The beginning of a “New Year” has always been an enjoyable time for me. One reason is that the previous month has past with all the Paganism attached to it. Why some members of the church think that we can engage in idolatrous practice one season of the year is beyond me. But, mainly I enjoy the New Year because it is a time when people do some inspection of their life resolving to do better from that point forward. Even some Christians use this period to do some serious soul searching using it as a time of beginning anew. However, there is a down side—the resolutions are more often than not short lived.
MAKING A RESOLUTION
The parable related by Jesus in Luke chapter fifteen tells of a man with two sons, the younger of the family asking that the portion of goods that he would inherit be given him while his father was yet alive, received it and went into a “far country.” Finding some unsavory companions he was quickly relieved of his inheritance squandering it in the pursuit of unwholesome desires. Penniless, he was soon abandoned by those accompanying him previously, who if they had any money would not give him aid. In this sordid state, seeking some way to sustain himself the only employment open to him was feeding swine. To any Jewish man or boy feeding swine was worse than hitting the bottom, greater than plunging to rock bottom, how could he have ever dreamed that he would be helping a creature live that only an uncircumcised Gentile would eat. Not only was his body aching from lack of nourishment, his conscience was sick. To make matters worse he recalled the servants in his father’s house had plenty to eat with some left over and his father’s son was now—right now—perishing with hunger. It was “NEW YEAR’S TIME IN HIS HEART.” He with great thought, made a RESOLUTION. “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Vs. 18-19).
FOLLOWING THROUGH WITH A RESOLUTION
The young man “arose and came (went) to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Vs. 20). The heart that had been so joyful when he had left home was now heavy with sorrow. The face that had looked to the sun when going in the opposite direction was saddened and puckered with bitterness. We are not given the precise circumstance surrounding how his father happened to see him when he was “yet a great way off.” I doubt that he spent his days sitting in a rocking chair looking down the road hoping to spy his son returning. If he had done this in the beginning he would have long since ceased. It could be that he just happened to look down the road and observed the familiar gaunt recognizable to his tired old eyes. Or perhaps one of the servants had seen him and reported it to the father. At any rate, when he knew it to be his son, he broke into a run to meet him. Recognizing his shabby and dirty clothes, his bones sticking through his parched skin and the once familiar smile that had graced his face now missing, prompted his “compassion.” Taking his son in his arms he began to “kiss his neck” something he had missed so long. The son with all this affection displayed could have accepted it without further action and all would have been well. But, to the son’s credit, he did NOT forget his resolve. The speech that had run through his mind so many times on his journey home could not be left off—it was long past due—he owed it to his father whom he had wronged by his lack of gratitude for taking what his father had provided and freely given him when all he did was ask for it. Now the father’s love could not be allowed to smother his wrong. He said, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” (Vs. 21).
SOME PRACTICAL LESSON WE CAN LEARN FROM THE PARABLE
In this case as with everything the Master Teacher presented for consideration, there was the immediate application to be made by those in His presence. Then there is the lesson intended for following generations. Accordingly, as we read this “prince of parables” there are things that we can glean that are applicable to every life—lessons that glow with the power and perception of the guiding of the Divine mind. Some of these lessons I wish to point out trying to apply them to the general subject at hand—resolutions.
- The young man “came to himself” (Vs. 17). This statement indicates that he was apart from himself, a figurative expression connoting the man’s mind had for a season departed. Overcome with fulfilling his desires he had allowed these to take precedence to the point of controlling his life. Everything he had done was contrary to common sense, but if common sense is so common why is it lacking in the multitudes? He had followed a path that is traveled by so many, the destructive path of selfishness. He had set out on a course that was pleasing to himself. Such a mindset puts self first. When allowed to run its course, it ends in habits that gain the upper hand. The terrible problem of selfishness is that seldom do those who are selfish recognize their state. Another case that sheds light upon selfishness is the young, rich, ruler (Mt. 19, Mk. 10, Lk. 18). At first he appears devoted to God, why, he had kept the commandments from his youth, yet, when Jesus opened his heart we see him as he really was, selfish to the core. If his heart (mind) was likened to our physical heart (blood pump) he needed radical surgery demanding immediate bypasses. The young man of our parable came to his senses; his seared conscience revived and sprang into action as he saw himself, as he really was, demanding resolution—the beginning of restoration.
