Garments of Grace; The Prodigal’s New Clothes

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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Many look at the story of the prodigal son, in this week’s SS lesson as a story about one man in the church and one who was out. However, it is interesting in the end, the one who is out comes in and the one who is in goes out. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance before he leaves. What the son is saying to the father is, “I want all your blessings but I don’t want to live under you roof and abide by your rules.” I don’t think the prodigal son is alone in his way of thinking. Remember earlier in these lessons we spoke of Joseph’s brothers being jealous of the special coat that their father had made him. His brothers wanted all the blessings Joseph had, but did not want the intimate relationship with their father that Joseph had. Do we do the same today? Do we ask God to bless us while we are willfully ignoring His commandments? If so, we are just like the prodigal son who said, give me my inheritance and I am going to go live somewhere else where you can’t tell me what to do. Unfortunately the inheritance only lasted as long as the relationship. Lesson learned: The relationship is the inheritance!

 

When the son realizes this, he heads for home. Now feeling unworthy of the relationship or inheritance, he seeks to become a hired hand. His Father would have none of that. While the son is a great ways off, the father runs to him and hugs and kisses him. I am reminded of a story in the Great Controversy, of a religious leader during the dark ages, making a ruler stand out in the snow before he would forgive him. What a gross misrepresentation of my heavenly Father! My Father does not make people stand out in the snow before He forgives them. He runs to where they are and hugs and kisses them, and welcomes them home.

Meanwhile the other brother who stayed at home is not the least bit happy to see his brother return. It makes him so angry he leaves the house! When you read his argument you see he thought all these years he was working for all he had. Come to find out it was all a gift given to him and not of works.  The son who stayed home benefited from grace as much as the one who ran away.

On my trip home from Tulsa I ran into weather problems in Dallas-Fort Worth, where I was to make my connection flight. My flight was cancelled and I ended up spending the night on the chapel floor at the airport. I was frustrated because I lived in the Dallas area for ten years and still have many friends there, but I could not ask them to come get me in the storm which included tornados.  So I laid down on the airport floor with my laptop case for a pillow. I had just begun to feel sorry for myself, when I realized, that many people more noble than I sleep on hard floors every night. People more noble than I had just lost their homes and even lives in the Joplin tornado. People more noble than I sleep on the hard ground under bridges every night! I realized my nice comfortable apartment back home in Tampa is not something I have earned or deserve. It is a gift from God! I then realized that the nice little chapel floor in the airport was not a curse, but rather a gift of grace from God. A gift that I had not earned or deserved.

Since I could not sleep well, I prayed for the prayer requests coming in from my Facebook. Surprisingly they came in all night long. That morning I woke up feeling the presence of God in that chapel more vividly than when I am even at home. I realized my gift from God’s grace is a relationship with Him and not a comfortable place to sleep. I realized I was just as much my heavenly Father’s son while sleeping on the airport floor, as when I will be resting in my heavenly mansion.  Interesting…..Jesus was just as much His Father’s Son while laying in a manger as He is now sitting on the throne in heaven.

Titus; Born on a Doomed Planet, But Not Born Doomed

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Titus is a very powerful little book. It starts out, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Titus 1:2 I have heard people curse God for allowing us to be born on a doomed planet. But we are not doomed! Yes it is misfortunate we were born on a planet that chose sin before we were even born, God chose to save us before we were even born!  On the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they already had a Savior. Revelation 13:8 tells us Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! The Lamb Who was slain from the foundation of the world, tells us Himself, in Matthew 25:34 that the Kingdom of God has been prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Titus 1:2 tells us God promised us eternal life before the world and sin ever began.

But has God only ordained that a certain few “chosen ones” should be saved? No. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” so this grace from the foundation of the world is for everybody!   Paul goes on in verse 12 and shares the power of this grace. “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Grace is not just a power over the penalty of sin which is death. Grace is also a power over the power of sin right here on earth. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven before we can live righteously and Godly lives. Paul says grace makes it happen right here in this present sin-sick world. The planet may be doomed but not you! The place is doomed not the people, unless they reject the grace that has already appeared to all men and been promised from the foundation of the world. 

In this same passage, verse 14, Paul summarizes the power of what grace does for us right here on earth. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” 

Paul again strongly illustrates this grace in Titus 3:2-7. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Notice, it is grace and not works that save us from the power of sin. While many people are waiting for Jesus to change their characters after the second coming, Paul makes it clear that the character is changed after it sees the kindness and love of God. See Romans 2:4. God’s grace leads us to repentance and  righteous living in this present world. The second coming will be too late to change. Today we can behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and be redeemed today. We do not have to live like citizens of a doomed planet. This world is not our home. Our home in heaven has been prepared for us from the foundation of the this doomed planet! So let’s live and act like we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, while we are right here in this present world.