Monday, June 24, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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The glory of the Father
Sermon by Henk van Pagee
 
 
 
Good morning brothers and sisters. This morning I want to consider a text from the gospel of John. John chapter seventeen verses twenty two and twenty three.  Let’s read it together. John chapter seventeen from verse twenty-two.
 
This text is part of a special prayer that Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, just before his death. Right after this prayer he was taken prisoner, interrogated, beaten and crucified. And in this prayer Jesus prayed especially for his disciples, because He knew that after his death his disciples would continue with the work that He had started. Jesus closed his prayer with the following words:
Verse twenty-two and twenty-three:
And the glory that You have given to me, I have given to THEM, so that they may be ONE, even as we are One: I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one…………….”
 
Now, this morning I want to consider in particular the fascinating words that Jesus spoke here about ‘glory’. He says :  “the glory that I have received from the Father, I have given to them” .
Wow, that’s quite something. I mean, that the Lord has received the glory of God, that goes without saying. The Lord Jesus had received this promise before. God proclaimed in Isaiah chapter forty-nine verse three: “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” This expression “I will be glorified” can be found thirteen times in the Old Testament, and nine of these are in Isaiah.
And the more Jesus manifests God’s love and shows obedience in doing God’s will, right to the very end, in this way He also receives God’s glory in all its fullness.
 
In verse twenty two Jesus testifies about the glory that the Father has given him. And we worship our Lord because of his glory , and sing: “He is exalted, the king is exalted on high” …….!!! And then we go home and get on with our lives, with all its daily routines.
 
But there is so much more. Listen carefully to what Jesus says about us: the Lord doesn’t only thank God for the glory that He has received, but he prays to God that you may receive it too.  He doesn’t keep this glory all for Himself. He wants to pass it on to you as well. Jesus says of his disciples, and that means you too, “The glory that You have given to me, I have given to them.”
 
 
 
Have you ever wondered what sort of Christian you are?
Or what sort of Christian you would like to be. How do you see yourself? What do you focus on in your life as a christian? What do people see in you, that makes them realise you are a Christian?
 
Well every form of Christianity has its own characteristics. There are many different sorts of Christian churches and groups, all with their own individual identity.
Just as each country or nation has developed its own culture, you could also say each form of Christianity has developed its own spiritual culture, their own particular way of expressing their faith in God. For example, if you happen to see a programme on the television about the Russian Orthodox church, then you see straight away that their ‘spiritual’ culture is focussed on an extensive and impressive liturgy. Beautiful robes and mitres, with icons made of gold, and lots of chanting and ceremonial rituals. So when you see that, then you recognise it straight away as the Russian Orthodox Church.
 
There are also Calvinistic churches, and for them the accent lies on the Word of God. The right translation, the right ideas about subjects like predestination, original sin, and grace. Keeping the Sabbath and dressing simply are also characteristic of these Christians.
Then there are the more modern and liberal churches. They are more concerned with the human aspect, helping the less privileged, such as refugees, and development projects abroad. The word “tolerance” is also characteristic of their beliefs.
 
Then there are also churches which stick rigidly to the letter of the law. What is most important to the members of these churches is to adhere strictly to all the rules and regulations laid down in the Bible, and this often results in them setting themselves apart from the rest of society.
 
The last example is of the churches and groups where the presence and working of the Holy Spirit has the highest priority. They speak in tongues, prophesy and pray for healing. That is THEIR spiritual culture.
 
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not passing judgment on any of these groups. In Luke chapter six verse thirty seven Jesus warns us about doing that: “Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned” He says.
No, I am merely trying to stimulate you into thinking about what sort of Christian YOU are. What is YOUR spiritual culture . Whatis it about you that makes people recognise you as a disciple of Jesus. What aspect is important to you?
 
There are many nations and kingdoms in this world, all with their own particular culture and their own religion. And even within a religion, as we have seen in the examples I have given within the Christian faiths, there are also many differences in the way people believe.
 
And yet Jesus prays in His own special prayer: “And the glory that You have given to me, I have given to them, so that they may be one, as we are one: I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one”.
 
So what does it mean to ‘become one’. What is it that makes them ‘one’?
My dear brothers and sisters, I believe that every Christian forms part of the culture in which he is born and raised, including his religion. But Ialso believe that every Christian also forms part of another culture: The culture of the kingdom of God! And now, this is the great mystery: the culture of the kingdom of God is the same all over the world!!
 
