Jesus' teaching on the parable of the prodigal sons has changed the way we look at ministry today. Both sons had issues with their father that radically changed their futures. Jesus uses the two brothers to describe the two basic ways people find happiness and fulfillment in life. First is the way of self discovery. “I'll do what I want when I want to." This is seen in the younger brother. The second is in the way of moral conformity. “I have been obedient, therefore, I am accepted." We see this in the elder brother. Each one is looking for personal significance and worth, yet both are lost. Their struggle is with religion and the gospel. Religion operates on the principle, “I obey, therefore, I am accepted." But the gospel operates on the principle, “I'm accepted through what Jesus Christ has done; therefore, I obey." So religion is not the gospel, as the two are completely different from each other. It is exciting to see a younger brother come home to be accepted by our Father, but the more serious concern is the elder brother. Our churches are filled with elder brothers, and these churches don't realize it.
Do you find yourself falling into the same trap of thinking that my obedience in itself is worth something to God? That would be a mistake that is made all too often and emulates religion and not the gospel. This series, Forgiven, will help us to see that God is not calling us to be religious (obedient, therefore, I will be accepted), but to the gospel (I'm accepted through what Jesus Christ has done; therefore, I obey.)