handed down to us through their examples and
through their words and their lives.
10. Be quick to respond to the voice of God in your heart.
If you hear the voice of God inside you calling you to Him, do
not ignore it, or be slow to respond, lest your heart should
harden and you lose the spiritual effect. As the Apostle said:
"Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion." (Heb. 3: 5).

11. One of the basic conditions of reconciliation is that you
must prefer God to yourself.

The most dangerous thing that hinders reconciliation is that you
prefer what you want, to what God wants and that your self
becomes an idol which you worship. For as long as you seek to
please yourself in everything, you will not be able to be
reconciled with God. It is good for us to bear in mind what our
Lord Jesus said: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mark
8:34).
Even in the Lord's prayer which He taught us, He put
our own personal requests at the end, while what pertains
especially to God is at the beginning.
To deny yourself on earth, is to win yourself in heaven.
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This is why the Lord said to us: "For whoever desires to save
his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will
find it." (Matt. 16:25).
And He also said, " He who finds his life
will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it"
(Matt. 10: 39).

What have you lost for the sake of the Lord? What lengths have
you gone to for His sake?
If you truly wish to be reconciled to God, then remember this
principle and keep it in your heart.
God first, others second and yourself last of all.
Be reconciled to God and reconciled with others and then you
will be at peace with yourself and heaven and earth will be at
one with you.
12. When you are reconciled with God, be prepared to feel
a change in your life.

Do not carry on living in the same way, with the same character
and behaviour and thoughts, but let your reconciliation with
God change your life, for the better. That personality of yours
which Satan used to dominate before, will become a character
which possesses the strength to fight the devils and the humility
to stand before God. It will show a spirit of love, service and
tolerance in its dealing with others.
May the Lord be with you.
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Document Outline

  • BACK TO MAIN MENU
  • RETURN TO GOD
    • CONTENTS
    • INTRODUCTION
    • CHAPTER 1
      • SIN IS BEING SEPARATED FROM GOD
    • CHAPTER 2
      • THE RETURN TO GOD
    • CHAPTER 3
      • RECONCILIATION WITH GOD



Memorial for HH Pope Shenouda

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