Saved by Grace, Lost by Disobedience

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back a former Adventist friend was telling me that the Adventist church deceived her. She said when she first came into the church the evangelist was preaching about grace. But once she joined they started preaching about Sabbath keeping and obedience. She found works and obedience to be contradictory to the gospel of grace. I shared with my friend that faith and works were preached long before Adventism. James preached faith and works.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:24 NKJV

Fact is that it is only by grace and faith that we can be obedient and have good works.

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31 NKJV

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith… Romans 1:5 NKJV

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26 NKJV

There are some important things to keep in mind. While Lucifer was placed in heaven by grace alone and no works of his own, he still lost his heavenly home by rebellion and disobedience.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:7-9 NKJV

While Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden by grace alone and no works of their own, they still lost their paradise home due to disobedience.

therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:23-24 NKJV

While Israel was given its own land and nation by grace alone and no works of their own, they still lost it by disobedience.

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?  Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” Nehemiah 13:17-18 NKJV

Likewise, spiritual Israel has been promised a land  – the New Jerusalem. While that land is given to us by grace alone and no works of our own, we can still lose it by disobedience.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

After all, when we talk about Biblical salvation by grace, the salvation we receive by grace saves us from a life of sin.

…and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NKJV

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:18 NKJV 

The grace that my former Adventist friend found being preached in the Adventist church came straight from the Bible. The importance of works of love and loving obedience that she heard preached in the Adventist church is also straight from the Bible. 

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14;15 NKJV

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14 NKJV 

I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:4 NLT

though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey HimHebrews 5:8-9 NKJV

My former Adventist friend was not deceived by the Adventist church regarding grace and faith and loving obedience. The idea of salvation without loving obedience is a deception.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 NKJV

Let’s pray that we along with all of our friends will understand and appreciate the Biblical teachings of grace, faith, and loving obedience. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Are we Saved by Faith or Works, or a Faith That Works

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. 2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT 

Early in my lay pastor ministry I was working one night with the district senior pastor when he received a call that an elderly lady in our church was dying. The senior pastor was mentoring me, and I  had learned a lot from him concerning solid Adventist biblical theology, especially about the cleansing of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment. I rode with him to the nursing home where Sweetie Mae was taking her last breaths. I watched as he held her hand and told her to rest in Jesus because He died for her and loved her. He asked if she loved Jesus, and she opened her eyes long enough to smile and then closed them for the last time. I had become good friends with this dear saint. I learned that over the years she had baked many goodies for the homeless, though she was most famous for her pies. She had given many Bible studies and taught Sabbath School. Yet as I watched the pastor take her hand as she was slipping away, he never once mentioned all the wonderful works she had performed. The only hope he gave her that night was that Jesus loved and died for her. Turned out that was all the hope she needed. She had just enough strength for one last smile when she heard the name of Jesus before falling asleep in His loving arms.

Sweetie Mae was saved by grace alone. Turns out not a single one of her pies contributed towards her salvation nor did any of the Bible studies or Sabbath school lessons she taught. Still it was because she was saved by grace alone that she had so much grace in her heart that made her want to bake all those pies and give all those Bible studies. You see grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT 

The good things we do don’t give us grace. Grace gives us the good things we do. Our good works – but maybe I should not call them “our good works.” Maybe I should call them the good works that Christ does through us – do not earn our salvation but, rather, are the fruits of our salvation. They are the evidence that we have received His grace. Grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works.  2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us we will be judged by our actions. And Jesus tells us,  “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.’ Revelation 22:12 NLT

If we are saved by grace alone, why is Jesus judging and rewarding us according to our deeds? James can help us answer this question.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James 2:14-16 NLT

So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. James 2:24 NLT

Sweetie Mae was not baking pies and giving Bible studies so she could receive faith and grace. The faith and grace she had received motivated her to bake pies and give Bible studies. The good deeds God gave her were evidence that she was experiencing God’s grace.  The teachings of Jesus help us understand this point. 

