The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and at nineteen, I was utterly lost. Jesus found me on Friday, March 12, 2004 at 4:10 PM. I encountered him face to face in a vision. Shortly after I became a Christian I moved to California to grow in my faith. After four months I knew a lot about Jesus, but I didn’t know him. So I took what I did know and decided to run from him. I ran for nearly three years and this changed life for the worse. I believed life with Jesus was the abundant life, but I didn’t live that way. I was lost, again. Yet, despite my faithless lifestyle, Jesus remained faithful, reminding me daily that life on the run wasn’t for me. Jesus had the foresight to know that I needed to run from him to come to my senses, so he let me run. Not every Christian finds Jesus this way. I did, and that’s why I can relate to Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son so well. The following adaptation is taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son taught by Jesus, and found in the gospel of Luke 15:11-32 (NIV).
A son decides he can do life better, apart from his father. He requests the inheritance coming to him and the father grants it. The father allows him to run and waste his inheritance in a godless lifestyle. Away for sometime, the son depletes the money. A famine arises in the land, he is broke, hungry, and his pride hinders him from returning home. So he gets a disgraceful job, feeding pigs. He is miserable, even feeding himself with pig food. He knows his father’s servants live better then this, and his desperation drives him to change his circumstances. The son intends to make an earnest plea to his father, hoping for mercy and forgiveness, expecting neither. An uncertain son journeys home, praying he is confronted by a merciful father. While the son is still a long way off, the father sees his son and is filled with compassion for him; he runs to his son, throws his arms around him and kisses him. The son says to the father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father instructs his servants, “Dress him in the finest clothes and prepare a great feast. Let’s eat and celebrate. For my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ Everyone begins to celebrate. Meanwhile, hard at work in the field is his older brother, having never left. The older son hears the celebration and asks what is going on. A worker says, “Your brother has returned home, safe and sound, so your father is throwing a party.” Enraged, he refuses to celebrate. The father comes out and entreats him, but he answers his father “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a celebration with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property in reckless living, you throw a large party!” He rejects the prodigal as his own brother. The father says to the older brother, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now is found!”
It’s beautiful; Jesus allows us to choose. A choice to run from God has consequences, but can also help us come to our senses, like it did the prodigal son. Longing to be fed, aware he had wronged his father, and wanting a change, he goes home repentant. Why do you think the prodigal son really went home? Do you think he genuinely wanted to change or was he just sick of eating pig food? The talk of change with no action leads nowhere, our actions speak louder than words. If we truly want to change, we will. Sadly, our inclination is to choose against God, for we all fall short of God’s standards for what is truly good (Romans 3:23), but a life lived for Jesus can and will lead us to choose what God would desire we choose. What about the older brother? Longing to be noticed, knowing his brother was lost and is now home, and not even regarding him as his brother? Have you ever felt overlooked by God? Can you sympathize with the older brothers anger? I sure can. He may not have run, but the “look at me”, “I deserve”, self righteous, bitter attitude also has dire consequences. It’s a poison to the soul and certainly not what God desires. Jesus said; beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them (Matthew 6:1). If you desire the recognition that comes from people, that’s your reward, people’s applause. God’s reward waits in heaven, for those who work quietly and humbly for Jesus and not for people.
So what’s the point? If anyone says they live for God they ought to walk in the same way in which Jesus did (1 John 2:6). Jesus never ran from his father, nor attempted to gain his father’s favor through works, and would never encourage us to do the same. Jesus was obedient to everything his father asked of him, even dying in a shameful way on a cross for humankind. If we want to boast about any works let’s boast about the work that Jesus accomplished by saving our lives through giving his on the cross. The penalty for our rebellion has been paid in full. We can be reconciled back to God through a relationship with Jesus. The work of God is this: to believe that God sent Jesus to save us (John 6:29). Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he meant what he said. Praise God! “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
God is the father. He embraces the lost and pleads with the prideful. Jesus’ love and compassion knows no bounds. He never faults us, asks why, or where have you been; instead he welcomes us home with an embrace and joyful celebration. Jesus desires us to be saved and to understand this truth; in him our every need is met, all that is his is ours, and he loves us, period. No matter how far we’ve run or fallen, God never rejects our coming home. In fact the opposite is true, he runs to meet us every time.
“The years of running from God and working to gain my salvation wore me out.”
The years of running from God and working to gain my salvation wore me out. Personally, I don’t recommend the prodigal life. In the end, I accepted there’s no “if’s” that come with Jesus’ love, it’s final, done. We think: If I’ve done ____ God won’t accept me. If I ____ God will accept me. Not so! There is nothing you have done that God hasn’t forgiven through Jesus. Jesus dying on the cross demonstrated true unconditional love for us, and his resurrection gives us the confirmation these things are so. “There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not death, nor life, nor angels or rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, not height or depth, not anything else in all creation can separate that love” (Romans 8:37-39).