Tag Archives: repentance

Short and inspiring book

bookIn this short and inspiring little book, Paul Noble reveals a Saviour-Shepherd-God who searches diligently for each of His lost sheep UNTIL He finds them. However, there’s no lost sinner MORE lost than the self righteous religious soul who regards him or herself as qualified for divine acceptance because of his or her own good deeds, done in a spirit of slavish servitude with expectation of just recompense.

But there’s hope for even the most  self righteous and self-deceived among us! After all, any of us might be such–given the right chemistry, temperament, and circumstances, right? I believe that you will find Paul Noble’s portrayal of our Saviour-God’s heart and diligence to pursue and restore us deeply touching and encouraging.

Our Heavenly Father will never force us to receive Him or recognise our father-child relationship with Him. HOWEVER. . .! Our Saviour-Shepherd-God CANNOT help being the Wonderful, All-Powerful LIGHT that He is, and there’s no inner darkness too black, obscure, entrenched or hidden that it can escape His healing radiance. His arms are ALWAYS open to us! May His Spirit inspire you to worship as you read these pages!

–Charles Slagle
Author of ‘From the Father’s Heart’

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The elder son (Part 7)

Turning the hearts of sons to fathers.

The Old Testament ends with an amazing promise:

Malachi 4:6 “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Indeed, the parable of the prodigal son embodies the spirit of the Gospel because it’s undoubtedly about unmerited favour and the steadfast love of the Father.

Who is the elder son?

repentance

The prodigal Son

However, the story is not over with the return and reconciliation of the prodigal. Enter the elder son. Those listening, would have quickly discerned that the prodigal represents the tax-collectors and sinners but who is the elder son? Clearly, he is the Pharisees and Scribes – the religious, those theoretically close to God.

On another level though, the younger son symbolises the Gentiles and the elder son the people of the promise – Israel (the nation close to God)

Ephesians 2:12 “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

A radical Father

For us though, it’s actually quite hard to appreciate the radical nature of the meaning of this parable as perceived by those of a Jewish culture. Under the law a rebellious son would have been put to death: (Deuteronomy 21.) This gracious Father however, not only forgives and accepts his son back into the family but showers him with kindness and blessings! Through this parable therefore, Jesus is radically changing their law based paradigm of God; the law never truly revealed God’s nature – which is love.

Let’s continue with the story though, which now focuses entirely on the elder son.

Luke 15:25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.

In the field

images-1This son is not as far away as the younger son – he is in the field. Why then is the elder son working a job when he’s received his portion of the inheritance (which as the firstborn would have been the more substantial? ) In reality, his thinking is no different to the prodigal’s, who ends up being sent into the fields to feed pigs. Indeed, this son has already filled the position of hired servant!

As he returns from working in the fields though, to approach the Father’s house, he hears music and dancing – in fact quite a racket of celebration. Then, he smells the aroma of beaf steaks! He thinks to himself: “Maybe, the Father has arranged a surprise party for me?” “It’s not my birthday though? Of course Father’s  been fattening up that cow for a while though, yes it must be for me, the Father is recognising everything I do for him – I better check though, one of the servants would know”.

Angry

28 “But he was angry and would not go in.”

When he finds out that it’s because his wayward brother is home he explodes with rage and stands outside the door fuming!

Why is he so angry with his brother? I mean, even Esau – the elder of two twins –  justifiably angry at the younger Jacob for stealing his blessing and birthright, when meeting several years later, has cooled off to enough to be reconciled with his brother.

History?

Maybe there is some history we don’t know about here? Could the elder son have been partly to blame for the younger son taking off in the first place? Did the elder son overshadow the younger with his self-discipline and high achievements at school? Was the elder son the ‘good’ boy who never put a foot wrong while the younger just wanted a bit of fun!

Jealous?

why you need to repentGrace seems so unfair – even unjust. Why shouldn’t the sinner pay for his mistakes? It’s quite probable that the elder son was thinking that if he had his way the young waster wouldn’t have even been given a bed for the night let alone a fatted calf! “He’s made his bed – let him sleep in it!”

