How many of you have read or heard of the story of the Prodigal Son? It’s a famous parable in the bible about a son who strayed away from home, spent his wealth in wild living, but later returned back home after he came to the end of himself.
The reason why this parable came to my mind is because on some days–when I’m at church sitting behind my apostle on the stage during service (as the reader)–I would look out at the congregation, and I would see a lot of missing faces. People who may have backslidden, left the church prematurely without receiving their impartation, or those who have denounced the faith altogether. Then on some other days, I would see some of those same people return–broken, humbled, ready to get back in the process. The Lord began to deal with me on this observation, and I felt a strong impression on my heart that he not only wanted to minister to me about this issue, but that he wanted me to share it with the body of Christ as well.
Take a moment out to go over the story for yourself. The reference scripture is Luke 15:11-32.
Here are some key things that I noted as I read the story:
- An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time alive or dead. It is the sum of a person’s assets – legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind – less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person. (i.e. inheritance.)
- Notice that it was the younger son who wanted his half of the inheritance. The fact that it was acknowledged that he was young could imply he was too immature to take the inheritance at that time.
- The son demanded his father give him his inheritance. He wanted to establish a life of independence from his father.
- Squander means to waste something in a reckless or foolish manner.
- When you don’t earn or work hard for something, it can be easy for you to depreciate or devalue it. But when you have genuinely paid the price for the anointing or for your add-ons, usually through suffering, obedience and perseverance, you will be more appreciative of it.
- The story says that after the younger son wasted his wealth and all that he had, there was a severe famine in the land. He was in a place of desperation, willing to do anything to survive, even if it meant selling himself to the services of someone else or eating pig food.
- Sin will have you doing some crazy things. It will cause you to become a slave, when you were meant to be a son. It will cause you to be in bondage, when you were meant to be free. It will cause you to be broke when you were meant to be rich.
- Sometimes, God will give you what you want, allow you to experience the fleeting pleasure of your sin, and then allow you to go through hell because of your sin, just to let you know that what you wanted is not what you needed, or that what you wanted, you were not ready for it yet.
- Then, God will dry up your situation so you can come to the end of yourself and back to him. You’ll never come to God if you are in a place of self-sufficiency.
- When you are ready to repent and come back to God, it will be evident because you will be in a place where you are willing to humble yourself of any and all pride and/or rebellion, and give up whatever title, identity or reputation you think you had, in order to just be back in the presence of God again. You will realize that without him, you are nothing and can do nothing. He is the air that you breathe. He is the source of life. He is your provider, protector, deliverer, keeper, redeemer, etc.
- Never feel as if you can’t come back to God, or that your sin is so great that you cannot be forgiven. Understand grace: (Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from EVERY KIND OF SIN, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”) Jesus forgives us from every kind of sin, even the ones that you feel are unpardonable.
- And when you come back, God will not be there to judge you, condemn you, treat you with contempt, reject you, or say to your face, “I told you so.” Just like the prodigal son’s father, God will be there with compassion, joy, and affection, to receive you unto himself again. He’s happy that you came back home. Even the angels in heaven rejoice over a sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)
- The bible says that while the prodigal son was still afar way off, the father ran to him. It doesn’t take much to cause God to acknowledge you in your backslidden state. It doesn’t take much for him to receive you again. It doesn’t take a lot of religious works to get back in right standing with God. It doesn’t take any works, actually. As soon as you have a turn of heart, he sees that.
- God wants to clothe you in the best robes. In the bible, robes are given in symbolism being clothed in righteousness, or being in a position of purity, holiness, or honor. (ref. Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 7:9, Esther 6:7-9) When you come back to God, you are restored. You never lose your sonship. You are a son as long as you have the blood of Christ. You just lost your position. But your position can be restored. When you come back to God, all things are made new again.
- The ring that was placed on the prodigal son’s finger represented affection, authority and inheritance. (ref. Genesis 41:42–Pharaoh gave Joseph a signet ring.) (ref. Esther 8:2–The king gave Mordecai his signet ring.)
- The sandals placed on the prodigal son’s feet also represented wealth. In bible times, only servants and slaves were barefoot. It was symbolic of destitution and poverty.
- Remember, the younger son had already wasted all of his inheritance. The inheritance he was receiving now was the prime inheritance (of his older brother). God can restore everything that you thought you lost when you backslid, and give you even more. He can restore the years that were lost.
- The oldest son was in the field (working, serving).
- He heard that there was rejoicing and celebration over his brother’s reconciliation.
- His countenance changed. The sins in his heart were exposed:
- The sin of hostility. (He became angry).
- The sin of stubbornness and being inhospitable. (He refused to go in to see his brother).
- The sin of entitlement and self-righteousness. (Bragging about his works and comparing his life to his brother.)
How many of us are serving in the field (ministering to the lost), devoted to being in the Father’s house (going to church faithfully), slaving for the Father (slaves of Christ), yet we look at others with contempt who have backslidden or left the church, and think more highly of ourselves because we aren’t the ones outside the church living wildly committing what we consider to be “Big Sins” (clubbing, fornicating, in gangs, etc). Yet deep in our hearts are hidden sins. (Hostility, stubbornness, hostility, self-righteousness,
etc. may seem small to us, but they are big issues to God. They are carnal and ungodly.)
If I had to give this bible study a title, I would call it “The Other Prodigal Son.” Because you don’t have to be outside the church to be in a backslidden state. You can be in the house of God, praising him you’re your mouths and honoring him with your lips, but your hearts are far off.
We may have undealt with sins just like the older son. Prodigal means reckless or wasteful. How many of us have been reckless or wasteful with our spiritual life, or devotional life? Wasting time with porn or masturbation. Wasting time by being slothful and lazy instead of being about our Father’s business. Wasting valuable time doing fruitless things, when you can be utilizing that time by being in your word or in prayer?
I found myself in that place. I was the other prodigal son. I almost never miss a church service. I slave for the things of God. On every Sunday, I’m at church for 8:30 a.m. intercessory prayer, 9:30 a.m. discipleship class, 11 a.m. service and 6 p.m. service. On Thursday nights, I’m there for bible study. I attend men’s meeting every 1st Friday. I attend street ministry every 1st and 2nd Saturday. And I’m at leadership meeting every 3rd Saturday. Any church that my pastor is asked to be a guest speaker at, I tag along in support of him. But as my apostle mentioned one bible study night, we can be devoted to church or be devoted to the pastor, but not devoted to God.
Though I was doing these things, I was being wasteful and reckless, spiritually. Not feeding my spirit man unless I was in church. I figured I do enough for God at church. I hear enough word at church. Enough of it to get me through the week. I was content with my cooperate devotion and wasn’t catering to my personal devotion. And in doing so, I was being weakened and allowing room for my flesh to thrive. I found myself backsliding and indulging in behaviors that I once professed deliverance from. Someone once told me that “7 days without prayer makes one WEAK.” I was definitely being weakened. But as I began to see myself decay spiritually, and I saw the pigs pin I was in (wallowing in the filth of my own sin), I came to the end of myself. And I realized that I have to be like the younger son. I have to come back to my Father, realizing that I can not make it without him. Then I have to allow him to put me in right position again; Restore my authority; Walk in my sonship again; And not beat myself up because of my screw ups; But to remember that God is a forgiving God and is happy that I came back home.
I encourage you all. Whether you are still in the church in a backslidden state or if you are just coming back to church from a backslidden state–Let’s come back to our Heavenly Father.
Can you relate to being a prodigal son or the “other prodigal son”? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.