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Friday, April 08, 2011

The Prodigal Son - The Response Of Grace

The Prodigal SonThe demand, need, and desire for grace is for nought unless we have some confidence about the response of grace.  It is here in Luke 15:20-24 we make note of the response of grace, and it is glorious!

Verse 20 brings to our attention the reception of grace.  It begins with the son acting upon what he had determined to do.  "And he arose and came to his Father."  He didn’t just think about taking action, he did take action.  He returned to the very place where it had all went wrong.

While he headed in that direction he was not able to make it all the way before grace restores.  "But when he was yet a great way off."  He did not make it all the way back to the house.  "His father saw him."  It makes one think he was looking for him.  Grace is always looking and hoping for restoration.  Grace anticipates restoration.

The response of the Father is grand and glorious, "And had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."  He assumed by his return that it was for restoration.  If he had been returning for more he likely would have been disappointed.  He was returning for less.  He had come home!

He smelled worse than ever.
He was humiliated.
He was in rags.
He was a physical shell of what he had once been.

He returned and grace received. 

In verse 21 we are afforded the opportunity to marvel at the recognition of grace.  The son stated his understanding of the situation just as he had rehearsed.  The gracious reception by his father probably made him realize even more how unworthy he was.  He was not returning as a son, but as a supplicant seeking employment as a servant.  As you will note he does not have a chance to speak the latter part of his resolve, “make me as one of thy hired servants.”

Then in verse 22 we see grace doing what it does best: Restoring!
"But"  What an important word in Scripture!  It is this very word that allows us to pivot from the desire for grace to the response of grace.  Not being worthy is the perfect opportunity for grace.  He did not return to be a son, but a servant.  His father cut him off in mid sentence.

"The father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe and put it on him."
The best robe for the worst of sons!  Grace!
Cover his shame and destitute state!  Grace!

"And put a ring on his hand."
Ornamenting the hand that had been lifted up in rebellion against God and his Father!  Grace!
Adorning the hand that had held the wine glass and embraced the harlot!  Grace!
Beautifying the hand that had fed the swine!  Grace!

"And shoes on his feet."
Restore his dignity.  Grace

Then finally in verses 23 and 24 we relish in the rejoicing of grace.

"And bring hither the fatted calf and kill it: and let us eat it, and be merry."
Remove his remorse!  Grace!
Restore his joy!  Grace!
Supply his need!  Grace!

"For this my son was dead."  This tells us how the father viewed him.  The alienation because of the boy’s rebellion was thorough.

"And is alive again."  This tells us how the father viewed him.  The restoration because of the boy’s repentance was thorough.

"He was lost, and is found."  We always rejoice when we find lost things.  Was lost, past tense.  Is found, present tense.  He is not what he was!  Grace!

"And they began to be merry."  This is a good and proper expression at the response of GRACE!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Prodigal Son - The Desire For Grace

The Low Road Leads to High Places  For Those Who Lead and Manage ...In verses 14-16 we had considered the need for grace.  Fortunately for the prodigal son the need for grace resulted in the desire for grace in verses 17-19.
Verse 17 we discover the return of reason.  "And when he came to himself."  He repented.  He had been wrong.  It has cost him immensely.  "He said, how many hired servants of my Father’s have bread enough and to spare."  The servants were now living better than the son.

"And I perish with hunger!"  He realizes his utter desperation and the destitute condition to which he had fallen.  It need not be this way.  Having come to himself he believed his father would have mercy and extend grace!

The return of reason prompted a determined action in verse 18.  "I will arise and go to my father."  He determined to go to his Father because he heard the voice of his father.  I will return.  I will move in the other direction.

He rehearsed his words, "And will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee."  This is quite a contrast to his last recorded words to his Father in verse 12, "Father give me the portion of goods that falleth unto me."  His sin was against heaven and before his father.  His father had seen him disobey God.

A humble spirit develops in this arrogant, rebellious son in verse 19.  His words reflect the sincerity and depth of his humility, "And am no more worthy to be called thy son."  This is so true!  He was no longer worthy.  He had troubled his father.  He had disrespected his father.  He had anguished his father.  He had discounted his father.  It is precisely because he was no longer worthy that the stage has been set for an expression of GRACE!

The humility is complete, "Make me as one of thy hired servants" he would say to his father.  He would not request to be restored to full honor.  He simply wanted to be numbered among the servants.  True repentance is willing to bear the consequences of sin.  Repentance does not demand it implores.

Here was a young man who, having been cast down from the high status that accompanies much money to the low station of feeding and feasting with pigs has finally brought his heart in line with his reality!  He is low, he now recognizes it and he starts to ponder GRACE!

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Prodigal Son - The Need For Grace

Brown Eyes: Farm LifeIn the previous post we considered the demand for grace as the younger of two sons demanded his inheritance and we learned that he departed into a far country and wasted his substance with riotous living.  In Luke 15:14-16 we discover in the parable of the prodigal son, the need for grace.

It begins in verse 14 with a worsening condition.  Jesus relates his circumstances by saying, "When he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in the land."  What he could no longer buy he could also no longer cultivate!  This left the young man in dire straits.  The scripture characterizes it as, "and he began to be in want."  His circumstances had become critical.