One does wonder though,  whether the elder son has in fact been angry all these years after his brother left? Did he feel rejected because his brother who just took off? Was he jealous that his brother had a good time while he was stuck at home left with all the responsibilities?

Anger is often the attitude of the legalistic and religious to the grace of God. Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle, is an angry and self-righteous man until he meets the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. He speaks from his own experience when in Romans 10:2 he says this about the Jews:

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge, for not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God”

Unfortunately, anger is often the reaction of the religious when they realise that all their own works and efforts count for nothing in God’s eyes! As we have discussed before, Cain is the first example of this religious and murderous spirit arising in his heart when his sacrifice to God of the fruit of his labour in the fields is rejected but his brother’s sacrifice of a lamb accepted.

In a way, that’s what the fatted calf represents here: it is the sacrifice of Christ. All we do is partake and eat!

The father entreats

“Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.”

In fact this is pretty amazing and shows that the Father also loves those who are religious and self-righteous – this is how gracious God is! At the end of the Romans 10, Paul describes how, like the Father here entreating his son, God likewise holds out his hands to unbelieving and stubborn Israel.

Romans 10:21 “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

The Lord Jesus also describes his tender feelings to his own disobedient generation:

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

Interesting enough, this greek word for plead is ‘parakaleo’ or to call to one’s side, is a similar word used to describe the function of the Holy Spirit as the encourager or comforter.

Spiritual orphans

The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus in John 14 to his disciples (and us) so that they wouldn’t be left feeling like orphans. In the same chapter Jesus promises that the Father’s house would have many rooms – it would be a fantastic home. Both these sons demonstrate an orphan spirit. The younger rejects his home, family and Father. The elder now also rejecting the same and in addition, refusing even to even acknowledge even his brother (family).

Self-justification

Furthermore, instead of listening to the gracious entreaties of the Father, the elder son makes a long speech justifying his anger – what a contrast to the contrite speech of the prodigal!

29 “So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”

Sadly, this speech is full of his own sense of bitter injustice. He is aggrieved and resentful towards his Father, who hasn’t, in his eyes, sufficiently recognised his faithful long service and perfect obedience. Wait a moment, was the Father even asking for a faithful servant? Surely, the elder son with his inheritance money could have got married and started his own family and business? He’s speaking like a employee not a son!

The parable of the tax-collector and the sinner

Later on in Luke 18, Jesus tells another parable with a similar delineation of truth as this one. Again, like the elder son, the pharisee is full of his own deeds and good performance, comparing himself to the tax-collector who comes broken and repentant.

Luke 18: 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

You never gave me!

The worst sentence of the elder son’s speech, in my opinion, is his resentful accusation: “you never gave me”. This seems particularly petty as this son has already received his part of the inheritance. I mean, what’s to stop him going down Tesco, buying and cooking a fatted calf for himself and his pals? Has he put the money into the bank and forgotten it?

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

Amazingly, the Father doesn’t answer his accusation but points out the truth – there is no distance. The Father isn’t separating himself from his son, it is his son who is refusing to go in. Furthermore, the son has full access to the bank account!

Even as believers, we can get into the blame game. Why didn’t God heal that person or why did God let my business go under? None of us deserves a dime of God’s blessings anyway so let’s stop believing that we have to twist God’s arm to get blessed. Rather, let’s approach the throne of grace and mercy with confidence; delighted and thankful when we after asking for mercy – instead we receive a robe, ring, sandals and a banquet!,

What have we learnt?

So, what have we learnt from this part of the parable? Do we have any elder son attitudes in our hearts towards God or others? Are we living as orphans rather than sons? Are we angry;  do we lack joy?

1 John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Hopefully, we have learnt that God the Father is looking for sons not servants. More than anything he wants relationship! He wants a party!

Romans 8:14 “For all who are being led by the spirit of God these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery again to fear but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba Father! The Spirit himself witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, of God and fellow heirs with Christ”

Of course, the parable ends inconclusively and open ended. We don’t find out whether the elder son repented of his attitude and joined in the party. The story, as it were, leaves the door open!

This is God’s grace, he wants all to come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth – including the self-righteous!

