Friday, October 4, 2013

Restored Favor

While washing dishes I noticed a really bad smell, or as my nephews would put it, “something is smelling in my nose!”  For the past few days I smelled a musty odor coming from under the house.  My husband wrote it off to all the rain we’ve been having.  Frankly, I don’t care what caused it, I want that smell gone.
It reminded me of a scene from the movie Facing the Giants, where the wife told the husband about “the awful smell”.  When her husband walked into the room and complained about it she admitted she didn’t know what it was, but after a while he would get used to it.  Well, I don’t want to “get used” to something that is stinking up my life.  Do you?
What's Smelling in God's Nose?
Have you ever thought that there are things God smells about us that He isn’t pleased with in our Christian walk?  Sometimes we know that we aren’t doing what is right, but keep doing it anyway – that stinks to God.
There are times when I know that my attitude must have stunk as a believer, but the Lord had a way to bring it to the surface so I could adjust my way of thinking to His.
That’s what parents do you know. Sometimes they handle our stinky behavior in ways we just can’t understand.  You may be able to relate to what I mean.  If not, let me share a passage in the Bible from Luke 15: 10-32, that deals with a rebellious stinky personality and how grace and mercy was applied.
Rebellion from Favor
I took a survey this week and one of the questions on it was. “What is the one thing you would most like to change about the world?  My answer … the selfishness of “greed.”
It seems that the more advanced we become in society, the more greedy we become.  This isn’t something new either.  If you have been in church services for any length of time or have read the New Testament of the Bible, you are familiar with the passage in Luke referred to as the Prodigal Son.  While in my studies this week my focus kept going back and forth from Genesis to Luke and the key things I found between the two.  One word or behavior was dominant – rebellion.  So many people rebelled against God, their family or country out of greed.  Oftentimes these individuals were so called “faith” people.
Obviously the father in this passage was a believer and had a heart for God, but that didn’t stop his sons from sinning.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how old the brothers were, but they were old enough to be on their own and hold jobs.
Can you picture two sons in a family business? One was the serious type who had business on his mind, work – work – work. The younger son, well he wasn’t much for pitching in on the farm.  You can tell that the two must have had disagreements about how things should be run. 
What happened at home between the brothers? How is it that the younger son had the courage to openly disrespect his father by asking for his inheritance then?  Something began to smell a little funny around the farm and it wasn’t the animals.  Jesus begins sharing this account with the disciples.
“Then He (Jesus) said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.”
So he (the father) divided to them (both) his livelihood.” (Luke 15:11-12 NKJV)
From scripture, we know that the father had a good portion to give to the son, so much that people crowded around him because of his money.  There were three portions, two for the oldest son and the remaining third for the younger one.  By law the eldest always received a larger amount, because he was responsible to carry on the family business and take care of the mother or siblings.  The younger brother knew that and still wanted out of the family to go “do his own thing”.  Sound familiar?
How the father must have felt when his son demanded his portion, rebelling against the one who showed him favor and blessings.  He didn’t even ask for a part of it or a loan, but demanded it all now.  What did the father have to do or sell in order to grant his son's request?
I think it broke his father’s heart as he watched his son leave, not knowing if he would ever see him again or if he would get into trouble with his rebellious spirit.
By declaring, “Give me my inheritance,” the son showed great disrespect for authority and denounced his family.  Shame fell on the family and the father’s integrity must have been questioned by the community.
The servants were aware of what he did, and so were the town’s people (that’s why they rejected him later). Basically, what he was saying was that he wished his father were deceased so he could have his inheritance.  Such greedy behavior meant that the father would have to disinherit the son as if he were dead, or no longer part of the family. 
We can’t find our way back home without God.
His father could have said no, but didn’t. Sometimes parents let us walk out our problems, knowing it is the only way to learn the lesson and appreciate what we have.  The son was driven by money, lust and greed.  These same things would break him and bring him home. 
Along our journey we’re going to mess up.  The very things that drive us away from God will bring us back when we realize they did not fulfill our need.
Repentance to Favor
Off to an exotic foreign land, wining, dining and sowing as many wild oats as he could, the not so happy son realized he made a big mistake. 
When all his money had disappeared, so did his greedy friends.  No one gave him the time of day or even wanted anything to do with him. His own selfishness, greed and unkindness cost him everything, and scripture was fulfilled with his reaping what he had sown.
Was this son really sorry for his actions or was he trying to snow people with his sob story?  Would he turn from rebellion to repentance?  Just when his money ran out a famine hit the land.  The man who refused to work the farm he would own one day had to swallow his pride and beg for work.  The only job he could get was slopping the pigs and maybe keep a bit of food for himself.  For a Jewish man to have anything to do with pigs was a disgrace in their culture.  He had reached rock bottom.
“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land and he began to be in want. The he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14-16 NKJV)

