The Prodigal Son is not about backsliding

A Sunday School class I was helping out with went through the parable of the Prodigal Son but the interpretation that the teacher gave to the students troubled me and I would like to tell you what concerned me and why. I also found out that the interpretation that the teacher gave seems to be a pretty popular one.

I have been told that the first rule to interpreting scripture is that if you have a different understanding of the text than the original hears would have had, then your interpretation is wrong. This parable is a perfect example of how the meaning can get twisted based on the current culture and viewpoints of people today. So what is the view of today’s Christianity and how does it shape the meaning of the Prodigal Son?

Today’s Christianity says that you can be a child of God and “backslide” for a period of time, and not have to question the sincerity of your salvation. You can go off and live in a lifestyle of sin and say, “I backslid for a few years, but I was saved the whole time”. Ted Haggard was an example of this mindset, when he was exposed for having a homosexual affair with a prostitute and taking meth-amphetamines for three years and lying about it, many said, “Don’t question his salvation!” Even though it is likely that he would have continued in that lifestyle for as long as he could.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that anyone can “lose” their salvation by falling into sin, but when you knowingly live in a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, then you need to question your salvation. Ray Boltz, who says he is still a Christian after admitting he is living openly as a homosexual, is another example.

So, FINALLY, here is the interpretation the teacher gave- The father represents God and the two sons represent Christians. The one child ran away from God and live apart from him for awhile, but came running back to open arms. He was still a child of God but he had to realize that God knew what was best for him. And we need to realize that if we run from God, he is always there ready to take us back.

The Prodigal Son Returns

The Prodigal Son Returns

The first problem was, that Jesus was talking to a crowd of Jewish leaders. They were self righteous Jews who thought that just because they were born as children of Abraham, and were “faithful” Jews, they were children of God already. They would not have understood this “backsliding” concept. They would have believed that the rebellion of the second son was worthy of death.

The second was that the second son, the prodigal, HATED his father. Wanting his inheritance immediately was paramount to saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead so I could get what belongs to me now”. Does that sound like something a true Christian would say, or does that sound like a rebel who shakes their fist at God? The fact that Jesus called him a child does not mean that he was in a right relationship with the father. God created us, so in that sense, he is our father, but this parable shows us that it is not about our heritage, but about our relationship.

The fact that Jesus started the story off where he did tells us a lot too. Jesus did not start off by giving us a son who honored his father and fell away, he started the story off with a son that rebelled against his father.

The third problem I had was that the son went off to live in a lifestyle of open, unrepentant sin. Jesus told us that the son wasted his livelihood on prostitutes and riotous living. There is a saying that goes something like, “you cannot call yourself a Christian and live like the Devil”. If you live in a manner that betrays what you say you believe, then you are a hypocrite, a pretender, you are a false Christian.

One other thing to notice about this story is the first son, the “faithful” son. If you carefully read the story, you can tell that by his attitude, he was not in a right relationship with the father either.

This parable is not about what to do if you backslide, but about true repentance and God’s willingness to forgive.

If you want to dive deeper into this parable, I suggest John McArthur’s book, “A Tale of Two Sons“. The book goes through the culture of the time and the audience that would have heard this story for the first time. It also takes a look at the two parables leading up to the Prodigal Son.

–Danny

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Why people reject Christianity

I have found that there are basically three reasons why people reject christianity (or call themselves Christian, but are in reality just cultural Christians).  All of these reasons have to do with understanding.