Further reading:

Part 6 the homecoming

Part 5 end of the party

Part 4 a lost son (departure)

Part 3 a lost coin

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

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Return of the wanderer! (part 6)

Luke 15: 20 “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. 21 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.’

Return of the wanderer

I wonder what it took for the younger son to get up, make that first step and start walking? Of course, he had no assurance that the Father would accept him, or wasn’t still very angry, but, what had he to lose now anyway – he was starving and the pigs weren’t much company!

A great way off

Next though, we have a wonderful phrase: “when he was still a great way off”.

returnI mean, how far had he managed to get barefoot dressed in rags? How long had he been on the road? We don’t know, but even at the distance he was, the father saw him and had compassion. I imagine he looked a sorry sight!

This same phrase in the original greek language (G3112)  “a great way off” is used of our spiritual state in the following scriptures:

Acts 2:39: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, G3112 even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Ephesians 2:17 “And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, G3112 and to them that were nigh.”

Coincidently, the same phrase is used in Matthew 8:30 “And there was a good way off G3112 from them an herd of many swine feeding.” Is this how Jesus, in his imagination, got the idea for this parable?

The point is though, how does God see the sinner? Is he looking at us in anger and disgust? No, he sees our broken sinful condition and has compassion on us. 

A sprint to the finish

That’s the amazing thing about the grace of God: it doesn’t matter how far away we are, or what we have done. If, we take one small step towards the father, He’s sprinting towards us!  Therefore, even before the son has arrived at the garden gate, he is met by a father who embraces him and covers him with a whirlwind of kisses!

Reconciliation

repentanceIndeed, God doesn’t wait till we’re sorted out before he accepts us or embraces us. In fact, the Father showers undeserved affectation on the son even before he’s uttered one word of repentance or confession! This mess of a son comes as he is; dressed in rags; stinking of pigs; no shoes on his feet; homeless and broke.

Without a doubt, this amazing Father has already has forgiven his beloved son long ago and before he’s even uttered one word of confession. The fact that he’s coming home is enough; he just wants his son back.

He loves, not for what the son has or hasn’t done but as in the words of Luke: “this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” 

Hours in repentance?

Likewise, God didn’t wait until anyone of us spent hours in repentance in confession. No, while we were yet sinners; while we were yet enemies he loved us! This is hyper-grace or whatever you want to call it! This son has been reconciled; he’s been brought near!

“Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”

Understandably, maybe the son was expecting anger from his Father but instead he finds that this Father is towards him, favourable and full of love. Neither is God angry with you. His love is towards you!

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is a love that is worth thinking about. Did we deserve this kind of love, this kind of forgiveness, this kind of blessing? No we didn’t!

1 John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

A rehearsed confession

Moving on though, the son does manage to blurt out his carefully rehearsed confession. Before he can request, “that he be made into a hired servant” , the Father interrupts and issues swift commands to his servants to shower his son with blessings!

22 “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. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

Favour

What is the Father teaching his son? What is God teaching us? Favour is not dependent on our performance; it is because of Christ in us – our identity. The Father favoured and blessed his son because he was his son.  In fact, he could never really be a hired servant! First time around, the younger son demanded his blessings because somehow he didn’t think the Father was that good or generous. This time around his performance is miserable and yet he finds out that he is still favoured and loved. He now knows who he is!

The worlds system: the  world that Cain built, is based on independence and self-sufficiency. (Cain built the first cities). It doesn’t seek or need the favour of God. Indeed, Cain murdered his brother Abel because God looked favourably on his sacrifice and rejected his! Through it he becomes a spiritual orphan – lost!

Likewise, the prodigal son tries to ‘go independent’ but learns through the school of hard knocks in the far-country or world, that he is nobody apart from his Father. His identity is based on who his Father is.

1 John 2:2 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Orphans or sons

Hence, after being embraced and kissed by the Father, the prodigal knows without a doubt that he is not an orphan ( a child without a home or a Father.) Similarly, Jesus doesn’t want us to feel like orphans and he has sent the spirit of sonship into our hearts crying abba Father!

Galatians 4:6 “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

Jesus tells his own disciples two important truths in John 14: “No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.” and “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”.

