Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Heart Of Our Father

“We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (Luke 15:23-24 NLT).

It has been very good to observe the character (or lack thereof!), and the tendencies of “the lost” in the parable of the Prodigal son. Jesus told this story to the Pharisees and the teachers of religious law who were complaining about His association with tax collectors and sinners—“such despicable people—even eating with them!” (Luke 15:2 NLT). It is easy to sense their utter disgust at those our Savior chose to befriend. Therefore, He creatively puts together three illustrations, one right after the other—in order to stop their foolish mouths—this story being the last. His point was simple: Men who are lost, need to be found.

Jesus’ mission was to do just that. The Pharisees were as guilty as those they shunned…but they had deceived themselves with religious garb and self-righteous talk. Jesus knew their hearts and turned away from their pride—they did not see themselves as “lost” and therefore they could not “be found.”

The parable of the lost son is very powerful—it describes in detail the state of man’s lost condition and the faithful love of his Redeemer. Humility played a key part in this son’s turn around. Jesus wanted to teach the Pharisees what God holds in great value, and it was not “their righteousness.” Their religious show was a reproach to the Almighty. God treasures the heart of a repentant sinner—even a sinner that bears the stench and grime of his ungodly actions.

Scripture tells us that the tax collectors and the notorious sinners came to Jesus in order to hear Him teach—this indicates that they were aware of their need. Jesus spends time with those who desire truth—His heart is open to them.

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting till you die” (Luke 15:11-12 NLT).

When the Prodigal son demanded his “rightful” possessions he showed love only for himself. Self is the lost man’s entire concern. He may appear benevolent at times, but his heart only beats for his own needs—if meeting the needs of others brings satisfaction, then that is what he will do—but when push comes to shove, he is always thought of first. He is greedy. He is impatient. He lives for the present, the now, and gives no thought whatsoever, to the promised what will come (the promised reward or judgment).

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living” (Luke 15:13 NLT).

The Prodigal son was wasteful—he lived as if he had no concerns. Any respect he gained came only through superficial means. No matter how successful he appeared, this son was living a lie. A lost man will bring himself to ruin oftentimes thinking himself very wise. He is truly blinded to his damned condition. Riotous living will eventually take its toll. The man who is lost will begin to experience great need—but will have no spiritual understanding as to reagarding its source. In the parable, the son ran out of money. Those who live only for themselves will end up loosing everything as well—their resources, their spouse, their children, their friends, their dignity. Here is where the importance of humility comes into play. Man’s pride will always try to fix the situation his sin has created without the help of God. The Prodigal son settled for the husks that he fed to the pigs—unbelieving man will always settle for those things of no true value. He will seek worldly advice (wicked counselors, false religions, magazines, TV, friends) and be content with temporary satisfaction (drugs, religious taboos, divorce, debt, bankruptcy). He will never know true freedom from want apart from humility.

Verse 17 tells us that this desperate man finally came to his senses. How does a man, so far wasted, come to understand where his true help lies?

“I will go home to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son” (Luke 15: 18-19 NLT).

The behavior of the “the repentant” in this story is so vital. He had a dose of reality and chose to allow his mind to compare his state to those of his father’s household staff. He had to make a deliberate choice. This required “death to self”. To consider who he was, a son, and yet see himself as worse than a hired servant, was important to his recovery. For the first time he saw his real need, and identified himself as a sinner. He didn’t just say, “Oops, I made a mistake”—but placed himself as the lowest of the low, with no hope of restoration. He is determined to stand before his father in complete vulnerability—he wants nothing more than to be forgiven. He does not go home to claim his right as a son—he goes home to serve. This is the true state of a repentant heart.

The son’s determination becomes action. He makes the journey. The road to his father’s home was long and probably full of people telling him the trip would be worthless—but this man was already convinced he was lost, and nothing would stand in his way of making peace with his authority.

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20-21 NLT).

Observing the love and commitment of “the father’s heart” toward restoration is beautiful. The fact that he saw his son a great way off, indicates that He is expecting him—that he has been looking for him. I am challenged by His optimism and eagerness. The father runs toward his son—as soon as He sees him (far, far away). He desires for the boy’s struggle to end. He doesn’t resent his child, making him walk the entire distance. He loves his child, and therefore wants to relieve him as quickly as possible.

This father’s tenderness is incredible. Not one question as to “and exactly what have you done with all my money?”—but kisses him—kisses the face that has become dirty and sun burnt. Touches the one who has despised him utterly—despised his love, his protection, and his honor. Embraces the one who has chosen to embrace everything contrary to his upbringing. His compassion is full.

It seems that the father completely knows his child’s heart—before the son utters one word of his confession, the father has fully forgiven him. He never once brings up the past and demonstrates his pardon by lavishing his son with the very best. He dresses his son in fine robes and chooses to place a ring upon his hand—a symbol that will always identify acceptance and the entitlement to his father’s name.

I desire to have the same compassion for those who are lost. I desire to watch and wait for those I am praying into the Kingdom—expectantly. I desire to have the same tender response to those who seek redemption.

Killing the fatted calf and throwing a party is the best conclusion to this tale! This daddy's joy is completely overflowing—a wonderful glimpse into our own Father's Heart!

“We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (Luke 15:23-24 NLT).

1 comment:

  1. How beautiful to consider in this parable what is truly precious to the Father - a repentant heart. A heart that turns to Him in stark honesty. Not trying to hide behind the deceit of religion, not trying to clean up and appear acceptable, but coming naked, poor and blind. "Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts" Ps 51:6. And then to be reminded of the outpouring of His love when we come in such a condition!! It makes my heart sing!!

    Thank you for sharing those thoughts and meditations!

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