The story of the prodigal son is probably my favorite passage of scripture. It paints an amazing picture of God’s love for us and also speaks to the reason behind it. The passage teaches sonship and a proper understanding of it leads to right theology. It teaches the truth of our sonship to the Father through Christ, that our relationship to God is a Father to son (or daughter) relationship. It also teaches repentance and the source of our identity.
Simply put, salvation is sonship.
When you receive the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ you become a son or daughter of God.
You are adopted into a royal family. Your relationship to the Father as a son or daughter is secure through Christ. You were purchased by His blood. That transaction was paid in full. This means that it can never be taken away from you. Once adopted, you are always a son or daughter. God does not abandon or forsake His children. But our relationship with the Father can change, meaning, our closeness or distance to Him.
Notice that I said relationship “with” but not “to” the Father?
Your closeness and intimacy with the Father can change but your relationship to Him (son or daughter) never changes.
We see this illustrated in the story of the prodigal son.
The prodigal was always a son of the Father. This did not change when the son decided to walk away, but it did impact their relationship. There was distance between them, they didn’t talk, the relationship was strained. The distance was caused by the prodigal, not the Father. The son chose to leave the closeness of the Father and His provision. The Father did not follow his son, but allowed the son to find that only in His presence were his needs met.
The Father’s love was never altered by the son leaving, nor was the son’s status as His child.
The love of the Father and our sonship are not altered by our disobedience, but it does impact our relationship with God. When we choose the world over the Father we are choosing the temporal over the eternal. We forfeit many things, His peace but most importantly His presence.
There are many things we can pull out of this passage:
- Your salvation is secure. It is an unconditional covenant. Once adopted into the family of God you are His forever. He purchased you with a price, His blood, and that was a final transaction.
- We have a choice, to choose the world or the presence of the Father. The passage is about a son who leaves the Father, it is not about the unsaved. It is about those who are already sons choosing to leave the Father for the world, to find their identity in it.
- God will allow us to come to the end of ourselves so that we are reminded of His goodness, His mercy, His provision and His love. At these moments, when we give up seeking the world and ourselves, it is a moment of repentance. An opportunity to turn back and head home.
What I love about the passage is that it teaches sonship, the truth about the eternal security of salvation. Once reborn you are a new creature, the old has passed away and the new has come. You are a son and daughter of the King. Once adopted you are always His child.
Also, it teaches repentance. This passage is directed to God’s children, we have to remember that the prodigal was already a son. It is a message for the Church and those who are seeking their identity in the world rather than their true identity, a son or daughter of the Father. God desires a relationship with us that goes deeper than just our sonship. He desires deep, meaningful relationship with His sons and daughters and that is found by spending time with Him. We often seek the world over God, but He can bring us to the end of ourselves so that we desire?Him again.
The presence of God is transforming. Spending time with Jesus changes us. As they say, “you become like those you spend time with”. In this case, time with Jesus changes us and transforms us into His image. We not only look like Him, we represent Him in our outflow. That is, in how we love, serve and obey.
Whenever we wander off, either by accident, passive backsliding or conscious disobedience the Father is there to welcome us home. We don’t lose our sonship but we do forfeit the blessing of His presence. But once we repent and return home we are fully restored.
There is an identity crisis in our culture today.
We see this permeating every facet of society, from gender identity to even the identity of our political parties. It should be no surprise that the world is lost and searching for identity but as sons and daughters of the King we know who we are.
The question is, are we living out our identity in spirit and truth. If we are doing so there would be a genuine outflow of God’s love and power, in a way that transforms our cities just as we have been transformed.
Perhaps the Church has a love affair with the world and lip service for the Father? Perhaps the bridge of Christ is well traveled to and fro from the Father’s presence to the world and back again? Perhaps the Father is saying, “return home and stay home”, let’s sit and talk a while.
The identity crisis is solved when you know who you are, then the outflow of your life follows suit. We should pray that in this hour of confusion we do not drift away from the understanding of our identity, and that the world would find theirs in Jesus as well.