  1. People do not understand themselves –People think that they are basically good. They cannot see that they deserve Hell.  They think that their good deeds should outweigh their bad, or they think that their “not as bad as other people”.  They do not see themselves as criminals, but more as victims of their circumstances.  Even if they have done bad things, it’s not their fault, it’s always someone else’s fault.  If a man is caught molesting children and it they find out that he was molested as a child, then his bad behavior is not his fault, he is emotionally damaged and cannot be held responsible for his own actions.
  2. People do not understand christianity –Oprah said that she does not believe that there is only one way to God.  She revealed that she does not understand what christianity is.  Every other “religion” seeks to get right with God through their own efforts; either by doing good or not something really bad.  That is called works righteousness, and it is self righteousness, and will fall WAY short on judgment day.  Christianity is being reconciled to God, not a path you choose to go down. Oprah chose to be a Christian, but did you know that you can’t choose to be a Christian, you can only be MADE a Christian by God? (Psa 3:8)
  3. People do not understand God — I run into a lot of people who say, “well if I am sorry for my sins, God will forgive me”.  So I ask them if that would work in a Earthly court.  If they had done something really bad, would the judge just say, “Awww, you said you were sorry, go on home.” To that they reply, “Well, that is here on Earth, God is a lot different.  He isn’t a judge.”  They have a idea of a god who is only love, forgiveness, and mercy, but they miss the other attributes of God which tell us he is a jealous God, full of anger at sin, wrathful and vengeful against the ungodly.  A God of justice who will in no way overlook sin.  I wonder where they get these people get these watery ideas of God from?  Could it be our modern day, lukewarm presentation of God?  Hmmmm… i wonder…

The 10 Commandments shows us the very nature of God himself.  These are not just good ideas, they are who God is.  They also show us why christianity is the only way to God, and finally it reveals to us just how much we measure up to a holy God.  That is precisely why we need to keep the Law of God in our pulpits, in our thoughts, and in our evangelism.

–Danny

Oprah tells everyone in this clip that Christianity is just a “choice”.

Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 10:44 am  Comments (1)  

My Anniversary

Today I am reminded of how gracious God is to me, and how much he has given me.

Today is my 11th anniversary with my beautiful wife. In the providence of God, He brought us together before I was saved and in His grace has allowed our relationship to flourish. I cannot express how much I love my wife and how grateful I am to God for bringing us together. I hope and pray that in Heaven, he may allow us to worship him together.

Marriage is a symbol of the love that Jesus Christ has for his church and should point back to our Savior. I feel privileged and humbled that I am able to be part of this heavenly shadow that is Christ’s love for his children.

I pray that I might be a better representative of Christ in my role as a husband. I pray that I might be a better leader for my family. I pray to be more of a servant; to be a true and faithful witness.

I pray that God will be glorified in our marriage. I aslo pray that my love for God grows and that my love for my wife will be a reflection of the love I have for God.

To my wife- I love you… more than you know. I love you.

–Danny

anniversary

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Salvation is not “easy”

EasyChristianityI just read a tract that talks about how simple it is to be saved. Here it is if you would like to see it.

After reading that tract, there was a little conflict that started in my mind over how we present salvation to others. While I will agree that the PRINCIPLE of salvation is simple (repentance and faith), but in practice, it is the hardest thing someone will ever do. In fact, it is impossible without God working through a person to bring them to salvation. So how we present the gospel is HUGE.

A person has to die to themselves, broken over their sin. That is so contrary to human nature and we are SOOO full of pride. The Bible even says that because of their pride, men will not seek after God. (Ps. 10:4) It takes a miracle to bring us to our knees. We have to be at a point where surrender our very being to God himself as a living sacrifice to his glory. Salvation is nothing short of a miracle!

And yet so many times I have read tracts or heard invitations that trivialize salvation down to a simple decision to follow God, or a prayer to ask him into your heart. They generalize sin and omit Hell, and in the process, water down both. Everybody does it, don’t you feel bad? Say this prayer quick!

Now I have nothing against someone crying out to God in prayer, but sites like www.Jesus2020.com (which advertises all over Godtube) are telling people to recite some words and then pronouncing them saved. That is how “easy” some want to make the gospel.

What are we missing here? Where is the personal conviction of sin? The personal responsibility before a Holy God for our crimes? Where is repentance? Judgment? Hell? Where is God’s Law- the schoolmaster that leads us to Christ? It has been thrown out of our pulpits and out of our theology.

