"Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you."
Isaiah 43: 2-3
There are many Christmas themes that are meaningful to me, but none quite as much as "God With Us." Jesus left Heaven to join us in our broken world. Amazing! And, as brokenness multiplies and life gets even harder, I become increasingly grateful for Emmanuel.
I've been pondering the Parable of the Lost Son a lot lately. The Lord has placed it on my mind often. Then, it has been the topic of everything I'm reading and listening to for a few weeks now. This morning, I flipped to Luke 15 to study it more carefully.
I've heard plenty of teaching on the younger son in the parable. He didn't appreciate his life with his father. Clearly, he was rotten, greedy, and focused on himself. Asking for his inheritance early only publicized what he already felt privately. He cared more about what his father could give than who his father was. It hit me this morning that his heart hadn't truly been changed when he made the decision to return home.He was broken and needed help. But, he was still searching for what his father could give him. He wanted food and a place to live. He'd take on the life of a servant to get it.
However, his brokenness allowed him to see who his father was. As he approached home, his father was running towards him. No longer could rebellious pride hinder the son's vision. He saw that his father was loving, gracious, and merciful. He probably realized he'd been that way all along. This time, though, his father demonstrated his character in spite of the son's behavior. At that moment, being with his father became the gift. Food, clothing, shelter, and anything else his father provided were simply extras.
But, there's another son, right? The Bible doesn't say much about him until there's a celebration for the returning prodigal. Then, the arrogant pride of the older brother rears its ugly head. The father responded in the same way he did with the brother. He went to him. But, the older son rejected his father's presence. That's NOT the gift he wanted. As I was reading this morning, it dawned on me that behavior modification and pseudo-righteous living actually hindered this son from seeing who his father was. The love, grace, and mercy that transformed the life of his brother never invaded the older brother's heart. Therefore, he was still focused on what his father could give. He expected more "stuff," because he felt he'd been more righteous.
Legalism crushes freedom. The older brother was following Old Testament law and missing New Testament liberty. His heart had deceived him, and he was actually dying in the sins of anger, pride, and bitterness. Behavior modification never works, because it forces us to rely completely on ourselves and we never look to our Savior. Fear and pride actually force us to forgo abundant living for safe rituals and routines. But, we weren't made for safe living. We were made for freedom!
God sent Christ into humanity so that we could experience HIS PRESENCE on Earth. His death brought freedom, and His resurrection left His Spirit here to dwell with us forever. Sadly, rebellious pride and arrogant pride still keep many of us from experiencing the gift of His presence. We are too focused on what we want Him to give.
This Christmas, I'm praying for pride of all kinds to be exposed for the sake of healing. The younger son acted righteously when his pride was exposed. He celebrated! The older son acted arrogantly when his pride was exposed. He shared his resume of good deeds with his father and asked why he'd never gotten a party.
Oh, we are a messed up bunch. We could ask our questions till we have no breath left to speak, but we will never get to the bottom of this idea of God's grace. But, when we truly know that we've received it, judgement has no place. Love conquers all and mercy rules. Then, we are free to enjoy the gift of God's presence through Jesus Christ, our Savior. And, I bet, more prodigals would join the party!
"Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."
2 Corinthians 9:15