Thursday, January 13, 2011

ISSUES OF THE HEART: 6 - Run to Reconcile

But when he was still a great way off, 
his father saw him and had compassion, 
and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 
Luke 15:20

Picture yourself as the father of this prodigal son.

Months, maybe even years ago, he had suddenly demanded his inheritance. It pained you to grant his request, but you obliged, and gave it not only to him, but to his older brother also.

It has been a heartbreaking time because of this breach between you. The pain that you have felt far outweighs any fleeting spells of anger. You’ve tried your best to make life as normal as possible, but that nagging image of him walking away, creating an ever widening gulf, has never been far from your mind.

Then one day as you stand outside you see a small cloud of dust on the path in the distance. You know that someone is coming to your house, though you can’t quite tell who it is. But then as you look closer you recognize the shape of that body. You have never forgotten that unmistakable walk, even though it’s much slower than the last time you saw it. It’s him!!

Forgetting your advancing years you take off in full gallop to meet him, willing your aging legs to move faster, and ignoring the protesting pains in your body. You are undaunted by the stares of neighbors and servants who are all witnessing this scene, and wondering if you will once again be subjected to another public humiliation.

As you finally reach him you gather him into your arms and kiss him over and over again, tears of joy streaming down your face. You’re oblivious to the dirt and sweat that cake his unwashed body. It doesn’t even dawn on you to consider what his reaction would be. All you know is that you’re together again.

This father had every right to be hurt and angry. He had suffered because of his son’s words and actions. Yet his reaction to his son’s return can only be described in one way – love without restraint. He didn’t wait for an explanation, an excuse or an apology. He made the first move in repairing the breach. He ran to reconcile.

Can you picture our Heavenly Father doing the same with you? Without hesitation He draws you into Himself and offers you all that is His. His servants - the angelic host in heaven - break out in an impromptu party because you have come home! To the Father your motive for turning to Him does not matter. He knows that His unconditional love covers a multitude of your sins, and that in His presence there is healing, restoration, forgiveness, peace and joy.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. Proverbs 10:12
Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

There is no doubt that this father would have been tremendously hurt because of his son’s actions. He suffered...
  • heartbreak
  • disappointment
  • humiliation
  • unmet expectations
  • financial loss
  • loss of contact
  • lovelessness
  • the son's indifference to his feelings and welfare
  • unanswered questions
  • abandonment

Yet this man disregarded his anguish and ran to reconcile with his son.

The action the father took was as much for himself as it was for the son. In reaching out to the prodigal the father set his own life on a course of healing and restoration. He knew that he would not be whole unless he reconciled with the very one who caused him so much pain.

Years ago there was a person who had caused me tremendous emotional pain, and for a long time I walked around with very silent, very subtle resentment and bitterness towards this individual. I thought that as long as we stayed clear of each other and I wasn't reminded of the offense, then all was well. I was a leader in the church, yet I was unaware that this breach had actually caused a domino effect.

One day the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I picked up the phone, called and forgave this person, saying that as of that moment it was as if the offense had never occurred....and I meant it. Mind you, I could only have done this with the help of the Holy Spirit Himself!

After that conversation I literally felt a weight lift from me – a weight that I never knew I had been carrying all along. I also hadn’t realized that the resentment that I had been harboring had affected those around me. This bitterness had spread like a cancer, affecting other relationships in my life. That was the domino effect! But once I repaired the breach those relationships improved also.

I’m sure that like me, someone has caused you pain by their words and/or actions. As long as we are in this world offenses will come (Luke 17:1). Maybe even now, as you read this article, the situation is yet unresolved. Can you relate to some of the suffering that the father endured?

Sometimes you and I are the ones who commit the offense. At that time guilt, embarrassment, rationalization and fear may tempt you to do nothing, and pretend that all is well. But the Lord still requires that you obey His Word.

Your reaction to a breach in a relationship is actually a test of your love for the Lord, not just for the individual you’re at odds with. Jesus said that if you love Him you will obey His commandments.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words… John 14:23-24a

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23, 24

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 5:14-15

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:18

This father didn’t walk slowly, he didn’t hesitate, nor did he stop in mid stride. He ran and kept on running until he reached his target. Why run?

In the natural running bridges a gap quickly. It allows you to get from your starting point to your destination with speed. In a race, the fastest runner claims the prize. Think about it…………you hardly ever see a lazy runner! Runners usually have a goal to reach and they focus on their target. This father was serious about reaching his goal, so he ran!

