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The Ex-Prodigal Son

The Ex-Prodigal Son

In my last post, I started looking at the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s Gospel. We saw how a legalistic mindset can drive new believers to give up on their Christian walk.

At some point, we begin to realize that trying to live for the Lord on our own terms doesn’t work. The things of the world lose their appeal. We begin to long for the blessing of God.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Luke 15:17-20 NIV

I want you to notice something important here. This young man misses the blessings of the father’s house. But, at the same time he still has the slave mentality.

We have to realize that thinking like a slave is a symptom of a childish mindset. Paul makes that clear in his writings.

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.

Galatians 4:1 NIV

That’s a part of our spiritual growth. We all have to go through the “slave” stage. That’s when we learn the basics of growing in Christ.

Somebody disciples us in the foundational principles. They tell us we need to read the Scriptures and pray daily. We must meet together with other believers for teaching and fellowship. We need to realign our finances through the giving of tithes and offerings.

To a new believer, this seems like a list of rules. As we grow in Christ, however, we find that these disciplines actually free us to serve God at the highest level. We put the childish slave mentality behind us and begin to operate like a mature son or daughter.

Here’s an example. When I was young teen, living with my parents, one of my chores was to put out the trash each week. I did it because I was told to do it and there would be consequences if I didn’t.

I’m 65 years old now. I still put out the trash each week. Why? Because that’s what a mature person does. I want my house clean, even though there will be no punishment if I fail to do it.

That’s how we should progress in our walk with the Lord. Those things that seemed like rules at the start, should become a vital part of our mature Christian experience.

This seems to be the hardest part of our walk with God. For some reason we want to hang on to the rules of childhood.

I’m talking about the “if…then” mentality. “If I tithe, then God will bless my finances.” “If I encourage someone, then I will be encouraged.”

Think about it. That’s how we treat children. “If you clean your room, then I’ll take you out for ice cream.”

Maturity thinks in a whole new way. We understand that under the New Covenant, I receive the blessing of God simply because I’m His child and I trust Him. On the other hand, I do those things that I know to do simply because I love the Father and I want to please Him.

This is a truth that Paul had to forcefully proclaim to the Galatian church. They were very quickly falling into legalism.

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Galatians 3:2-3 NIV

We must always remember that we’re walking according to the spirit. Serving Christ is not a matter of following a bunch of rules (observing the law). It’s about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and walking in harmony with that calling.

Question: How do you break the “rules mentality” in following Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2022 in Faith, Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Protecting the Weak

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s teaching about navigating the “grey areas” in regards to sin.  These are the activities that the Bible doesn’t speak about, but Christians seem to all have differing opinions on whether they’re sin or not.

The issue in the Corinthians church was whether they could eat meat that had been sacrificed at a Pagan temple.  The Apostle started at the bottom line – pagan idols are nothing; our submission to the authority of Christ is everything.  Now he goes on to the other issues involved.

But not everyone knows this.  Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.
1 Corinthians 8:7

Paul now brings it around to our conscience.  That’s the internal code inside of us that differentiates right and wrong.  He makes it clear that this code of conduct is subjective.  It’s mostly based upon our life experiences.

Something might not be a sin in the eyes of God.  But, based upon my life experience, I may personally consider it wrong and not to be participated in.  If I then do this activity, even though I technically haven’t sinned, I break my internal code and soil my conscience.

Paul reiterates that he’s talking about things that aren’t labeled as sin in the Bible.

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
1 Corinthians 8:8

The food itself can’t be evil or good.  It’s all about our perception of it.

“That’s great!  It’s not against my conscience to do this.  I’m free to do whatever I want.”

Wait a minute.  Your conscience is not the only one to consider.  What about the consciences of your fellow believers?

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:9-12

Here’s the new principle that Paul is trying to get across to us.  You may know that something is not a sin.  You’re at peace doing it.  But what about a brother in Christ who’s not as strong?

They may feel pressure to follow your example.  But they’re not at peace about it.  They have an internal struggle.  It wounds their conscience.  They’ve now taken the first step in a downward spiral that could possibly ruin their walk with the Lord.

Paul makes it clear.  Eating the food wasn’t a sin.  Hurting a fellow believer that Christ died to save is a sin.  Like I said, there’s more to this than simply asking if something is a sin or not.

You might not think that it’s fair.  After all, why should someone else’s conscience dictate what I can or can’t do?  Paul clears that up.

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
1 Corinthians 8:13

That’s life as part of a body.  The church is not an organization of individual people; we are an organism of interconnected members.  What I do affects you and what you do affects me.

Our goal should be to please Christ and bless others.

Question: How do my actions affect those around me?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Caring for the Young

In my last few posts, Jesus was preparing His disciples for their future roles as leaders in the body of Christ.  He wants them to understand that leadership in God’s kingdom is handled very differently than in the world.

The Lord now uses a little child as an object lesson for them to understand.

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
Mark 9:42

Using a child as an example, Jesus begins to talk about how to handle new believers.  There are some important issues that I think we usually miss in this section of Scripture.

The Lord is talking about young believers here.  Not necessarily physical children, but spiritual children as well.  The key is that they believe in Christ.  They’re young in the things of God.

Care has to be taken in our dealings with new believers.  The actual word that Jesus used in this verse is, entrap.  He doesn’t want new believers entrapped or tripped up in their walk with God.

Too often I’ve seen young believers given an impossibly long list of do’s and don’ts.  After a short while, they fall away in frustration, believing that they can never measure up to what Christ expects of them.

I actually had one self-righteous member explain it to me this way…”Well, you realize that it’s a lot harder to stay saved than to get saved.”

Really!  Is that the God we serve?  Does He let you into His family by a simple act of faith only to kick you out at your first sign of weakness?  Absolutely not!  We have a loving and faithful God who works with us to bring us into our destiny in Him.

It’s man that wants to make it hard to serve God.  We have to prove how great we are at by putting others down and pointing out their failures.

We need to learn to treat new believers just as we would a newborn infant, spiritually speaking.  The Lord has some very strong words to say concerning His attitude toward those who offend new believers.

But it doesn’t end there.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Mark 9:43-48

In this context, do you really think Jesus is literally talking about cutting off your hand?  I’ve committed many sins in my life using my hands, feet, and eyes.  But never once was it my hand, foot or eye that caused me to sin.  The desire for sin always started in my heart.

Then what is the Lord talking about?  Simply put, He’s speaking about His body on earth…the church.  Each of us is a member of the body; an eye, a hand or a foot.  Jesus is saying that no one member of the body is so indispensable that it can’t be removed for offenses against the body.  This was a teaching that the disciples probably didn’t understand until long after the resurrection.

But we need to bear this in mind.  How we treat one another is important to Christ.  I believe that there are many who have died before their time because of offending the body of Christ.  We need to major on our love walk in order to be pleasing to Christ.

Question: How have you been a blessing to those who are young in the Lord?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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