The story of the prodigal son is one of the most famous parables of the Bible. For many years, it has been a source of endless lessons for me personally, many of which I have shared in my teaching. Recently, however, there is one aspect that has been brooding in my heart and it all began when I heard the song, ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ by Chris Tomlin. On first hearing this song, I was slightly perturbed by the dance vibe to the song. It was more akin to something I would listen to as a teenager but there was something about it that made me listen time and time again.
Eventually it clicked; there was something in this song that I was missing... celebration! I have always associated repentance with a sombre mood, gazing at a carpet, saying sorry and feeling absolutely terrible for all my sins. This is all valid, important even, but it isn’t the end of the story... there is more and that is a celebration! The story of the runaway boy who squandered his father’s money and behaved in abominable ways ended with a party, a celebration, a time when the sins were unimportant, in the past and never to be spoken of again and life began afresh with a full and abundant future before him.
The question that I have been holding in my heart is simply this, “Do I respond to God’s forgiveness this way?” I know that very often I continue to hold myself back in my own judgement, knowing God has forgiven me but I don’t allow myself to enter the fullness of his freedom and even celebrate his grace and mercy.
The deeper question is something that challenges my heart all the more, “If I don’t enter into the fullness of God’s grace and mercy, what am I saying to Jesus who died so that I could live in that freedom?” This is something that has shaken me... that I have unwittingly invalidated the depth of the Cross of Jesus in my life by holding onto self-judgement and self-recrimination.
Now I realise it ended with a party and that hasn’t changed... it isn’t just the angels who celebrate when we repent, we should celebrate too. What better response to the Cross than to celebrate the full freedom it won for each and every one of us!
Prayer: Jesus, you died to give me full, everlasting and abundant freedom and life. I am sorry that I have not entered into the fullness of this by holding myself into judgement of my own sins. Teach me to celebrate life and freedom in your grace and mercy. Amen.
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