By Ps. Mark Banyard

When we face problems in life, the first thing many of us do is to troubleshoot. This was what the younger son in the Parable of the Lost Son did.  Luke 15:15-16 says, Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  He did not return to his father at this point.  He still wanted to sustain a life that was separated from his father.

After he fed the pigs, there was nothing left.  He could have easily taken food from the pigs that he was feeding but he did not. Instead he was waiting for somebody to give him pig food. This tells us something about his character and integrity. Food meant for the pigs was not his to take. The inheritance was his but not the pig food. So, he came to the moment of a heart change in verses 17-19.  “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” All of a sudden, he was able to grasp the reality of the situation. He was no longer in denial.

Praise the Lord for moments in my life when I finally came to my senses because if I had not, I would never have turned to the Lord.  What always stop us from turning to the Lord are our arrogance and pride. This young man came to an accurate assessment of his situation and decided to return to his father where there would be food to spare even as a hired servant. He began to rehearse what he would say to his father in verses 18 and 19. Notice how insightful he was – when you sin against your father, you sin against heaven. Whenever we speak against our earthly fathers who are imperfect, we sin against our Father in Heaven who is perfect.  

Only at this point of his crisis did this young man come into true repentance. Very often true heart-felt, life-changing repentance comes in crisis and not in times of blessing. In verses 20 we read, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  Where do you think the father saw him? The bible says it was when he was still far away from the house. I believe the father saw him at the moment his heart changed.  Our Father in heaven sees us where we are even though we are in a far-away land. As soon as our heart changes, He comes towards us. It may take us a long time to get to where we need to be, but the minute our hearts turn towards heaven, the Father moves towards us.  He is always watching and waiting because His children are always on His heart.

You are on God’s heart.  It is His desire, delight and goal to reveal Himself to you, therefore He wants to talk to you. All you need to do is take that first step by turning to Him and there He is.  That is how quickly it can happen. If it is prolonged, it is because we prolong it. If you turn to God in repentance and faith concerning any issue in your life, there He will be with His love and healing. In the parable, we read that the father rushed out to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Such is the love of the Father! He does not wait for us to be cleaned up before He embraces us.  He wants us to come just as we are.

Verse 21 reads, And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ It was what he had rehearsed earlier in his mind. He was not asking to be reinstated. He was saying that his sin was so great that he could only be a servant in his father’s house.  In verses 22-24 we read, “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”  The father did not address his son’s speech at all because his love was never conditional on his son’s worthiness.  How often do we settle for something less because we hear that we are not worthy of God’s love? Yes, we are not worthy, but that is why Jesus died on the cross for us. Our worthiness has nothing to do with His love. Unconditional love has nothing to do with our performance.  

Many Christians are bound by such a sense of unworthiness that they are unable to experience the love of God. They believe that God has forgiven them but they have not forgiven themselves. If God has forgiven you, why wouldn’t you forgive yourself?  Why would you decide you still need to be punished when Jesus took it all for you? How many of you are ‘try harder’ people? Often the root of that is perfectionism and it comes out of not being loved. Perfection has to do with the law. If you are a person who is always working to make things perfect, it means that by your work and your striving, you hope to be accepted.  Your worthiness is never an issue with God. You have always been a son or daughter, and not a slave.

When the father in the parable instructed the servant to quickly bring out the robe and ring, it signified the restoration of the son-father relationship. There was a great celebration.   Do you know that your Heavenly Father celebrates you?  Most of us think that we came here today to celebrate God.  But do you know that this is the Father’s house and that He is the one putting on the banquet for us?  When we come in, He does not want us to act like slaves and servants 8bustling about. He would prefer us to be still, drink from His cup, eat from His plate and while we are eating, He will dance for us a royal dance.  This is a truer picture of God’s heart for us.

It is about relationship.  It is about Him being our Father and who we are now in Christ as His children.  It has nothing to do with our sense of worthiness, but it is all about His unconditional love. The Father is welcoming you. Some of you need to feel the robe of the Father around your shoulders and the ring slipped onto your finger. Some of you are really good servants. I am not telling you to stop serving, but being a servant is not your identity. We serve out of thanksgiving, not to win God’s favor and love.

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