articlesqa March 05, 2016 coming home
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of
I’m com­ing home, I’m com­ing home
Tell the Lord, I’m com­ing home
Let the rain wash away
all the sins of yes­ter­day
I know that His King­dom awaits
and He’s for­giv­en my mis­takes
I’m com­ing home, I’m com­ing home
Tell the Lord, I’m com­ing home

The Way Back

So far we have been fo­cus­ing on the first half of the para­ble of the prodi­gal son which you can find in Luke 15:11-12, 13-16, 17-20. If you read this sec­tion, you will no­tice a cer­tain pat­tern of move­ment and you can break the pas­sage up into three sec­tions. The pre­sen­ta­tion oc­curs be­tween vers­es 11-12. The prodi­gal son moves be­tween vers­es 13-16. He then moves back be­tween vers­es 17-20. Now look a lit­tle clos­er. There is fright­en­ing de­tail on the phys­i­cal things he does and the things that hap­pen to him when he’s away from the Fa­ther.

But, on the mat­ter of his re­turn, it would al­most ap­pear as if there is only one sen­tence Luke 15:20. That’s all Je­sus says about the phys­i­cal move­ment the prodi­gal son makes when he re­turns. No men­tion of how he found the road when he had no mon­ey. No men­tion of how he was able to trav­el the long dis­tance back. No men­tion of how he man­aged not to starve be­fore ar­riv­ing. Noth­ing of any of those. Just a sim­ple “And he arose and came to his fa­ther.”

So how did he ac­tu­al­ly make it back? How did he ac­tu­al­ly re­turn? What about set backs? How fre­quent­ly did he go back and knock on Potiphar’s door? Can the re­pen­tance and the re­turn of the prodi­gal son real­ly just be boiled down to one sen­tence? Well, since you are a close read­er, you will no­tice two things. First, I’ve only read the first part of verse 20. Sec­ond, I’ve some­how been ig­nor­ing verse 17-19. The sec­ond part of verse 20 hurts my pride. I did not an­tic­i­pate it or my re­ac­tion to it be­fore I be­gan to write. Which goes to show that it is not enough to re­mem­ber the sto­ries of the Bible, we ac­tu­al­ly have to read and reread them Rep­ti­tion. So let’s deal with verse 17-19 first.

Luke 15:17-19 is unique in the sto­ry. There is no sec­tion sim­i­lar to it in the rest of the sto­ry. Can you see what makes it unique? It is not phys­i­cal ac­tion. It is not phys­i­cal speech. It is heart speech. It is a change in heart po­si­tion. No one else does that in the rest of the pas­sage. The prodi­gal son did not pon­der or think this deeply be­fore he leaves. He just asks for his mon­ey and leaves. But in re­turn­ing, Je­sus re­veals to us that his heart must shift be­fore his body does. Je­sus spends far more time talk­ing about the shift of his heart and a very small amount of time talk­ing about the move­ment of his legs.

Open­ing Moves

You may have dis­cov­ered, as I have dis­cov­ered through many tears, that the heart does not move eas­i­ly. Its mem­o­ry is longer than that of an ele­phant. You may have also dis­cov­ered that the heart is like a lo­co­mo­tive. It moves and steam­rolls all your care­ful­ly laid plans. Af­ter all this talk about mov­ing your heart, the fact is this: you don’t have to wor­ry about mov­ing your heart. Your heart is go­ing to move even when you want it to stop. In fact, it is al­ready mov­ing and you can’t stop it from mov­ing. The only thing you can do is give it di­rec­tion and ori­en­ta­tion. You don’t move the ar­row through the air. All you can do is pull back and aim. Je­sus fo­cus­es in verse 17-20 not on the deeds done by the re­pen­tant son but on how he re-po­si­tioned his heart.

So how did the prodi­gal son re-po­si­tion his heart? Well to be ob­vi­ous, con­sid­er Luke 15:17. “When he came to his sens­es”. And here I side with my Calvin­ist broth­ers and sis­ters. This com­ing to one’s sens­es is com­plete­ly de­pen­dent on the prov­i­dence and choos­ing of God. How does a man or a woman who has lost their mind ever come to their sens­es? If you have dealt with peo­ple with any kind ad­dic­tion be­fore, you know that this does not al­ways hap­pen. Con­sid­er the sto­ry of Neb­uchad­nez­zar’s proph­e­sied and re­sul­tant schiz­o­phre­nia in Daniel 4. Now read what he says in Daniel 4:34. His mad­ness last­ed for sev­en years and did not end till his rea­son re­turned to him. Je­re­mi­ah 3:21 echos the same thing. From Je­re­mi­ah 2, Is­rael’s de­scent and into sin has been thor­ough­ly mapped and de­scribed. Yet all of a sud­den, with­out pre­am­ble, they are weep­ing and wail­ing over their sin in Je­re­mi­ah 3:21. How?!!

