Younger Son | Perspectives
Monday— THE LOST
The term “prodigal son” has come to mean a kid who’s walked away from his raising. But there’s more to it than that. When we read the story of the prodigal son, it’s important to recognize the context and the audience to whom it was first addressed. This illustration is the last in a series of three in Luke 15: lost sheep, lost coin, lost son. Jesus is addressing a Jewish audience, primarily the religious leaders who considered themselves God’s elite. They’d whittled the in-crowd down so far it mostly consisted of them. So this illustration in particular was designed to shock the insiders while offering hope to the outsiders.
Jesus’ point was that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But what does it mean to be “lost?” Let’s look at it from God’s perspective: He created human beings for His pleasure. We are more like Him than anything else He made. But He gave us free will, the power to choose or reject Him. He pursues our hearts, but we have another pursuer—the devil, whose goal is to destroy as many humans as possible. He does that by enticing, tormenting, and deceiving. Because of the sin nature we inherited from Adam, we default toward Satan, not God. Thus, every human being is born lost. As soon as we’re old enough to choose sin, we do. So Jesus came for any human willing to reject Satan’s rule and follow Him.
Challenge: You were born lost. Who rules your life now: God or Satan? Repentance is how the lost become the found.
Prayer: Lord God, am I lost? Is my heart directed toward you or toward my Enemy and his overwhelming temptations? I now reject Satan’s attempts to destroy me and pledge my full allegiance to your Son who died for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— THE DEFIANT REBEL
Rod had been a leader in his youth group, Sue used to sing on the worship team, and Len was once eager to study the Bible. But they each came to a crisis. Maybe it was a broken romance, the death of a loved one, or too much time cruising ungodly websites. Maybe a desperate prayer went unanswered and doubt crept in. But at some point, what they’d accepted as truth became a source of pain. Anger rose to meet that pain and they began to profess animosity toward a God they once claimed to love. These are not passive skeptics, but active enemies of God (Phil. 3:18-19). They don’t disbelieve in God; they hate Him.
Defiant rebels appear to us as prodigals when, in fact, they never truly knew Jesus. They are some of those Jesus addressed in Matthew 7:21-23— He never knew them. They knew a lot about Him, did Christian-like things, and as long as they felt good about God, they assumed they were His. Then crisis hit and God did not do what they wanted. They grew angry and decided they didn’t believe after all. They’re similar to toddlers who cover their eyes with their hands and say, “You can’t see me.” They hate a God whose existence they deny—and don’t see the contradiction. Defiant rebels often reject Christ until their deathbeds when self-deception tends to loosen. Sometimes grace meets them, sometimes not. Either way, they’ve wasted their lives.
Challenge: If you’re a defiant rebel, don’t assume you’ll get a deathbed chance to repent. Accept grace while it’s offered.
Prayer: God, you see my heart, and you see the hearts of people I love. I can’t assume anyone—including myself—is a Christian. I don’t want to be a defiant rebel. I humble myself before you and receive your forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— THE BACKSLIDER
Proverbs 14:14 says, “Backsliders get what they deserve; good people receive their reward.” A backslider is one who has truly demonstrated the fruits of repentance and a relationship with God. They were gung-ho for a while, but the new wore off and life got hard. They got church-hurt, or another Christian disappointed them. They didn’t walk away like the rebels; they simply stopped growing. Twenty years after conversion, they’re as immature as ever and look very much like the lost. They’re not storing treasure in heaven nor bearing fruit that lasts. They’re just existing. Church involvement is sporadic, devotional time has shriveled up, and God feels a million miles away. They pretend to care about eternity, but their real interest is in this world, both its hurts and its pleasures. So if they’re really Christians, what does this verse mean that they get what they deserve?