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Matthew 25:31-33 NLT 

Just like in Revelation 22:12 Jesus gives people their reward and separates the saved from the unsaved at His coming and not when each individual dies. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead rest in their graves until the resurrection. 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 NLT

What a comfort to know, during the investigative Judgment and the cleansing of the sanctuary, that Jesus has already prepared the kingdom for us from the creation of the world. It’s sad that many have a picture of Jesus judging us with skepticism. Jesus wants us in heaven! He has invited us! Surely he would not invite us if He did not want us all there! In the message to the church of Philadelphia Jesus p[resents an open door in heaven while His message to the church of Laodicea portrays our heart’s door which is closed. Heaven’s doors are wide open! It’s our heart’s door that needs to be opened. Here are more encouraging passages assuring us Jesus is preparing a place for us in His kingdom.

This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 NLT

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? John 14:2 NLT

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4 NLT 

Now I have heard it said that God only chose some to be saved at the beginning of the world but chose others to be lost. We will see in a while that God only intended for the devil and his angels to be lost. Again and again in Scripture we see that God is intending for us to be saved! 

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36 NLT

After the invitation to His kingdom in Matt. 25:34 Jesus says why they are welcomed to enter in verses 35-36. Notice it is based on their actions. This coincides with what we read earlier in James 2. Our actions show where our faith is. Good actions are the fruit of grace. This has nothing to do with earning salvation by good works. Let’s continue…

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ Matthew 25:37-39 NLT

The righteous obviously were not doing these kind things in order to earn salvation. They were totally unaware that they were doing them directly for Jesus. They were just doing these things out of love without even thinking much less hoping for a reward. They are saved by grace alone just like my dear friend Sweetie Mae. Just like Sweetie Mae they were so filled with God’s grace that they all performed graceful deeds. 

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 NLT 

The way we treat others shows how much we love God and appreciate His grace. At a Wintley Phipps concert I heard him say, “Our love for God is no greater than the love we have for the person on earth whom we care about the least.” Jesus teaches that the attitude we have towards the scum of humanity is the attitude we have towards Him. 

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. Matthew 25:41 NLT 

So does Jesus teach that He only chose a select few to be saved at the beginning of creation? No! He planned for everyone to be saved. He was preparing His kingdom for the entire world. While Jesus tells us He has gone to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us He teaches that the fire is prepared for the devil and his angels and no one else. Jesus tells those on His right that the kingdom was prepared for them, but He never told those on His left that hell was prepared for them. No! Hell is only prepared for the devil and his demons. All those on His left must have put up one massive fight against God’s grace in order to gain hell because it was never prepared or intended for them.

Do you know how hard it is to be lost? It takes a lot of work and effort. In order for you to be lost you have to fight, scratch and claw your way past the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and every angel in heaven to get to hell. Heaven’s door is wide open, and Jesus says in John 12:32 that He is drawing all people to Him, but if we resist that love and fight hard enough against God’s grace, we can fight our way into hell, a place God never prepared or intended for us to be. 

For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ Matthew 25:42-45 NLT

These never accepted God’s grace. How do I know? Because Jesus as well as James 2 teaches us that grace-filled hearts perform grace-filled works. This is why 2 Corinthians 5:10 says we will be judged by the things we do and Jesus says in Revelation 22:12 He will reward us according to our deeds. According to Ephesians 2:8-10, grace gives us good works. We don’t do good works in order to receive salvation. We are saved by grace so we can do good works. 

Galatians 5:6 speaks of a faith that works by live. I believe that’s the faith Sweetie Mar had. Sweetie Mae was so thankful for God’ amazing grace and loved Jesus so much she spent all of her health and strength baking for the homeless and giving Bible studies. As she lay dying the pastor held her hand and asked if she loved Jesus. With her last ounce of remaining strength she opened her eyes and smiled before slipping into her rest. Friend, do you love Jesus?

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Did the Repentant Thief get off Easy?

Fort Desoto Love Letters 030

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many Christians squirm and struggle with the story of the repentant thief being saved without “putting in his time” or “earning” it. This story alone makes salvation look too easy. My response is, where in Scripture does it say salvation is supposed to be hard? How hard did Adam and Eve work to be placed in paradise to begin with? How hard did the angels work to be created in heaven?

Sure Jesus said,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” Matthew 7:14

But does narrow and strait have to be hard?