Wherever you are in this world, however many differences there are in upbringing and traditions, God’s kingdom always has the same culture, the same beliefs, because it is not an earthly kingdom dependent on a worldly culture, but a spiritual, heavenly kingdom. Jesus preached about it too, in Matthew chapter 3 verse 2: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  And in John chapter 18 verse 36: He also said “My kingdom is not of this world”.
 
So what are the universal characteristics of the Kingdom of God? Well, according to Romans chapter fourteen verse seventeen they are: “Righteousness, peace and joy, in the Holy Spirit”.
 
So what is the attitude of someone who is part of that kingdom? What is important to him? What does he focus on? Liturgy? religious vestments? Doctrines? laws and regulations? In the kingdom of God, what’s important is not someTHING, but someONE.  And that someone is Jesus Christ, the son of God. And it’s not only what He TEACHES us that is important, but also what he wants to GIVE us.
 
He is our point of orientation, our guide and our example. Our strength lies completely in Him. Through us He wants to make all people His disciples.
 
And WHY is the culture in the kingdom of God the same everywhere? Because it is a spiritual culture based on Jesus Christ himself. We are dependent on Him.He is the centre of our life. He says Himself in John chapter fifteen verse 5: “apart from me you can do nothing”.
Thatis what makes us one: we all focus on the Son, and because of that, also on the Father. HE is what is important to us, and He is the source of everything in our life: our love, our faith, our place in His church, our calling, our strength to serve God, and then the most precious of all, our destiny. John writes in his first letter, chapter three verse two: “Here and now, dear friends, we are God’s children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed, but we know that when He is revealed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
The culture of the kingdom of God is focussed on shaping us to be like Jesus Christ. Jesus promises us in John chapter fourteen verse 21: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love Him and manifest myself to him”.
And that’s what Jesus is doing this morning, through this word, through this sermon. Jesus is not just a lifeless historical figure. He is alive and dynamic. He wants to manifest Himself to you, today, right now. How? Well, Jesus manifests Himself to you when He shows you what He has done for you. How great the work of redemption was at calvary, so that you may know that through His resurrection, the enemy of darkness and death has been conquered.  So that you may live your life in the light. He is the foundation of your redemption. Hallelujah.
 
But that’s not all. The message this morning reaches further than just being saved, because focussing on Jesus also means that you want to follow Him. In the first letter of Peter chapter two verse twenty-one we read: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
 
The main reason we focus on Jesus is so that we can follow Him, follow in His footsteps, follow his example. We are immensely grateful for the position to which He has brought us, but there is more: “to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps”.
And “following in his steps” today is practical and dynamic.
Peter says: ”When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten”. He was subjected to pain and threats, physical and mental, and these lies and abuse hurt Him. And what did our Lorddo about all this? It’s there in verse 23: He “trusted to him who judges justly”.  That is what is so appealing about the gospel: we are not only saved, but also called to follow in His footsteps.
 
So we have already made two important discoveries about the kingdom of God: First of all, Jesus Christ is the living Lord with whom we may become one, and therefore also one with the Father.
And secondly, we have seen that it is possible to follow Jesus, to follow in his footsteps. Both because we are focussed on Him.
 
You may be quite satisfied with these two things – being saved, and following Jesus. Because it is wonderful if Christians put these spiritual qualities into practice in their lives.
 
So you could still say, even now, if these two things have a place in my life, I am more than satisfied. For me this is the full gospel.
 
Dear brothers and sisters, John chapter 17 verse 22 teaches us that there is much more than just “focussing on Jesus and following Him”. There is another dimension that many people have not yet discovered, and that is the promise that Jesus gives in His special prayer, when He says “Father, the glory that you have given to me, I have given to them”.
 
This is a precious mystery that is given to us: receiving the glory of Jesus! I am convinced that this promise of Jesus is also for us today. Jesus did not just pray for his disciples that were with Him then, but also for all his followers throughout the ages. So also for YOU.
Jesus wants to giveus the glory of the Father, not as a saintly halo, but as a source from which we can live.
 
My question this morning is: “What role does the glory of Jesus play in your life?  Have you received the glory from Him? And if so does your life reflect this? Or are you still wondering if this promise really IS for you too?
 
