Much has been said about the classic parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), to the point where I’m not looking to add to the discussion today. Rather, I wanted to share with you all a series of questions that I heard in a sermon I was listening to yesterday that challenged my heart and could be of use to all of us if we explored them individually.
The pastor’s name is Josh Kouri and in his treatment of the story, he zeroed in on the older son, who’s unwillingness to join the feast for his brother that had returned is an example of how we too can behave towards the grace and mercy of God. Kouri proclaimed that the older son struggled with religion rather than irreligion, and was in just as much danger of missing out on God’s love than the prodigal son who had left was.
Kouri posed the following four questions. These were his litmus test for whether or not you are living in grace or living in devotion to religion (in the bad sense of the term, the type of mind-driven rote behavior that God has disdain for).
Do I obey God to be loved by God?
Why do you follow the commands of God? Are you trying to earn his love, his affirmation, his support? We all need to pause and remember that God already loves us, that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross confirms that, and we have no fear of condemnation any longer. You can miss out on the grace of God if you get so caught up in following the commands of God in order to feel affirmed by God. It is out of the overflow of our gratitude for God’s saving work in our lives that our desire for holiness and obedience should come.
Is my identity in myself or in Jesus?
Many of us have rollercoaster spiritual lives. When we’re in God’s Word, we’re on top of the world. When sin wins the day in our lives, we feel like we’re underground. Since our commitment to holiness is more often than not sporadic, we have emotional lives that are thrown for a loop. The answer to this is remembering what Christ has done, and that our identity is SECURELY ROOTED in Him. On my best day, I’m deserving of hell. Yet because of Christ, on my worst day I’m awarded heaven.
Do I try and control God through my works?
You can’t manipulate God. But we sure do try sometimes. When trials hit we remind God of all the things we’ve done for Him. If our works are done in a way of putting God in our debt, then we misunderstand grace. God’s grace when comprehended leads to a desire for good works, but God cannot be coerced into blessing us because of our flippant faithfulness to Him.
Do I look to ‘more sinful’ people for righteousness via comparison?
This one is classic. Feeling bad about your life? Then look at your neighbor and see how much better you are. Righteousness via comparison is pathetic. We all fall short of God’s glory, so excusing sin in our lives because we think someone else’s sin is worse is hilariously ineffective in the long run.
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, which we all do in different ways at different times, then you may be religious.
Rest in God’s grace.
Repent of where you’ve tried to earn it.
Come in and enjoy the party of God’s love for you.
In His Name,