How can Jesus be so certain? Because, on the cross, he was abandoned or orphaned for us when he cried: “My God My God why have you forsaken me?”

Therefore, as believers we can be assured that we are not orphans we are sons and that our home is in the Father’s house!

Lavish blessings

Of course, the behaviour of the Father could be construed by some – especially the religious – as reckless. God though, if he’s going to do anything – doesn’t hold back. He is kind of reckless! He lavishes his love on us! God doesn’t just cover the cake in cream – he lavishes it with cream!

Ephesians 1:8 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished on us”

I mean, how many religious church people would accept a sinner into the community without a least first checking thoroughly the genuineness of the repentance and that he wasn’t just home for a free meal?

ringNo, a wiser solution would have be to put him to work in the fields with his brother for a few weeks – just to make sure – for all you know he might run off again into the night!

Furthermore, putting the ring on the son was basically saying: “here son is my cheque book”. Ridiculous to give this scoundrel the best robe and sandals. Why not something cheap from Asda? This Father is definitely not thinking straight. No, he’s thinking with his heart!

Spur of the moment decision?

However, I don’t think this was the spur of the moment decision. The Father had been planning this for a while. The calf had been fatted up – just for this occasion! Just imagine how good the steak of the fatted calf tasted to the starving prodigal!

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

No more wandering

Do we really think then, that there was any danger of this son ‘ falling away,’ leaving home again – wandering? No, of course not.  Why go back to the pig pen when we’ve eaten steak for the first time in months!

If we have encountered the lavish love of the Father; the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and our empty hole in our heart is filled (the whole reason for leaving in the first place). Then why would we leave? Love and grace are the antidote to sin!

This son has found out what it means to be rooted and grounded in love. He is home!

Ephesians 3:17 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love”

The story ends with: ” and they began to make merry” …. ah, but that’s not the end. Enter the elder brother!

FREE book: Christ in You!

To help this revolution along download FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Part 5 end of a party

Part 4 a lost son (departure)

Part 3 a lost coin

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

Other Kindle Books!

Forgiven Book CoverGods Grace Works Book
Forgiven – how do I know?
   NEW!

Gods Grace Works Every Day

Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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Party over! (Lost son part 5)

The party is over!

The big problem with sin, is for the most part its enjoyable!

Hebrews 11:25 “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;”

Unfortunately, for the sinner though, its pleasure doesn’t last and it always has consequences. In other words –  there is always a big price tag attached! The party is soon over!

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Severe famine

Luke 15: 14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”

partyFor the prodigal son therefore,  this is exactly what he comes to realise, as his money soon runs out and unfortunately for him, this coincides, with severe country-wide famine! Suddenly, he finds himself alone, in need and desperate. Rashly, he joins himself to a citizen of the country who breeds pigs. All that does though, is increase his hunger, as the pigs seem to be better fed than him!

The phrase: “no one gave him anything” is particularly poignant, as at one point he had everything: including a family, food and a job. Now however, he has nothing. He is living in a graceless society; it’s survival of the fittest! Ironically, later on in the story, the elder son later accuses the Father of never giving him a goat to celebrate with his friends, insinuating the Father’s lack of generosity – go figure!

Alone and empty

pigsThe prodigal however, is learning a salutary lesson from these difficult times. The party has ended and he’s alone.

7 “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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

 Now, he’s got lots of time time to think! Suddenly, he comes to the realisation that if he doesn’t do something drastic –  then he’s soon going to be in the grave: dead from starvation. In other words he going to ‘perish’ with hunger –  there’s our greek word ‘appolymi’ or ‘lost’ again!

He comes to life!

I love it though,  when it says that ‘he came to himself’. It’s as if he’s been asleep and finally he’s begun to wake up. Indeed, the dead son is coming back to life! He realises how stupid he’s been! Even the servants in his Father’s house are better fed than him! Anyway, that’s what his grumbling and empty stomach tells him. In fact, maybe these dire circumstances are a blessing in disguise? Could it be, that his Father prayed every day for his son’s return and yet God engineered a famine? Who knows!

Partly, this parable is again about repentance or a change of mind. This is what we see as the prodigal comes to his senses! This results in an action plan and a simple decision – he’s going home.