To quote George Whitfield,  “Secure sinners must hear the thundering of Mt. Siani before we bring them to Mt. Zion”.  In other words, if you leave out the wrath of God, His judgment, or Hell, then you are doing your hearer a disservice.

–Danny

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 8:41 am  Comments (1)  

Judge NOT! (part 2)

So why DOES Matthew 7:1 say don’t judge? (did you miss part 1?)

If you read down to Matthew 7:5, Jesus says, “You hypocrite! Remove the log from your own eye then you will see more clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.” The rebuke is not against judging, but against judging with a puffed up, self righteous, attitude. The Pharisees and Sadducees had that kind of attitude where they looked down their noses at “those sinners” that Jesus ate with. The point is don’t put yourself up on a pedestal. And more than that, if you are living as a hypocrite, you don’t have the right to judge anything.

The problem is, that if you stand up to proclaim truth, or call sin what it is, no matter how humble you are, some are still call you self righteous. Or arrogant, I have heard that one too. In this post-modern world, people think that there is NO ONE that can know truth, so if you show any confidence in the Word of God, be prepared for people to try and shut you down by attacking your motive.

In John 7:24, Jesus says, “Judge not based on appearances, but judge righteous judgment.” I cannot judge motives or appearances, but I can judge actions. If you take my wallet and remove a single dollar, and I catch you, I have the right to call you a thief. In the same way, if you admit to me that you have told lies, then, by definition, I can say that you are a liar.

Something else I cannot judge is where someone will spend eternity, but if I know someone is not right with God, I can tell them that if they die in their sins, then God would be forced to give them justice and cast them into Hell forever. I don’t know if a person will use their last breath to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ, but if I can determine that they are not trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, then I am not giving them my judgment, I am giving them God’s.

Here is an example: If I was witnessing to Howard Stern and there was not a radical change in his religious viewpoint, can I safely say that he is not a Christian? Then at that moment in time, I can tell Mr. Stern that God ‘s wrath abides on him, that he is an enemy of God in his mind through wicked works. I can tell him that unless he repents and puts his faith in Christ alone, he will end up in Hell. Oprah Winfrey has said that “there can possibly be just one way to God”, which puts her firmly outside the bounds of Christianity. If I were to talk with her and spiritual viewpoint is the same, I could tell her the same thing.

So the next time someone tells you shouldn’t be judging people, tell them “I’m not, I’m telling people how God is going to judge them.” And if you use the Law to bring the knowledge of sin, inevitably, someone is going to ask you, “have you done any of those things?” You can say, “I have broken every commandment in spirit if not in letter.”

–Danny

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Judge NOT! (part 1)

I think Matthew 7:1, judge not least you are judged, is the most mis-interpreted and best remembered verse in the Bible. I have heard that so many times from so many different types of people, but always for the exact same reason- someone is being told that what they are doing is wrong. Well, when someone says you shouldn’t judge, they are right (to a certain extent)… AND, at the same time, very wrong. I know that might sound like double speak, but let me explain…

Ever hear the expression, so-and-so has really good judgment? The simple fact is that it is an integral part of our lives. If you have ever said to someone, that person is really nice, then welcome to the club- you have just made a judgment call about someone. It was a positive judgment, but a judgment none-the-less.

Secondly, if there was no judging, then there would be no prisons. In reality, people have no problem judging others, especially if it involves some kind of personal violation they can identify with, like rape or murder. If it can happen to them, they are fine with judging it.

They just don’t want you judging THEM, especially if it is one of the “I’m not hurting anyone” activities people participate in. These include things like pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and getting drunk. I have heard someone justify stealing from department stores because the stores can afford it and then get upset when someone labels them as a thief.

When someone says “you shouldn’t judge others”, what they are really saying is, “I want to live my life any way I want to without having to worry about judgment down the road, and in order for that to happen, you can’t start saying that what people are doing is wrong… unless I agree that that it is wrong.”

