UNDERSTANDING HOW TO SERVE THE LORD: By Growing Spiritually

 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”  (Eph. 4:14-15)

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a rich man that has two sons. One of the sons asks for his inheritance, takes it, and squanders it, but his father forgives him. On the surface it seems like the simple story of a life wasted, repentance, and forgiveness.

However, to fully understand the lesson that Jesus was teaching that day we need to understand it the same way that the early Church did. This is done by knowing the original Greek words that were used in writing the New Testament and translated into the words “son” or “sons” in the King James Version.

The story in Luke begins:

“And he said, A certain man had two sons:” (Luke 15:11)

Here the Greek word translated “sons” is the word pronounced hwee-os’. It means a son that has come to the age of maturity or responsibility. The Bible always uses the word hwee-os’ in the New Testament when referring to Jesus as the Son of God.

Even in the Old Testament, the prophetic Scriptures concerning Christ refer to Him as the one with responsibility or control.

“A Psalm of David. The LORD (Heb. word for Jehovah) said unto my Lord (Heb. word meaning “divine controller”), Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

Jesus is always the mature son. Jesus is always in control.

The story continues in Luke:

“And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” (Luke 15:12)

Here the word for “younger” actually indicates a son who might be in the age range of a teenager to a young adult, whereas the word for “elder” used later in the story to describe the other son indicates a senior or someone far along into manhood. This is important to know in understanding the deeper meaning of the story.

It is also important to notice something else in the Scripture that is often overlooked by many. The Bible says that “he divided unto them his living.”

We often emphasize the young man demanding his inheritance when in reality the father not only gave the younger son his inheritance, but at the same time he also gave the elder son his inheritance.

In these two verses of Scripture we begin to see the parallel between the two sons of the rich man and the believers in Christ.

They were both sons who were of the age of responsibility. We become “responsible” when we hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They both received their inheritance, although each of them chose very different paths concerning that inheritance. We receive our spiritual inheritance when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and then it is our choice as to what we do with it.

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” (Luke 15:13)

Here the Bible says, “And not many days after…” showing us that for a short period of time both sons were managing their inheritance with their father. But soon the younger son took his portion, left, and acted irresponsibly by wasting it.

The story goes on to tell us that the younger son, having spent all, joined himself with the heathen of the land and ended up feeding swine.

When he found himself desiring to eat the very swill that he was feeding the swine, he repented of his sins and rose up from the pig sty to return to his father.

The younger son said:

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,” (Luke 15:18)

“And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Luke 15:19)

The young son arose and went home to his father, and again we see the parallel to the Christian.

Instead of finding a father ready to judge and condemn him for his actions and decisions, he found that his father had been waiting for his return all along and was ready to rejoice at his homecoming.

“But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:” (Luke 15:22)

“And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:” (Luke 15:23)

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:24)

The Bible tells us that just like the father in the story, our Heavenly Father is not as concerned about our bad judgments and transgressions as He is about our repentance and restoration.

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” (Prov. 24:16)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)

Up to this point in the story we see the wonderful message of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, but as we continue we begin to see the deeper message of spiritual maturity.

“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:25)

“And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.” (Luke 15:26)

“And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.” (Luke 15:27)

“And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” (Luke 15:28)

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)

“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:30)

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

The first step to becoming a spiritually mature son of God is in recognizing and acknowledging the current spiritual condition we are in.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13)

“And he was angry, and would not go in… thou never gavest me a kid… But as soon as this thy son (Greek word hwee-os’ for mature son) was come… And he (the father) said unto him, Son (Greek word tek-non for little child) thou art ever with me…” (Luke 15:28-31)

Throughout the time that the younger son demanded his inheritance, wasted it with riotous living, joined himself to the heathen, and ended up in the pig sty, the original Greek Scriptures used the word hwee-os’ for mature son in reference to him.

No matter what mistakes the younger son had made, the father never changed his opinion of him. The father always considered him to be the same son that was worthy to receive his inheritance.

The only time the word for son changes to tek-non, meaning a little child, is when the father speaks to the elder son in the 31st verse of Luke.

It was not the outward sin, the transgression, the stumbling that revealed spiritual immaturity, but it was the hidden condition of the heart revealed by the jealous and hateful words of the elder son that caused the father to refer to him as a “little child”.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1Cor. 3:1)

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1Cor. 3:2)

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Cor. 3:3)

Envy, strife, and division are what God considers when determining if we are a “babe in Christ”.

ENVY: “…thou never gavest me a kid…”

STRIFE: “…And he was angry…”

DIVISION: “…would not go in…”

“But as soon as this thy son was come…” the elder, supposedly more mature son, wouldn’t even call him “brother”, but referred to him as “thy son”.

Often we as Christians think that if we can ever get to the place in our life where we never stumble, never transgress, and never sin, then we have become like Jesus and are a mature son of God.

However, the Bible says:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8)

As long as we are in this body of flesh we will always be susceptible to temptation, failure, and sin. To think otherwise is a dangerous place to be as a Christian.

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1Cor. 10:12)

Knowing this, the devil takes advantage of our misplaced hope of perfection, and by emphasizing our repeated stumbling in our Christian walk, tries to make us believe that we are a failure and will never be a mature son of God.

Even as the prodigal son said, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants.” However, because of his mercy and compassion, the father always saw him as the mature son in spite of his failure and did not hesitate to restore him to his full place of authority.

On the other hand, it was the elder son that appeared to be faithful by staying at home and managing the affairs of the household who the father referred to as childish, immature, and irresponsible when once the secret condition of his heart toward his brother was revealed.

The older son boasted of his faithfulness and righteousness and complained that the father was not being fair:

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)

Many times Christians who have served the Lord for a period of time become prideful concerning the changes they have made in their lifestyle, especially when they see others who seem to fall short of the mark.

Sometimes without realizing it, we compare our lives and accomplishments with those of others. We see others who we feel need to improve and we look down upon them, or we see those who seem to have obtained or been given more in their Christian walk and we envy them. We forget the admonition from the Word of God:

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2Cor. 10:12)

We as Christians have to be careful not to allow our Christian practices (church attendance, Bible reading, time in prayer, ministry, etc.) to become benchmarks or points of accomplishments that we use to prove our spiritual maturity.

The only benchmarks that God looks at to determine spiritual maturity or immaturity are the unbridled feelings we harbor in our hearts toward others.

We could be the Pastor of a congregation or the head of a ministry, have attended Bible School, given tremendous sermons, and done mighty works for God, but if we harbor in our heart judgment and criticism, if we are envious and jealous, if we murmur and complain, if we gossip and backbite, then in God’s eyes we are a babe in Christ and spiritually immature.

The father told the older son:

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)

The elder son had received his inheritance. He had everything that the father had to give. He could have killed the fatted calf and made merry with his friends any time he chose. He could have set his heart on being with the father and enjoying all that the father had given him, instead of filling his heart with jealousy and ill will toward his brother.

He could have made the decision to be as the father, to put away feelings of hurt and betrayal, and simply love his brother and hope for his return.

He could have chosen to be the hwee-os’, the mature son of the father, instead of refusing to grow up spiritually and remaining the tek-non, the little child.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Next- UNDERSTANDING HOW TO SERVE THE LORD: Through Spiritual Maturity    

All twelve books in the "How to Walk Christian Series" by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

All twelve books in the “How to Walk Christian Series” by Raymond Candy are available now in one collection of two volumes for $6.99 each at bn.com for the NOOK, amazon.com for the KINDLE, on iTunes at the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and at Lulu.com for the PC and all e-reading devices

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