What am I going to say?

However, what is he going to say? How will his Father react? This time however, instead of demanding what’s is his from his Father, he’s going to approach with humility: confessing that he sinned against heaven (God) and also towards his Father – the angels are already holding a party!

However, although his humility is good, like the elder son, the younger son doesn’t yet really know the heart of his Father because his solution is to become a slave.  He’s playing safe and setting his expectations low. He can believe that his Father might be merciful because after all, he still family but the abundant; over the top; magnificent hyper-grace that he’s about to receive – no way.  If he’s lucky, he thinks he might be to spend a few nights bedding down in the stables?

FREE book: Christ in You!

To help this revolution along download FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Part 4 a lost son (departure)

Part 3 a lost coin

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

Lost and found

A purpose focused church

Other Kindle Books!

Forgiven Book CoverGods Grace Works Book
Forgiven – how do I know?
   NEW!

Gods Grace Works Every Day

Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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The departure (a lost son part 4)

Death – the ultimate loss

grave stoneThe departure or death of a loved one is probably the most painful circumstance for any human being to handle – the ultimate loss. Of course, if the particular circumstances are tragic or unresolved, then it can be even more devastating.

The first tragic death and murder is that of Abel, murdered by his elder brother Cain in a fit of jealous rage. (Genesis 4). Imagine, how his parents, Adam and Eve, must have grieved and regretted their own sin – which had started this deadly ball rolling!

Joseph and Jacob (Genesis 37)

Later on, and in the same book of Genesis, we have another family tragedy: Joseph (again the younger) and the favourite of his elderly Father Jacob, is betrayed by his jealous elder brothers and sold into slavery into Egypt. The guilty brothers trick Jacob into believing that Joseph is dead (killed by a wild animal). Poor Jacob the deceiver has been deceived. He is heart broken and grief stricken. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, as several years later Jacob is amazed to find that his son is not only alive and well – but the ruler of all Egypt!

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-14)

desert islandIf I was left on a desert island and I could only have one portion of scripture, the parable of the prodigal son would be it! I believe that this parable is one of the greatest illustrating the Gospel of Grace. 

In previous articles, we looked at the two previous parts: the lost sheep, and the lost coin but in the parable of the lost son we are at the momentous climax. Indeed, this whole three part parable in Luke 15  suggests that the divine trinity is fully involved in redemption: the Shepherd (Jesus) ; the Women (Holy Spirit) and the Father (Father.) For those that don’t think that the trinity is found in scripture – “put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

Luke 15: 11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 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. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.

A departure!

departuresThe parable begins with an unreasonable demand from the younger of two sons. He wants his inheritance and he wants it now. Effectively, he is saying: “Father I want you dead!”. Personally, I would have told him where to stick it! I mean, didn’t the Father guess how the son was going to spend his money – wine, women and song; in other words prodigally or wastefully!

Of course, every Jewish boy would have learnt  the commandment: ” honour your Father and Mother”, so, he’s not just rebelling against his Father but against heaven (God). By the way, where is the mother in this story? If the Father was recently bereaved then this would make the story even more poignant!

Proverbs 15:20 “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”

Just to add insult to injury though, a few days later after receiving his portion of the inheritance, he’s up and out the door. What about his responsibilities on the farm? Maybe, that’s why his elder brother is so furious on his return?

How we treated God

Isn’t that a picture of how we treat God though? Arrogantly, we turn our backs on God or as the famous song says: “I did it my way.”  We don’t want to retain God in our knowledge and yet we blame natural disasters as ‘acts of God’?

Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”

Hiding from God

Indeed, you get the feeling that this younger son just wants to escape. He wants to blot out all memory of his Father’s house. Now he can live as he chooses. No one to tell him what to do. No one to ‘rain on his parade’. Now he’s free to live it up – and that’s exactly what he does!

Certainly, this typifies the human race from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned and hid in the garden. Did God separate himself from them or did they become enemies in their minds -separating themselves?

Genesis 3:10 “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Does sin separate us from God?

Does sin then, really separate us from God as many Evangelicals preach from the pulpit? Habakuk 1:13 is often the verse quoted as a proof text. However, you can see that it’s in the form of theological argument as to justice rather than proof that God can’t go anywhere near sin!

