Watch Out for Lost Opportunity

Dr. Jerry A. Collins Luke 15:11-27 SCC 10/1/17


We must not neglect the doctrine of rewards for faithful Christian living. It is a powerful inspiration and motivator that is centered in eternity itself. The danger is that we may fail to be faithful and it seems that many believers will be accountable for this. We are told that Christ will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be…no more mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21:4). Unfaithful Christians who did not repent in life will repent then but repentance was available in life on earth. It seems, then, that on this side of the grave we want to elevate repentance in the Christian life as an essential component of preparation for eternal life in heaven. In Luke 15 we have repentance and restoration of Christians who have wandered away from fellowship with their heavenly Father and its consequences (15:11-24).

The Prodigal is a Son Before He Repented

This is a story of a son who has wandered away from his father v 11-13a. The NT does not regard unbelievers as ‘sons of God.’ Here it is a reference to a believer who has gone astray. Even in a far country he is fully conscious of his sonship he decides to get up and go to my father and will say to him, ‘father… v 18. These are not words of an unbeliever. Even after squandering the resources his father placed in his hands v 13b-16 the Prodigal is still fully aware he is his father’s son. Aware of the lofty privilege as a son, due to his conduct, he feels no longer worthy to be called your son v 19.

The repentant prodigal decides to return home and when he does he is welcomed unconditionally by his father who ran and fell on his neck and kissed him v 20. The son’s confession is genuine Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son v 21 but he underestimates the fullness of his fathers forgiving grace. The father brushes aside the sons unworthy notion and celebrates his return with the best robe and put it on him and a ring…on sandals v 22. He kills a fattened calf and declares let us eat and be merry for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found v 23-24. This is hardly a celebration for a hired hand. Both by the treatment and pronouncement, the father affirms the returning young man to be his son. He is not

now just becoming his son. This is the same son that had been dead and lost but now is alive and found.


The Prodigal Experienced Wasted Potential

Here is the restoration of a straying member of God’s household. There are lessons to be learned about straying believers who squander opportunities in life that are costly even though they repent.

Straying believers waste resources God has placed in their possession.

We could call this your calling in life. The Prodigal had a calling. It included all the resources he had to make something of his life. These resources God has given so you can then use them to fulfill your calling in life to the glory of God. You are in possession of those things—your calling is determined by things like: (1) physical situation like race, parents, stature, age, and culture; (2) personality, i.e., intellect, emotions, and will; (3) talents; (4) spiritual gifts; (5) desires; (6) opportunities; (7) convictions; and (8) roles and responsibilities. When these are consistent with the Word of God, they determine your calling. Time spent out of touch with God is an enormous waste of these resources. Restoration may include profound regret about this waste, especially if the separation has lasted for years as well as a corresponding sense of unworthiness like the Prodigals. One may feel they have disgraced the Christian name and aware of discrediting God their heavenly Father. When they do return they should be reassured of forgiveness and encouraged to enjoy the privileges of sonship like robe, ring, sandals.

Restoration for straying believers is genuine, but the loss of time, potential, opportunity is equally real.

Like the Prodigal who returned to the full experience of sonship, one does not get back the possessions he foolishly squandered. As far as we know the Prodigal permanently lost the inheritance he received from His father. It was forever lost. The portion of any Christians life that is spent away from fellowship with God, as well as the rewards associated with such fellowship, that might have been earned during that time, are permanently lost too! This one has sustained real and tangible losses, having thrown away treasures in heaven which could have been accumulating during those wayward years. The longer a believer lives his life apart from God, the more telling over time all these losses become. The solemn fact remains that, even after repentance, we cannot turn back the clock and relive those wasted years. 

Repentant believers should be joyfully welcomed back

Though its true and sobering to stray from the Father as a son or daughter, it does not destroy the reality of the joy that should always accompany the home coming of a repentant believer. God our Father always rejoices when one of His wayward children comes home. If the gospel is understood biblically, the backsliding believer will have no grounds to doubt his salvation, even when he is in the far country of sin. He will know he is a son of the father whose fellowship he has left. Yet, this assurance can be a powerful incentive for the wayward believer to return home and many have because of it. The purpose of Gods discipline is that very thing—that a believer will correct himself and get back on the right path again in his Christian living. When they do, like the father for his son, we welcome the back with joy!

Don’t Assume the Posture of the Self-Righteous

There is no reason for faithful believers to resent a straying Christian who returns back to the fold. Such ones have sustained real and tangible losses that obedient believers do not experience.

The self-righteous don’t share in the joy his father feels for the Prodigal

The older brother heard the sounds of celebration inside the house and enquired about it v 25-27. He became angry and would not go in to celebrate v 28. He is not angry with his brother, but with his father for giving such a lavish welcome for his repentant son. He represents believers who are far less charitable than is God, his heavenly Father. The father of the angry brother is gracious enough to come out and talk to him and pleaded with him to join the celebration v 28. Our Fathers joy should be enough to motivate us to be joyful and celebrate the returning lost son but not so for the self righteous.

The self-righteous overestimate their own service

The older son asserts his own faithful service to his father I have never neglected a command of yours v 29a. He is quite self-satisfied with his performance on the farm. He had worked for a long time for his father but hard to believe this claim of his is true. Believers who have long served and obeyed God over many years can conveniently forget the numerous failures that have occurred. Its possible that a faithful one exhibited the similar failures in the past and the self righteous can ignore even present deficiencies and failures as they look with disdain and even criticize the acceptance of a repentant believer.

The self-righteous compare selves to returning believer and criticize the father’s loving actions

With a bad attitude comes an accusation you have never given me a kid that I might be merry with my friend’s v 29b. The brother feels that his father has given him less than he deserves. The self righteous believer feels aggrieved that God has not favored or rewarded him more lavishly than he has. If there is some hardship in life the self righteous likely feel they deserve better than this. He would even rather be with his friends who would feel his pain and commiserate together, rather than share the parents joy.

The self righteous should heed the fathers gentle rebuke and be joyful

Son you are always with me, and all that I have is yours v 31. The older boy had called the Prodigal this son of yours v 30. He condemned him by claiming he had devoured your livelihood with harlots. Now he had not even talked to his brother yet but still harshly accuses him, thinking the worst about him, with no brotherly affection at all. He won’t even call him ‘my brother’. The apostle John said …that he who loves God must love his brother also (1 Jo 4:21). If a believer genuinely loves his or her heavenly Father, he will also love his Christian brother whom he recognizes, not by his obedient life but by his faith in Jesus for eternal life. In other words, joyfully join the party we had to make merry v 32 when the backslider who was dead and lost returns.

So What?

The warning here is that we can squander our eternal inheritance by reckless living that diminishes the eternal rewards necessary to prepare us for our eternal life. It is always appropriate to repent from sin and that is essential to maintain fellowship with the Lord but also to avoid losing reward by lost opportunity. The damning thing is faithless believers cannot make up for what has been squandered and lost due to straying. The young man lost eternal opportunity and potential and so can we.

First, when one believes Christ for eternal life, they have saving faith and are in Gods household.

Second, its possible to stray from God, lose fellowship with Him, and squander opportunity in sin.

Third, repentance should be a lifestyle for believers who desire to remain faithful followers of Christ.

Fourth, enjoy your life, your family, your work and wealth while remembering your accountable to God.