5 Mar 2015 by Jason Law CM –
Have you ever felt trapped or drained by your Christian walk? There are many Christians in this world who are struggling with their faith, and it seems that no matter how good a life they try to live, they feel it is never good enough for God. In fact, many I have come across have shared with me that they feel cheated; before conversion people have talked to them about unconditional love and the Grace of God.
Now, I am not saying repentance is not important. I have written plenty of articles in which I have stressed the value of repentance. My question is; how do we approach God, even in this process? Do we repent because we feel we’re not good enough for a certain standard bar, or do we repent because we feel a clear sorrow in our hearts whenever we sin against the Father?
Throughout the Bible, God consistently reveals Himself foremost as a Father. From the time of Adam, He walked closely with men. He calls us His children, and teaches us to pray as to the Father. Terms in Christianity and the Bible reveals the family orientation of God; ‘House of God’, ‘Father’, ‘Son’, ‘Daughter’, ‘Family’, ‘Bridegroom’, ‘Bride’, ‘One Body’.
Few things show the familial relational heart of God as the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15. Last Sunday, 1st of March 2015, Reverend Jai Kumar shared a message in C3 Subang Jaya concerning this distinctive attribute of God.
The Primacy of a Relationship with God
Reverend Jai opened his sharing by communicating his concern for the Christian church. Many of us have been diverted away from a focus on God into focusing on our own efforts and trying to live up to standards. He communicated that Jesus has told us that He had come to fulfill the Law, and that Paul often wrote about the effects of the Law on the spirit.
Christ came to die for our sins. This is not simply a syntactic statement; it has spiritual significance to it. What Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago changed something in the spiritual realm.
In Galatians 2:18, Paul writes
Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down.
The Law produces fear, and an inordinate focus on it results in us believing that we don’t have the right to stand before God and that we need to try to prove that we deserve to be blessed.
Yet even before Christ made that sacrifice on Calvary, we see something about the grace of God in His relationship with Abram before he became Abraham. God picked Abram when he was still an ordinary man, and Abram in fact came from a line of idolaters. Therefore he was not picked because he was righteous; he was righteous because he was loved of the Lord. This probably needs some digesting but it is extremely significant, and Abraham was declared righteous because he responded to that love in faith.
Reverend Jai communicated that God reached down to us when we were still sinners and what we need to do is to respond by appropriating and positioning ourselves in our rightful identities with God. We do so by stepping into that blessed relationship, tapping into it, and by starting to live a new life according to our new identities. There comes a danger where we devalue what Christ has done on the Cross when there is continual struggle in our faith.
The new paradigm of a relationship with God changes the way we view our world. Are we living according to the standards of the world, including trying to perform, or are we relationship-oriented? The religious spirit can be as potent a bondage as anything else, as much of the events in this world and in history have shown.
The Heart of the Father as Revealed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is familiar to most Christians. It is one of the best-loved parables of Jesus, known even to non-Christians. Most of the time, we understand it as a picture of the Christian journey; from straying away from God, to repentance, and further to redemption. Another facet of the parable however reveals a powerful communication about the heart of God.
Reverend Jai explained that in order to fully understand the parable, we need to look at it from a Jewish context. Nothing Jesus did was superfluous and this parable contains levels of meaning about the human relationship with God. Firstly, the prodigal son symbolizes the rebellion of men against God and the fall into disgrace.
On one level, the prodigal son also reveals something about the heart of men, and Reverend Jai pointed out that we need to be honest with ourselves. Much as the prodigal son decided to return to his father out of desperation, most or many of us came to God, not because we are righteous or wanted to know Him, but because we were desperate and needed Him. It was never about the righteousness of men in the first place.
What Reverend Jai wanted to impart foremost was what the parable says about God’s embodiment of love. When the prodigal son returned to his father, he told his father that he was willing to be made a servant or slave for his transgressions against his father. In the Jewish context, when you collect your inheritance and go your separate way away from a living father, it was the mark of an ultimate rebellion, akin to a declaration of separation.
The father, however, responded in a remarkable way; he celebrated the homecoming of the prodigal son and reinstated the prodigal son into his family. The father did not want the son to become a servant, degraded into being forced to earn his livelihood. He did not want his son in an obligatory or contractual relationship with him. He wanted a free and open relationship. The father celebrated when the sinner repented, not out of triumph but out of joy and love.
Reverend Jai shared that the elder son also symbolized something which is self-righteousness. He was missing the point of everything that happened. The person sinned against was the father, yet the one who took offense was the elder brother. He served his father in expectation of a scanty reward and in Luke 15:31, the father told the elder son something significant. The elder son was with the father all the time and everything the father had was his, yet he did not realize it.
We need to remember what transpired on the cross, Reverend Jai communicated. Though our minds may not be fully able to encompass it, remember the significance. Christ transformed the lives of others simply through the force of His presence and for being who He is. People like Zacchaeus and Matthew and simple people like Peter and countless other sinners. The only ones who wanted Him dead were the self-righteous Pharisees.
Jesus’ life is the ultimate example for Christians; to bring God’s compassion to the Lost, and to transform the lives of others, not by trying to manage them, but simply by bringing the meaning of the Gospel and God’s hope and love to them through authentic lives, even in our counsel and correction.
Understanding Righteousness in God
Philip Yancey once said that sin is not a mark on the right/wrong chart but rather, something spiritual that directs us away from God. We need to gain a proper understanding of righteousness with God and the crucial role of faith within it. Victorious Christian living can only result from this. We shouldn’t allow our faith to be dominated by struggles to meet a standard bar, either imposed by others upon us or set by ourselves, that becomes a hindrance in our relationship with God.
God wants a family relationship with us. Our relationship to God should foremost be a free and open one, and we will soon find everything coming together. Even repentance becomes not a test we have failed, but rather simply communicating to the Father that we are sorry that we have strayed from Him and that we want Him back in our lives.
Having a full understanding of who God is and how much He brings to our lives will help us to find rest in Him and to stop struggling in our own efforts.
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