So why does that verse say don’t judge? (Dive in with me into Matthew 7:1-5 in part 2)

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  

I sin but I am not THAT bad!

I have a very close relative that admits that she has “sinned” in the past, but does not believe that she deserves Hell for the things that she has done. She thinks that her sins are just little mistakes that God is going to overlook. She has not done anything that bad that would send her to Hell. Oh, buy the way she calls herself a Christian.electrichalo

She supports her position by reminding me that the Bible was “written by men”, and she does not believe everything that is in that book because men make mistakes. Which is a perfect excuse for her to never read it.

This is ALL too common. Many of the professing Christians I talk with think they are good enough to get into heaven. That is why you cannot take someone’s word when they say they are a Christian, even if they admit that they are a sinner. They might have a radically different definition for what a sinner is than what the Scriptures teach. If this is the case, then there is a problem.

Now, this very well may be a communication problem, because humans are extremely complicated creatures. So I have started using a couple of questions to try and cut to the heart of the matter. If I feel that someone is trying to justify their sin, or thinks that they are a good person, I will probably use the questions below.

  • Do you think that you deserve Hell? –This one is kinda harsh and straight forward, but it does sober people up pretty quick! Sometimes I soften it up a little by asking, “What do you think you deserve, Heaven or Hell?”
  • Would you say that your heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked? (Jer 17:9)   –A Christian is someone who has seen his true state before a Holy God. This question can tell me a lot about a person.

Christ said that many will seek to enter in and will not be able (Lk 13:24). If you are going to be a witness for Christ, you need to understand that the greatest deception does not come from outside the church –atheism, post modernism, etc… it comes from within the church (or more accurately, the professing church). If the devil can get people to think they are already Christians, then that is much move effective than fighting them tooth and nail.

–Danny

Published in: on November 15, 2008 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Christian who never broke a commandment?

Sometimes I meet someone who really causes me to scratch my head and say to myself.. “I don’t get it!” Let me explain myself. Awhile back I was in Raleigh at an outside style mall, and I had a chance to sit down beside an older lady who said she was a Presbyterian. I started asking her a couple of questions and the conversation started to get interesting. (I never take someone’s word that they are a Christian, if they are, then they will LOVE to talk about their savior, and if their not, then most likely they will get a little snippy.)

She said that she was trying to do the right things in order to get into heaven- reading her bible, being good, praying, etc… So I said, “Did you know that God was going to judge us by the 10 commandments? How do you think you do if God did that?” To that she said, “Oh, I think I would pretty good.” So I started taking her through some of the commandments.. here is how it went.

Me– “Have you ever lied before? That is the 9th commandment”

Woman– “No! I don’t lie to people. I am a very honest person.”

Me– “Wow! Really? Never even once?”

Woman– “No, not that I can ever remember.”

Me– “Ever stolen anything? That is the 8th commandment.”

Woman– “No. I have never stolen anything in my life.”

Me– “OK, Ever used God’s name in vain… Even if you said something like “Oh my G__?”

Woman– “Never. Never.”

Me– “Have you ALWAYS put God first and foremost in your life?” …(Look at Psa 14:3)

Woman– “Yes, I have always tried to put him first every day of my life.”

Me– (Trying to find SOMETHING) “Well, Jesus said whoever looks with lust commits adultery in their heart, is it possible you have ever done that?”

Woman– “No. I have never looked with lust.”

Me– “Wow, it kinda sounds like your perfect. Are you perfect?”

Woman– “Well, I am not perfect; I have made some minor mistakes, but nothing bad.”

Me– “Let me ask you this, why do you need a savior? If you have not broken any of the commandments, why did Jesus have to die?”

Woman– (Very politely) “I don’t think I want to talk about this any more.”

See what I mean? I just don’t get it!! Isn’t Christianity supposed to be about forgiveness of SINS?? Why join the club if you’re not a SINNER?? It is important to remember that just because someone attends all the church functions, or carries a Bible around, or lifts their hands in praise to God, it doesn’t mean that they are a child of God. I will talk about what a true Christian looks like later.

