For the last several weeks I have been studying the three parables found in Luke 15, the most well-known being the parable of the prodigal son. In conjunction with my study I read Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God a couple of weeks ago (you can purchase it here.)
As a child growing up it seemed like all the emphasis in the parable of the prodigal son was placed upon the younger son who was so rebellious. I thought, “Man, the elder son is getting the shaft!” The reality of it is both sons were lost, but their “lostness” manifested itself in different ways. As Keller said, the younger was through “self-discovery” and the elder was through “moral conformity.”
The problem for both was that their identity was wrapped up in the possessions of the father. They wanted the father’s things but not the father. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God.” In other words, sin is finding your identity in something other than God. We have a tendancy to do this by, as Keller also mentions, turning “good things into ultimate things.”
Think with me for just a moment. Think of the good things in life. Our spouses, children, work, family, education, talents, etc. Can’t you see just how easy it is to find your “identity” in one of these areas of life? Isn’t it easy to turn one of these “good things” into an “ultimate thing?” We must guard against this by centering our lives upon Christ and trusting in what He has accomplished and will accomplish through us.
We often think however, that the solution is to try harder by changing our behavior. The problem with that is we don’t really deal with the problem which is our corrupt nature. C.S. Lewis said in his essay “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” said, “The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”–our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition–and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And this is exactly what Christ warned us we cannot do. If I am a grass field–all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.”
Are you facing an “identity crisis?” Have you turned a good thing into an ultimate thing? By faith and repentance let’s allow Christ to change us from the inside out!