We can only be sure, if we let God’s word speak to us. Let the Bible give you the answer. Read it with me in Romans chapter eight verses fourteen to seventeen. This passage is a direct result of the words that Jesus prayed. Paul says here in Romans eight beginning at verse fourteen: “ For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,” and now we get to the part that we have been talking about, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”
 
There you are then. Do you remember that beautiful song, “He is exalted, the king is exalted on high, and I will praise His Name”?
Obviously you immediately think of Jesus Christ as the glorified son of God. Halleluja.
 
 But if we look properly at the words in Romans chapter 8 verse seventeen, then we see that Jesus says to us: “I don’t want to be the only one glorified, I want to share it with you. What tremendous grace, what a privilege. How he loves us.
He is exalted, glorified. Amen. But………. What about YOUR glory? Are your arms stretched out ready to receive His glory?
 
Or do you think that is too much for us mortals to expect, maybe even arrogant? Well, if you read the Bible carefully, there is certainly no question of “self-glorifying”. Only of sharing in HIS glory. We must stay focussed on Jesus, and we shall receive it from Him.
 
I think its a good idea for us to think more about the meaning of the word “glory”.  Because it’s very difficult to describe. And the fact that we can’t describe exactly what it means makes this word so special. There is no formula for glory. Because the glory that God wants to give us, is so wonderful, so immense, that it can’t be explained in human terms. If you look up the word ‘glory’ in the Greek dictionary you will see that it comes from the word ‘doxa’ and that means something like: ‘divine shining light’. You may think that rather vague. What does THAT mean?  But I think it is a wonderful expression -  ‘divine shining light’. My heart and soul long for something that will enrich my life.
What a privilege it is, despite everything you go through, spiritual warfare, troubles, suffering and disappointment, what a privilege to be able to say, “Praise the Lord, there is also a Divine shining light in my life that cannot be put out”.
I can’t describe exactly the meaning of the word ‘doxa’. It is the climate of the kingdom of God and I long for this ‘doxa’ to become stronger and stronger in my life. Despite everything.
So how can we learn to understand what the expression ‘glory’ involves. What does it mean exactly to partake of the glory of Jesus Christ? How do I get it, and how do I keep it?
 
Well, we see in the passage we read from Romans chapter eight that Paul begins by saying: ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’  And later he says that these sons are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. That explains a lot. This passage is really about sonship. Glorification has to do with SONS and HEIRS.
 
Before Paul says anymore on that subject, he tells us in verse fifteen how you won’t receive the glory of God. He says there: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
So your state of mind and your attitude are very important if you want to receive the doxa van God.
May I ask you a question? Do you serve God as a slave or as a son?
 
There is so much slavery in this world. Especially spiritual slavery!
And especially now! If there is one generation that lives in slavery then it is the generation in our time. What are they slave to? Idols, and there are many: materialism, money, power, tradition, religion, occultism in its many forms, pleasure, fun and egoism, to name a few. One thing is certain: there is a tremendous spiritual slavery in this world.
The Bible calls it slavery to sin, and slavery to the things of this world. And James says in his letter: ‘To be friends with the world is to be an enemy of God’. Friendship with the occult world also results in being an enemy of God.
 
But there is another form of slavery. You can also be a slave to laws, to a religious system. And that is exactly what  Paul is talking about. He is talking about the Jewish religion of which he had been a part. These people focussed continually on laws, rules and regulations:  what was allowed and what was not allowed, and what sacrifices to make in order to serve God well, in the hope of receiving a glimpse of the glory of God.
 
Paul knows from personal experience what it is like to live like this, always struggling to fulfil all the laws of the religion. And HE says, ‘in a spirit of slavery you will never receive the glory of God’. Slavery leads to fear, not to receiving.
 
If you are a slave to a strict master, then it is your duty to serve this master day in day out, without receiving any reward for your work. You do it because you are afraid. You would like to leave and escape to freedom, but if they catch you, then you will be punished, maybe even killed. So you serve your lord because you are afraid of what might happen if you DON’T serve him.
 
That’s an awful way to live. Just think about it. To live as a slave. Afraid all your life. Afraid of not pleasing your master.
Dear brothers and sisters, does this sound familiar? The fear, that despite all your good efforts, you don’t do enough to please God. The worry that however much you do, you still don’t think it’s enough? So under which spirit do you serve God then?
 
