“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

This past weekend I preached about what is arguably Jesus’ best known parable. It’s usually called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” but it isn’t just about that character. Jesus’ story is about three main characters: a younger son, an older brother, and their father. (If you are unfamiliar with the account or would like to review the story it is in Luke 15:11- 32).

Most of the time when we study this parable the focus is on the younger son and the elder brother is minimally mentioned. As important as “The Prodigal Son” is, I think for Christians the older brother may be even more important.

In a nutshell, Jesus’ story is about the younger son leaving home, spending all his money, and deciding to return home. Upon his return his father runs out to meet and welcome him, and throws a party to celebrate his homecoming. Meanwhile, the older brother is working outside, hears the noise of the party, finds out his dad is celebrating the younger son’s return, and refuses to join the celebration. Dad goes out to talk to him and explains why he is doing what he is doing and affirms the older boy; but Jesus ends the story with the older brother outside (see verses 25-32).

The title for this post is my summary paraphrase of what the elder son said to his father in light of the welcome and celebration given to his younger brother. It’s as though he said to his dad, “he left and spent your money, came back home, and you throw him a party. I didn’t leave, but stayed here and worked for you. What about me?”

Some 40 years ago I went to a Bible study on this parable led by one of my favorite preachers, Bob Shannon. What follows about this elder brother is for the most part borrowed from him.

In reading Jesus’ description of the elder brother we can see some things that as Christians cannot be a part of our attitude and outlook.

The elder brother seems indifferent to his brother’s fate and his father’s grief before the younger son returned and his joy when he returned.

The elder brother seems to be blind to his privileges in the family and on the farm.

The elder brother seems self-righteous claiming to have never disobeyed his father’s orders (verse 29).

The elder brother is jealous that his erring brother has been welcomed home so joyfully and he will not go in and participate.

In verse 30 he seems to disown his younger brother when he says to his dad “this son of yours” and not “my brother.”

The elder brother is judgmental as he accuses his younger brother of spending his money on prostitutes (verse 30).

The first two verses of Luke 15 give the context of this parable. It seems obvious that the younger son represents “the tax collectors and sinners who were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” The older brother represents “the Pharisees and teachers of the law” who criticized Jesus for welcoming and eating with those kind of people. The father in the story represents God, our heavenly father.

Do you see any reflection of yourself in the elder brother, and are you honest enough to admit it? I confess, at times I do see myself in him.

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A PRAYER REVERSAL

Last week while I was praying I had what I’m calling an “epiphany.” There are a variety of ways the word is used, but the definition I’m using is “a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes you in some way.”

Since I preached about surrender last weekend, and am preaching again this weekend on the same subject, I’ve been thinking a lot about surrendering to God. Even though I’m preparing sermons to challenge people in church to surrender, what I’m studying is having an impact on me. My “epiphany” last week confirmed that.

After class one day last week I went home and into my office to prepare a test. When I finished the test I moved to my easy chair to sit and pray. I brought several concerns to the Lord telling him what I wanted. I then prayed that God would want what I wanted. It was as I made that request that I had my “epiphany.”

I’m probably not the only person to pray what I prayed last week, but as I thought about what I had asked for I was embarrassed. Who am I to ask God to want what I want? It didn’t take long for me to realize the presumption of my request.

I’m pretty sure I was convicted by the Holy Spirit and acknowledged the inappropriateness of what I had just asked. I told the Lord I wanted to take back what I had asked for and reverse my prayer. Rather than asking Him to want what I want, I asked Him to help me want what He wants.

I’m confident a lot of what I want is what God wants, and a lot of what God wants is what I want. But in keeping with the idea of surrender I want to stay with my reversed prayer rather than my original one last week. Lord, help me want what you want.

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ME, SURRENDER?

During these weeks leading up to Easter the senior pastor of our church is preaching a message series about surrender. For many of us our first thought when we hear the word is that it is not an attractive idea. We think of surrender as something negative in which we lose or have to give up. For the most part we don’t want or like to surrender.

Since I have the opportunity to continue the series the next two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about surrender.

To surrender is not always something bad; it is not always about losing or being defeated. Sometimes to surrender is a good thing. And while we may associate surrendering with weakness and losing, that is not always the case. There are times when to surrender calls for great strength; and in those times of surrender we don’t lose – we win.

If you’ve read this far I’m sure you know in this series we are talking about surrendering to the Lord. As I listened to the preaching a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that while God wants us to surrender to  him, he does not want to beat us or defeat us; he wants what is best for us.

For example, God wants us to acknowledge him and worship him. God doesn’t need our worship – he is not insecure. But he does want us to worship him; and he wants us to worship him because he knows that when we worship him it does us good.

Perhaps the clearest teaching from Jesus about this matter is in Luke 9:23 and 24 where he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Although I don’t completely understand it, to me that sounds like a pretty clear call to surrender.

To stimulate my thinking about surrender I looked up some definitions of the word. The first and primary definition was “to yield to power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand.” When it comes to surrendering to the Lord that definition is only party correct. It is about yielding one’s life to him, but it is not upon compulsion. We may wish he would force us, but he doesn’t. He lets us decide whether or not we will surrender and how much we will surrender.

In my experience, when it comes to surrendering to God, it is not just a one-time thing. We surrender to him at the beginning of our Christian life, but living the Christian life is usually a series of surrenders. After over 55 years I am still making progress.

This weekend I’m preaching about “Some Roadblocks to Surrender.” I think the biggest one, and probably the most common one, is pride or ego. Sometimes we think we know more than we do. Sometimes we are prideful and our ego gets in the way of yielding. Sometimes our ego makes us just too stubborn to surrender.

Whether you agree or not with what I’ve suggested in this post, I do hope I have given you something to think about. Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this article on Facebook or other social media.