Backsliders are like the frog in the pot. Froggie doesn’t jump out when the water starts to heat because it happens so slowly he never realizes he’s in trouble. Backsliders rarely realize they’re in trouble because they cling to their excuses (“She hurt my feelings…I can’t find a church I like… I’m not doing anything wrong…”). But sorrow and regret await them at the Judgement. They’ll be received into heaven because they’ve placed their faith in Jesus. But when it’s reward time, they get nothing. Devoted servants will cast crowns at the feet of Jesus—the backslider has nothing. Some get joyful reports—“Because of you, I’m in heaven today!”— but nobody is there because of the backslider. Faithful Christians will experience their Master’s joy, those who sacrificed all to obey Him find piles of treasure—but backsliders get what they deserve. Nothing.
Challenge: If you’re a backslider, you can change that today. Repent and be restored.
Prayer: Lord, I’ve sat on the sidelines long enough. I’ve made excuses, justified my lukewarm attitudes, but no more. I’m a backsliding prodigal and I want to be restored. I repent of my lack of devotion. I’m ready to bear fruit. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— THE PERPETUAL PRODIGAL
“I’m His prodigal princess!” Lisa giggled, taking out a nail file in the session with Pastor Kevin. She filed her nails and grinned at him, then rolled her eyes playfully. “I know, I know…I have three kids, never married, some bad habits…but He’s patient with me, you know? He knows I always come back. He’s used to me by now.” She shrugged and went back to her nails. Pastor Kevin’s face clouded. “Lisa, I think there’s a deeper problem here. You may have a wrong picture of God and His patience. You’re assuming you belong to Him because of some childhood baptism, but your lifestyle abuses His grace. According to First John 3:4-10, you may not be born again. Can I read it to you?” Lisa frowned, slammed her purse shut, and stalked out.
Perpetual prodigals make self-rule a way of life, even taking a little pride in it. Their thinking goes like this: “God loves me so much, He tolerates my ongoing sin with an eye roll and a chuckle. He doesn’t like it, but He gets used to it because that’s just how I am. Nobody’s perfect, right?” Perpetual Prodigals are just as lost as Defiant Rebels, but they cushion their rebellion in softer terms. To them, God is a toothless grandpa who hands out pats on the head and quarters just for showing up. Holiness, righteousness, and judgement have no place in their vocabularies. Yet, because they’re familiar with church terms and pray when they want something, they assume they’ve got a place at the table. Repentance is the only way home for them too.
Challenge: If you’re a perpetual prodigal, you need a wakeup call. Satan has deceived you. Read Hebrews 12:14.
Prayer: Lord, this makes me nervous. I’ve had thoughts like Lisa’s. But your word says that if I’m not pursuing holiness, I’m not pursuing you. Please forgive me and save me. I’m ready to follow and obey you in everything. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— THE GULLIBLE
“I read about this guy that went to heaven and helped God rule the universe…” “Brother Bighair on TV said if I send him fifty dollars, I’ll get my miracle…” “I’m joining Father Leo’s group and moving into his compound. He’s got the truth…” We are living in the most gullible age in Christianity. In a day when Bibles are everywhere, Christians have abandoned them in favor of inspirational tweets and sensational personal experiences. We’re easily sucked in by anything claiming to be of God, whether that’s a “glory cloud” from an air duct, “God told me to tell you” prophecies, or best-sellers written by heretics.
Gullible people become prodigals when they set aside Bible study in favor of sensationalism. They may be Christians, but they salt and pepper the gospel with fake “signs and wonders,” claims of seeing Mary in the clouds, and new-and-improved revelations from a YouTube guru. The gullibility of modern Christianity has made us a laughing-stock to the world—as it rightly should. The statistics of American Christianity are startling, with large percentages of self-described “Christians” disbelieving doctrines as basic as the divinity of Christ. Satan exploits gullibility and uses it to turn well-meaning Christians into prodigals
Challenge: Are you gullible? To remain steadfast, we must compare EVERY claim with “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Prayer: Father, I fear I’m too gullible. I take people’s word for things too much. I’m so hungry for something real, I’m susceptible to error because it supports what I want to believe. Help me become well-grounded in truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.