Yet have you not felt this be­fore? You did some­thing wrong and walked com­plete­ly in sin. But just be­fore you re­pent, it is al­most like you are awak­ened, come to your sens­es and then you ask your­self, “What am I do­ing here?” Yet how does one come to their sens­es? How does a lost man know to look up and say, “I am lost”? A lost mind does not know it is lost. Only The Hum­ble One who doesn’t an­nounce Him­self does this. Like with all of cre­ation, all you see of Him are His Great Works. No one preached to this lost son. No one could. In fact, only af­ter his sens­es re­turned did he be­gin to preach to him­self! So be­fore he could re­turn, the Holy Spir­it had to open his eyes and re­turn his sens­es. Then and only then could he re­pent. The re­turn, the re-po­si­tion­ing of your heart, does not be­gin with you. It be­gins when God opens your eyes and brings you to your sens­es.

The Steer­ing Wheel

We know it was the Holy Spir­it that did this work be­cause of the words that next came out of the prodi­gal son’s mouth. Some­times, the dev­il re­turns the sens­es but only so that the per­son may see the fruit of their mad­ness and be­gin to de­spair. The prodi­gal son could have come to his sens­es and de­cid­ed to be­come a crime lord and this also would be de­spair (See Kierkegaard, The Sick­ness Unto Death). But this he did not do. In­stead, like Neb­uchad­nez­zar in Daniel 4:34, like Is­rael in Je­re­mi­ah 3:21, like David in 2 Samuel 12:13, he looked to God, rec­og­nized his sin and then he hum­bled him­self.

But here, I must be­gin to side with my Ar­men­ian broth­ers and sis­ters. The mo­tion be­gins by the Spir­it and is em­pow­ered by the Spir­it but the prodi­gal son made a choice to ac­cept and then he said the words. As many women have ob­served, a man may fall ut­ter­ly in love but even if he is falling for the sun, he still may not com­mit. All the grav­i­ty in the uni­verse can­not make him say, “I do”. All the pas­sion can­not make you say the words. You still have to choose to say the words. To quote An­drew Pe­ter­son in The Good Con­fes­sion, “Son, just do the best that you can and say the words, ‘I be­lieve He is the Christ, Son of the Liv­ing God’ ”. That there is the turn­ing of a heart. To the par­a­lyzed man, Je­sus said “Stand up, take your mat and walk” John 5:8. Yet what if this man had not cho­sen to stand? But thank God he made the choice and stood up. So, al­though he was pulled up by The Word and his feet re­stored by The Word, this man still chose to stand.

It ap­pears then that there are two things that will com­plete the turn of a heart but in re­al­i­ty they are only one thing. First you have to make a choice. Mak­ing a choice means you ex­ert this thing you have that is called the will. The heart is steered by the will. Oh the will may seem weak when the heart gets heavy and rush­es ahead like an un­stop­pable lo­co­mo­tive. But is not the steer­ing wheel small­er than the car? Is not the rud­der much small­er than the ship? So also, the will, though tiny, steers the heart.

The first thing the Holy Spir­it re­deems and helps you re­dis­cov­er when He brings you to your sens­es is your will. The sec­ond thing you have to do is say the words. Un­less you say the words, your heart will not turn around. James com­pares the tongue to a rud­der that steers great ships James 3:4-5. By the words of the tongue, the heart is turned. The prodi­gal son spoke words with his tongue (?ara­ma­ic) in Luke 15:17-19 but he also spoke body lan­guage by get­ting up and re­turn­ing in Luke 15:20. Words are words and ac­tions are also words. You have to say the words.

But let us go as far as James takes us. You see James gives us uni­ty be­tween the will and the word. The phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al ev­i­dence of the will is the word. Just as faith with­out works is dead, will with­out words is dead. It is bet­ter to speak them aloud but even if you whis­per them to your­self, the same stands: will with­out words is dead. Choice with­out ac­tion is dead. You can­not real­ly say, “I love you,” un­til you wear the ring.

Through Much Prayer And Many Tears

This ar­ti­cle is for friends, fa­thers, moth­ers, sis­ters, broth­ers and neigh­bors griev­ing and sor­row­ing over some­one who is lost and blind. You can­not force the one you love to see. You can­not make them come to their sens­es. Only God can do that. Your role is to pray for the Holy Spir­it to come. Pre­pare your heart through prayer that He might have you as an av­enue to en­ter into their cir­cum­stance. Your role is to give them the words that agree with God’s heart John 9:1-3. Words of love. Words of re­buke. Words of en­cour­age­ment. Words of truth. You can­not see their heart shift­ing be­cause only God can see the heart. Nev­er­the­less, when the time comes and the Spir­it brings them to their sens­es, these words will be­come their an­chor, the crutch they use to stand and walk.

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3