Tranformation of the Prodigal Son
I keep returning to this particular parable or story, found in Luke 15, beginning with verse 11. There, Jesus tells us of a young man who went through a tremendous change in his life. But to get there, he caused great sadness to his father and himself. Before he was able to see the truth, he went into the pig sty. Fortunately, his life didn’t stay there.
The Selfish Son
Luke 15 tells us about a son who was so selfish that he came to a point of demanding his “inheritance” from his father so that he could deliberately live a life of sin apart from his father. Think about this for a moment or two. The young man had no right to make any demands of his father. Certainly, he had no right to claim any inheritance from his father while his father was still alive. Yet, this is what this young man did. We might say, “The nerve!” How could he disrespect his father in such a way? Before we even answer that question, let’s take a look at the son himself.
- He was a son by virtue of his birth!
- A true blood son of his father
- Raised in that home
- Enjoyed privileges of being a son in the home
- He also was expected to participate in working around home just like servants!
- Most seeing son from outside might say
- that he was an obedient son
- upheld the family name
- honored the father
- he was a devoted son
- he loved his father
- What outsiders might not have seen is
- began to chaff under the responsibilities of being a son
- rebelled toward father because of the way he saw his father
- grew hateful toward his father because of chip on his shoulder
- Things might have looked good on the outside but were bad on the inside
- The son was a son, but certainly NOT a grateful son!
“Don’t try living the Christian life without gratitude. By sheer willpower and effort, you may succeed at ‘gutting out’ right responses, but your Christianity (so-called) will be hollow, hard-edged, and uninviting to others.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Choosing Gratitude)
The Prodigal Son was truly a son, but he did not live like a son. He lived like the selfish human being he was even though he was born into privilege. In his mind, he was no different from the many servants that worked on his father’s ranch. He wanted more out of life. He was tired of working for his father with little to no reward. He needed to stretch his wings. To do that, he felt that he needed to get what he thought was rightfully his and move on. This, he did.
The Humbled Son
The son’s attitude was based on untruths. He could not see the truth because his focus was on himself. He was unable to see the truth about his relationship with his father because he was completely unable to see the truth about his father. He did not know who his father truly was and because of that, the son believed a lie. This lie forced him to make asinine decisions that cost him dearly.
- Son’s rebellious attitude based on UNTRUTH caused him to make demands
- His lack of gratitude and actual love for his father changed him into a mean-spirited, unloving son…
- The son failed to understand the true nature of his father’s love for him
- He wanted his inheritance NOW
- Father was still ALIVE! He had no obligation to give anything to his son while he lived!
- Took the money and left
- Lived licentious lifestyle that dishonored his father, himself, and the entire family
- Squandered money given to him on waste and sinful living
- Son sunk so low that the only thing left was to look up from the pig sty
- People seeing son NOW might think
- Son wasn’t truly a son in the first place, but merely a “professing” son
- Son had apostatized and “lost” his sonship by breaking off fellowship with the father
The son failed through backsliding by ignoring his upbringing. I think the parable is clear in bringing out the fact that the son finally came to the end of himself. He began to see things differently through his own failed attempts at “living.”
I also believe, though the son had a clear about-face, it wasn’t enough. It was merely the start of the change that moved him to return to his father. It was a good start, but the final transformation did not occur until he actually saw his father.
Luke 15 tells us that the son came to his senses and realized some very important truths. He understood that his father’s servants had a place to live, a bed to sleep in, and three meals to eat everyday. He had nothing so he reasoned that if he went back to his father and offered to be one of his father’s servants – instead of a son – maybe his father would forgive him and welcome him back as a servant. At least this way, the son was guaranteed a place to sleep and meals to eat, in exchange for the work he would do for his father.
So, he sets out to return to his father and he prepared his speech, his confession, as it were. He wanted his father to know how terrible he felt about his actions and though he had squandered his inheritance and was unable to pay his father back, if he would simply take him back as a servant, he would spend the rest of his life serving him.
Note also in Luke 15:18-19, the son rehearses what he would say to his father.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (KJV)
He admits he sinned! He acknowledges that he was wrong! Isn’t this what John tells us in 1 John 1:9-10? We must acknowledge our sin, not to beat ourselves over the head with it, but to agree with God that we have sinned.
The Transformed Son
Admitting that he had sinned was the first step in moving back toward his father. We cannot move back toward God in fellowship unless we are first willing to acknowledge that we have sinned when that is applicable.
- The son returned to his father in true humility
- He came to his “senses” and realized what a fool he had been and become
- He was willing to go back to his father as a SERVANT
Luke 15:20 tells us something absolutely fascinating!
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Please notice that the father who was still a long distance from his son did several things.
