Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Prodigal Returns

Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel of Luke begins with Jesus telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, then the parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the parable of the Prodigal Son. All three focus on the joy of finding that which was lost, and more specifically, the rejoicing in Heaven over each sinner who repents.

As I read the story of the Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own journey toward my Heavenly Father. I suppose each and every child of God can do the same. Reading this Parable brought to mind the months before I placed my faith in Christ. Our stories are similar. Like the younger son in the story, I took for granted all that I had been given. Just as he left his home and family, thinking that with his share of the family fortune he could find happiness in a distant land, I walked away from my home and family, searching for that elusive “something” that would give me the peace and joy that I longed for.

The Prodigal thought that all he needed was money to make his dreams come true. Off he went, searching for those greener pastures that he believed would satisfy his heart’s desires. Aren’t we all the same? Doesn’t mankind come up with countless ways to try and fill that God shaped vacuum that we are all born with? God gives each of us life and breath, opportunities and countless blessings. Yet in our blind, spiritually dead condition, so many of us end up in the swine pen, having failed to arrive at that place of promise, being led there by selfish motives and ignorance of the truth.

In my own swine pen experience, I awoke one day to realize what I had thrown away. The reality of my loneliness was like a cold lump in my gut. I staggered under an overwhelming sense of shame and regret, realizing the foolishness of my decisions, and the conviction that I was a sinner without hope. I can relate to that wayward son, as he sat in the muck, impoverished of body and spirit. He had thrown away what was good, and spent all he had, only to end up with nothing, no one, and nowhere to go.

And like the Prodigal, I too had a change of heart, a turning away from the selfish, foolish path that I was on, toward the outstretched arms of my Heavenly Father. For both that wayward son and myself, there was a happy ending; a homecoming where we were welcomed into an embrace of mercy and forgiveness. But it didn’t have to turn out that way. For countless others, their swine pen experience is only another step on the road to perdition. Instead of realizing their folly, being humbled and seeking forgiveness, they become bitter, or desperate, or further deluded to the true nature of their situation. Their hearts, instead of softening toward God, become hardened. Their final destination is not an eternity in glory, but one of never ending separation from the grace they shunned.

Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring us “to ourselves”; that is, to see our true state as lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Had God not intervened and awakened me from my death stupor, I would have carried on, blindly stumbling toward a lost eternity. Instead of a worldly sorrow, however, the Holy Spirit brought true conviction for my sin. His work in a heart brings one low, so low that you lose every shred of pride. Like the Prodigal, you are ready to confess all, admit that all is due to your own folly, and come begging for mercy, even to be as a hired hand in your own father’s house.

Repentance leaves no room for pride. It casts it out as the stumbling block to salvation that it is. When we, like that lost son, are brought to our senses, we know that our only hope is the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ. Like that boy, we bow the knee, admit our sin, and seek to be brought into the Father’s favor.

And like the father in the story, our Father is quick to embrace, quick to forgive, and quick to rejoice in our newly found, newly saved state. We were, after all, dead. Dead in our trespasses, without hope. But now we are made alive in Christ, and clothed with His robe of righteousness which covers all of our sin stains. That muck of sin and despair, like the muck that the Prodigal wallowed in, filled with grief and regret, is washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

Thank God for His marvelous grace! Thank Him for his kindness that leads us to repentance! If you are His, thank Him that He did not leave you to continue down a path of destruction, but like the Prodigal, He brought you to your senses, and welcomed you home with joy and celebration. Pray for those that you know who have yet to be brought to life, who continue blindly down that broad path to eternal death. Pray for God’s grace to stop them in their tracks, and send them into the safety of His welcoming embrace.

But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15: 22-24)


Anonymous said...

Isn't it strange that somehow, so often, the prodigal turns into the elder brother once he settles back into his father's house.

Maureen said...

Anon, not strange, but sad perhaps. If only that "laid low" attitude would continue, but pride is a monster that will continue to raise it's ugly head. Thank God for His ongoing, loving chastisement.

Anonymous said...

i can relate to anonymous, having "older brother syndrome" myself.
Well written dear sister,


Anonymous said...

“I can feelingly say, he hath proved himself stronger than I and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He tells me (and enables me to believe it) that I am fair, and there is no spot in me. Though an enemy, he calls me his friend; though a traitor, a child; though a beggared prodigal, he clothes me with the best robe and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand. And though I am sorely distressed by spiritual and internal foes, afflicted, tormented and bowed down almost to death with the sense of my own present barrenness, ingratitude and proneness to evil, he secretly shows me his bleeding wounds and softly and powerfully whispers to my soul, ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul. On this I ground my hope, often times when unsupported by any other evidence, save only the Spirit of adoption received from him. When my dry and empty barren soul is parched with thirst, he kindly bids me come to him and drink my fill at the fountainhead. In a word, he empowers me to say with experiential evidence, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and amen.”

Joseph Hart (1712-1768), quoted in Peter C. Rae, “Joseph Hart and His Hymns,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 6 (1988): 22-23.

covnitkepr1 said...

I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now ("the upward call" since August)and would like to invite you to visit my blog and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.
I have moved my following status over to this blog as the other seems to be inactive.