Have you ever found yourself in the middle of something and wondered how you got there?
I think that's probably what the prodigal son discovered one morning, the taste of corn husks in his mouth and the sights, sounds, and smells of a foreign pig sty penetrating all of his senses.
When he left the comfort of his father's estate he probably did not plan to live in the pig sty. His journey was a matter of choices. Just as a journey starts with a single step, so the fall into degradation starts with a choice. His first choice was to leave -- "Give me my inheritance, the share of the estate that falls to me."
How many of us have done the same; taken the inheritance we have from the Father, which was sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and walked away, crossing the Father's boundaries in rebellious independence from Him?"
I'd never do such a thing!" you say. Of course you would, and you do. It's called sin."
But I would never allow myself to end up in a pig sty, wallowing in filth."
The prodigal son had no intention of doing that either, but he stepped away from the constant accountability of "facing Dad" every day.
Why would we choose to walk away from the Father's will...taking our inheritance from the very presence of the One who loves us enough to give us a choice? We have believed a lie. We have believed that:
We can live this life on our own
We can/must set up our own boundaries to guide us
We know what is best for us
LIE #1: We can live this life on our own
You might agree that this is a blatant lie, but it often comes to us in a subtle disguise, such as:
God has given me an inheritance in Christ -- forgiveness of sin, a redeemed mind, a new nature -- now it's my job to prove to Him that I can be a good person and live the Christian life.
That almost sounds reasonable. But consider how Jesus viewed His ability to live His life. "Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do..." [John 5:19]
And He also says of Himself, "I can of my own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which sent Me." [John 5:30]
Jesus, the last Adam, was completely sinless in His history, had a sinless nature, and flesh that was neutral (capable of sin like the first Adam). And He chose to do nothing independently from the Father.
How can we, with sinful histories, and flesh trained by sin that wars against our new natures, think for a moment that we can trust any thought or action made independently of the will of the Father? That's the first step toward the pig sty -- independence from the Father put into action -- sin.
LIE #2: We can set up our own boundaries to guide us
This lie might sound something like this:
God doesn't answer my prayers. He must not care, or maybe I just can't measure up enough for him to bless me. He made me. Doesn't He know these drives I feel? Why won't He give me an acceptable outlet? Doesn't He know how incomplete I feel? After all, I'm only human! I need to take care of this myself...just this once. I'll only go so far...no further.
We have swallowed a lie that slanders the Father's character, and we have believed that we can set our own boundaries and remain within them. But our boundaries are only as accurate as our tools of measurement.
This past summer, I tried to set up a fence line on some property with my sons and stepfather. Although we had the corner markers established by the surveyors, we quickly found that a compass and a 100-foot tape measure were not accurate enough tools to measure off a 5 acre square over hills and hollows and through a forest of trees.
We meticulously measured 100 feet northwest, but when we reached that point and turned the compass southeast to check the accuracy, we found the line off by many feet.
What was the problem? Why didn't it work?
We needed more accurate tools. We needed a surveyor's transit, which not only points in the right direction, but also measures degrees of angles. Without a transit, no matter how diligent and sincere our desire to establish an accurate boundary, it was grossly inaccurate.
When we choose an independent measure, anything other than the word and character of God, and the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are choosing the tool of relative truth. That is, "truth is what I think is true in this situation at this time," rather than the absolute, unchanging Truth of God's Word.
Once our independent boundaries are set, and our imperfect tools of measurement are in place, we plot a course of action that can only lead to failure.
LIE #3: We know what is best for us
This lie has been around since Satan directed it toward Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:
God is not good, or He would give you everything you desire. He is withholding something good from you. He wants to keep you from reaching your fullest potential.
Satan dangles something in front of us, enticing our flesh to lust after it, and then to pursue it independently from God. But God gives us clear direction concerning lust. "Now flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." [2 Timothy 2:22]
Don't be fooled, we cannot live this life on our own, we cannot set up our own boundaries to guide us, we do not know what is best for us.
God knows what is best for us, and He makes His boundaries clear and distinct through the written Word, the Scriptures, and the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Holy Spirit reveals to us as the Way (into life and out of sin and temptation), the Truth (absolute and unchanging), and the Life (eternal fellowship with the Father demonstrated through obedience to the Lordship of Christ).