Many of us know the story of the prodigal son. If you are not familiar with it or need to be refreshed, please read it below. God shared some interesting thoughts with me just a bit ago on this story and it is NOT the typical way we all look at this story....
Luke 15:11-32 (KJV)
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me(inheritance). And he divided unto them his living.
13 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.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid(goat), that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Most of the time we look at this story and how it applies to other people... to people that once believed in God and, say attended church... and have now "gone astray." We typically think of people that might consider themselves atheists.
I don't quite know why I was thinking about this story this morning but, what came to mind was how this story applies to people that call themselves Christians...
This ties in a bit to something else I wrote recently entitled "No turning back..." (<<----click to read that one...)
I started out thinking this may be difficult to express but the more I think about it... it's really quite simple...
When we become Christians... when we accept Jesus as our savior, we become part of the "body" or the church... we're part of the family in a way and, God is our father. The bible clearly defines Him as a father in many places. And, we are His children. Most Christians understand this.
When we look at the story above, we think about one of His children running away, as in leaving the faith.
While that CAN be true... what about this inheritance?
Far too many Christians today want that inheritance... and they take it. They raise their hands and declare that Jesus is their savior that died for their sins...(He DIED for you... think about how serious that is. He died for you... gave everything. Are you willing to do more than simply raise your hand???) and then... far too many go on their merry ways... They take that inheritance... "Yay, I'm going to have eternal life..." and then, they go out into the world and squander it.
As I tried to sort through these thoughts I wondered... can someone squander that inheritance by going out into the world and, even though they abandon the church and go on living sinful lives... still believe in Jesus?
Yes... yes they can. But there's more to it than this.
First... Jesus warned people that a day would come when people would want to be with Him and Jesus would say to them "I never knew you..." That's powerful. We CAN "claim" to know Jesus... we can go to church and say "the sinner's prayer" or whatever we want... but, (oh please read "no turning back" that I linked above) if we are not living WITH Jesus now... RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!! why should He think of us as family later on?
Think about a real family if you'd like... Imagine you are a father and you have kids... now, imagine if your child tells you they don't want to see you anymore and they leave you never to come back. Imagine 30 years goes by... Now your on your deathbed and your child comes back because they want to be in your will... and, in all honesty, that's all they want from you. Imagine if you could hear it in their voice and see it in their face that, they didn't care and just wanted money... How would you feel if your child treated you like that?
There does come a point in time when it is too late to turn back to Him. But... there's hope... LOTS of it.
Imagine you're that father again... and, you had a child that treated you poorly and didn't speak to you for 30 years. Now imagine they come back to you SOBBING... begging you for forgiveness... MOST parents would melt like butter. God really is like that man in that story that goes RUNNING to you when you turn back to Him. Really.
So, I want you to think and pray about this. We CAN live our lives claiming to know Jesus and NOT know Him at all. And that's a dangerous game. We can't live a lie. We might be able to fool a few people but, we can't fool God.
Second... Back on the inheritance...
As I thought about what this meant and, how could we squander it, I came to think about what our inheritance actually is... and, I realized that it is indeed far more than spending eternity with God when we die... you know, 50 years from now or whenever that will be.
When we confess our sins and turn to Jesus and ACTUALLY follow Him... we get SO much more than eternal life. We get things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... oh, and more. Think back about that father, or you as a parent... when a child that is IN the family struggles, the family is there to help them through it. The church is supposed to be like this, and often enough is.
When you are following Jesus, staying in the word, praying, etc... you are building your character and strengthening your faith. People that actually live their faith are supported by it.
What I have seen many times is people that have in the past claimed to be a Christian but never really committed their lives to it... when trials come, they fall apart... if they're not in a strong family, who will support them? And many that do not REALLY follow Jesus end up angry at God for all that goes wrong rather than lean on Him.
Yes... part of our inheritance that we have RIGHT NOW can be squandered... we do that of our own free will when we try to join God's family by saying "I believe in God... now that I'm safe and can go to heaven some day, I'll just continue to live with the world..."
That young man left the safety and love of his family. His inheritance, to him, was nothing but wealth... He went through that rather quickly and found himself among strangers... and when things got tough, he had NO support. He had no friends that would help him... no family to turn to there... He was hungry and alone.
You see, that wealth that he wasted was just a tiny part of his inheritance... he turned away from so much more.
And when we choose to "believe in Jesus" so we can go to heaven... and then do NOTHING in our lives to actually be part of His family NOW... we throw away so much more than we realize.
I hope all of this makes sense to anyone reading it. And I hope you will think about it and pray about it.
I think most people would not consider themselves a "prodigal son" but, think about it. Are you living your faith? Are you following Jesus? Are you actively being part of His family RIGHT NOW?
I hope this stirs a lot of thoughts and feelings.
God loves you and wants you to be a part of His family... Not just later on after you die... but RIGHT NOW.
Would you join the family?
Far too many of us find ourselves wandering through the desert like the Israelites did. We don't have to do that. God has a place for you in His family right now.
Dear God, I pray these words of mine make sense to anyone that reads it. I pray that hearts will be softened and that people will take a hard look at their lives... I pray people will make a conscious decision to be a part of the Kingdom today. I pray for all of those that have just one foot in the door of the church... I pray that they'd take a bold step in. I pray that you would help me to be a witness for your glory. I pray for all of those that are lost right now... I pray that they would seek you... and I pray that those that are part of the body would do more to reach out to the people around them. Help me to do just that Lord. Thank you for all you've done for me.