Sunday, 13 March 2022

The Prodigal Son

 Scripture:  Luke 15 v 13 - 19: "And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

The story of the Prodigal Son portrays what happens to us spiritually when we "do our own thing" and live independent of God's Word.  Not only the Bible but His specific word to every one who has made a born again commitment to Him.

If we have chosen to live our own life without heeding the infallible Word, or resisting a calling upon our hearts, we spiritually depart to a far away place.  When we have come to an end of all we once held dear, we begin to hunger.  Not for food on a plate, but for Jesus Himself, our Bread of Life.

Sometimes our stubborn pride coupled with shame keeps us feeding those swine until we come to complete humility and despair.  When the emptiness overwhelms us there is only one direction left to travel, back to our Father.  Many people get totally depressed and believe they are lost forever.

Although at best we expect to be servants to Him, under condemnation even, but He elevates us back to Sonship (or Daughtership) by clothing us with love and dignity, and giving us the Lamb.  He knows our every need and we have learned that the world is an unkind place without Jesus.

1 John 1 v 5 - 7: "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

Verse 7 clearly reveals whether we or others are walking in the light of Jesus.  We have fellowship with one another.  This is not camaraderie, or worldly conversation, or party time.  True fellowship has Jesus in the very midst of even two or three Christians, sharing things out of the Word, and spiritually uplifting each other.  In that anointing troubles, errors or sins are exposed and dealt with through the power of the Blood of Jesus.

In the parable both sons were equally far removed from the joys of the father’s house. True, the elder son was not in the far country, yet he was only at home in theory. “These many years do I serve thee, and yet . . .” (Luke 15:29)—his heart had not found rest. His theoretical position could never, as did the prodigal’s, come to be enjoyed by him while he still clung to his own good works.

The younger son was all wrong, but he came home, and he found rest—and that is where Christian life begins. “God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us . . . made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” 

When we depart as prodigals we are like Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden to work and farm by the sweat of our brow.  In Eden it was all given by God.  Outside its got the Law written all over it.  Rules and regulations that cost us freedom if we break them.

Let us rather go through the trials of the prodigal son and learn valuable lessons.  How much better to bereceived back into the Father's bosom, than be the elder brother, complacent and selfish yet spiritually unfulfilled....You never killed a fatted calf for me!  That reveals his bitter disappointment, and jealousy.  He felt entitled, as the firstborn, but, like Cain, his accomplishments were unappreciated.

There was no true repentance in the older brother because of self-righteousness.  So he never had real fellowship with Jesus, but did  know when his brother returned, that he had found that elusive unity with God that was missing in his own experience.  Matthew 7 v 14: "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

We may find salvation and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, even as the older brother had, but that closeness that John, Peter and James had with Jesus, was above what the rest of the twelve had with Him.  The strait gate is discipline, the narrow way is holiness, we need to press into God with seeking hearts to truly know it.

The Father said to the elder son, everything I have is yours, but your brother was lost, dead to us, and now he is alive again, worthy of joy and blessing.  The Prodigal found the true life by seeing how depraved and worthless he had become, and what he had lost, and he had the courage and determination to make that hard journey home.  

The Prodigal was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit.  He knew he was forgiven and though flawed, he was loved and accepted.  The elder son has no such assurance.  He was like churchgoers who have never entered into fellowship with the Father and Jesus.  They attend every meeting or service but the joy, the life, the spiritual witness of salvation is missing.  They have made mental assent to the Saviour but it has never touched their hearts.

I have come across a number of these "elder sons" over the years.  One of the most memorable was when I was asked to preach to an all African group just days before Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

It was in a city 400 miles away, and I had had a rough day with car break down, stormy weather, delays and frustrations.  Not a good temperament to address mostly strangers with an encouraging word from God.  I had had no chance to prepare a message but when we are at our weakest Jesus is at His strongest.

After greetings and opening prayer I said to the Lord, wherever this Bible opens I will simply read that page, please fill me with whatever You want them to hear.  The Bible opened on the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus.  One came back to thank Him and he got all his missing parts restored.

Out of my mouth the Lord spoke and said, For years you have been oppressed by apartheid and indignity, but now the wheel has turned and freedom lies before you.  Just as the lepers were healed, I will heal your hearts.  Those who come back to thank Me will be made completely whole.  

There was more but that was the crux of it.  I left the African township with peace in my heart.  The next morning I went to say farewell to my friend who worked in a large local store.  As I entered I asked where I might find her.  

I was asked if I was Brenda who had preached in Rocklands the night before.  I said yes and this African lady began to rejoice.  She had not been in the meeting but the whole night long, she said, my (Jesus') words had travelled from house to house throughout the Township.  

She even gave me word for word what had been preached.  For years afterwards I would get telephone calls from that city, from African people, who just wanted to hear the voice of the person who had given them those words of hope and wisdom.

It was so humbling because I was so out of it.  However, I was thankful to be in that place at that time as a vessel the Lord could use to encourage the downtrodden.  He knows how to uplift the prodigal, but the thankless miss out.

We never know exactly when the Lord will take our chipped and leaky vessels and fill them to overflowing with His pure grace and goodness, but when it happens we are left in awe just like the Prodigal Son must have been. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, there are many of both types of brothers in need of different kinds of ministry, healing and deliverance.  Open our eyes to those who need whatever gifts, prayer or just love to draw them back to You.  In Jesus' name. Amen.