The same is true in the spiritual. Running to reconcile with someone is an indication that you are serious about  obeying God’s command. It also prevents the enemy from stepping in and doing further damage to the relationship. It's hard for satan to hit a fast moving target!

In hurrying toward his prodigal son the father outran his own personal hurt. He outran the spirits of doubt, accusation, anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness that would have hindered him had he lingered.

I pray that as you listen to the song below, it will inspire you to
run to reconcile!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ISSUES OF THE HEART - 5. What is Your Motivation?

“But when he came to himself, he said,‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him,“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
Luke 15: 17-19

It seems as if this young prodigal son had finally learned his lesson, doesn’t it? He had wasted all of his inheritance. There was an economic recession caused by widespread famine, and as he pondered his dire situation he decided to go back to his father. But did he really have a change of heart?

The issue at hand is his motivation for returning home. Did he miss the fellowship of his brother and his father? Did he realize his folly and regret asking for his inheritance ahead of time? Did he want to make amends for the heartache he caused?

Jesus’ parable doesn’t indicate that any of the above possibilities is true. This young man’s own words show that he was motivated by one thing – his desperation to end his crisis. His belly was empty. He could find nothing to eat, and he knew that at home there was plenty to be had. So he decided to return to his father in order to have his need met.

Notice also that he planned to ask his father to make him a hired servant. This is a key point, and shows the son's true intentions. You see, there were two different kinds of servants - a hired servant and a bondservant.

A hired servant was someone who worked for pay and was not obligated to the boss beyond the performance of his job. In today’s time he would be like a day laborer or a temporary employee. There was not necessarily a close relationship between the boss and the servant, nor was there a long term commitment.

The hired servant’s reward was his salary which he could use as he pleased. His life was his own. His boss could not intervene. In short, the hired servant performed a task, and the boss paid for services rendered.

Master piercing bondservant's ear
A bondservant, on the other hand, was a slave who voluntarily committed to serving his master for the rest of his life, even after he was legally free to leave. He gave up his right to determine the course of his life.

But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. Exodus 21:5,6

This ceremony sealed the covenant between the master and the servant. It signified that the bondservant was not going anywhere, would be permanently attached to his master and would become a member of his household.

The very act of piercing the bondservant's ear was a testimony of the relationship between him and his master. It indicated the bondservant's submission and trust in his master, and it showed the master's responsibility for the bondservant's wellbeing.

Unlike the hired servant, the bondservant was not paid. The basis for the relationship was simple….love. The bondservant’s first words were, “I love my master…” However, because of his relationship with his master he had access to things in his master's household that the hired servants didn't.

In asking his father to make him a hired servant this young prodigal was requesting to be received back, but on his terms. This was not about love for his father or true repentance for his errant ways. It was simply a means to an end. He needed a solution to his current crisis.

The word “bondservant” is used several times in the New Testament. At the beginning of each of their epistles the following men identified themselves as bondservants to Jesus Christ – not hired servants.

"Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi" Philippians 1:1

    "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" James 1:1

    "Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 1:1

    "Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ…" Jude 1:1


    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8

    Notice that we are told to have the same mind of Christ. It is a mind of
    • humility,
    • exquisite obedience to God and
    • death to self.
    In many pulpits today the focus is on what you can get from the Lord. In other words, what will your payday be like. Especially at the beginning of the year many ministers spout empty promises to desperate people with itching ears.

    Sweeping declarations are made like “this is your year for breakthrough!”, or “this is your year of abundant blessings!”.

    Often a person must do something to ensure the blessings and breakthrough are received…... give a "love" offering, purchase a product, attend a conference. The motive is the same – perform a task supposedly to appease God so that you can guarantee your payday and avert a crisis.

    Like Paul and the other New Testament writers, modern day bondservants have distinctive characteristics.
    An awl used to pierce a bondservant's ear
    • Their lives are not their own, but they have been bought with a price.
    • They are motivated by love for the Master, not a desire to have their felt needs met.
    • They are willing to obey God and do whatever He desires, go wherever He sends them.
    • They understand that their success is not determined by material wealth or their personal comfort level.
    • They trust the Master for their provision and protection.
    • They are prepared to endure persecution.
    • Their aim is to be more like their Master.

    We don’t know if this prodigal son eventually had a change of heart. But Jesus said that we can know all people by the “fruit” they bear in their words and actions. Time will always tell what the true motivation of a person is.

    If a book were to be written about you, which of the following two opening statements would more accurately describe you?
    • ____________________ (your name) a hired servant who professed Christ
    • ____________________ (your name) a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ
    Copyright © 2018 AudreyCharles. All rights reserved.