It is likely that his Father had some awareness of his condition.  They knew he had spent his substance on harlots.  While he did not likely know the details he likely realized the direction.  He did not send him money.  He did not send him food.  His greatest kindness was to let him suffer the consequences of his wickedness that he might be turned to God.  Even this was an act of principled grace because it was not with an eye to destroy him but to deliver him.  It simply would not have been an act of grace to support him in his prodigal state thus certainly prolonging if not completely ruining any tendency to repentance.

His rebellion has left him reeling!

In verse 15 he was confronted with a religious reminder.  He was sent to feed swine.  Animals considered unclean by the Jews.  Every day forced to think about what he had come to.  Here he was feeding pigs.

Verse 16 reveals the darkness of his desperation.  The Bible says, "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat."  Now not just feeding the swine but feasting with them!  We ought not be surprised how low arrogant, stubborn rebellion will take a person.  I would rather eat pig slop than admit wrong!  Young people certainly do not relish the thought of having to acknowledge Dad was right.  After all, he had been so wrong!

His dark hour becomes even darker as the Bible explains, "and no man gave unto him."  He was feeding and eating with pigs.  He had lost all esteem among men.   No one wanted anything to do with him now.  Where were his drinking buddies?  Where were the women that once fawned over him?  His fellow creatures looked on him with disgust.

He stunk.
He was physically decimated.
His clothes were tattered and torn.
His expression was forlorn.

He had managed to work himself all the way to the bottom!  He found himself in need of GRACE!

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Prodigal Son - The Demand For Grace

Im Walking Away... Sweatshirt from Zazzle.We have before us (Luke 15:11-32) one of the more moving parables presented by Jesus to illustrate a point and teach a lesson.  It is important to begin by noting the object of the parable.  It is the third in a trio of parables all relating to something that was lost. In the parable before us it was a lost son.  The middle parable is the story of a lost coin and in the first parable is the story of a lost sheep.

The reason for these parables is to be found in the first two verses of the chapter.  Jesus came under scrutiny for receiving sinners and eating with them.  Of course what the Pharisees and Scribes failed to realize is that if Jesus had eaten with them he would have been receiving sinners and eating with them.  Nevertheless it is because of the murmuring which arose around Jesus’ interaction with sinners that the three parables are presented.  There are three to make a strong impression.  They are framed so as to generate an emotional response.

Verses 7 and 10 strike at the heart of why Jesus was receiving and eating with sinners.  It was the joy that results in heaven over a repenting sinner.  Of the three parables the third one, the one before us reveals the dynamics, the interaction between repentance and grace.  It does so because the concept is taken out of the animal world (lost sheep) and the world of the inanimate (lost coin) and placed before us in the context of a human relationship.

We all know what it feels like to one degree or another, what it means to be a prodigal.  All parents know, to one degree or another, what it feels like to deal with prodigal tendencies in our children.  So we read the story and we see ourselves.  We read the story and we see others.  We read the story and the pathos wrenches our own heart!  We bristle at the arrogance and rebellion of a son.  We ache with a forsaken Father.  We lament the desperation of a life wasting away in a pig sty.  We marvel that at the low point reason returns.  Our heart yearns at the image of an aging father expecting the return of the prodigal and we trace the steps as he races down the road to meet the returning son.  We then find ourselves aligned with an older brother who seems to make reasonable arguments only to realize the wise and aged Father is right in his defense of Grace!

In verses 11-13 we see the demand for grace!

Verse 11 introduces the parable by relating to us there was a certain man with two sons.

Verse 12 records the younger son’s request, "Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me."  It also records the Father's response, "He divided unto them his living."  This is not something that typically would have been done until the Father determined it was time.  Most often it would be after his death when the inheritance would have been divided among the heirs.  The younger son disrespected his father by asking for his portion while he lived.  It could be argued that he was implying that his Father had lived too long and at bare minimum he had no interest in waiting for his Father’s demise.

In verse 13 we learn what the younger son did upon receiving his inheritance.  "Not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country."  He left the Father.  He put distance between he and his Father.  He cut his ties.  He burned his bridges.  He took what was his and went his way.

Based upon subsequent events we gain insight as to why he made these decisions.  He wanted to do his own thing.  He did not want to be subject to his Father.  He obviously was of an age where his subjection was to be voluntary.  He wanted to live a life of which his father did not approve.

The Father gave him his portion and let him go!  Separation ensued.  It was not a separation the Father desired but was forced upon him by the Son.

We also learn from this verse what his course of action was having left his father.  "And there wasted his substance with riotous living."  In verse 30 we learn the extent of his riotous living when his brother reminds the Father that he "Hath devoured thy living with harlots."

He was free from his Father’s dominion but immediately become a slave to his passions.  He lived a wicked, ungodly life.  Those who most think they do not need anyone telling them what to do are usually in the greatest need of someone telling them what to do. 

Here was a young man that took the heritage and inheritance of his Father and lightly esteemed it.  He failed to recognize the blood, sweat, and tears that had provided the wealth he was squandering!

He had positioned himself in life at a place where when his decisions had run their course his restoration would demand GRACE!