The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

Would you agree that not all people have the correct view of what their lives are all about?

Sure everyone is free to make their choices in life (or somewhat free anyway) but just because we can make our own choices this will not automatically result in a deep sense of knowing weve done the right thing. I believe this deep sense in us is something God placed in all human beings and is among the chief dynamics that drives people to seek who God is and who they are in Him.

Furthermore taught that its entirely possible to spend your whole life being religious saying and doing all the right things and yet completely missing out on the life God actually has for you.

This is the tragedy of the as told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32

Its the story of many well-meaning believers who live their lives day in and day out without taking the time to think about what defines them and how they will stand before their Maker should tomorrow happen to be the day.

RABBIT TRAIL: Some people obsess with end times teachings and figuring out when the end of the world will be. Heres how I look at this – any day can be my last day! I cant afford to think it will be some day. It doesnt matter when the end of the world will be because the only end I can do something about is my own end. Same goes for you and for every living soul on the planet. So instead of vexing my soul over when the end of the world might be I try to apply my energy and stay on track with being morally prepared and pure as if my end would be tomorrow not some day. Isnt this the epitome of living in the ? If anyone has a better definition please let me know Im always willing to learn. 

[Isn’t this the epitome of living in the “fear of the Lord”? If anyone has a better definition, please let me know, I’m always willing to learn.]

Correct me if Im wrong but between now and the last day of our lives are we not supposed to live with a clear sense of purpose?

How many people do you think you know who have a clear sense of what is the purpose of their own life? I dare you to start asking people around and to take notes. You might be surprised by the results of your informal inquiry.

Earlier this year I began to go through a process of self-assessment. Ive lived from a strong sense of knowing what defines me as a person in the last 25 years but in reality none of us can really do such self-assessment objectively on their own. I figured I already know what haters have to say about me but I had never asked my friends whats their take on who they think I am as a person and what has been my impact on their lives. Somehow I think that unless we hear from people who have known us for a long time in different ways and at different levels of closeness how do you really know who you are and what impact you are having on your world?

First I asked a select group of friends this simple question: What is the one thing that defines you as a person? 

After all if someone doesnt have a clear sense of what defines them how can they be trusted when making such conclusions about someone else?

From the dozen friends I asked this question only a few came up with a response that revealed they had a sense of who they were and what defines them as a person. Some admitted they have never thought about it.

Later in the year I inquired of the same but a slightly expanded group of friends and asked them to give me as best as they can imagine their assessment of how they see me what they think defines me as a person and what impact have I had in their lives. Given that most of them have known me for over a decade and half of them for over two decades it was quite interesting to compare the responses different people gave to the same questions. I was pleased to know that many of them have had a very similar experience in their relationship with me and the impact I have had on their lives was also very similar. Abraham Lincoln said once:

You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

This what Ive come to believe and what this wisdom from Lincoln tells me: you are who you are. I am who I am. We are who we are. You cant become what you are not. You cant wake up one day and be someone else. Time goes by we do what we do and it reveals who we are. The fruit does define the tree exactly as Jesus taught in his own teaching (Gospel of Matthew 7:18). Also fruit cant be grown overnight. Who we are as a person is revealed over a period of time. Our story becomes part of His story. Thats how history is made.

This is important because we live in a day and age when people want to know who and what is real. Social media has made it easier than ever to spread lies rumors and accusations. It has never been easier to defame someone and get away with it. As a result there is an intense battle going on for the hearts and minds of people. People dont know whom they can trust who really knows the Lord and who is a fake or simply a slick marketer. Which is why we need to learn how to ask questions and how to read peoples life stories. Because we all are who we are. Short of Road-To-Damascus type of situations or sudden traumatic events of different kinds most of us dont really change – our life stories truly reveal who we are.

Consequently what I want to know about people is: have they really experienced a life-transforming encounter with the Lord? How has this experience changed them? Are they walking in close communion with Him or much like the older son in Luke 15 they are struggling with ? What crisis have they ever experienced? What losses? What setbacks? What did this mean to them?

There are plenty of people who look really good on paper but are operating out of a deeply rooted religious spirit and . Like the older son in Jesus teaching in Luke 15 they always do and say the right things. But they are not living from a sense of knowing who they are. They are living out a false religious identity rooted in fear missing out on the real life of being one with Him.

Beloved Gods will is His purpose for our lives. This could mean many things. There are no formulas to figure this out. What we end up doing professionally for example might express who we are but cant possibly define Gods complete purpose for our lives. It is something unique he created us for something that gives meaning to our lives and it takes a lifetime to unfold.

For many people to live in Gods will is a legalistic concept i.e. I better be a good boy or a good girl.

Thats the tragedy of the older son. Thats not what living in Gods will is about. As people get free from their legalistic perception of God and become free through the spirit of sonship they realize living to please God or being in Gods will is a challenging and yet joyful adventure of seeking guidance from Him and finding out how to maximize your time on earth – how to be a better person how to live a better life to create how to be a blessing to others how to spread the fragrance of His presence by just being you.

How cool is that?

In this regard many Christians are indeed like the older son in Jesus teaching in Luke 15. They are in the Fathers house but are living their lives out of legalism not our of the of life they have received from the Lord for the Lord. They need to be set free. They need to be reborn to the beauty of God instead of obsessing with false religious ideas and operating out of false religious identity.

The tragedy of the older son can be turned into a triumph. I have great faith about that and it is out of this faith I continue to believe in the Body of Christ and to pour of myself into the lives of all kinds of sons – younger older and everything in between.


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