Let me say it again: Paul says “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear”. Many people come from a religious system of slavery and fear. And Paul says to us this morning: Be on the alert. Mind you don’t find yourself in a system based on fear, because that way you will never be able to receive the glory of God.
 
Don’t you think it breaks God’s heart to see that his children are afraid of Him? If you have children yourself just imagine how you would feel if you discovered that your son or daughter was afraid of you. You wouldn’t want your children to obey you because they were afraid of you, would you?
 
My brother and sister,  when serving God there is no place for fear! It doesn’t belong in the kingdom of God.
Colossians chapter one verse 13 boldly proclaims: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness (that’s where fear belongs) and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”.
In the kingdom of God fear and love do not mix.  They don’t go together. Only love forms the climate in that glorious kingdom.
 
The apostle John says in his first letter, chapter four verse eighteen: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear”.
Do you want to have perfect love? Do you want to share in the glory of Jesus?  Then you must first break away from the spirit of slavery.
 
So, now we know what is standing in the way of us receiving a share of God’s glory. Now we now how we won’t receive it.
 
So, now we want to know how we CAN share in his glory. What is this glory and how do we become part of it? Well, that’s what the last part of this sermon is about.
 
The holy spirit pointed me to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter fifteen verses 11 to thirty-three.  He showed me what the glory is, and how we can get it.
 
Most of us know this parable well. The story of the prodigal son, the youngest son, who demanded his inheritance before his father died and left home with it.
Although what he did is certainly not right, it DOES show that he understood what it means to be a son, because He says to his father: ‘Father give me my share of OUR inheritance’. He knows that he has a right to a share of his Father’s estate. He hasn’t worked for it, he hasn’t earned it, but he knows: because I am a son, I am also an heir.
And yet he doesn’t fully realise what an heir is, because he leaves his Father. The strongest tie, between a father and son, is that they are together, a unity, one. In John chapter ten verse 30 Jesus shows us the fulfilment of his deepest desire. “I and the Father are one” he says.
The youngest son, however, exchanges the proximity of the Father for his possessions.  His mistake wasn’t that he ended up with no money, working amidst the pigs. His mistake was to leave his father.
 
This makes us think. What is more important? Thepossessions of the Father or the proximity of the Father. And here lies the secret to receiving the glory of the Father.
 
We all know how the story goes. When the son leaves his father, then all the possessions lose their value for him. And another exchange takes place. All the possessions inherited from his father are exchanged for money.
 
This is an important lesson for us. If you leave your daily fellowship with God, then you will eventually also lose the spiritual riches of the Father, and will exchange them for material things. The parable of the prodigal son shows us that in the end, you lose everything. The son ends up looking after pigs. It even says in verse sixteen “He would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.”
 
The youngest son begins to realise what has become of himself and says: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants’”.
 
It is clear that the prodigal son does not expect much any more. He’s practical about that. But I noticed one thing: HE IS NOT AFRAID OF HIS FATHER. He doesn’t think, “I’ll go to my father, and first I’ll be punished. I’ll be beaten like a runaway slave and put in a cage for a while. I’ll have to pay the price for my bad deeds. And then afterwards maybe I’ll be allowed to work as a hired servant”.
 
The son knows that his father is just, and that’s why he is not afraid of him. He trusts his father to give him what he asks for: the uncertain existence of a hired servant!
 
But what the prodigal sondidn’t expect, what he had never dreamed would happen, was that his father would glorify him. Because that is exactly whatdid happen here. His return to the father, and what happens after that, portrays exactly what God the Father wants to give to us.
 
Before I say any more about this, let’s take a look at the Father, because we have learned from this story that the Father himself is more important than his possessions.
 
The first thing we learn about God, is that He is on the look out for us, every day, even before we see Him. Luke describes it so well in verse 20: “But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him.” And the words that follow move me even more: “He had compassion, and RAN and embraced him”. God is portrayed in many ways in the Bible. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Almighty seated on the throne, but here, in this parable, God is portrayed as a loving Father, running to meet his son, longing to see him again.
 
In revelation chapter two verse four the people in the church in Ephesus are accused of having lost their first love. We know the feeling. We have all been through the process of realising that our first love for God lessens and becomes less important to us, because we have let worldly things or disappointments come between us.
 
