We’re just like the Prodigal’s older brother. Yes you are and don’t try to deny it. I can prove it about you but we’ll make this about me since these devotionals are you eavesdropping on God’s conversations with me. Plus it won’t make you squirm in your seat as much.
I’m just like the older brother. Too often I could care less if my prodigal brother returns much less party with him and my father about it. Quite the opposite, in my flesh it almost disgusts me. And it doesn’t make it any easier if my Father tries to explain it:
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:31-32)
Let’s do some scriptural comparison, shall we? We are looking at the older brother’s response when he heard his prodigal brother had returned and his father was having a huge celebration for it. Let’s revisit that response to his father:
“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’” (Luke 15:38-30)
What is one word that describes the older brother’s response? Hold that thought; we’ll look at it in a moment. What’s the difference between his response and this response:
“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” (Luke 18:9-12)
There is a difference. The Pharisee in this parable is not saved and the older brother is. But the similarity in their responses is that they are rooted in pride. What is the antidote for pride? Of course it is humility, but humility is an act of grace on the part of God in our lives. We are not gracious people on our own. No, really, we’re not.
If a man loses his job because he does something stupid we rejoice. Don’t even talk to me about showing such a man grace to teach him redemption and restoration. He deserves the lot into which he put himself.
Oh, so you like that word deserve do you Dave? We’ve already talked about mercy being not receiving the punishment you deserve and grace receiving a blessing which you do not. Oh yeah, I want those for myself, it’s quite another thing if you expect me to extend them to someone else. Back to the older brother.
What this hard working elder son who no doubt loved the Lord and his father did not understand was that he has a heavenly and holy inheritance that has nothing to do with his righteousness as he tried to describe it to his father. He was driven by his proud flesh and had forgotten the big lesson that the Apostle Paul clearly understood and teaches in Romans 8:
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:12-17)
Because of the redeeming work of Christ on the cross when we accept His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins we are made spiritual heirs in the family of God. And in a family it takes discipline and selfless service to be a valued member of that family. John Phillips explains it this way:
“Since adoption into the family of God is a priceless privilege, it involves the process of discipline. God must fit us for our high and holy calling. So Paul next discusses our adaption for the family of God. First there is adoption; then there is adaption.”
Adoption comes through deliverance. We are adopted into the family of God by accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts and making Him our Lord. God the Father bestows righteousness onto us because of His Son, and not only righteousness but also relationship. Relationships take work; a newly adopted child must learn the ways of the family to feel quite at home. Yes, there is joy in an orphan’s heart once he or she is adopted, but as newly adopted children we must learn how to be a member of our new family. And as is the case with all children, there will be selfishness and self-righteousness with which some discipline is required.
More on that tomorrow…
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Copyright © 2012 David Jeffers