Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Does the Prodigal Son Story Contradict God?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Since childhood we have all heard of the Good Shepherd who leaves His "ninety and nine" on that wild stormy night and seeks His one lost sheep "until He finds it" (Luke 15:4-6). Its salvation depends entirely on the initiative of the Shepherd. The lost animal knows it's lost, but cannot "arise and go" on its own to find salvation. So, the Lord Jesus Christ "seeks" it. The lost sheep is you and I who are rescued by a love totally outside of us.

And we remember the lost coin, how the lady turns her house upside down until she finds that precious piece of silver. The coin is different from the sheep; it doesn't know it's lost. It represents you and me who were "dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, ... fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, ... children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3). But Someone found us, buried in the dust and trash of this dark world, unconscious of our condition.

But how does this common theme of God seeking and finding us work out in practical day-by-day living? Does the idea encourage us to be spiritually lazy, doing nothing?

The Prodigal Son story seems on the superficial surface to contradict God's love seeking us, rather than vice versa. The lost son seems to take the initiative in his own salvation. "I will arise and go," he says to himself, and gets up out of the pigsty and goes--on his own (Luke 15:18). The Father does not come seeking him, to "find" him. Forever after the boy can congratulate himself: "Yes, I was lost; but I found my way back! I'm saved because I 'sought' and 'found' salvation. I exerted the effort. I forced myself to take step after step. I did it. I'm saved by grace, but I'm also saved by my own obedience."

But wait a moment, Mr. Prodigal Son, Mr. Laodicean. This parable illustrates how the Holy Spirit seeks and saves us lost ones. It was He who gave the boy sitting with the pigs the conviction that his Father loved him. The Holy Spirit inspired him with the motivation, because as the Comforter whom Jesus promised to send us, He, not self, convicted the boy of "sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, ... because the ruler of this world is judged [condemned]" (John 16:7-11).

Yes, we're "home," but only because the Good Shepherd sought and found us, and His Holy Spirit did not abandon us. By grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. And it's specifically and emphatically "not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).

So, Mr. Laodicean, be humble; you're not rich and increased with goods.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: December 10, 2003.
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