Saturday, April 28, 2012

Prodigal God

Prodigal God. I used this title for God in an earlier post "Bible School and Ballet Shoes", and promised you, the reader, a post to explain this rather unconventional appellation. Well, here it is.

I was first introduced to this sobriquet by my favoritest (it's a word...honest!) worship dance teacher in the world, Tiffany. She shared with us a devotional her family had been doing on Luke 15 and the prodigal son.  Here is what she taught me, along with a few extras God has added.

Those of us who have grown up in Sunday school have surely heard the parable told by Jesus in Luke 15 about the prodigal son. Here is a short summary: The rich kid leaves and spends all of his inheritance on 'riotous living', ends up penniless, eating with pigs. He then decides to see if his Dad, who has every right to disown him, will take him back as a lowly servant in his household. When the newly humbled son returns, his father races out to meet him and receives him back into his home with open arms and grace-filled love. Because of this story, most of us feel that prodigal is a nasty adjective.

"Don't be the prodigal", we're told. By the way, I fully advocate avoiding at all cost the path the prodigal son took. But that's not the point of this post. That parable really has nothing to do with it, I only typed that paragraph to give a bit of background on why 'prodigal' is such an unpleasant term in Christian circles. When someone is referred to as a 'prodigal', we all grimace, nod sadly, and say we'll be praying for them. Well, I would like to present to you today that, when God created the English language, and the word 'prodigal', He was not intending that it should be used only in a negative connotation. Like every single inch of creation, this word is meant to point us towards the glory of God, and of His cross.

Prod-i-gal: Rashly or wastefully extravagant, as in disposing of goods or money; giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse; a person who spends lavishly or squanders money; unstinting, open-handed, liberal, free.

It was the Son of the Almighty that took His inheritance, and spent it lavishly on the most depraved creatures in existence. It was the Son of the Almighty that left His palace, His Father's glorious home with all its heavenly servants, His riches, His power over every thing, and came down to the lowest level. Our level. He took on our form, breathed in the same air we breathed, walked on the same ground, ate the same food. It was the Son of the Almighty who took heaven's most precious treasure -Himself- and spent it upon the most unworthy beings that could be imagined. Jesus prodigally spent an inheritance of light, of perfect love, of worship, of absolute power, of eternal life, of holiness, of purity, of grace, of uninterrupted communion with His Father, of peace, of glory; an inheritance absolutely forsaken...for us. For me. For you.

God has called  us to be transformed into the express likeness of his Son.  What I am referencing here has been referred to as "the poured-out life," "the given life", etc. Now, a new way of explaining it -"The prodigal life". Jesus Christ spent all that His Father gave Him on those without strength, on the undeserving, on the wretchedly helpless...and wretchedly arrogant. He spilled every drop of blood in His body with our names upon His lips. And we are called to do the same. To spend every resource we have -physical, emotional, and spiritual- upon those around us. We are the hands and feet of Christ Jesus, who is living His life through our bodies. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that He will live His life in us any differently than He did when He first came to earth. Our bodies are the instruments of the ultimate giver -we mustn't let ourselves believe that God will let us spare what He did not allow Himself to withhold from the dying.

I am fully aware that the life described above is not easy. No one ever said it is. But it is simple. God spent all for me, and I owe a debt that I can never hope to pay. But because He loves me, and because I am learning to love Him, I surrender my whole self, and all that I have, for His pleasure. And I realize that I can't even do that on my own. What a wondrous King, who spends all, and still continues to give.

My friends...we have a Prodigal God. And may we ever praise Him for it. Because the day we cease to see this part of Jesus Christ is the day our Christianity will become useless; self-centered rather than Christ-centered, vain instead of humble, and fruitless rather than fruitful. God forbid that we should ever forget the cross, and the cost.

"I’ve tasted Your glory, and I left it there. You poured out Your Spirit, and I didn’t care. Still You loved me. I’ve lived for myself with nobody to blame; I took what You gave me and squandered Your grace. Still You loved me. Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me. I could live for the broken and share in their pain; I could die like a martyr or live like a saint... just to love You. I could sing like the angels and gather Your praise: be blessed beyond measure and give it away just to love You. Still nothing compares to what You’ve done for me. My heart has been broken; I’ve laid out my shame. Because of Your mercy, all I can say is I love You. So I’ll tell of Your story, I’ll carry Your name, I’ll live for Your glory Lord, I’ll share in Your pain...just to love You. Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me."
~Michael Gungor

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