We lose our first love! And then we often go and think that if God is disappointed in us, that HIS first lovealso fades, and that He even loses His first love for us . The parable of the “return of the prodigal son” proves that God’s love never fades. The father of this extremely wayward son still loves him with his FIRST love, despite everything that has happened!!
Praise the Lord.
My brother and sister, Say to yourself every day : ‘God loves me, intensely, unconditionally, infinitely and always with his first love.’
 
And from this wonderful situation we come into the first phase of the process of glorification.
It is a process that we all may experience.  And so in verse twenty, continuing with the parable: The Father closes the distance that has been created between him and his son.  And how! It couldn’t be more heartfelt and intimate. He embraces him and kisses him. A show of total love and affection and acceptance, because you don’t do that sort of thing with a hired worker: that only happens to sons.
Have you ever experienced this same glorious feeling of being really close to God, have you felt his embrace, his acceptance of you, do you enjoy his love? And this is only the first phase!
 
Before we go any further let’s look at the part the prodigal son plays in this process of glorification. How did it come about that the prodigal son could share in the glory of the Father. Where does the initiative lie?
Well, it all began with the conversion of the son, because the father had always wanted to give and forgive. He was on the lookout every day.
But the son had to make the choice, the decision to return to his father, and he says this in verse 18:  ‘I will arise and go to my Father!!’  Praise the Lord! And he did it too. It wasn’t just like a new years resolution, something you intend to do but which never actually happens. He got up and went. Have you ever made this resolution? Have you actually arisen spiritually and gone to your Father?
 
The second step in this process of glorification is that Goddoes something about your status. Just look at how, in this parable, the father immediately does something about the appearance of the son. There is absolutely no reproach in his compassion, quite the opposite in fact, because he shouts to his servants; “Quickly go and get the best clothes……”
And soon the appearance of the prodigal son is changed: from a worthless, humble vagabond in rags, to a rich, proud and beautifully dressed son.!!!
 
The spiritual meaning is very clear: the beautiful clothes are the image of the robe of righteousness mentioned in Isaiah chapter sixty one verse 10. Image of the white robes that we receive because we are totally cleansed by the blood of Christ. The robe portrays that all our sins are forgiven, our guilt is taken away, and we may call ourselves righteous, through his grace.
 
Dear brother and sister: have you also been through this phase in your life? Have you made this choice and received his mercy.?
If you have, then your spiritual stature has been changed, and your appearance is also changed, Praise the Lord. Or have you, despite the beautiful robe, still got the same attitude as the slave, and so go through life burdened. Has your inner attitude really changed?
You have every right to hold your head high and proudly wear the robe as a son should.
 
Here too it is important to see the part that the son’s confession of guilt plays. It is vital for his rehabilitation. He says: “Father I have sinned against you and against heaven: I am no longer worthy to be called your son”.
There is no glorification without humbleness. Humility.
But it is not for the son to decide what his status is, the will of the father decides what the appearance of the son should be, and what the new name is that he gives to his son. You can read more about that in Revelation chapter two verse 17.
 
I expect you often pray the prayer Jesus taught us: “Your will be done, on earth (in the people, that is) as it is in heaven,” . Well, may thatalso be true for the name that God wants to give to you? May His will be done in that too?”
 
You may be thinking. You can stop now. I’ve heard more than enough; to be in the presence of the Father, and clothed with the robe of righteousness, that’s enough for me. My brother and sister, don’t say that. God doesn’t like a job half done. He wants to give you more.
 
After the robe of righteousness, the son is given a precious ring on his finger. That is the third step in the process of glorification. Receiving this ring has an important meaning. The ring, actually it was a signet ring, was for the father the instrument with which he confirmed his authority. If, for example, he sent out a written order, then he put some special wax on it and pressed his signet ring in it . Then everybody could see from the seal who it was from. And this ring, this sign of authority, was given to the prodigal son. And he wasn’t given a three month trial period first in which to prove his good behaviour, the ring simply belonged to the son. Only sons can receive the ring from the father, only they can speak on his behalf.
 