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

I mean, if God couldn’t go anywhere near sin or even look upon it, then why would God himself come in the person of Jesus to live amongst sinners? Indeed, what upset the religious and pharisees (separate ones), was that Jesus called himself the friend of tax-gathers and sinners!

We separate ourselves from God

A better explanation therefore, is that sin negatively effects our minds and we separate ourselves from God. We cannot stand his presence. In other words , sin engenders a degeneration in the whole of the human psyche. We become alienated in our minds; building up a negative picture of God. We were created for relationship with God; instead God becomes our enemy!

Colossians 1:21 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled”.

Ephesians 2:17 “You walk no longer just as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart and they having become callous have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness”

Example: Cain

This separation complex, can be seen in the mind of the first murderer Cain. Even though God is very gracious to him – under the law he would have been put to death –  he seems to be blaming God for his situation, when it’s the shedding of innocent blood at his own hand that has brought a curse on the ground (his lively-hood). Notice, how Cain adds (high-lighted) to the pronounced judgement from God.

Genesis 4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.”

Conclusions so far:

Back to our parable though,  surely this verse has echoes of the departure of the younger son from the Father’s house?

“So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”

Fortunately though, that’s not the end of the story but it does get worse before it gets better. However that’s the topic of the next post!

FREE book: Christ in You!

To help this revolution along download FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Part 5 party over ( a lost son)

Part 3 a lost coin

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

Lost and found

A purpose focused church

Other Kindle Books!

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Forgiven – how do I know?
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Gods Grace Works Every Day

Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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In the dark – the lost coin! (part 3)

In the dark!

Luke 15:8 “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

Lost something?

It’s a horrible feeling when you realise that you have misplaced your wallet or mobile phone. I automatically go into deep intercessory prayer – Lord help!

A lost coin

coinHowever, this is the point of the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15. God hasn’t lost something as trivial as a mobile phone. No, He’s lost the whole human race and He’s determined to get us back! In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus is the good shepherd. In this parable, the woman represents the Holy Spirit.

One coin?

Why though, is one coin so important when you have nine left? If you do some research, it is possible that this coin was part of a wedding dowry that the woman wore around her neck. In fact, the drachma coin – which is the correct translation – was a rare coin not in circulation and certainly not the normal possession of a peasant woman.

What does the coin represent?

women lost coinWhat does this coin represent? I believe that it represents our true identity as we are created in the image of God with his value stamped on our lives. Yes, the coin has rolled somewhere into a dark corner – maybe amongst dirt and grime. Nevertheless, it hasn’t changed our value just because we are lost. No, its worth just as much as one of the other coins around the women neck.

What does the women do?

What does the woman do? Does she stand around moping over her loss? No, she goes into action. First, she lights a lamp. Next, out comes the dust pan and broom and the whole house gets a complete spring clean as she searches high and low for the lost coin.

He shines into the darkness

darkWe can learn alot from this. There is no chance that the lost coin can be found in the dark so she lights a lamp. As lost people, that is exactly our condition: we are ‘in the dark.’ I mean, have you ever been in a cave when someone switches out the lights. It’s pitch black, so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. The Bible says that we were in that kind of darkness – a darkness that had power over us and somehow characterises us!

Colossians 1:13 “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”

Ephesians 5:8 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

Translated from darkness!

The devil’s occult or hidden realm therefore, is one of darkness and once we are found by the Lord we are translated from darkness into the kingdom of light! Every shadow has to flee; every dark corner is revealed in our lives as the Holy Spirit goes to work!

2 Peter 1:19 “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light G3088 that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:”

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

She sweeps the house

Cleaning houseNext, the woman gets the broom and starts to sweep and tidy the house. This is exactly the strategy of the Holy Spirit in our lives as he goes around with his divine vacuum cleaner getting rid of the remains of last nights pizza and dirty dishes. ‘Tidying up’ is essentially separating the common from the precious or holy.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Then the mop is out, cleaning  floors and making the place spick and span. Wow this house is starting to look really good!

