Feast of Dunstan,
Archbishop of Canterbury, 988
I suddenly saw that all the time it was not I who had
been seeking God, but God who had been seeking me. I had made myself the centre of my own
existence and had my back turned to God. All the beauty and truth which I had discovered
had come to me as a reflection of his beauty, but I had kept my eyes fixed on the
reflection and was always looking at myself. But God had brought me to the point at which
I was compelled to turn away from the reflection, both of myself and of the world which
could only mirror my own image. During that night the mirror had been broken, and I had
felt abandoned because I could no longer gaze upon the image of my own reason and the
finite world which it knew. God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own
nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my
life and therefore I could see God in everything.
- ...The Golden String, pp. 107-8
Favorite Collection of Prodigal Articles
The below is from the December
1997 IN TOUCH
"Yet to all who received him, to those
who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12
You've probably heard and read Jesus'
parable of the prodigal son many times, and the emphasis of the lesson is usually on the
wayward brother. No matter how badly he had behaved, no matter how much he did not deserve
his father's forgiveness, he received it anyway.
The one often overlooked is the other
brother, grumbling in the corner while the party is in full swing. Many of us, if we're
honest, secretly identify with him. It just doesn't seem fair. There he was, faithful and
obedient all those years, and the "bad seed" got showered with attention just
because he did something good for once.
What Jesus is pointing out is that both
brothers are accepted into the same grace. The "good" brother did not realize
it, but he was surrounded by the exact same unconditional love.
"Son, you have always been with me,
and all that is mine is yours" (v. 31). The steady brother had simply lost this
perspective and become mired in a hidden attitude of self-righteousness and pride.
You can rejoice when someone trapped in sin
is welcomed into the Father's arms. Remember, you were no better when He embraced you
with forgiveness. It should remind you of your own homecoming and fill you with an
eagerness to share the delights of belonging to the Father.
You're my Father, and I can never lose
Your eternal love.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had
two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So
he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got
together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild
living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country,
and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country,
who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that
the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he
said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to
death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned
against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like
one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still
a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his
son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have
sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it.
Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was
lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."
The parable of the prodigal son shows the
nature of repentance, and the Lord's readiness to welcome and bless all who return to him.
It fully sets forth the riches of gospel grace; and it has been, and will be, while the
world stands, of unspeakable use to poor sinners, to direct and to encourage them in
repenting and returning to God. It is bad, and the beginning of worse, when men look upon
God's gifts as debts due to them. The great folly of sinners, and that which ruins them,
is, being content in their life-time to receive their good things. Our first parents
ruined themselves and all their race, by a foolish ambition to be independent, and this is
at the bottom of sinners' persisting in their sin. We may all discern some features of our
own characters in that of the prodigal son. A sinful state is of departure and distance
from God. A sinful state is a spending state: willful sinners misemploy their thoughts and
the powers of their souls, mispend their time and all their opportunities. A sinful state
is a wanting state. Sinners want necessaries for their souls; they have neither food nor
raiment for them, nor any provision for hereafter. A sinful state is a vile, slavish
state. The business of the devil's servants is to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil
the lusts thereof, and that is no better than feeding swine. A sinful state is a state
constant discontent. The wealth of the world and the pleasures of the senses will not even
satisfy our bodies; but what are they to precious souls! A sinful state is a state which
cannot look for relief from any creature. In vain do we cry to the world and to the flesh;
they have that which will poison a soul, but have nothing to give which will feed and
nourish it. A sinful state is a state of death. A sinner is dead in trespasses and sins,
destitute of spiritual life. A sinful state is a lost state. Souls that are separated from
God, if his mercy prevent not, will soon be lost for ever. The prodigal's wretched state,
only faintly shadows forth the awful ruin of man by sin. Yet how few are sensible of their
own state and character!
Having viewed the prodigal in his abject state of misery, we are next to consider his
recovery from it. This begins by his coming to himself. That is a turning point in the
sinner's conversion. The Lord opens his eyes, and convinces him of sin; then he views
himself and every object, in a different light from what he did before. Thus the convinced
sinner perceives that the meanest servant of God is happier than he is. To look unto God
as a Father, and our Father, will be of great use in our repentance and return to him. The
prodigal arose, nor stopped till he reached his home. Thus the repenting sinner resolutely
quits the bondage of Satan and his lusts, and returns to God by prayer, notwithstanding
fears and discouragements. The Lord meets him with unexpected tokens of his forgiving
love. Again; the reception of the humbled sinner is like that of the prodigal. He is
clothed in the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, made partaker of the Spirit of
adoption, prepared by peace of conscience and gospel grace to walk in the ways of
holiness, and feasted with Divine consolations. Principles of grace and holiness are
wrought in him, to do, as well as to will.
In the latter part of this parable we have the character of the Pharisees, though not of
them alone. It sets forth the kindness of the Lord, and the proud manner in which his
gracious kindness is often received. The Jews, in general, showed the same spirit towards
the converted Gentiles; and numbers in every age object to the gospel and its preachers,
on the same ground. What must that temper be, which stirs up a man to despise and abhor
those for whom the Saviour shed his precious blood, who are objects of the Father's
choice, and temples of the Holy Ghost! This springs from pride, self-preference, and
ignorance of a man's own heart. The mercy and grace of our God in Christ, shine almost as
bright in his tender and gentle bearing with peevish saints, as his receiving prodigal
sinners upon their repentance. It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God,
who keep close to their Father's house, that they are, and shall be ever with him. Happy
will it be for those who thankfully accept Christ's invitation. (from Matthew Henry's