Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 14
In our most recent installment in this series, we spoke in some detail about the Prodigal Son of Luke 15. We noted that even though he literally broke off fellowship with his own father, he remained a son. The attitude of his father – as heartbreaking as it must have been – was to watch for the return of his son daily. He longed to have true fellowship with his son, but unfortunately, could not do that solely because of his son’s terrible attitude.
It actually – and unfortunately – took the son to distance himself from his own father to realize how greatly he was loved by that same father whom the son completely disrespected and ultimately even rejected. This is tragic, yet if we are honest with ourselves, there are times when we completely disrespect God, our heavenly Father, even to the point of rejecting Him.
All’s well that ends well for the Prodigal Son because the text of Luke tells us that he came to his senses (v. 17) and realized his stupidity. Here he was, having squandered all of his “inheritance” money on wild living and parties to the point where he was forced to take a job feeding the pigs. Here was this Jewish young man who had sunk so low that his job was tending a herd of animals considered to be unclean by Mosaic legal standards. Moreover, the food the pigs ate was also considered unclean, which meant that in spite of his tremendous hunger, he would not lower himself that much to eat a few of those scraps. Oh, the incongruity of it all! He was still wrapped up in legal, ceremonial laws in spite of the fact that he had broken numerous commandments, especially the one about honoring thy mother and father.
Yet, the young man did come to his senses and clearly, he was humbled. He was willing to go back to his father and offer his services as a slave. He had come a long way from complaining about how much he had to work as a son to being willing to work as a slave for his father in exchange for a comfortable place to lay his head and some food to eat.
I want to be clear in stating that this young man was never rejected by his father. He remained his father’s son, though he didn’t know it. He wrongly assumed that his father would never have him back, but what a thrill it must have been for him to realize just how much his father loved him! Imagine his surprise when he spied his father at a great distance to see his father pick up his robes and literally run to the young man. That was unheard of then! No father would do that because that is what servants did! The father was actually placing himself beneath his own son! Imagine the shock and awe of the entire scene as the father ran past villagers who had defended the father, been there for him in the wake of his son’s treacherous actions. Now, they watched as the father ran past them with fervor as his son approached.
Do I need to say that this is God the Father and how He reacts to us when we turn from our sin and even our rejection of Him after we have received salvation? Though once we were warmly embraced into the fold of Christ’s Bride, but as time goes by, our ardor may have cooled. We finally may have come to a point of carelessness and even outright rejection of the very Christ who bought us. As the Prodigal, we strike out on our own, determined to make it as captain of our own ship.
God, the Father allows us to move out, but never really loses sight of us, longing for us to return to Him. He’ll give us as much rope as we need even if we use it to hang ourselves, all because of “free will.” But God truly wants us back into fellowship with Him and is willing to wait it out and send circumstances our way that will help us move back to Him. If all else fails, He may choose to remove us from this life.
Fortunately, for the Prodigal, in the end, he made a very wise decision. Life’s lessons created the missing element of humility. He saw himself for who he was, but he still didn’t understand his father. In fact, it was not until he saw his father’s heartfelt reaction to his return that he actually began to understand the full love his father carried for him. Do you think there were tears of joy and remonstration? I’m sure there were and I’m sure this lesson was so vivid for the Prodigal that it remained with him for the remainder of his life.
But isn’t there a natural question here that we must ask? Shouldn’t we be wondering how anyone can walk away from God and continue to have salvation? How is that possible? Is it a fair question? Did the Prodigal “lose” his salvation? Clearly, he did not. He remained a son throughout the entire ordeal. There is no hint that the father cast off his son, disowned or disinherited him or that he treated him as if he did not exist. In essence then, the son’s status as a son remained intact. The Prodigal, though he trampled his father’s good name, lived a life of absolute debauchery, and ended up being even below the level of unclean animals, never stopped being his father’s son!
This is the comfort that all Christians have, knowing that no matter how asinine we are, how “unclean” we become when we mix with the world, God does not cast us out if we are authentic Christians. Once we are born into God’s family as sons/daughters and become heirs of salvation, nothing we can do can change that. I realize that does not set well with many and not long ago, it did not set well with me either.
We cannot handle this reality. It is often difficult for us to believe that God’s love is so great, of such magnitude that He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Hebrews 13:5; see also Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20). In fact, I would be willing to bet that there are some Christians (and I have been one of them at times), who delight in believing that God will cast wayward Christians off when they go out on their own and begin to move away from God. I’m ashamed to admit I thought like this. Deeply ashamed, yet there it is and God knows it. We do this because we ourselves have such a difficult time forgiving others at times. We find it difficult to truly forgive and forget, so we assume that God has a difficult time of it as well.
But this is the age of Grace! In fact, it has been so since the fall of man in a very real, general sense. Until the Tribulation begins – which signals the final seven years of man-led human history – God’s wrath is kept at bay in this life. Those who die without Him will experience it, but in this life now, God’s grace oversees human civilization even though it may not seem like that.
But can a true, “born-again,” saved, authentic Christian actually walk away from God and mean it? Can a truly saved Christian come to a point in his/her life where God means nothing to them? Can that person move away from God so that they want nothing to do with Him?
I think we see this in the Prodigal Son. It seems clear that he literally and with vigor walked away from his father. It is clear that he completely misunderstood his father’s love, seeing it as something it was not. His pride, stubbornness, and sinful attitude kept him from seeing the truth about his father. The Prodigal deliberately broke off fellowship with his father because of the wrong views he harbored about his father. It took the problems of life to begin to move him back toward his father, but even there, he got it wrong. It was only the starting point.
It was not until the Prodigal Son saw and experienced his father’s reaction to him as he returned that his eyes were opened to the truth about his father. Would it have been better had the Prodigal not have left? Of course, yes. Without doubt, it would have been far better for the Prodigal Son to never have taken that selfish route he took. But in this case, it worked out for the best and it was because of the route that he took, he lived lessons that became indelibly and forever imprinted on his heart and mind.
He now saw his father as his father was instead of how he thought he was and the truth did set him free!
I want to investigate this further and we’ll do so next time. As a heads up, we are going to look into 2 Timothy 2 to learn what the apostle Paul has to say about the Christian’s standing in Christ and the various ways that Christians can and do respond to God, even to the point of denying Him. Please read it ahead of time. Do some studying as well. It’s a difficult subject, but in the end, I hope we’ll see that the truth of it is very obvious and that God’s love remains constant even though ours does not.
Please join me then.
Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: christ our righteousness, prodigal father, prodigal son, righteousness.