Against popular belief, the Bible actually says,

The way of the transgressors is hard. Proverbs 13:15

Why? Because God’s love has made it hard for sinners to destroy themselves.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:22

At the beginning of my ministry I was working with a pastor who was very popular for his sound Adventist theology. He taught the importance of the law and obedience. He preached that Jesus saves us from sin not in sin. One night providence had us both at the bedside of a dying saint. An elderly woman who spent her entire life giving Bible studies, and baking pies to feed the needy. She was true to Bible doctrine. That night I watched while the pastor held this dear lady’s hand, and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” She would open her eyes long enough to smile and then quickly appear to fall asleep again. the pastor told her over and over, “Just rest in Jesus. He died for you and loves you.” What amazed me that night is what the pastor of righteous living did not say. He did not mention her avid Sabbath keeping, or Bible studies given, or how she fed the needy. I watched this lady die as the pastor encouraged her to cling to one thing, and one thing only-the cross!

Friends that  is how we are all saved, from the repentant thief to Methuselah with his 969 years of service, we are all saved by grace alone!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Nicodemus was equivalent to a General Conference official today. In John 3 Jesus never flattered Nicodemus with his position, titles or accomplishments. In John 3:14-17 He pointed him straight to the cross, as his only hope. The same hope given to the thief on the cross. So General Conference presidents are saved the same way the repentant thief on the cross was saved. This explains why Ellen White, wife of early GC president James White, asked him over and over on his death bed, “Do you love Jesus? Is Jesus precious to you?” She never mentioned his positions, titles or accomplishments. She knew those were worth garbage. She presented to her dying husband what Jesus presented to Nicodemus- the cross and the cross alone!

Sure it is important to point out that the repentant thief showed his repentance, not by saying he was sorry. He actually never said he was sorry. He did something drastically more important. He changed his attitude! He addressed Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord of his life. He made a confession that was backed up by the way he behaved in front of an unbelieving multitude.  That is exactly how we all are saved.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

This is exactly what the repentant thief did on the cross. And we all have the promise,

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

It is worth pointing out that the thief was not playing games. He was not thinking to live as he pleased and then just repent at the last second. That of course is not genuine repentance. Because his repentance was sincere, he was saved the exact same way every repentant sinner is saved.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away: Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away. -There is a Fountain, William Cowper 1772.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Glimpse of the Cross Day 5; The Gospel Versus Legalism

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.

 The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain our love.    Romans 5:10-12:

“ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the cross enables the humans to love their God.

 Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to get a reward.

 The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John  14:15:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

 Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.

 The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah  53:4-6:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

 Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.

 The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:

  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

 Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.

 The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14: 

“For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.

 The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2 :8-9: 

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

 The Gospel:  NOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20: 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

 Legalism: Self- centered. Obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.

 The Gospel: God- centered. Obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.

 “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

 The Gospel: All about love and humility.

Galatians 5:4-6  (The Message)  “I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”

Escape Legalism and discover the gospel at theTampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, or a gospel loving church near you.

Read how the gospel message in the three angels message destroys the legalism of Babylon.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Galatians; Justified by Faith Alone

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “Read Galatians 2:15–17. What is Paul saying to you here, and how can you apply these wordsto your own Christian experience?”

Galatians 2:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our
faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!

Obeying the commandments will not get me justified, but being justified by faith alone will get me to obeying the commandments.

“We must center our hopes of heaven upon Christ alone, because He is our
Substitute and Surety. We have transgressed the law of God, and by the deeds of
the law shall no flesh be justified. The best efforts that man in his own
strength can make are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has
transgressed; but through faith in Christ he may claim the righteousness of the
Son of God as all-sufficient. Christ satisfied the demands of the law in His
human nature. He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement
for him, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.” Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ,
and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of
the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.”  {Faith and Works 93-94} 

Justification by faith does not mean that Jesus pretends I am an overcomer. Faith makes my justification a reality. The victories are real. By the grace of God I am now partaking and experiencing the divine nature as Jesus lives in my heart. I am, as it says in Ephesians 3:19, “filled with all the fulness of God.”