But he came to himself …
Did you ever get that “aha” moment when you realize that what you had wasn’t so bad after all?  That’s what happened to this wayward son.  It’s like a light bulb went off in his head and was trying to practice what he was going to say when he saw his father. 
“But when he came to himself (his senses), he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17-19 NKJV)
“But when he came to himself” was that “aha” moment when he knew he had sinned.  Maybe it was more like an “oh! What have I done?” sort of experience.  Either way, he made plans to return home not knowing if he would even be accepted.  He was willing to live as a servant, not a son and do whatever he had to do even if it meant being humiliated. 
Going home after you have messed up in life is really hard. You know that you cannot escape all the questions, sneers, snickers and gossip that are waiting at the gate upon your arrival.  A truly repentant person understands that their sinful behavior comes with consequences and they are willing to accept whatever it may be.
When God sees that a heart has really changed, He is willing to receive us back into the fold.  His grace and mercy awaits us.
Stink, what stink?
Hoping to be forgiven, the soul searcher sets out on his journey home.  He is dirty from traveling, bare foot, wearing filthy worn-torn clothes, tired, hungry and smelling like a pig.  This is how he would return to the land he walked away from because of selfishness, greed and pride.  The only thing he had to offer now was his life; to sacrifice all and become a servant instead of a son.
“And he (the prodigal son) arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had (great) compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NKJV)
You can be sure that he didn’t expect that kind of welcome and from his Dad no less.  Nor did his father say, “Boy, do you stink.  What do you want?  You have some nerve coming back after what you did?”
The exact opposite happened. I can see him trying to spout off his forgiveness speech as his father is squeezing him and practically lifting him off his feet with joy.  “But Dad … listen…” 
“And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15: 21 NKJV)
With Open Arms He Received Him
The father totally disregarded what his lost son was saying as he continued with his confession.
Parents who have been hurt by their children know that nothing a child does can remove the love they have in their heart for that child.
Instead of being greeted with a fortress of guards with weapons, the young soul came home and was greeted with open arms from his father.  He did not ask him where he was, what he had been doing with the money or why he came back home.  Grace and mercy (the unmerited favor of love from a father) met and fell upon a child who came home.  He received forgiveness and was received unto his own. 
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf her and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:22-24 NKJV)
Does this take you back to the account with Joseph and his robe of many colors as told to us in Genesis?  A father’s robe and his ring were signs that authority has been passed down to that individual.  It signifies that favor has come to that person and all who meet him will know it by the clothes that he wears.  Something huge happened, and for a man to have shoes, well, only the rich had them.  Servants or low income families did not have sandals.  Perhaps you can understand why the washing of feet was such an important message Jesus tried to get across to the disciples. 
In place of an inquisition, the father threw a party. He didn’t have to sacrifice himself or anything, because the sacrifice was being prepared. What a home coming.  The Bible tells us that Heaven has the same kind of response every time a wayward child of God’s repents.
“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NKJV).
Heaven and earth rejoice together when someone repents.  It’s like the two collide with sounds of praise, singing and joy squishing out the devil in the middle.
Hey, what’s going on here?
 Put on the brakes, not everyone was so happy to see the lad back on the farm. When the older brother inquired about the loud noises, he learned some disheartening news. Brother had returned; his ungrateful, foolish, greedy, disrespectful, lazy, no longer in the family sibling came crawling back to the “house of blessings and favor.”  Was he happy to see little brother like Dad was?  I would say not, in fact, he disliked the whole idea of him even returning. 
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:25-26 NKJV)
Surprised probably isn’t the best word I could use to describe how mad the older sibling was to hear this report.  Not only was “he that shall be nameless” back, now Dad is giving him part of my inheritance, and even throwing a celebration for him.
There is no way he would show his face at that festivity.  In fact, he made it clear he wasn’t attending, so the father pleaded for him to welcome his brother back home.  In my mind the conversation might sound a little like this (remember to add the stinky attitude):

