Dear fellow disciple-maker,
The church has been a part of my life since I was an infant. Perhaps you grew up in church as I did. Lifelong church people are considered good folks. They are usually God-fearing and moral. But as strange as this may sound, there is a subtle danger to being familiar with Jesus your whole life. Church people are susceptible to primarily thinking of Jesus as their teacher or leader, rather than their Savior.
If you grew up in church I want to ask you to take a second look at a message Jesus delivered to some highly religious people. In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables that focused on God's compassion for lost people. The first story was about a lost sheep. The second was about a lost coin. The third story was about two lost sons. Those of us who grew up in church were usually taught that there was only one lost son, but in reality there were two. In Luke 15, Jesus taught that both sons were lost. We don't usually see it at first, but while the younger son was lost through his wild rebellion, the older son was lost through his religious rule-keeping. The younger son was lost because of his self-indulgence, and the older son was lost because of his self-reliance.
The message of these three parables was three-fold: Everyone is wrong. Everyone is loved. And everyone needs to be brought home. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were deeply offended by this message. They assumed that the younger brother (representing sinners) didn't deserve to be saved and by contrast, they didn't need to be saved. The older bother (representing the religious good people) assumed that his obedience was enough. The older son boasted of having obeyed his Father's rules for many years. His religious life was based his good behavior. And, you guessed it good people don't need a Savior.
Are you like the older brother? Unfortunately, many church people are. The older brother's main problem was his spiritual blindness. He had lived such a "good" life he simply could not see his need for grace. Even though the father lovingly pleaded for the older son to join the party, he refused. At the end of the parable, it was the older brother who remained separated from his Father. He was on the outside of a joyful celebration of salvation and hope.
From Luke 15, Jesus wants everyone to learn two spiritual truths: First, a lost sinner who repents will be always be accepted by God. Second, those who do not recognize their need for a Savior will remain lost. The pre-requisite for receiving the grace of God is to know that you need it. The younger son had done bad things but returned home and found grace. The older son was morally good but blind to his true condition. He was actually more distant from his father than the younger son.
If you grew up in church, guard your heart from becoming bitter like the older brother. Open your heart and recognize that your greatest spiritual need is trust Jesus to be your Savior. No matter how good any person is, nobody is good enough to save themselves. Everyone is lost. Everyone is loved. Everyone needs a Savior.
Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com
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