One summer Judy went to the Columbus Zoo with some relatives and all four of our children. When the day was over, she walked out the gate and toward the parking lot. A friend asked her, “Where’s Justin?” In her haste to leave on time, she left Justin inside the park. Before you question her, it was an extremely hectic afternoon with many kids. She panicked, turned and ran past the guard into the park. She found him by the gate eating his animal crackers. He was fine. My wife was not. But everything was really okay.
This situation helps me understand about those who are ‘spiritually’ lost. When someone you love is ‘spiritually’ lost, your heart is broken. Many have children, grandchildren, and other loved ones and friends who have have turned from God and are spiritually lost. Your heart is broken. Jesus’ last parable in Luke 15 talks about a lost son.
The parables of the lost sheep and coin highlight the search and rescue of what is lost (Luke 15:1-10). The parable of the lost son reveals the condition of those who are lost and the heart of the Father.
The story of the prodigal son is the most widely known, the best loved and most used of all the Lord’s parables. It is a Gospel within the Gospel. A boy ran away from his father, got in trouble, came to his senses, and came home. One pastor outlined it like this: Sick of home, Sick, Homesick, Home. God wants the rebellious to come home. What is the hopeful journey of a lost son?
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. (Luke 15:11-16)
The younger son wanted his inheritance before his father died. It was the equivalent of saying “I wish you were dead.” The father gave it to him, knowing full well what the boy had in mind. The boy took off for a far country and wasted all he had. He went from rebellion, to nothing, to servitude. For a Jewish boy to share food with a pig was the bottom. He learned the hard way that you cannot enjoy the things money can buy if you ignore the things money cannot buy. His behavior illustrates all of us, who squander the blessings God has given us on selfish desires. Sin (rebellion to God) always takes us down.
Have you heard of Rumshpringa? It is a right of passage for teens in some Amish communities. The Amish segregate themselves from other communities as part of their faith with strict behavior. However, between the ages of 14 -17, a certain amount of misbehavior is tolerated. “Rumshpringa” means “running around” in German. These teens may be found wearing non-traditional clothing, driving vehicles, not attending prayer time, alcohol drinking, and other activities. This freedom leads many young Amish to abandon their Amish roots and live among the “English”. However, 85-90% chose to stay and join the church.
Like sheep, some sinners are lost through their own foolishness. Like the coin, some sinners are lost through the carelessness of others. Like this son, some sinners are lost because of their own rebellion. If you have someone stubborn and rebellious, sometimes you need to let them go, knowing the dangers ‘out there.’ Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay home and wait.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (Luke 15:17-19)
At his worst, the boy “came to himself.” He was not his true self. He looked in the mirror and realized who he was and what he had done. What led to his change (repentance)? It was the badness of his life and the goodness of his father. He decided to return, admit his wrong, and surrender to be a servant. Instead of “Father, give me”, he said, “Father, make me.” When a person
In August 2012 a group of 50 tourists were visiting a volcanic canyon in Iceland when it was discovered that a passenger was missing. She was described as “Asian, 5/6”, dark clothing, and speaks English well.” The tourists formed a search party and worked with the local authorities to find her. The Coast Guard was called in and searched with a helicopter. At 3am the search was called off because it became clear that the missing woman was searching for herself. It turns out that the missing woman left the bus to change her clothes and freshen up and nobody recognized her. As word got around, she joined in the search until in occurred to her that she was the person everyone was searing for. She found herself. Like his boy, until she realized she was the one lost, she would continue to be lost.
Like many, the prodigal son wanted to be free and live as he pleased. What he thought would be freedom became slavery. True freedom and happiness is slavery to our Heavenly Father. If you find yourself a slave to some passion, activity, or situation, you need to “come to senses” and return to Jesus. Submit to Him and you will find freedom.
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:21-25)
The Father had been watching. He saw his son from far away and ran to him. He stopped him before he could finish his apology and gave him three symbols of restored status: a robe (honor), a ring (authority) and shoes (son vs. slave). This is just like God for the wayward sinner. He is more concerned about you getting right than you are.
Abraham Lincoln was once asked how he intended to treat the rebellious Southerners when they had been defeated and returned to the Union of the United States. Lincoln with characteristic grace answered, “I will treat them as if they had never been away.”
Your Father is waiting for you to come home.
- If are far from God, turn and go to Him. He is waiting.
- Do you know someone who is lost? Tell them about a Father who will receive them – no questions asked.
An older couple was out for a drive. The wife was sitting in the passenger seat and began to complain to her husband – “Remember when we first started dating and we snuggled next to each other while you were driving. We were so close back then. Over time, we’ve drifted apart. And now, we sit on either side of the car. What happened?” He simply looked straight ahead and made a simple statement, “I haven’t moved.”
If you find you are distant from God, guess how moved? Return to the Father who loves you.