- He said “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned…before thee” (Vs. 18). The first person to come to his mind was the one whose love had never failed him but whom he had sinned against, his father. Since he made the statement we know he had sinned against his father, but just how we do not know. Is it that his father had cautioned him about the wise use of his money that he had wasted? It is apparent that he was ungrateful for the things he had received from his father that he had both squandered and wasted. Surely he realized that he had damaged the good name of his father—the family name. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Prov. 22:1). Presently the young man had neither. His riches were spent and the benefit of his name had blown away with the wind. Rather than give glory to his father, he had discarded, neglected and disgraced him. He saw clearly that his father’s love is what he needed more than ever. This demanded resolution and action. He “arose and came (went) to his father” (Vs. 20), immediately.
- Furthermore, said he, “I have sinned against heaven” (Vs. 18). When he had gone into this “far country” he wished to escape from God. Like Jonah his was an attempt to flee from the presence of God. That does not mean that he thought he could find a place were God was absent or did not inhabit, rather he wished to go to a place where it would be impossible for him to worship and serve God. There are those who attempt this today. Employment is sought in places where one cannot assemble for worship, some youngsters delight to enroll in a college or university away from faithful Christians so that they can unleash the fetters of serving God, finding themselves as did this young man steeped in sin. Adding to this is the fact that he engaged in “riotous living” (vs. 13). Nothing was worth saving or caring for—he lived for the moment, tomorrow would care for itself. His elder brother accused him of devouring his father’s living with harlots. The young man had sown to the wind and was reaping the whirlwind. There was nothing deceptive about it now, he had mocked God and his wild oats had produced an abundant crop. There was but one thing to be done—get back home where God was honored. That he would do starting this moment with a resolution to aright the ship.
- We should neither think nor expect the making or the following through with resolutions will ensure that things will return to the same state they were before circumstance required that resolutions and changes occurred. Jesus attributes wisdom to the son when he decided, I “am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Such a consideration must be accepted physically, morally and spiritually. Some have learned too late that consumption of drugs, alcohol and tobacco take a toll that cannot be restored. Despite warning when the brain is fried on drugs, the nervous system is destroyed by alcohol and the lungs and throat are eaten up by cancer from tobacco, resolving to quit does not bring the body back to the tranquil state it was prior to using these substances. When one gives his life to debauchery of all sorts; finds his body diseased or his family wrecked; bemoaning the effects or making resolutions to change will not reinstate what is lost. When a Christian reverts to the world fulfilling the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eyes or the pride of life, things of the world may be obtained and the praise of men lauded upon him. However, if and when he recognizes that a change must be made to please God, the resolution to do so and the actions necessary to bring it to pass cannot bring back the kindly feeling and influence he once enjoyed. Such lessons learned in “the school of hard knocks” cannot always be shaken off and the former position recaptured regardless of how much they are desired.
IN LIGHT OF THIS PARABLE—LET’S THINK ABOUT SOME RESOLUTIONS
Resolve 1: Get out of the “far country.” The “far country” is the world apart from God, Christ and the church Jesus died for. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2). It is important that we take note of time in these passages, “in time past” they were “dead” living as they did “in trespasses and sins.” Their affairs pertained to this life (or course) only. Being a friend of the world means they and you are estranged from God “whosoever…will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (Js. 4:4). But now (mark time) these Ephesians were “quickened” or made alive. They were in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 7), They were set apart (sanctified) by the washing of water by the word” meaning they were baptized Mk. 16:16, Acts 19:5. When one is baptized he is translated from the rule, power, or domain of Satan and is placed in the Kingdom ruled by the Son of God. Col. 1:13; 2:12-13. For further information contact me (BO).
Resolve 2: Abandon “riotous living.” Please recall that the younger son had a place in the house of his father, but left it for the attractions stipulated by men. Surely all Christians know of a brother or sister that has left the Lord and returned to an unfaithful life in the world shaming the Cause for which Jesus died. But there is another way we can be “riotous.” We have seen this in our land recently over and again. People who have not abandoned the nation and gone else where but rebel against authority by “rioting.” While such actions are repulsive to Christians some in the church follow the same principle spiritually. When the Lord stipulated singing they have decided that they would have a mechanical instrument play in worship to God without Bible authority. The New Testament teaches that Christians are to assemble in one place to be instructed and edified from the word of God, yet refusing what is written a separating into classes for instruction is done taking the power to make rules upon themselves. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper He used one loaf and one cup containing fruit of the vine commanding us to “this do” in remembrance of Him. Along comes some that say we are NOT going to follow Jesus’ example, pay attention to His statement or obey His command. Churches are divided and a world languishes for the truth while some rejoice in this state of riot. (Jn. 17:20-21). Some Christians point others to the word of God as the only rule of faith and practice, however, they might have the Lord say of them as He did of others, “do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Mt. 23:3) Use this as a time to make some resolutions.
Barney Owens 1601
Don’t allow the new leaf you turn to be the same one you turn over again.