Have you ever seen two kids grow up in the same home and wonder how in the world they could be so different? In the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus creates quite a contrast between two sons raised in the same home by the same father. One son, the younger, is extremely immature and gets Dad to give him his inheritance prematurely. He proceeds to move far away from home, and then burn through the money with wasteful extravagant living. The older brother is a rule follower. He claims that he “never once broke the rules.” (Luke 15:29) When the younger son finally comes home, the older son becomes angry.
This story that Jesus told pretty much describes us today. There are a lot of Christians wasting their lives with prodigal living, and there are a lot of Christians who are professional rule followers, or at least they think they are. There also are some, though it be a much smaller percentage, which have the heart of the Father. They simply want to bring people into a real deal relationship with the Father. In this story, it is really important to see that neither son really knew their dad. I have been each son for certain periods of my life. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must evaluate your heart and see if you are like either of these sons. If you are, you must go directly to God, repent, and begin a real authentic relationship with Him. The story makes a very clear point; God is always, always willing to receive you.
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired servants.” — Luke 15:19
This verse says so much about immature Christians today. When I first received Christ in my life at 16, I did not believe that a loving Heavenly Father was receiving me. I believed that I was simply being forgiven for my sinful ways. I also believed God was very strict and that I needed to start trying harder and doing better. I still wonder why I thought this way. Looking back, I think I looked around me and looked at other Christians to figure out how I needed to live. Most of the Christians that I knew lived clean, followed the rules, and never sinned . . . or so I believed. I can’t remember anyone ever telling me that they themselves struggled to live out this Christian life. So many would preach against sin and were quick to point out mine. For some reason, I just couldn’t stop coming back to God for forgiveness. Even though I was miserable, I really believed in my heart that He was the only way to be saved.
If I had really studied Luke 15, I would have known. All the Father wants from me is to come home to Him, allow Him to cover my filth with His robe of righteousness, and enjoy Him. The only thing the Father was interested in doing was celebrating the fact that His son came home. If this is really the way God is, all I had to do as a prodigal who came home is celebrate with Him. Not follow rules, not do better, not try to adjust my behavior . . . just enjoy being home with the Father. Following the rules would come much, much later, and I would follow them because I wanted to, not because I felt forced to.
We don’t teach this in church. We have preconceived ideas of what it looks like to be a Christian. Most of it probably comes from what we heard and were taught growing up. I guess it is just easier to teach conformity to the rules. The major, major problem with this is that there are prodigals refusing to come home because they honestly believe Christianity is impossible.
If you feel far away from God, He is right there waiting for you to make a move towards Him. He doesn’t want you as a hired servant. He is not looking for someone who follows rules perfectly. He’s looking for sons and daughters who enjoy being at home and celebrating with Him. He will not force Himself upon you, but He sure will love all over you the moment you decide to come home.
Next week, I plan on writing about the other brother.