As we continue to dive into the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, I hope you will discover that your identity in Christ gives you and me an understanding of who we are as a deeply loved, unconditionally accepted child of God. But if we continue to look at the story Jesus told about the two sons and their father, we might be surprised at what we find. The younger brother had made his way home and his father had restored him, but yet he felt compelled to hold on to his identity of a prodigal. Take a look at this part of Luke 15:
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
It's interesting that in finding your way back to God it's hard to let go of what took us away from God in the first place. That desire that led us into those far away places, is often the very thing that we won't let go of. The feelings of shame and guilt are the feelings that draw us to our knees due to our continued "lost identity".
I want you to stop and think about this for a moment...Dave Ferguson said: "when we initially find our way back to God; finding your way back to God is a life-changing moment, but it’s also a life-growing process, and just because we’re home doesn't’ mean that everything is magically fixed.”
What needs to change for you to begin moving forward in this "life long growing process"?
If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts. -- Tim Keller
Coming home to the Father and following Jesus restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. When we try to change our behavior and set out lives to rules without heart-change we will be superficial and our change will only be an outward performance. We can only change permanently as we take the grace given by Jesus and move more deeply into our understanding and allow Jesus' example and life to move into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.
Even after seeing his father run after him with mercy and compassion. Even after being embraced and bombarded with hugs and kisses. Even after all these unmistakable signs of the father’s love and grace, the son’s opinion of himself doesn’t catch up with his new reality – his new identity.
Maybe you’ve felt that way? Maybe you feel that way now? You’ve found your way back to God, but your longings -- instead of drawing you closer to your heavenly Father, take you to places that are far from home. You’re left with mountains of pain and regret. Sometimes you’re so burdened with shame you still doubt that God will embrace you.
Awakening to Love...
When I look at my own life, I realize that I am a prodigal. So many times I have lived under the shadow of shame and lost my true identity. I carry around all sorts of regrets. Regrets from years past as well as regrets from last week. So, I often DON’T feel worthy of God’s love.
And maybe as you walk with Jesus today (either as a long time follower or a son/daughter that has recently or just now come home), you realize you’ve lost your identity too or at least it's hard to keep your new identity close to your heart? That’s why even after we find our way home; we still need the 4th Awakening…The Awakening to Love. Because it’s here that we for the first time or once again we cast off the shadow of shame and realize that “God loves me deeply after all.”
When we awaken to love, we come to live in the reality that our true identity is a beloved son or daughter of our heavenly Father.
Where are my Turkey Eating Pants?
It's that time of year...when you have to get out your "turkey eating pants"... you know that ones that fit a little loser, cause you are planning on filling yourself up with turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, and ALL the favorite fixings... Then what happens is you go sit on the couch and take a nap! But then you get back up and eat again! What a cycle!
In life we have a lot of good things that we do. We have a lot of good people around us. We have lots of fun and enjoyable events that take place. But as with Thanksgiving... too much of a good thing can turn bad! After the second round of leftovers and the second round of sitting on the couch... it feels good to get up and move around little... that's where we need to be in life!
Not that we get to the point in life that we are miserable because we have had too much of the good stuff, but we should get to the point as prodigal's that we know just how much we are truly loved by our Father. We should be able to get up of of the couch and find our way back to God and begin to feel better and understand that what got us to the point of being "stuffed" and "feeling guilty" is not as powerful as what draws us into "freedom" and "grace"! A Father's Love!!!
“Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: 'These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.’” –Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
This is what awakening to God’s love looks like. It’s holding on to your new identity in the depth of your being.
You now know without a doubt that you have a heavenly Father who loves you as you are and not as you should be. You can stop saying, “I don’t deserve this,” and start saying, “God loves me deeply after all.”
My encouragement to you today is this: Come home. Awaken to the greatest love you will ever know and commit your life to following Jesus. You can make the decision to go public with that commitment by being baptized today. We’d love to throw you a party! -- Matthew Craig
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