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Saturday, January 7, 2017

1-712017  The Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-24 (a paraphrase)
The younger of two sons asked his father for his inheritance so his father divided his goods and gave his son his due.  Shortly after that, the young son gathered all his possessions and traveled to a far country and while there lived a free and wild lifestyle spending all his money.  After a while, a famine came upon that country and the young man couldn’t afford what he needed so he hired himself out to a citizen of that country who set him to work in the fields and the pig sties.  To keep from starving, all he had to eat were the same husks the pigs ate for no one shared with him, all his friends were gone.

One day, he began thinking about how well off his father’s servants were, especially compared to his current situation and decided to return home apologizing for being so head strong and going out on his own.  Perhaps his father would bring him on as a hired servant, which was certainly better than what he was experiencing.  So he repented in his heart and returned to his father’s house.
His father saw him coming at a distance and had compassion for his son and ran down to greet him 
and hugged him and kissed him. 

The son said “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and in your sight and am not worthy to be called your son.”

But his father commanded his servants to bring the best robe for his body, a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet and that they should kill the fatted calf and have a party because his son who was once dead, is alive, who was lost but is now found.  And they all rejoiced at the son’s return.

This story is considered to represent a sinner who has come into the kingdom of God, but how many of us have really thought about what this parable really?   It truly represents the story of a Christian who has strayed from God, repented and come back into the kingdom, he was in his father’s house, left, then came back.

We can draw five realities from this story: 

1                     A Christian, someone who has expressed belief in Jesus Christ and who is awaiting reuniting with Christ in eternity as he abides in God’s kingdom in this world.

2                     We see a person who becomes head strong, self-sufficient, deciding he really doesn’t need God so he sets out to do his own thing, in his own strength.

3                     We see one who suffers the consequences of his decision.

4                     But (by the grace of God), he realizes the error of his decision, again repents his sins and comes back into the kingdom of God.

5                     Upon ‘true’ repentance, how was he received back into the kingdom of God?  With open arms and rejoicing.

Let’s briefly, but hopefully thoroughly, examine each point of these five points.
1                     We’re talking about a ‘Born’ again believer, one who has confessed his sins, repented, received Jesus by speaking the words (Romans 10:9) and been baptized in water for repentance (Matt. 4:11).  And maybe this person has also been baptized in the power of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5-8). 

This is a soul who prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and believed. Perhaps he lives, somewhat, for Jesus, doing the right things, honoring God, ministering to those in need and in general, not sinning (not lying stealing killing, etc.), attends church regularly, and, my goodness, maybe he even tithes ( a true ten percent!)   Maybe this soul was doing all the right things, but he wasn’t truly walking with God.  He does right but has no real relationship with our Creator. At best he has a surface relationship, serving God from a distance but not one with any depth, closeness or real meaning.  Whether he realizes it or not.

2                     Without a close walk with the Lord, we (Christians) may become self-confident, maybe even thinking that’s “It’ all me, “I” can do it all – by myself” because we have become ‘comfortable’ with where God has us.  God starts to become a lesser part of our lives and we begin wandering out there in our own strength.  How far do we wander?  That varies from person to person.  Nonetheless, we find ourselves relying on God less and less, maybe even stop attending church.  Perhaps our prayer life dwindles - to nothing.  God becomes an afterthought because we believe “I can do it all!”  So we set out on our own, doing our own thing irrespective of God’s will for us.  And we eventually find ourselves in trouble (Hosea 13:6-9, Psalms 81:11-13).

3                     Apart from God, doing as WE wish, we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7), bad decisions bring bad results as we find ourselves totally out of God’s will.  Once we’ve walked away from God, the enemy may back off from us, letting us wallow in our own muck (Gen. 3:1-6, Gen. 3:16-24), as our decisions gradually start bringing us down.  Like the prodigal son, maybe we lose all our money and our friends becoming destitute and lonely.  Maybe not, but our life is clearly not what it used to be, or should be and times are definitely not the greatest. 