James; Practical Theology

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion [is] vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.  James 1:26-27

James teaches us practical everyday religion. It reminds me of what an inspired commentator said about Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

“In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.”  {Desire of Ages 497}

I remember years ago, a lady who loved to study her Bible.A tornado hit our community and the church asked her to help with our community service center in aiding those who needed help. Turned out she was too busy studying her Bible to help. Later we needed her help with VBS but once again she was too busy studying her Bible. Nothing wrong with Bible study, but there comes a time to put into practice all those wonderful things we have learned.

James tells us in chapter 1, verse 22, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” When we are not genuinely putting the Word of God into practice we fool no one but ourselves. Everyone can see right through a phony Christian.

James gives us a practical lesson on faith and works.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” James 2:20-22.

James teaches us that Faith works. In Genesis 15:6 it says that Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to Him as righteousness. Later, in Genesis 22, we see that belief and faith at work when Abraham went to offer Isaac on the altar just as God had commanded. When we believe in God’s love and that He has our best interest in mind, we act upon His commands. If I believe God loves me I won’t be afraid to obey Him. Eve disobeyed God when the serpent convinced her that God did not love her and have her best interest in mind. When we have faith in God’s love we then act like we have faith.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.

This verse in Revelation sums up what James is saying. Those who have faith keep the commandments. There is no true faith without commandment keeping. When we trust we obey.

Luke 15; Three Illustrations of Grace

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In Luke 15 Jesus gives us three parables to illustrate the Father’s love and forbearance. The first parable about the lost sheep shows us how God searches for the lost sheep. You never find a lost sheep looking for the shepherd, but rather the Shepherd looking for the sheep. I love the part about how He searches until He finds it. He does not give up. His Word does not return unto Him void.

In the second parable, of the lost coin, we find how God searches for something that is lost in the church or in the house. No doubt we can be lost in the church as well as without. We need to be with the Shepherd at all times to keep from being lost. When we keep our eyes on other people or even ourselves, we then take our eyes off the Shepherd and become lost. In Psalms 23, David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Shepherd is another word for pastor. David is declaring God as His pastor and no man. We should not worship pastors or elders or Bible workers. We need to worship and keep our eyes on Jesus so we do not get lost in the church. Thank God He can find us in the church. Let’s not be like ancient Israel and demand a man reign over us. Let’s let God reign over us.

The last parable  illustrates both a man lost outside the church and a man lost inside the church. Let’s take a good look at this one.

15:11     And he said, A certain man had two sons: 

 15:12    And the younger of them said to [his] father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth [to me]. And he divided unto them [his] living. 

 15:13    And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 

That is so like us! To tell God to give us His blessings but we are going to go live life our own way without Him, but we still want all His gifts. Doesn’t work that way! How many people today tell God I am going to live my own way but I still want you to keep blessing me? Do we even do this corporately sometimes?

 15:14    And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 

 15:15    And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 

 15:16    And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 

 15:17    And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 

 15:18    I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 

 15:19    And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 

 15:20    And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 

I love this part! While He was still a great way off, His Father ran to Him. In the dark ages, Pope Gregory made a German emperor stand out in the freezing cold with no shoes, for three days before he would hear and forgive him. What a misrepresentation of our heavenly Father who runs to us while we are still a great ways off! Notice, this is the only time we see God run in the Bible. How quick our heavenly Father is to forgive! (Check out this beautiful song about the only time God ran in the Bible.)

 15:21    And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 

 15:22    But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet: 

Fact is he was not worthy to be called his son before he left. What child earns the right to be a son or daughter? Doesn’t it just go with the territory? It is not because of our works that we are the children of God but because of His love.

15:23     And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry: 

 15:24    For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 

 15:25    Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. 

 15:26    And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 

 15:27    And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 

 15:28    And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. 

Here we have a son who is angry because God is merciful! His refusal to accept the gracefulness of His father leads him to leave the house, or shall I say church?

 15:29    And he answering said to [his] father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 

 15:30    But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 

That must have hurt the Father’s feelings. All this time the Father thought the son had been working in His house because He was his son and loved him. Turns out he was only working so he could be rewarded. Now that does not sound like us at all does it?

 15:31    And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 

All that Father had was already his, not because he had been working all these years, but because the Father loved him and called him His son. The son who never left did not earn the goodness of the Father anymore than the son who left. It’s not about works. It is about love.

 15:32    It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. 

Jesus does not tell us how the story ends. Maybe because we decide for ourselves how it ends.