Are these just illustrations from an old story? No, it is just the same today. If Jesus shares the glory of the Father with us, then that means that we also share in his authority: Glorification is that Jesus gives us his name, his authority. In Mark chapter sixteen verse seventeen he says: “Believers will cast out demons in myname; they will speak in new tongues; they will lay their hands on the sick”. The powerful words that you speak in the name of Jesus will have authority and reaction because you speak from the glory of the Father. This spiritual ring confirms the status of the son.
My brother and sister, the signet ring that has been put on your finger is not just for decoration, but to be used. How often do you use the authority of Jesus?
 
The fourth step is that the son is given shoes, sandals actually, for his feet. Again, of much importance. It is the image of the freedom of coming and going wherever you want in your father’s house. It reminds me of a psalm: “…enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise!” Employees were only allowed in the courtyard, in their own quarters, the stables even, but not in the house.
This privilege is also for you. You don’t get a tiny, dark room to live in. You can proclaim, as Habakkuk does: “he makes my feet like hind’s feet, he makes me tread upon my high places”. God gives you access to all his kingdom, your life is in the heavenly realms, your home is in the house of the Lord. Halleluja!
 
When the original appearance of the son is completely restored, the last phase of the glorification follows. The feast. A fatted calf is killed and that also has an important meaning, because during the year there were lots of feasts and festivals and celebrations. But only for the very special celebrations was the fatted calf killed. So the father expresses here, that what gives him the most joy, is not the celebrations for a special sacrifice, nor for the harvest, but the celebrations for the return of his son. The father summarises the reason for the feast in verse twenty four of Luke fifteen: “My son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found”.
The father expresses his deepest, most intimate emotions and desire to his eldest son, who is furious about the celebrations. He can’t share in his father’s joy. The father says in verse thirty-two: “It is fitting to be make merry and be glad”.
 
What a wonderful and special God we have. We have many ideas about God – the God who wants to be worshipped, the God who reigns, the God who is righteous, the God who judges, and so on. And all these images come to us from the Bible, and are true, but I believe that all these things are needed to satisfy the deepest desire of God: to make merry and celebrate with his sons and daughters!
 
This is what God really wants most. This is what he is looking for, to be together with you. And the father also tells us what the atmosphere should be like at the party. He doesn’t just say let’s celebrate, he says let’s celebrate and be glad.
And so we discover something else about the culture, the climate of the kingdom of God: joyfulness. The psalmist sings about it: God’s friendly face gives joy and light”.
 
You may now be thinking, that’s all very well, but there is also a lot of  suffering in the world. Well, that’s true. There is suffering.
Suffering that we have to undergo as Christians when we follow Jesus. It is unavoidable that we have to go through oppression and spiritual battles to enter the kingdom. We read about it in Romans chapter eight verse seventeen: ‘You can only share in the glory if you have also shared in the suffering’. But the suffering is not what God wants. God’s deepest desire for you has to do withintimacy, being joyful, being together with his family.
 
I want to close with a last look at how this parable in Luke chapter fifteen ends. I imagine that when the party is over, and all the guests have gone home, that it becomes quiet. The only people left are the father and his son who has returned home. The son sits quietly next to his father, happy and contented. And then he realises all the things he has done, what sort of a life he had been living. How he had left his father, wasted his inheritance and thoughtonly of himself. And he realises that he has done nothing for his father, nothing to deserve this. Absolutely nothing.
 
And then in the quiet of the room, the son stutters these words: ‘Father, what have I done to deserve this? Why have you reinstated me, why have you arranged these celebrations, how can you still love me?’ And the father smiles and says one thing: “Because you’re you, my son”.    
  
Before we pray let me ask you this: how is your relationship with God? I have discovered that there are so many Christians who, deep down within, see themselves as employees, workers not sons.
Youmay think like that too. You may even becontent with that, but then you are missing out on a lot. Workers are not embraced and kissed. Workers don’t get a robe, or aring. There are no celebrations for a worker. But there are for a son.
 
My dear brother and sister, God did NOT give you a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. Then you may cry, ‘Abba! Father!’
 
Let us pray:
 
Great God and Father, you can see us, wherever we are. You know what is in our hearts. You know our life, our circumstances, our struggles. You know how we feel deep down inside.
But heavenly Father, you also know our hope, and you see our desire, our longing for your glory. And Lord, we want to change. Manifest your glory to us. Not to glorify ourselves, but for the honour and glory of your holy name.
 
Amen