Ephesians 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word”

Of course, this is all in aid of finding the lost coin – and that’s exactly why holiness in our lives is good.

God loves a party

Therefore, God is not a party-pooper, a perfectionist only interested in a clean house. No, this is all for a reason – and indeed later on when she finds the coin –  the added bonus is that she can invite her neighbours into a nice clean house made ready for a celebration and party!

Diligently searching

Of course, while she is diligently cleaning the house she is looking out for the glint of silver. She searches everywhere. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is brilliant at searching for that which is lost:

1 Corinthians 2:10 “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Imagine the joy on the face of the woman, as at last she finds the coin in a dark corner, maybe covered in dust or worse. Joyfully she cleans it up and it’s restored back to its original beauty.

Real life example – Bartimeus

For a moment though, lets jump to a real life example in the life of Jesus. In Luke 18 we have the wonderful story of Bartimeus the blind beggar. In Luke 18 we are not told his name but we are told in the paralell passage in Mark 10. His name means: ‘son of Timeus’ and Timeus means ‘highly prized.’ That certainly relates to what we were saying about the preciousness of the lost coin.

Luke 18 35 Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. 36And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. 37So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, 41saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?”He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” 42Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

Blind and a beggar

However, even though his name  means ‘highly prized’ , here is a man who is not living up to his name. He is three things: he’s blind; he’s a beggar; and he’s a citizen of Jericho – the city of the curse. Surely, that’s just like us.  Even though we are ‘highly prized’ by God, we have been blinded and sold a lie as to our identity and self-worth by the god of this world – the devil. We are lost in our own dark world: the city of the curse.

2 Corinthians 4:4 “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

The unfortunate consequence of this blindness, is that he is reduced to begging for scraps. He’s at the bottom of the food chain because he cannot work. This is quite a contrast to another citizen of Jericho – who Jesus encounters later on: Zacchaeus who, although very rich, is likewise spiritually blind. Incidentally, his name means ‘pure’ which again, even though people didn’t see him this way, Jesus affirms his value! 

A revelation of Jesus!

What happens in the blind man’s man’s heart though, is a revelation as to who Jesus is. The worth of Jesus as the Son of David – a King! Indeed, light has shone in is heart and no rebuke from those around him is going to shut him up. This lost sheep is going to bleat its head off at top volume until the Good Shepherd responds!

Faith

Again, this an instance of: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved! “ Acts 2:21. That’s what faith simply is. It’s recognising our inability; our weakness; blindness and helplessness; yet we call upon God to help. Indeed, its precious faith that Jesus is searching for and to this man  he says an interesting thing: “your faith has made you well.”.  What is God looking for? He’s looking for faith in the hearts of men:

Luke 18:8 “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

Faith, therefore, is the currency of heaven. It’s extremely precious and valuable.

1 Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

He receives his miracle

Therefore,  by faith (his own faith),  he receives this miracle of sight. His eyes are now open; no  longer in the dark. Found! Immediately, the work of repentance and renewal begins in his heart as he begins to discard his old lifestyle! Straightaway, he throws away his old garment (Mark 10) and follows Jesus in the way loudly praising God!

A celebration

Like the woman, who celebrates with her neighbour, this is the fruit of true repentance and a miracle – joy!

Acts 26:18 “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Fully sighted Bartemeus therefore, is now instantly in the praise and worship team of heaven; part of the royal priesthood!

1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”

FREE book: Christ in You!

To help this revolution along download FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Part 4 a lost son

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

Lost and found

A purpose focused church

Other Kindle Books!

Forgiven Book CoverGods Grace Works Book
Forgiven – how do I know?
   NEW!

Gods Grace Works Every Day

Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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A lost sheep! (lost part 2)

If you want to get to sleep you can count sheep, but most of us don’t lose sleep over a wandering sheep! In Jesus day though, a story about lost sheep resonated with those listening and certainly they clearly understood the metaphor.

The metaphor of a lost sheep

In  Mathew 12:11 Jesus uses it to make the point that saving human life is more important than keeping to rules:

lost sheepMatthew 12:11 “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

Later on in Matthew 18 he repeats the analogy with the story of another rescue – if we didn’t know better, we might have thought the Jesus was a shepherd (well he was of course) – the good shepherd!)

