To be honest, I actually like the younger son. He is “in your face.” He does what he wants to do when he wants to do it and he’s willing to pay the price. There is something quite winsome about that. The prodigal son is an upfront sinner, not hiding away from the public eye and sinning in silence.
Jesus would teach us something here. I want to share four truths that are not generally believed by most Christians, but they are biblical and life changing…because I got them from God.
Truth 1: Sanctification isn’t achieved by the purity you acquire, but by the freedom you’re given.
“And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood” (Luke 15:12).
We really believe that if we’re good and pure enough, and if we worship and serve him enough, God will notice and we will be free. The truth is you can’t get there from here that way. Obedience comes from freedom, not freedom from obedience.
God loves you. He knows what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do. He knows the truth about your bitterness, anger and lust. Knowing you inside and out, God loves you and he will never let you go.
Paul says that we’re “constrained by the love of Christ.” If you’re constrained by the law, by what your friends will say, by the church or by propriety, you have misunderstood.
Truth 2: Sin isn’t defined so much by what you do, but by where you live.
“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (Luke 15:13).
This parable says to come on home. Even if you have a limp, even if blood is all over the place, even if it’s a long distance to travel, come on home. The loving Father waits.
Truth 3: Judgment isn’t defined so much by how God responds, but by what you experience.
“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 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” (Luke 15:14-16).
When Barbara Walters interviewed Johnny Cash, she asked him, “Do you believe in hell?” He said, “Yes, I do.” Then she followed that up with, “Do you believe in a literal hell?” He answered, “Yes, I do.” Finally she asked, “How do you know?” Johnny Cash said, “I’ve been there.”
When I was a pastor, I felt like I was standing by the side of a cliff. People came to the cliff’s edge, dancing around and peering over it. I warned them, “Don’t jump. You can get killed down there.” Inevitably, they always said, “Thanks for the warning” and then jumped right over the cliff. After this happened time and time again, I complained to God. His response was this, “I’ve just told you to tell them. I’ll clean up the mess later on.”
I’ve done it God’s way and I’ve done it my way. I’ve discovered that, whenever I do it my way, it hurts bad. God doesn’t sit in heaven with a lightning bolt aimed in your direction. The judgment comes in the reality of the fall and the pain of the rocks below after you’ve jumped.
Truth 4: Repentance isn’t defined so much by how you change, but by how you think.
“But when he came to himself…” (Luke 15:17-18).
I spent years not repenting because I thought repentance meant that I had to change. And for years I taught that when you spill the milk, you repent by cleaning it up. That is simply not true. I don’t know about you, but I knew I couldn’t change…so I didn’t repent.
It’s good news. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “repentance” means “to comfort.” In the New Testament, it means “to change your mind.” So what is true repentance? Repentance is agreeing with God about who you are, whose you are, what you’ve done and what needs to be changed…then it’s up to God. That is all.
How can you be assured of your salvation? Scripture teaches that it is when you want to please God. That’s all. No one wants to please God more than I do. I suspect you can say the same thing.
So come on home. The Father loves you. He is waiting.