The purpose of preaching the Gospel (and Christianity) is to call people out of the world into the service of the Savior. Add to this the thrill that lightens the heart and fills us with joy when we know we have shown someone the way of righteousness—the likes of which there is nothing else. Personally, I have never been one to dote on the number of people I have baptized. In many instances, I have asked a candidate desiring to be immersed whether they might like another one present to attend to the ordinance. It may be ones father, grandfather or a close friend. I never feel demoted in such cases. I rejoice with the one obeying the Lord as an observer. There is a bond created sometimes between the immersed and the one who immerses. Personally, I enjoy the bond of the one converted when I know I have had a part, albeit a small one with the obedient soul.
In these days, it has become all too familiar to hear “a disciple has slipped back into the world.” Often it is one whom we would least expect to embrace the transient affairs by forfeiting the lasting things ordained by Heaven. It may be a young person who struggles in an institution of higher education who lacks the proper foundation of faith to withstand the onslaught of infidel and skeptical professors who enjoy mocking the things of God. But, these by no means have a corner on seeking the affection of the world. Those a little older with young families sometimes digress from the truths of the Lord, with little or no concern for their infantile children. Yet again, these are not alone, to the chagrin of many of those who have worked hand in hand with older brethren and sisters. Some having been pillars in a congregation then suddenly throw their hands in the air and begin to “goose-step” with the world. When this takes place in those whom we have a special bond, it is very disconcerting and heart breaking. I am sorry to say this has happened more times than I wish to think about. Thinking of these once beautiful souls again polluted with sin and sinful practices allows name after name to pass through my mind. They “were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift” but did “fall away.” (Heb. 6:4 & 6). The question always is “why?” Later that question will be pondered some. But, before that is considered, I wish to present in its entirely a short piece from Joseph Barker, with two things in mind. (1) That those who have gone back into the world and follow their father, the Devil (Jn. 8:44), will think serious about the state they are now in and repent, turning again to the Lord. (2) That those contemplating such a move (from the church to the world) will look at the signs showing where this road leads. There are but two roads, with two destinations (Mt. 7:13-14). The chasm between these can never be filled. The two ways cannot be traveled at the same time. A choice is to be made by each of us. My hope is that Joseph Baker’s word will have a positive impact on all. Read it, not once, but over and then again. It has rightly been observed that, “they who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Let none of us think that this is true of everyone but me, surely such thinking is the cause of history being repeated. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10:12). Now, to the piece.
“To you young men, who are beginning to entertain skeptical views, let me offer a word of counsel and warning. I assure you, you know not what you are doing. The path on which you are entering may seem right to you in your present state of mind; but the end thereof is the way of death! You are preparing for yourselves matter for bitter repentance.
“I have trod the dreadful path from beginning to end. I know it all. It is a weary and dismal road, and it leads to wretchedness and ruin. I have had proof of its deteriorating influence, in my own experience. Its tendency is to utter debasement. I have studied both sides, and what is more, I have tried both; and the result is, a full assurance infidelity is madness; and that the religion of Christ is the perfection of wisdom + goodness.
“I think of my wanderings in the dark shades of doubt and unbelief and unspeakable sorrow. I would give a world, if I could have my life over again, that I might avoid the dreadful mistake I have made, in turning my back on Christ and his cause, and joining the ranks of the enemies. The only comfort I have is, that I am permitted to return, while in the fullness of my health and strength, and in the vigor of my mental powers; that I am allowed to speak for Christ and Christianity once more—that my family are all happy in the love of God and the faith of the gospel;—and that my large and varied experience enables me to speak of the infinite excellency of religion and with an assurance; and to substantiate what I say with a kind of evidence which, without such an experience, might have been possible.
“I have not inducement to address you thus but regard for your welfare, and the welfare of those over whom your influence may extend, and a sense of duty to the Great, Good God, who is the Father of us all. I owe it to you, I owe it to all, to make known the result of my life-long experience; and this is the reason why I speak. I know that virtue is necessary to happiness, and that religion is necessary to virtue; and that Christianity is religion, and virtue and happiness in their highest and divinest forms. I have proved its power, I have felt its worth, I have tasted its blessedness. I have seen its elevating and cheering power in others near and dear to me, in the hour of grievous suffering. It is—as the best and dearest creature I know on earth said to me not long ago, when apparently drawing near to death—it ‘is the pearl of great price;’ ‘the one thing needful.’
“I could say more;–-my heart is full, and would fain pour forth itself in prayer and entreaties to you to return to Christ. The man that leaves the religion of Christ for unbelief, and sinful pleasures, or worldly gains, makes a dreadful exchange. He leaves the fountain of living waters for cisterns that can hold no water. Like the Prodigal Son, he leaves the home of his soul, and the love of the Father, for a far country where, after his short delusive pleasures, he must encounter the horrors of friendlessness and starvation. The Prodigal was beside himself; and so are they who imitate his example. When the Prodigal came to himself, he returned with shame and sadness to his Father and home again; and when you come to yourself you will do the same.