Matthew 18:12 “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?”

We go astray – just like sheep

The point of all this is, that as fallen human sinful beings we are just like sheep in our behaviour: we constantly stray and do stupid things!

Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 2:25 “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

We do the same sinful things over and over again even when we get the same negative results – insane!

Example: crazy tortoise!

This reminds me, of when I was young and had a pet tortoise. It had nice enclosure with a chicken wire fence, plenty of grass, and even a little wooden house to live in. Every day though, the tortoise did three things: it ate, it slept and every other waking moment, it spent climbing the fence trying to escape!

tortoiseSurprisingly, tortoises are very good climbers but unfortunately they have no common-sense. In fact they have no sense at all, so that when he arrived at the top of the wire he just kept going and inevitably fell off onto his back. Ingeniously, he would then use his back paws up against the fence to push himself upright and get out of this scrape. Amazingly, he never learnt the lesson (give up) but would begin the whole process again. He didn’t live long and I do wonder whether he died of concussion!

So what’s the point of this story? What can we learn? How does my crazy tortoise relate to us? Maybe if their hadn’t been sheep in biblical times the Bible would have used the tortoise as an example!  

“All we like tortoises have gone astray (very slowly!) “

Jesus therefore is the ultimate pastor or shepherd and his mission is to rescue dumb sheep (or tortoise) out of the mess we get ourselves into! Our designation is lost – resistance is futile!

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Parable of the lost sheep of – Luke 15

lost sheep

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Who are the lost sheep?

As we see in the above passage,  Jesus further expands and clarifies the parable of lost sheep as told in Matthew 18, intimating clearly, that he views the listening tax-gathers and sinners as the lost sheep! I don’t expect they were getting this message from their local church or synagogue – if they attended at all!

This parable is basically saying, that Jesus isn’t interested in faithful church-goers. No, he’s after the black-sheep of the family: the guy who sells crack cocaine; the prostitute; the pervert. That’s what he’s prepared to risk life and limb for. This shepherd is scouring the outback in search of just one sheep because even sinners, broken and lost – have value!

Zaccheus gets found!

This parable is played out in real-life later on in Luke 19,  when a real ‘live’ wandering sheep by the name of Zaccheus, is ‘found’ hiding in the branches of a  tree!

Luke 19: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything,I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

zac up a treeTherefore,  just as Zaccheus cannot believe his luck on being asked to put on a party by the centre of attraction Jesus, likewise in the parable, the shepherd is so delirious with the success of his  mission that he invites his neighbours around for a party. Over a sheep! A little crazy maybe? Could God be a little more into partying than we though was decent?

Luke 15:7 “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”

What about repentance though – I hear the religious intone? If repentance means saying sorry for your sins – how does a sheep do that? I mean, all it does it bleat? Now of course, Zaccheus does show the fruits of repentance in the over-the-top restitution he makes – but a sheep?

What is repentance?

I think the explanation might be, to understand that the sinful human condition separates us from God – in other words we are lost! The moment that sin entered the world, Adam and Eve became wandering sheep and their first instinct is to hide amongst the trees and ‘cover up’ with fig leaves.

Indeed, religion is really an exercise in covering up nakedness and making us comfortable with our alienation and separation from God. 

Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.

Separated from God?

This separation though is a virtual one. What do I mean? Well, its all in the mind; all in our thinking. God isn’t avoiding us; we are avoiding him!

Romans 1:25 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

As you can see from these scriptures, sinful thinking leads to sinful behaviour. Could repentance therefore not so much be about what we do – but a change of mind.  Is it, that when we encounter the pure love of God as we are laid on the rescuing good shepherd’s shoulders -that we change our minds ( repent) and a whole load of sinful thinking that has alienated us from the life of God falls away?

In the next article we will look at the parable of the lost coin.

FREE book: Christ in You!

To help this revolution along download FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Part 1 Lost 

Lost and found

A purpose focused church

Other Kindle Books!

Forgiven Book CoverGods Grace Works Book
Forgiven – how do I know?
   NEW!

Gods Grace Works Every Day

Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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