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Stance in Grace

This summer, I have been going to a church ministry for college students. A few weeks back, during the sermon, a portion of the story of the Prodigal Son was read. I couldn’t tell you what the original point of the sermon was or anything else that the preacher said that evening. As the story was read, my attention was firmly in the Lord’s grasp and I feel like I had a sermon spoken straight into my soul. This is what I learned as I meditated on the Scripture that evening and into the next days.

Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'[c] 22But the father said to his servants,[d] 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

25"Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' 31And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

I have always read this and thought “Yay for the prodigals. Run home to your God.” But I have never identified with the Prodigal. I identify with the older brother. He says “What the heck Dad? I’ve been faithful. I have served. I have never really strayed. Where is all of this for me? Where is my celebration? Where are my blessings?” I back that. It’s like I’m saying “Yoohoo…God! Um, in case you forgot, my name is Jennifer Lorraine Romanski from Brandon Florida. I think you forgot to bless me today. I think you forgot to dole out that good gift that I so deserve.”

In a way, I have even been jealous of the Prodigal. Christ tells Simon in Luke 7 that he who has been forgiven of much will love much and he who has been forgiven little will love little. Is that my fault that I had little to forgive? Shouldn’t He love me more because I have always loved Him and have never strayed and have never played the harlot?

Again, what a dumb child I am. I am the harlot. I am the whore. I am the Prodigal too. I’m just a prideful Prodigal, in that I can’t even recognize my own Prodigalness! Luke 7 isn’t saying that God will love the Prodigal more. It is saying that the Prodigal will love God more then the brother because the Prodigal knows just how much he is dependent upon the Lord, whereas the brother is still stuck in his own independence and self-sufficiency. The brother still believes that he is somehow good on his own a little bit. The Prodigal knows he is depraved. The Prodigal knows TRULY what he was saved from. The brother thinks a part of him was worthy of love. The Prodigal knows how incredibly unworthy he was. How selfish that I would not want to celebrate my brother’s return or whatever else God is doing in their lives because I’m too worried about my OWN celebration (or lack thereof).

There are not levels of sin, and there are not levels of righteousness. One iniquity might as well be infinity iniquities. Once sprinkled with the blood, that’s it. I am not saved by grace and then kept by works. I am saved by grace and kept by grace.

I deserve nothing more or less than any of my friends. I don’t deserve to be a student at UF. I don’t deserve to live in the United States. I don’t deserve the amazing little brother that I have. I don’t deserve to worship God. But it is because I don’t deserve any of this that I MUST worship God-this is why I cannot hold it in and remain composed. Instead of focusing on what God hasn’t given me, I must remember that He has given me all that I could ever need. He gave me life through the Messiah’s death. I don’t need a party and a fattened calf. I am ALIVE!!

How sad that this is something I must REMIND myself to remember. What if this were on the physical level? What if I was standing in a field, and a man had a gun to my head and was counting down to the trigger pull and to my death. Then, all of the sudden, another man walks up and puts his child in my place and pulls me to safety. I’m pretty sure that every time I saw this second man, I would remember his son’s death in my place. I’m pretty sure I would remember that I was once seconds from death and now am living. But spiritually, I allow my pride to take hold of my heart. I forget that God killed his son for me and am instead spending my time frustrated because my eye make-up looks weird and thinking about the Braves play-off chances and wondering whether or not I’ll get to watch an episode of Lost tonight.

I need to be rocked. I need to have everything I know shaken upside down. I need to have a life-threatening event happen. I need to suffer. I need to be persecuted. My life has already been too blessed and too easy. Maybe then the Gospel will permeate my every thought and movement. In a sermon on the life of John Bunyan, John Piper says this:

Bunyan's suffering left its mark on all his written work. George Whitefield said of The Pilgrim's Progress, "It smells of the prison. It was written when the author was confined in Bedford jail. And ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross: the Spirit of Christ and of Glory then rests upon them."

The fragrance of affliction was on most of what he wrote. In fact, I suspect that one of the reasons the Puritans are still being read today with so much profit is that their entire experience, unlike ours, was one of persecution and suffering. To our chipper age (at least in the prosperous West) this may seem somber at times, but the day you hear that you have cancer or that your child is blind or that a mob is coming, you turn away from the chipper books to the weighty ones that were written on the precipice of eternity where the fragrance of heaven and the stench of hell are both in the air.

God is good to love me. God is MERCIFUL to love me. I must remember that God is about His glory. I will never be able to steal His glory from Him, but I am guilty of trying too. I must remember that I stand in grace, and only in grace. I must remember that grace alone has kept me and will keep me.

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