Imagine you’re a flight attendant. The pilot informs you that due to an equipment malfunction, a crash landing is inevitable. (Or maybe he’s a kamikaze. Either way, the plane is going down.) Your orders are to ensure the survival of all the passengers by giving them the one thing that can save them.
Which course of action do you take?
- Speak to each passenger individually, informing them of their pending doom unless they accept the parachute you’re offering. Instruct them to put it on and keep it on, and demonstrate how and when to pull the ripcord.
- Try not to alarm anyone. When you offer them a parachute, tell them it will make their flight more comfortable and pleasant. Keep it cheerful.
- Calmly explain the situation, but assure them that if they’ve ever had a parachute, even if they aren’t wearing it now, they will not perish in the crash.
Well, that was easy, wasn’t it? Now what if we weren’t talking airplanes and parachutes? What if we were talking about salvation? Does it matter how we present the gospel to a lost and dying world?
The prodigal’s return is a picture of repentance and humility, turning from and confessing one’s sin and seeking the father’s forgiveness.
The father’s response is a picture of grace, forgiving the penitent sinner, rejoicing at his return, and restoring him to full sonship.
The older brother’s offense is a picture of religious pride, valuing service over relationship.
Heaven rejoices when a lost soul is found.
God’s grace is unmerited. No one deserves it, no one earns it.
We should rejoice when a sinner turns to Christ.
We should be diligent in sharing the gospel with every lost person we know.
Pray for opportunities to share your faith this week.
*next up: Why does it matter what you say to a lost person? Galatians 1
Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. We know that a man had two sons, the younger of which asked his father for his inheritance, took everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered it all in foolish living. We know that a severe famine struck that country after he had spent everything, so he found himself feeding pigs for a living, and actually envying the pigs he fed! We know that he finally came to his senses and decided that it would be better for him to go back to his father and work as a hired hand than to stay where he was and starve to death. We know that he went to his father and repented, and his father gave him a royal welcome when he returned, killing the fattened calf to celebrate because his son who had been lost was found. But how well do we know the rest of the story?
Remember the older son? He was returning from working in the field when he heard music and dancing, and he became angry when he found out that the reason for the celebration was his brother’s return. His father pleaded with him to come join in the festivities, but he refused because his father had never thrown a party for him and his friends, although by his own estimation he was more deserving for having remained at home obediently serving his father while the other son wasted his father’s wealth.
I’m sure many of us can identify with the younger son. We understand his desire to have control over his own life, to taste freedom, independence, worldly pleasures. We’ve been on the road that leads to nowhere and have found ourselves in dire straits before realizing that we have chosen the wrong path. And having come to that realization, we have confessed our sins and repented and sought the Father’s forgiveness.
I wonder, though, how many of us can identify with the older son. It’s not as easy to admit to being like the Pharisees, who took issue with our Lord welcoming sinners and eating with them, but if we’ve ever decided not to go to church because of the people who are there, then we really can’t deny it, can we? If we’ve ever been more offended by the sinfulness of others than by our own, then we have to recognize the likeness. If we’ve ever chosen not to fellowship with a Christian brother or sister for any reason other than church discipline, then we ought to examine our hearts.
To be continued. . .