“Are you kidding me?  Dad, I don’t get it.  I’ve worked for you for years and have done everything you have asked me to do, and without complaining I might add.  
You have never given me anything, let alone a goat so I could have a party with my friends. No, but as soon as the spoiled one is back, the one who spent all your life savings on partying and girls, you roll out the red carpet for him with all the bells and whistles.  
I can’t believe you are doing this.  He spent all his money and has brought so much turmoil to us, what are you thinking? How can you show him favor and give him anything?  He doesn’t deserve any of this.” (Para-phrasing of Luke 15: 28-30)

He might have a good point, none of us deserve forgiveness. Is he right in feeling or responding the way he did?  As children of God, we have to say – no.
Repentance to favor and blessings caused jealousy among the brothers, just like it does in the Body of Christ.  The older brother wasn’t willing to forgive or forget what the boy did to the family, and the father did something that made him really angry.  Instead of punishing his son, the father gave him a position of authority by placing his ring and robe on the run-away.  This was an honor that was reserved for the oldest son.
There is something that people miss here.  The older son didn’t say anything about the ring or robe, but was really mad about the fatted calf for the barbecue.  Having so many animals was a sign of wealth. So in reality, the one who remained behind was just as greedy as the one who left, because his younger brother was now tapping into his inheritance.
Instead of being glad and thankful that the younger brother was safe, he threw his own pity party.
Restoration of Favor
God knows that we are going to mess up in life, even big time what seem to be unforgivable mess ups.  What Jesus was teaching the disciples is that it doesn’t matter what you have done, there is no sin that grace and mercy won’t forgive when it comes from a broken, repentant heart.
That young man royally ruined his life and the reputation of his family, yet the father still looked for his return.  There will be people in your life that want to throw the sin(s) you’ve committed in your face and remind others of what you did. Don't listen to them.
Let me remind you of what this father did, he forgave and restored favor to his child.  Jesus was telling all those who listened that the father He was referring to is the Heavenly Father, and He is waiting for the return of His children.  God is not waiting to scold you or cut you off from His everlasting Will, but is waiting for you to come home with outstretched arms. 
“And he said to him (the older child), ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31 NKJV)
What the older son failed to realize is that he could have had anything he wanted, because the inheritance was already his to do with as he pleased.  He already had what the father had, but failed to use the power that was given to him.  The real problem was that he didn’t want to forgive his brother or let him back into the family.  He was still jealous, angry and bitter over the whole matter.
“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother (or sister in Christ) was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32 NKJV)
When we become sons and daughters of God, He gives us the power to use His name and what is His in order to bring lost souls home.  We are to use that power against the enemy, not one another. That son had within his power to do what was right all along, yet he didn’t do anything.
How do you respond when you see a loved one or another fellow believer go off and stink up their lives with worldly things?  Do you try and bring them back into the family or do you let them go?  It’s hard to decide what we should do in each situation, and sometimes we have to let them go and pray them back.  The father let the son go and didn’t try to stop him, knowing it would bring heartache to both of them. 
We cannot make decisions for other people; only guide them in the things of the Lord.  The son knew he was wrong, because he admitted he had sinned against God and his father.  How did he know this?  The son repented. The father taught his sons about sin, but he also taught them about hope and what it means to forgive. 
Blessings are Bestowed Favor
The son came home not expecting to be restored to the family, but hoped to gain favor in becoming a servant.  When we are forgiven of our sins and restored to righteousness by Christ Jesus, we have the blessing and hope of an eternity in Heaven.
Our restoration doesn’t stop there.  God restores His favor through blessings on our life on earth, because of the grace He showed us as forgiven children.  If a child sins and asks to be forgiven, we forgive them and carry on with life.  New blessings come as they grow in grace with us, not because they deserve it, but because we love them. 

It’s time to come home ...
God can look beyond our stinky smell when it comes to the physical aspects of life, but he cannot look on a stinky heart.  In this case, both sons messed up and were wrong.  Scripture only tells us that one asked for forgiveness. 
If things aren’t right in your life, don’t write it off as nothing.  There is hope, because Jesus was the sacrifice for any sin we commit against God. All we need to do is repent and come home to Him. Get rid of the sin that is stinking up your life and relationships.  Stop running away from God’s grace and mercy. It’s not too late to be restored to His favor.
Come Home by Luminate
Until next time, restore someone to Favor today!
Maybe you don’t know the Living God that I know, but would like to have this kind of favor in your life also.  Click on the above tab “Tell Me” for more information on becoming a child of the Savior.
Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy.
Image credit if not listed by Google Images Creative Common License
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provide by
Gateway Bible