Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Lessons From the “Prodigals”

Most of us know the story from Luke 15 known as the “Prodigal Son.” The title of this post will confuse some while others will smile and understand it completely

Simply stated, a Father had two sons and the younger of two sons approaches dad asking for his inheritance which his dad gives. A few days later the young man took his money, his inheritance and went to a distant place where he wasted all he had in ‘wild living.’ When the money was gone, so were his friends. Broke, the boy wound up in a pigpen eating the same slop as the pigs.

The Bible says that when he ‘came to his senses’ (that phrase is a sermon unto itself), he got up and went home to his father because he knew that His father’s servants had better living conditions than what he was enduring. Arriving at home, he asked to be received as a servant. Yet his dad, who had been and was still watching for this rebellious boy to come home, received him as a son. A ring, a robe, and shoes were brought and placed on the boy as symbols of sonship. By the way, dad threw a party! All was well until the older son, the one who had never left, came in from the field.

The attributes, attitudes, and actions, of the older brother are seen in stark contrast to that of the Father. Quite likely, the older son didn’t care if his young brother ever returned or not. At the same time, dad was watching, waiting, and praying for his boy to come home. The older brother was possibly relieved to have his younger brother out of the house, while the father couldn’t rest knowing his boy was “out there.”

This is a story which Dr. Luke recorded in what we know as the 15th chapter of the gospel that bears his name. It is a story, some call it ‘a parable’, told by our Lord and the lessons we can learn or the meanings we can extract from this story are endless. Consider a few truths and let them be branded into your spirit because in our ‘spirit’ is where ’life change’ happens.

First, we discover, the Spirit of the Younger brother (SYB) which is indeed prideful and rebellious. When he asked his Father for ‘his’ inheritance, he was exposing his deep-seated attitude of pride, conceit, and arrogance. An inheritance is not granted until someone is dead. So, the attitude he communicated was, “In my eyes you are dead.” The SYB is exposed in us when we become rebellious against our Heavenly Father through our disobedience or when we commandeer His church to achieve our wants, or even when we decide we know better than Him. We do this when we think we serve Him and are faithful to Him, but we do it on OUR terms. Like the Younger Son, this may work for a season, but generally, when we go our own way and do our own thing, we, like the younger son, find ourselves in a proverbial pigpen.

Not to be missed, the Spirit of the Older Brother (SPOB) is also prideful and calloused. Though he had never left home, though he never asked for his inheritance, and though he gave the appearance of being the ‘faithful & honorable’ son, deep inside he harbored bitterness and resentment against his brother who had left home. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that this was tantamount to murder. The SPOB is content to dismiss the wayward and is okay with letting the younger brother stay in the pigpen. The SPOB makes it ‘all about me and my friends.’ Could this be what is going on inside of many institutional and generational churches today? I am not intending to be mean-spirited, just asking needed questions. Could the reason be that so many churches spend most of their time and energy on ‘taking care of us’ that we have unwittingly, unknowingly, and unsuspectedly embraced the Spirit of the Older Brother? Is it possible that this is why the prevailing notion, inside the church, seems to be, “What’s in it for me?” One thing we should be warned about; “The Spirit of the Older Brother” is more contagious than the pandemic flu and causes greater destruction. The SPOF is just as much about pride and rebellion as is the SYB.

Contrast both of those with the Spirit of the Father (SOF) which is a spirit of love, concern, and above all, forgiveness. He is concerned about people being in the far country, whether they journeyed there in open rebellion, whether they fell into sin, or whether from ignorance. The Father is lovingly watching for them to return and deeply desires to draw them back into His house. Wherever they have been and whatever they have done, He offers enough forgiveness through His mercy and grace, to fully restore them into His household. My second grade teacher (who was also my Sunday School teacher), MS Hannah Dobson, gave to me a great picture of the Father looking for the prodigal by taking her right hand and placing it over both eyes as if shielding out the sunlight to see a long way down the road to catch a glimpse of the wayward finally coming home. Painting that picture, she taught us that, “When the Father caught a glimpse of the wayward son coming home, He didn’t wait for the boy to get inside the yard, rather He ran to meet the boy because of His joy that the lost son was found and coming home.”

The SOF has been felt by any parent who has gone through the agony of having a wayward child. Tears flow when that lost soul comes home. We do not wait for them to walk in the door, we meet them in the driveway with tears of joy. This is the SOF when a lost soul comes home.

HOW ABOUT ONE FINAL CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: The Father always throws a party when a lost person comes home. God, our Heavenly Father, doesn not get too excited about ‘they style of music’ we sing, the ‘style of worship’ we experience, whether our buildings are air conditioned (or not), whether our church is the ‘coolest in the area’ or is known to be the ‘cutting edge’ church, or even whether our congregation is the ‘biggest & best;’ what the Father gets excited about is when a “lost person finds his way home.” The Bible says, “Even the Angels in heaven rejoice.” The reason they rejoice is that the Father is rejoicing. He rejoices when the lost is found and the dead is given life. To the younger brother or to the older brother the message is the same, “Come Home.”

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