–Danny

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 8:07 am  Comments (3)  

He who continues in sin…

… is of the devil (1Jn 3:8).

Lets say that you went up to a stranger and asked him what was going on in his life, knowing nothing else about him, and his answer was something like this- “Well, I was caught having a homosexual affair on my wife… again. It would have continued if I had not been caught. I have been lying to everyone, trying to hide it so I would not get in trouble.” What would you say about that man? Do you think it is possible that he is right with God? What if he said to you, “Oh, I am a Christian”, would your attitude toward him change?

I have seen situations like this where people have said, “Oh he is still a Christian, he is just a backslider.” One such incident was concerning the Ted Haggard scandal. Bloggers were defending Pastor Haggard’s salvation while others were saying that it was not possible that he was a Christian at all.

This begs the question, at what point can we say that a person is really a false Christian? Some would say that we cannot make that judgment at all. Or are these people, who are living in a lifestyle of sin, just backsliders who need a little TLC? Do we need to dust them off and prop them back up in the pew, or should we witness to them as we would someone who never claimed to be Christian in the first place?

What if I told you that I am a Christian, but every two weeks I go out and rape a woman and then murder her because I am ashamed of my actions? Don’t all Christians still sin? This may be an extreme case, but I have had people try and justify their actions. Here is the answer I give them.

The answer is YES, Christians do still sin. I am sure I sin every single day, but understand that there is a distinction between falling into sin and diving into it. The unregenerate heart runs to sin. It drinks it like water, it is unrepentant. It is a slave to sin, it can’t help it. People with unregenerate hearts live in a lifestyle of sin, they may know that what they are doing is wrong, but it doesn’t stop them from fulfilling their lusts.

But the heart that has been crucified with Christ is made anew, with new thoughts and new desires. That heart HATES sin. Those people are marked by a thirst for holiness and repentance. They read God’s word, they reach out to the lost, they spend time in prayer and the look to grow in Christ and die more and more to themselves. They are broken by their sin, not empowered by it. If they sin, it is against their will. They FALL rather than DIVE.

The problem is, we are so quick to pronounce someone saved that we forget that true salvation shows itself in our actions not in our profession of faith. I know people who go to church on Sunday and raise their hands in praise to God and then sin to their hearts content until it is time to go back to church.

The apostle John wrote that if you say that you have a relationship with God, but you walk in darkness, then you are a liar and the truth is not in you. And for those of us who know people who are living in persistent sin, we need the courage to reach out to these people and let them know we are concerned for their salvation.

–Danny

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Buddha loves you

I know people who think they are sharing their faith just by saying “Jesus loves you” to non-Christians, but what if I told you, “Buddha loves you”? What impact would my statement have on you? I doubt any; in fact it sounds kinda foolish. In the same way the bible says that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But why is that?

Imagine this, you are sitting on a dock overlooking some turbulent water, but you are safe and sound, enjoying the view. All of a sudden, a man comes running down the dock screaming, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!” and jumps in the water and drowns. What would run through your mind… lunatic, nutjob, wacko?

Now lets say you actually fell into that churning water, you were drowning, there was no way to save yourself, but suddenly a man dives head first into that dangerous water without hesitation. With all of his strength he thrusts you up onto the dock, crying out, “I love you, I love you” and slips beneath the water. Knowingly giving his life to save YOU. What would you think of that man now?

The love of God is a sacrificial love reflected in the cross of Jesus Christ, but to the world, they are safe on the dock of their self-righteousness. From their point of view, then don’t need saving. They don’t see that they are drowning in their sin. It makes no sense to them. It’s like telling you that Buddha loves you. To tell someone the love of Jesus, first, show them the water they are drowning in by holding up the mirror of the 10 Commandments, the holy laws they have violated, and then preach Christ crucified.

–Danny

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment