Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Inside the Mind of a Prodigal

In Christian circles most, if not all, people know the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. This story is especially useful in our current day. It proves that the Bible is not only relevant but can be applied directly to people’s lives thousands of years after it was written. This could only be possible if the Bible was written by a God who knew the future.

The story also proves that humanity, with all its celebrated progress, doesn’t change. We are still the same weak creatures falling victim to the same temptations over and over again. The devil doesn’t need to change his strategy because we still succumb to his original one.

In brief, the prodigal son demanded, then squandered, his inheritance on wild living until he reached the point where he was penniless and desperate to eat pig food because of the gnawing hunger. Eventually, he came to his senses and returned to his father requesting a position as a household servant. Instead, his father forgave and reinstated him. The story is a picture of God’s patience as we wallow in our sin, and His mercy and forgiveness when we reach the point of repentance.

You may think the idol here was money, but it was actually the things and experiences money could buy. The son was dissatisfied with his life and thought the grass would be greener on the other side. He thought he could find satisfaction in the pleasures of the world, and he probably did, for a while. His happiness, though, was always going to be temporary because our sinful appetites are never satisfied.

I love the NIV rendering of the key verse and turning point in this parable: “When he came to his senses….” This verse tells us that all that had gone before was senseless but it had taken a crisis point in the young man’s life for him to realise it. He had his head buried in the sand as he languished in the consequences of his sin, but there came what we might call a “light-bulb moment”.

I was a prodigal, once. I don’t recommend it. Prodigals are tortured souls.

The difference between those who have made professions of faith and wandered away from the truth, and those who have never heard the truth is stark.

The ever present knowledge that God exists and that one day you will appear before Him as Judge. The restlessness of knowing you can never be completely happy without God and that you will have to return to Him…one day. The desperate search for satisfaction in all manner of things to prove that life without God is possible, and preferable. The desire to enjoy worldly experiences without that nagging twinge of conscience. The gradual distancing from Christian family, friends and church, due to guilt. The anger when people presume to judge your lifestyle. The terror of going to a very real place called Hell, forever.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Romans 1 tells us that everyone knows that God exists because He has created them with that knowledge and they can see it in creation. The difference for a prodigal is that they know that they know. They can’t find safety in the crowds of agnostics and atheists because they know that they are lying to themselves. Perhaps, they refuse to talk about religion and avoid the subject altogether, for a limited time. A prodigal is consciously suppressing the truth about God which leads to a lack of peace and turmoil in the soul.  

Maybe, if no one prayed for you, God would leave you alone. Unlikely, because God cares for you much more than the prayer warriors. It’s one thing, though, that you can’t stop people doing, and trust me when I say that they will be doing it. Your parents, relatives and former church friends are praying, and will continue to pray, until you come to your senses and return to the Father who is patiently waiting for you.

Looking back, I can’t believe I spent those six years attempting to run from God. It was all so empty and meaningless. I shudder now at the risks I took each day as I gambled with my life and presumed upon God’s patience and grace. I could have lost my life many times either through recklessness, or through one of the many accidental tragedies that occur every day around the world, one of which took my younger brother during my period of backsliding. Then, where would I be? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

When I came to my senses, the overwhelming feeling was of gratitude and relief; I was grateful that I was no longer carrying my many sins because Jesus had paid for them on the cross, and relieved that I was finally at peace with God. I was no longer at risk of a lost eternity in Hell but had Heaven to look forward to.

Are you a prodigal? Are the brief and passing attractions of the world really worth risking your eternal soul?

Mark 8 vs 36

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

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