04 December 2010

The parable of a scandalous son, a boastful brother and most fantastically, a forgiving Father (Part 1)

This afternoon we will finish a Bible study of the Parable of the Prodigal Son that the ladies and I began last month. I can't wait! Last month was just a thrilling time... God must have made me a teacher at heart because there is no way to explain the delight and excitement I know when my students actually. really. get. it!!! And I don't think I'll ever "get over" the fact that God allows me to serve Him in this way.

Last month, as we looked at Luke 15:12-32, I used Dr. David Jeremiah's treatment of this parable in his book Captured by Grace as my starting point for our Bible study. I loved his exposition of this account told by the Lord; I was so convicted as I saw myself asboth  the younger and then the older brother. Dr. Jeremiah makes clear the point that while there are three key players in this story, the true protagonist... the hero... is, sans doute, the father.

We spent the majority of our November time looking at the humiliation of the father. In claiming his inheritance, in saying, "I demand that you give me what's coming to me!" the younger son was essentially telling his father that he wished he was dead. His dad could have immediately disinherited him, but he didn't. Instead, he gave him all for which he had asked. The son then immediately sold everything, publically, which cemented the private humiliation with public embarrassment, dishonor and shame, taking off for a far country. He placed as much "space" or distance as possible between him and his father, between him and the one who longed to offer him incomparable grace. The ladies and I asked ourselves the question - what is our own "far country?" At times, we all flee to that place - sin, shame, guilt, anger, bitterness, self sufficiency, pride, hardness of heart... anything that separates... places us in a far country

What so touched my heart, as well as the hearts of the 4 ladies who attended, was the following realization: just as the son spurned the grace his father so lavishly offered, time and time again we also brazenly despise the amazing grace our heavenly Father continually extends and flee to a far country. We may have once accepted His grace in trusting Him as Savior and entrusting our eternal future to Him. But I must admit (and the ladies agreed) - in so many big and little ways each and every day I scorn His grace. I tell Him that what He is working out in my life is unfair... I complain that I don't have this, can't do that, don't want what He offers, tell Him it is not enough. I reject His grace... I bemoan the hardness of circumstances He has ordained in my life... I close my heart and eyes to the evidence of His leading, His working out an infinite number of details that to make each moment, every breath and beat of my heart, possible. I forget to thank Him for the abundance He bestows and then criticize the provision He offers. I choose not accept His grace... and therefore cannot choose contentment, because to do so with this selfish, human nature is impossible without the activity of the Holy Spirit and will not happen when I've fled to a far country.

What is so amazing is that He continues to offer the grace I repeatedly rebuff. He demonstrates a love that has no constraints, no conditions. God's infinite, matchless grace finds its beautiful expression in His willingness to accept our repeated insults and the humiliation that goes along with it. Is it any wonder that the Son walked a path of humbling Himself to die the death of a cross... when since the beginning of time, His Father has accepted rejection and debasement at the hands of those He so lovingly created to worship and adore Him and to whom He gave, He entrusted, the freedom to choose.

We finished Bible study last month asking the Lord to show us all the different ways we refuse His gift of grace - be that the once for all gift of salvation, justification and redemption... or the momentary gifts of unfathomable love that fall upon us with unimagineable abundance each day, all throughout every day.

I can't wait to hear from these ladies the things that God has shown them about God's grace over the past few weeks. Please pray for today's study, too: that God's word penetrates further, engraves itself in tender hearts and changes lives, above all mine, more than it ever has before.

Click here if you'd like to see the review I wrote of Captured by Grace. I highly recommend this book!

1 comment:

  1. bible study went really well... and had something kind of neat happen. a lady and her little boy walked in off the street. that isn't so unusual... people hear a foreigner speaking and come to see what is going on. what was unusual was that... she stayed for about 45 minutes and actually participated in the study a little bi. praying that God will use the discussion the rest of us were having about how nothing we can do, no matter how hard we try... we can't merit or earn heaven... the only alternative is to accept God's gift of grace.


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