- he saw his son (which meant he had been looking for his son’s return)
- he was filled with compassion (which meant he wanted nothing more than to have fellowship with his son)
- he ran to his son (which means he could not wait to welcome his son home again)
- he threw his arms around his son, welcoming him home
- he kissed his son (which means he adored his son, this same son who had treated him so terribly!)
As far as the father was concerned, the Prodigal Son never stopped being his SON. The father loved his son immensely and I’m not sure I can totally appreciate that. This is how God loves us.
As a parent, I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to watch one of my children walk away from me. How difficult would it be to want to chase them down, tackle them and do everything I could to make them see things my way!
Instead, the father in this parable let’s his son walk away. But he never stopped loving his son. He never stopped looking to the horizon. He never stopped hoping that the son would return of his own volition one day.
There are two things I want to take away from this parable that I believe will help us understand our relationship with God far better than we do now.
Salvation is the Start
All of us need salvation. We cannot have fellowship with God without it. But salvation – simply being part of God’s family is not enough. There is more. There are greater heights to which we Christians are continually urged onto find by Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and others.
There are potent truths we need to learn and absorb just as the Prodigal Son learned and absorbed them.
- Without Christ, we stand condemned – John 3:18
- “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
- When we receive salvation – the ONLY salvation that is available to humanity because of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior – a number of things happen to us, including but not limited to…
- We become born again or born from above (John 3:3)
- There is NO going back. This cannot be UNDONE!
- We are sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)
- We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
- We are adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters and joint-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:15; 9:26; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:5)
- We are forgiven and saved from God’s WRATH – JUDGMENT (John 10:28)
- We are declared RIGHTEOUS! (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
- Being declared or made righteous becomes our new, permanent LEGAL standing before God!
- Because of this, God now sees us AS righteous because the righteousness of Jesus is literally and forever IMPUTED to our accounts (Romans 4:6, 22-25)
- “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
- 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
- As adopted sons/daughters, we are just as legitimate as those like the Prodigal Son who were born into his family.
- Because of our being “born again” or “born from above,” we take on a legitimacy that makes God our Father, we are declared righteous, and we move out from under God’s Wrath
- This is exactly what the Prodigal Son HAD but failed to realize!
- We become born again or born from above (John 3:3)
Salvation changes our legal standing before God and opens the door to fellowship.
Salvation is the Door to Fellowship
Without salvation, we cannot even hope to have fellowship with God. Yet, too often, we simple settle for what we believe to be the best we can without ongoing fellowship with the God of the universe.
- Salvation changes our legal standing and opens the door to fellowship with God
- Fellowship is something we must pursue!
- The Prodigal Son was a true son – though he failed to appreciate his sonship – he failed to appreciate his father’s love for him
- Revelation 3:20 says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks
- He was knocking on the door of the Laodicean Church, a group of believers!
- They had broken off their fellowship with Jesus!
- Though saved, they had stopped their fellowship with Jesus
- He was standing on the outside, knocking, trying to get into their heart of hearts for fellowship
- Salvation opens the door to fellowship and is something we need to walk through and pursue constantly.
- As Christians, when we receive salvation through no effort of our own but only by believing in the Name of the One whom God has sent on our behalf, we become NEW creatures.
- This opens the door to a new relationship with God.
- This new relationship with God is something we have to PURSUE
- Salvation is something God does FOR us and GIVES us. We receive it.
Fellowship with God is something that is AVAILABLE to us but we must PURSUE it.
The Prodigal Son became a fully transformed individual because he finally saw the truth about his father. He understood that his father loved him and only wanted the best for him. His wayward life caused him to become humbled.
It was because of this new-found humility that he was willing to admit to his father that he had sinned. It was this willingness to admit he sinned that put him on a path back to his father.
But even as he returned to his father, it was not until he experienced the love of his father, the rejection of the son’s notion that he should be no longer treated as a son, and welcomed back into fellowship with his father as a son that this Prodigal Son came to realize what he had always misunderstood about his father.
From that day forward, I’m willing to state that this Prodigal Son would forever do whatever his father needed and even though it might be the same type of thing that servants and hired hands did, this Prodigal Son would do them with a new fervor, an understanding that he was doing those things because he loved his father because his father loved him.
The servants who worked on his father’s ranch were certainly appreciated, weren’t they? But the father did not love them as he loved his sons. This Prodigal Son now understood this and it forever changed him.
He now lived to please his father. He wanted to fellowship with his father. He wanted to share in his father’s business willingly, not for selfish gain, but to please his father.
Folks, until we understand how much we are loved, our Christian life will be one of duty and going through the motions, “gutting” it out and putting it on. While that can fool people and even ourselves, it doesn’t fool or please God.
The reality of Christ in us is only achieved when we realize how much it cost Him to make us heirs of salvation. It is at that point when we stop trying and simply allow Him to live in and through us.