I am a Prodigal

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Contributed by Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry at Image Church

If you’ve attended one of our Gatherings at Image Church over the past 6 weeks or participate in one of our POD’s (Points Of Discipleship), you’re well aware that we have been studying Luke 15.  It’s a great chapter – Jesus tells a groups of sinners and “religious” people 3 stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and two lost sons.  Since we just finished our series in our Gatherings, I thought it would be appropriate to share part of my story that I wrote for my friend Susie and her soon-to-be-published book.

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My story can be found in Luke 15.  You might be familiar with it – the story of the Prodigal Son.

“Prodigal” as an adjective is defined as recklessly extravagant; having spent everything.

I am a Prodigal Son.

Like the younger son in Luke 15, I came from a good family.  I have a solid Christian heritage – my Father and Grandfather were both pastors.  Christ and the Bible were central in our home.  I’m pretty sure I was at church within 5 days of being born.  If there were awards for perfect attendance at church and Christian school, I’d have a trophy case full of them.  Between church, grade school and college, I probably sat through at least 10,000 services, chapels, prayer groups and Bible classes.  I was spoon fed huge doses of the Bible, and I “knew” it from cover to cover.

A great heritage does not make a person…his choices do.

Like the younger son, I wanted what I thought was due to me now – I desired to live life on my own.  The moment I waved goodbye to my parents and was officially on my own, I felt like I was a kid in a candy store – so many choices to be made.  For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to do what I wanted and felt like I was accountable to no one for my actions.  I was recklessly extravagant.  My life began to spiral out of my control.  I was handcuffed by pornography and the false fantasies it created in my mind.  I was immoral in my relationships.  Common sense boundaries were shattered by my belief that I was in control.  My life was a total lie.  And not too soon after being out on my own, I squandered everything.  I made deplorable choices and quickly realized that I was no better than a muddy, rank pig.

Bad choices, no matter how deplorable, are forgiven only when you seek the Father.

Like the younger son, I had an epiphany – the consequences that come with owning-up to my sin must be better than continuing to live within that same sin.  I was sick of myself and who I had become.  I desired to repent and live a transparent life, no matter what consequences would ensue.  I didn’t care about the hit my career would take or if I would ever be relevant again – I simply needed my Dad again.  I released my pride; humbly and desperately I ran back, not knowing exactly what to expect.

When you release your pride, the door to forgiveness swings open.

Like the younger son, my Father lavished me with His love and forgiveness.  In fact, He was pursuing me all along.  I’m always in awe when I read about the father’s reaction to his son’s homecoming – “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)  I experienced that same reunion.  I came groveling for my Father’s forgiveness, but He interrupted my feeble pleas and showered me with His grace.  Without hesitation or condition, I was restored back into the family.  As King David had experienced for himself, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he [God] remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

Forgiveness opens the door to unimaginable restoration.

Like the younger son, despite my failures, my Father had great things in store for me.  When I ran back to my Dad, I just wanted to be a part of the family again.  I was convinced that what I had considered to be my “unpardonable sin” could in no way ever be fully forgiven; I was always going to be a second-class Christian.  But God is most glorified through the lives of broken people who repent and run to Him.  I love how Timothy Keller, author of “The Prodigal God,” describes what the Father had in store for the younger son…and me!

God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve deliberately oppressed or even murdered people, or how much you’ve abused yourself. The younger brother knew that in his father’s house there was abundant “food to spare,” but he also discovered that there was grace to spare. There is no evil that the father’s love cannot pardon and cover, there is no sin that is a match for his grace. [This story] demonstrates the lavish prodigality of God’s grace. Jesus shows the father pouncing on his son in love not only before he has a chance to clean up his life and evidence a change of heart, but even before he can recite his repentance speech. Nothing, not even abject contrition, merits the favor of God. The Father’s love and acceptance are absolutely free. [1]

God still had a purpose for my life and desired to use me.  I am humbled by that every day.  I am 14 years into my restoration; it’s a process that will continue until I am face-to-face with my Father.  It’s not been easy over the years, and there have been many careless mistakes along the way, but I am always reminded of when I was in my own muddy pit and chose to run to my Dad.  He is faithful to forgive and restore.

Restoration by God is instant and unconditional…by man, it’s endless and conditional.

Like the younger brother, not everyone was happy for me or eager to accept God’s forgiveness on my life.  His older brother was bitter that his dad had freely forgiven and fully restored the Prodigal back into the family.  Prior to my restoration, I lived my life for others…not God.  I craved the attention and acceptance of everyone.  But when God pursued me and welcomed me back to the family, I immediately realized that the only acceptance that I need in this life is that of Christ’s.  My identity and security is in Him alone.  There are many people who have yet to forgive me and many that believe that God could never fully restore or use me.  But I don’t focus on that; that’s not my problem.  I am encouraged that God, for some odd reason, decided to use screw-ups and second-rates to make His name famous all throughout the Bible.  He still does so today!  I may be labeled and disdained by many around me, but I know with certainty that I am restored into God’s family.  God has great things ahead for me, and I humbly live that reality every day.

By no means is my life easy now; in most ways, it’s much more difficult.  But I know the promises of God’s Word, and I rest in them daily:

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

“Prodigal” as a noun is defined as a person who leaves home and behaves in such a way, but later makes a repentant return.

I left home.  I behaved in such a way.  I made a repentant return.

I am a Prodigal.


[1] Keller, Timothy (2008). The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (p. 24). Riverhead. Kindle Edition.

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