4                     When we are truly broken and can take no more we may come to true repentance.  Maybe we get so low all things seem hopeless, but God will not leave us out there (2 Peter 3:9, Romans 8:34) unless our minds become reprobate (Romans 1:28) and absolutely refuse God’s attempts to bring us back into His kingdom.  Our redemption comes when we realize that if we repent, maybe we can come back into the grace of God (Luke 15:17-19) and be received, even as the lowest of servants.  We become humble (Micah 6:8) in our spirits and our actions, true repentance.  As used here, ‘humbly’ is the Hebrew word tsuna (Strong’s 6800), to humiliate, humble, be lowly.  We have to become broken.  We come to actually realize who God is, who we are and swallow our pride and realize that we are truly nothing in the sight and presence of God, our Savior.  Then we come with true repentance before God, expressing our heartfelt sorrow (for our ways) determining to turn from our ways and come back to God (2 Chron. 7:14, change ‘land’ to ‘life’).  We also have King David’s relationship with Bathsheba is an example to encourage us (2 Sam. 11:1-17, 2 Sam. 11:27-2:1-23) where David committed adultery with his general’s (Uriah) wife (Bathsheba) who from the union bore a son to David.  The child became sick so David repented and prayed God may have mercy on the child.  God didn’t.  Upon realizing this, David cleaned himself up and went back about his business.  Even so, God called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22) because even though he (David) erred, he would come back, seeking God’s heart (will).  If you remember what happened, after all the repentance, God blessed David and Bathsheba, later, with another son – Solomon (2 Sam. 12:24)

5                      Rewards of returning into God’s grace, fellowship with Father.  This is what humbling ourselves in true repentance before God is all about because then all heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7 & 10) and not only sinners, but Christians who repent and come back into proper alignment with Jesus (Romans 12:1-2).  AS in our passage here, the reward of coming back into God’s will is a feast, a celebration, a party like none before because we are back in God’s will.  Father WILL lift us up (1 Peter 5:6) as we humble ourselves before Him.

Even though we may be ‘born again’ believers, we can stray from God.  We can take our inheritance and run, avoid God’s will for us like Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3).  Paul tells us we wrestle daily with our flesh as our spirit tries to do the right thing (Romans 7:14-25).  We wrestle constantly but unless we become truly reprobate we can always repent our sins and come back into the kingdom of God (1 John 1:9, John speaks to Christians, not the world).  A true reprobate is one who is totally and completely morally corrupt.  His heart will never turn back to God.  When does one reach this point?  I can’t say.  Only god knows for He alone knows our heart (Luke 16:15) for one may seem to be reprobate but not be.  Whom do we listen to?  God or mammon?  Father or the world?  We can’t serve both (Matt. 6:24). 

But when we acknowledge that we have been out of God’s will and determine to come back to our Father’s house (His will), He will receive us with open arms.  And as brothers and sisters, we should do the same.  If god forgives a child, the church should also receive that soul back into the fellowship – no strings attached.

We come back into God’s fellowship, into “New Beginnings”.
January is the first month of the new year. 

On the first day of creation, God began creating all that is and each successive day He added new details. 

One is ‘new beginnings’.  Expect something new, new blessings, new situations, new tasks, new start in life, old things carried to a new level.  This is a time to rise to fulfill the expectations we have and/or to rise the new levels as God reveals His expectations for us. 

That covers the month of January but let’s expand this and cover the year.  This is 2017, Father says take this in two steps: ‘20’ and ’17. 

Twenty is redemption, the perfect waiting period
Seventeen is ‘victory’.

The waiting period is over and God is bringing redemption throughout the year 2017 – to His church! 

We are entering into a new beginning of our lives, our relationship with God, Almighty.  The things we can expect is our complete redemption into God’s presence.  How can I be ‘redeemed’ into God’s presence?  As we yield our lives over to Him, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we are redeemed from those ‘old’ things still in our lives and brought closer into the presence of our Lord and Savior.  As we draw closer to Jesus/Father, God’s victory (for us) will be manifested into our lives, in this world and with the anticipation of being with the Father, through Jesus, in His kingdom.  In this world AND the next.  Father wants His kingdom manifested here and now, in this world AND He wants it to be a reflection of His kingdom to come.  New blessings, new situations, new tasks are on their way as we yield ourselves to Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Who lives within us and 
Father WILL show us His victory. 

This applies to us as individuals but as we (individually) grow, what else will happen?  Each fellowship that we are a part of will also grow, because we grow.  As each fellowship grows the church, the body of Christ, grows - in relationship and strength we grow closer go Father through Jesus Christ our Lord because the Holy Ghost is alive and well in our hearts.
The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).  Father knows our hearts.

He clearly sees who we are and knows where He wants to take us (Heb. 4:13)
So let us hold fast to our faith knowing that Jesus has walked a mile (or two) in our shoes staying true to Father (Heb. 4:14-15).

So we can come boldly before the throne to obtain mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16)
Whether we are a prodigal son or not, these are times of new beginnings.  Let’s pursue the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and spirit  (Matt. 6:33, Luke 10:27).


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