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For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.
Satan, like a fisher, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish.
Our corrupted hearts are the factories of the devil.
"And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.'"
The Bible is filled with stories of believers and unbelievers alike who sinned against God. For some it was a serious breach of trust, for others a small almost inconspicuous compromise. In every case it began with a restless heart.
For the prodigal son, as he has come to be known, it began with the belief that he was missing out on the good life. He was driven by the desire to have more,experience more, see more, do more. In that process he decided to disregard all restraint, which included living in his father's house', under his father's authority and watchful eye.
The prodigal son suffered from what I call the "grass is greener" syndrome, believing he was missing out. This subtle deception was first introduced in the Garden of Eden when Satan suggested to Eve that God was holding out on her. From that time to now, one of Satan's primary assaults has been to tempt us with a subtle discontent or restlessness.
I have seen this restlessness take many forms. The teenage boy who feels he is missing out and concludes that a little experimentation with drugs will not hurt. The lonely wife addicted to the escape of an endless parade of soap operas. The weary traveler attracted to secret pornography in a hotel room. The young girl caught up in the rat race of popularity. The businessman who thinks that compromising his integrity to close the deal is a one-time exception. In each of these scenarios, the restless heart is enticed toward wanting what God forbids.
The prodigal son no doubt had heard of the far country—its parties, pleasures, and possibilities. With the lure of the far country his heart grew more and more restless. "I want what God forbids" is the subtle temptation every believer faces. For too many, I am afraid, the path of the prodigal becomes their reality. And so the song is played again and again.
Permit me to point out that a restless heart should be a sign to each of us that we need to run to our Heavenly Father for protection. Scripture teaches us that the Spirit of God who lives in us will identify the temptation for what it is. Yet, too often we ignore the Spirit's warning or worse yet, we rationalize and mentally compartmentalize ourselves, altogether ignoring God's voice. To ignore a warning can be disastrous!
The worst industrial nuclear disaster in history occurred on April 26, 1986, in the town of Chernobyl in north central Ukraine of the former Soviet Union. It was caused by two electrical engineers who were playing around with one of the nuclear reactors. They were conducting an unauthorized experiment trying to see how long a turbine would freewheel (or keep spinning) when the power was turned off. To do this, they had to manually override six separate computer-driven alarm systems. Each time the computer would warn, "Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!" Each time the warning was foolishly disregarded. The end result was a major explosion, thirty-one immediate deaths, untold eventual deaths, and the release of 100 million curies of radionuclides into the atmosphere that circulated worldwide. Only time will determine the full extent and destruction of the accident.
Often, we—like those foolish engineers—fail to heed the warning given to us by the Holy Spirit: "Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!" As a result, there comes a point when our restlessness and refusal to listen to the Spirit's warning leads us to cross the line from restlessness to rebellion.
How different human history might have been if Eve had cried out to God at the moment of temptation. Or, if only the prodigal had recognized the foolishness and potential misery bound up in his desire for freedom in the far country.
Years ago, my wife, Fern, and I were at the movies when the power surged and then cut off. In a few moments the power returned but when it did, it broke every tape in every projector in the entire theater. After twenty minutes and the assurance that ours would be fixed "any moment now," we debated whether to leave or stay. I suggested we take a look at the movie across the hallway, so we ducked into a five-minute clip of Waterworld.
The scene we saw had Kevin Costner, the hero, fighting a villain. After the enemy was defeated, all who rode on Costner's catamaran began to complain of intense hunger pain. In response to the complaints, he grabbed his trusty speargun and jumped off the boat, only to be pulled behind by a rope. It reminded me of trying to ski barefoot. The next thing you knew a great sea monster (a combination of a giant grouper and Jaws) moved in to eat Costner. Instead, he fired his speargun. And the monster, who thought Costner looked like lunch, turned out to be lunch.
What the sea monster did not understand was that Costner (the bait) had a hook (or in this case, a spear) in hand. The same is true with the enticement to sin. What glitters and stirs a restless hunger in us often has a hook we never anticipated. How tragic when we are caught by the lures of the world! By the way, is the devil dangling anything in front of you?
For the prodigal, his restlessness led to an unchallenged act of rebellion. It did not have to be that way. If only he had been like Daniel of old who "purposed in his heart not to defile himself...." For each of us temptation is inevitable. How we respond to it is not. If only the prodigal had known and claimed the promise from Paul's pen: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
Yet your experience may be more akin to the prodigal's who, with the temptation, gave in. And your restless heart enticed you to walk away from fellowship with the Father and enter what we simply identify as "the far country." REBELLION
To walk out of God's will is to step into nowhere.
—C. S. Lewis
Sin is blatant mutiny against God.
If sin was not such a pleasure it would not be such a problem.
"So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living."
For the prodigal, what began with a restless heart proceeded to a rebellious act. A desire to live independent of God's will is the constant temptation for every believer.
As Jesus' parable unfolds, we discover the prodigal consolidating his resources and making a run for the border. Freedom's lure has blinded his vision of the tears in his father's eye. In his eagerness to indulge in the "world's delight," he is absolutely insensitive to his father's crushing pain.
When believers are enticed to sin, we tend to be desensitized to the pain we cause our Heavenly Father, not to mention the anguish we create for those who love us.
I am not saying that sin is not fun. Even the Bible points out that there is a pleasure in sin for a season. The problem with sin, however, is that it destroys. The prodigal, we are told, "journeyed to the far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living." Permit me to elaborate.
The Far Country
The prodigal perceived the far country as a place of freedom. Restraints had been left behind and now he was on his own. The rules of the father's house no longer applied. I believe the "far country" is not so much a geographical location as it is a state of mind. It is the attitude that chooses to ignore God's standards in many or even just one area of our lives. It is the disposition that declares, "I am above God's laws." It is the assumption that "those laws just don't apply to me."
The sad commentary is that the rules the prodigal thought were restrictions were in fact given by his father as protection. And moving to the far country meant now he was fair game for Satan's attacks.
It is my experience that if we have a weakness, Satan will exploit it to our demise. Whether he is neutralizing our witness or placing us in great bondage, his ultimate goal is to destroy the work of God. And for many believers, the little sins that start out as unswept cobwebs in the recesses of our hearts soon become massive chains that hold us in hideous bondage.
Wasted His Possessions
We are all on the meter. By this I mean that our lives are measured in small units of time. And time marches on. When we choose to live in the far country we waste our most precious irreplaceable resource—our very lives. "Dost thou love life?" Ben Franklin asked. "Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of."
The prodigal wasted more than his possessions. By increments, he was throwing away his life. I only wish he had heeded the prayerful words of Moses, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." In simple
Excerpted from A Simple Guide to ... THE WAY BACK HOME by JERRY SUTTON. Copyright © 2002 by Jerry Sutton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|The Eight Steps||x|
|Parable of the Prodigal Son||xi|
|Part I||Journey to the Far Country||3|
|Part II||Return from the Far Country||27|