“God grant that it may be soon. God grant that you may be brought to see things in their true light, and to seek his mercy and give yourselves to his service without delay. Infidelity and sin, and all that they can give are but vanity and vexation of the spirit;—but a life of faith on the Son of God, and obedience to his gospel, ‘is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
WHY DO PEOPLE BECOME PRODIGAL?
To put all the eggs in one basket, it can be said that each creates his own god. Considering some of these (all cannot be named here), it is hoped that those of you who have become prodigal will think about your state and although your particular problem may not be named you will take action to return home to the house built by Jesus Christ.
1. The god of education. I am certainly not of the mind-set of those who think all education is evil. We should strive to gain all the knowledge we can. I speak of that pseudo education that leads one away from and arrays itself against the word of God. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (I Cor. 1:18-19). The subject of Paul was the schism in the church at Corinth. This to a great part laid he at the feet of those who had the reputation of being wise. The Apostle shows that the wisdom, which comes from God, is superior to anything, even that held by the intellectuals of the day. When division results there is something very wrong. The Corinthians were headed for an open breech in the body. Those claiming wisdom were in the estimation of God contrivers of mischief; therefore, what they promoted (themselves) was foolishness. The lesson is the same for all, namely this, while education is fine, if it arrays against God or His revealed will, it must be put in its place. A sad commentary on God’s people is to put the education attained in this world above the education we can receive from the Bible. Seeking God after the due order is true wisdom, rejecting it one becomes Prodigal.
2. The god of pleasure. The Apostle to the Gentiles was careful to notice that some of those converted had not been able to shuck the things that had governed them formally. Because of this “perilous” or hard times had fallen (and continues to fall), upon the church. Writing to Timothy, he gave one of his lists of vices that actuate men. In II Timothy chapter three, he began the list with those who were lovers of themselves and ended it with lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. This must indicate that the process is a gradual one, perhaps one that is hidden from the person himself. It names the force that drives each of us as being love. Apparently, our nature is so constructed that we must love someone or something. Whatever it may be is springing from our affinity for ourselves it mushrooms into a complete rejection of God. The American Standard Version has it “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” What a contrast that is—pleasure gets such a hold on one that God is rejected to pursue it. Carnal joy, worldly praise and fleshly satisfaction blot out righteousness, goodness and purity. The Lord warned, that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring forth no fruit unto perfection.” (Lk. 8:14). Something that we must not overlook is that the god of pleasure does not always lead us into immoral practices as he wishes only that we bow before pleasure’s shrine. Look around at the world as our fellows seek the gratification of pleasure above all else. So great is this pull on the heart that Christians often are pulled into the pit. Gathering for amusements, using funds that could be used for righteous pursuits and conversations are filled with what has been done or what is planned to do. Little difference in us many times than that which characterizes the world. When one’s attention is called to such, it is often heard, “well what is wrong with it?” Perhaps nothing in moderation, but let me tell you my fellow Christian, if it encompasses your heart and life it is wrong. David declared, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1). Such a man may present himself every Lord’s Day in worship, his voice may grasp the attention of angels, his prayer may humble the minds of all, his words may be instructive to anyone listening and he may cast more into the collection than others, but, BUT, in his heart God has been dethroned. He is a fool said the man after God’s own heart! When the pursuit to satisfy pleasure is over, there is but one thing to do—lay all aside and return to the Savior of all men with a repentant heart. Forgiveness must be asked for and with the help of fellow Christians and the mercy of the Lord the passion for pleasure can be controlled. There is no other way for those now Prodigal.
3. The skin god. While getting my car serviced, I helped myself to a hot cup of chocolate provided in the waiting area. After a time I noticed a magazine lying on the table beside me called, “People.” I am and for most of my life have been interested in people, so I thought this would prove interesting. I was in for a shock, rather than stories about people, it was filled mostly with pictures of men, women and men and women nearly naked on every page. Even some children with almost the entirety of their bodies exposed for all to see. The women exposed all the skin possible. Dresses that had no back, dresses that could not have been shorter and still called a dress, necklines were plunging until some were opened to the waist. The men were semi-clad with the legs almost entirely removed from their trousers. Shirts were the exception. Surely, there must be a skin god. I thought of the Lord saying, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Rev. 3:18). Is there no shame? The only person that would have been a standout would have been a man or woman with their nakedness covered. What would Jesus think of such? I recall that he once encountered a man living in a graveyard. Devils possessed him and we are told that he “ware no clothes.” Jesus cast the devils out of the man causing astonishment among the people as he sat at Jesus feet “clothed, and in his right mind.” (Lk. 8:26-36). Considering “People” magazine the people in it must be out of their mind. Furthermore, when Christians are poorly clad as these people they have become mindless Prodigals. Barney Owens 1403
: A sign I saw on a building, housing dentist office
For Family, Friends, And Cowards