Friday, April 22, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 24, 2016

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(GOD gives us unmerited grace)
(Luke 15:11-32)

   One of the main reasons GOD give human beings grace is to teach us how to be gracious to others. We fail GOD when we allow HIS grace towards us to be taken for granted by us, or go unnoticed by us, and, as a result, give satan an opportunity to influence us instead with pride, envy, greed, and narcissism, as he did to the older son in Luke’s now famous account of JESUS’ parable of  “the prodigal son”, that is found only in his Gospel account.
    In Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32, JESUS uses the story of a man who had two sons, to illustrate HIS point further concerning the importance of retrieving those who are “lost”. The father in the parable of this biblical family represents “the attitude of GOD towards those who have wandered away from HIM” and are now “lost” or “dead” in the spiritual sense (separated from HIM).
    The younger son represents those in the world who are lost because they dared to leave the “protective umbrella of GOD” and arrogantly take their lives into their own hands, because their “pride” (which is satan), tells them that they can do better on their own. Little do they know that, whenever you remove yourself from underneath the umbrella of GOD, you inevitably will be “rained on” by satan.
    The older son in this parable, even though he believed that he was totally loyal to his father, is used to show us how we can start out serving GOD and, over time, “our motives for service” can turn to selfish ones, and here we can see in him, several evil elements, pride, envy, greed, and narcissism, that have taken him over during his years of service. He can be likened to the Pharisees in this passage.
    The story begins one day when the younger son, arrogantly assuming that he even had an inheritance, requested to his father that he might receive his right now, rather than wait until his father died, also arrogantly assuming, of course, that his father would pass away before he did. The good father in this parable, who had already prepared a place for his children in the future, agreed to prematurely advance to the younger son, his planned allocated share of his wealth (Vs.11-12).
    Now feeling certain that he could make it on his own without his father (and his rules), a few days later he packed his bags and ventured off to experience the world around him that he thought would give him all the freedom he wanted to do as he pleased. However, true followers of CHRIST know that true freedom can only be found in HIM. The younger son had mistakenly envied the wrong people in life, and so soon he would soon discover that the object of his desires would profoundly humble him back into his senses.
    And so he moved to the land of the unbelieving Gentiles – “foreigners” not in race, but rather, in their unGODly lifestyles). There he would squander all of his wealth on lascivious living, and as soon as he was broke, as the lessons of life would have it, along came a famine, which swept over the entire land (Vs.13-14).
    Now suffering from great hunger, and still having too much pride to return to his father’s house, the young man was able to persuade one of the local Gentile farmers to hire him to feed his swine, which was something that was absolutely detestable for a Jewish person to do, because they, through their upbringing, would normally not be seen anywhere near a pig, let along working with them. And not only did he work tending to, and feeding the swine, but, over time, as his hunger began to overcome him, he even began to desire the food (carob pods) that he was feeding to the pigs (Vs.15-16).
   When his living conditions finally began to humble him, he thought to himself how even his father’s servants had plenty to eat, and in fact, had food enough to spare, and here he was, so hungry, that the pig’s pods were starting to look good to him. And so he decided to go back home to his father’s house, and ask for forgiveness. All the way home he rehearsed the words which he would say to his father saying, “Father, I have sinned against both you and Heaven, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son, please take me back into your house, even if just as a hired servant” (Vs.17-19).
    As he neared his father’s house, and while still a ways off, his father, who had been anxiously anticipating his son’s return one day, saw him coming and was filled with joy. He ran to meet his son and embraced him, and kissed him. His son then told his father the words that he had rehearsed over and over on the way home. To his surprise his father greeted him with love and compassion and ordered his servants to tend to his needs and set up a feast to celebrate his return (Vs.20-24).
    Here we see a vivid picture of GOD’s attitude toward those who wish to repent and return to him. HE justifies us through the blood of CHRIST, HIS sacrificed SON, and HE begins to treat us as if we never sinned at all. The FATHER celebrates the return to life of any of HIS children who were “dead” (separated from HIM) by their quest for the people and things of this world.
    The older son, who had been working in the fields, returned home to the sound of loud music and celebration for his long lost brother’s return. He became very angry at his father for accepting his younger brother back into the family, and was very jealous and envious about him being given a party after he abandoned the family to seek after the pleasures of the world. In fact, he was so angry that he wouldn’t even go into the house (Vs.25-27).
    When his father came out of the house to plead with him to come in and help celebrate his brother’s return, he rebuked his father saying, “All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours (here he disowns his younger brother) comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have” (Vs.29-30 – NLT)).
    Here we see the evil elements of pride (he still felt that his father owed him something for his service), envy (toward his brother), greed (because he too had received his inheritance), selfishness, and even narcissism ( he thought too highly of himself) all come pouring out of the heart  of the older son. Many people feel the same way about GOD, as this young man felt about his father, they think that through their “good works” they put GOD into their debt.
    The wise and understanding father replied to his older son, “Look my dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life again! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Vs.31-32 - NLT).
    It is never too late for any person, who still has blood running warm through their veins, to return to the FATHER GOD, WHO will always have a place prepared for us. The “right time” to come to the FATHER is always “right now”, and the “right way” to come is always, “just as you are”. And GOD will always celebrate with open arms, the return of even those who may be considered by others to be “the least of HIS children” in society.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

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