Distant Land | Perspectives
A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. Luke 15:12
Monday— A Distant Land (1 Kings 21:22)
His heart raced as adrenaline surged through his veins. This was it! He was outta here. Dad was a party pooper and big brother was always telling him what to do. Now he would be his own man. Sure, Dad’s eyes were moist and Bro was giving him the stink eye. But they’d see. He’d never reach his potential stuck in this dump. He was only taking what would one day be his, right? He just needed it a little early, to make a fresh start. He’d show this crummy town a thing or two. He’d show them all.
Remember being 18? 21? Back when you knew everything? The world was yours for the taking. Nobody understood your potential for greatness, so you were gonna find people who did. You’d show those losers back home a thing or two. “This town is my problem,” we said. Or, “My family doesn’t understand me.” Sometimes that was followed by, “This church…this God-stuff…this pastor…I don’t need this.” So, we moved to a distant land. It may not have been geographically distant, but spiritually, we went to Mars. New experiences, changing values, risky behaviors, and dangerous relationships led us further and further from home. Maybe you’re still in that distant land. This week we’ll look at some traps Satan sets for us when we move to a distant land—and how to get free. As it turns out, we have more in common with the prodigal than we thought.
Challenge: Have you moved to a distant land, away from God, away from people who love you? Are you still running?
Prayer: Father, I’ve had seasons when I ran away from you, wasted my potential, and created my own wounds. But you promise to restore anyone who comes to you and leaves their sin. I repent. I want to come home. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— A Distant Land in Relationships (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Kara used to be a light in her world: kind, selfless, pursuing Christ and living a godly life. Then she met Rod and the light went out. Nothing destroys us faster than bad relationships. We become vulnerable to people who don’t share our values, perspectives, and goals. So we change. Even our healthy relationships suffer because we can’t maintain both. Satan exploits our need for relationship by introducing us to his people. They’re so fun, they get us, and we’re sure they’ll meet our need—until they don’t. Betrayed, slandered, or cheated on, we crawl into ourselves, wounded so deeply we don’t think we’ll survive.
God created Adam for relationship. Then He created Eve so Adam would have someone like him. God invented human relationships, but He also put boundaries around them. When we violate those boundaries, our relationship with Him suffers. For example, Proverbs 22:24 warns against making friends with angry people, lest we become like them. First Corinthians 6:18 says to flee sexual relationships outside marriage—to avoid all the problems that come with it. Proverbs 4:23 warns us to guard our hearts against relationships that will lead us into a distant land. Often the very people who led us there, desert us when we need them. “Follow your heart,” they said, and disaster struck. “Follow wisdom,” God says, “and come back home.”
Challenge: A relationship is wise if it inspires you to be a better Jesus follower.
Prayer: Father, I’ve made dumb relationship decisions because I wasn’t allowing you to direct them. May your word guide my choices. Help me guard my heart from relationships that will lure me into a distant land, far from you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— A Distant Land of Habits (1 Corinthians 10:31)
“I can’t help it,” Kel moaned, “it’s just who I am.” Diane agreed. “I’ve always done this. My mom and grandma did too. It’s in our genes, so surely God understands.” Does He? Yes! That’s why He sent Jesus to rescue us from “just how I am.” “Just how we are” keeps us in a distant land, far from a holy God. We can’t have a relationship with God while clinging to bad habits. So Jesus came to make us holy. Wrapped in His righteousness, we have no more excuses for continuing our sin patterns.
Addiction is a habit that has taken over the world. Addiction barges in armed with lies and excuses. “I’ve smoked pot for twenty years…I’ve watched porn since I was ten…my whole family is alcoholic…I’ve had hundreds of lovers, surely God doesn’t expect me to stop now.” And addiction pats us on the head, “Of course not,” it whispers. “You need me.” Laziness is another habit that takes us to a distant land. Pride offers us a ride. Some habits may not be wrong, but they steal our affections and gobble up our time. Bad habits imprison us in a distant land. Only full surrender to Jesus grants us a pardon.
Challenge: What habits might be taking you to a distant land?
Prayer: Father, what habits have I allowed to remain while telling myself I am fully devoted to you? I’ve justified them by saying that I can’t help it or that I need them. Please forgive me as I let go of them. Help me leave this place. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— A Distant Land of People-Pleasing (Galatians 1:10)
Jill never imagined doing what she did, Ben hadn’t planned to go in on the scam, and Terry regretted taking on more than he could handle… BUT “They talked me into it.” Most of us have a story that ends like that. Privately, though, we congratulated ourselves for being so easy to get along with. “I just can’t say no,” we brag, assuming that’s virtuous. But there’s a bigger problem. Our motive was not selfless like we think; it was selfish. We gave in to someone’s demand so we could feel better about ourselves. And it did feel good—for a minute. But people-pleasing limits what God wants to do in and through us.
People-pleasing is a sin that looks a lot like Christian service until we dig down to the motive: the approval of others rather than the approval of God. People-pleasing leads us into a distant land where we fear speaking truth because someone might not like it. We violate our conscience in order to win approval. We say yes when we should have said no. We’d rather please man than God. People-pleasers rescue and enable rather than practicing tough love, saying no, and speaking biblical truth to a world that doesn’t want it. Craving the approval of man in order to feel whole is a form of idolatry. True service gives people what they NEED, whether it makes them feel good or not. We’ll never find validation in Christ while expecting it from people.
Challenge: Have you assumed that people-pleasing a virtue? It’s not. God’s approval is all the validation you need.
Prayer: Father, I confess that many times I make decisions based on pleasing people, not on what you’d have me do. I look to popularity to make me feel good about myself instead of dying to self and living for you. Please help me change. Amen.
Friday— A Distant Land of False Religion (Galatians 1:8-9)
The doorway is beautifully decorated. Welcome signs greet you from lawn and porch. It looks good, smells good, and draws you in with promises of peace, friendships, and eternal life. So you open the door with every expectation of a wonderful experience. And it is! The foyer is as inviting as the exterior, so you set aside caution and make yourself at home. This is what you’ve been looking for: peace with God and man. What you don’t know is that beyond the foyer is a staircase leading down. But other guests are going down, laughing and happy, so you follow into the darkness as the door shuts behind you.
The most successful false religions have a lot of truth in them. “Come on in!” they cry. “Our way is the way to be free!” So people shelve their Bibles and descend into this distant land to find it swamped with false religions. The worshipers disagree, calling it “science,” “Wicca,” or “Atheism,” but they proselytize with religious fervor. False religion is offered in thousands of places, including churches calling themselves “Christian.” But here they offer salvation without repentance, grace without the cross, forgiveness without surrender, and a Jesus they’ve created themselves. False religion attracts prodigals because it offers them what they want—self-determination. It’s the same bait the serpent used with Eve in the Garden: “Has God really said…?” Distant Land dwellers don’t know what He said, so they’re easily seduced. The only way to avoid this trap is a steadfast commitment to the God of the scriptures. When we are immersed in truth, it’s easier to identify counterfeits.
Challenge: If you’re in a distant land, what religion have you joined? (Hint: It will compromise or contradict biblical truths.)
Prayer: Father, am I being seduced by a false religion without realizing it? Show me what lies I’ve accepted that contradict your word. I want out of this distant land. I recommit myself to your word. Please help me come home. In Jesus’ name, amen.