When someone dear to me lives contrary to the faith they once professed, I am sad and burdened for them. Sometimes it seems as if they have completely forgotten God and are oblivious to their sinful state. Instead of being themselves burdened, they have made life’s pleasures their gods and show no interest in the Lord they once loved and followed.
This morning, Jesus reminds me that this is not uncommon. He tells the story of the prodigal son . . .
And (Jesus) said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:11–13)
The story begins this way and names of my family and friends come to mind. They seem well off, far from God, and squandering their lives in reckless living. Some of these have made and profession of faith and been baptized but no one would see that in them now.
Yet the Holy Spirit reminds me of a truth that I need to hear concerning God’s people. He said this to them when they were also wandering in the wilderness of sin even though they once had pledged obedience to Him . . .
But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)
If God truly has claimed people for Himself, sin and reckless living is not the end of the story. It eventually “finds them out.” Consider what happened to the prodigal . . .
And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ (Luke 15:14–19)
This young man finally realized that he was messed up and returned to his father. He wasn’t the only one. David had sinned greatly and even though he may not have shown guilt on the outside, inside his heart he knew that he was guilty.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:3–4)
Conviction eventually led David to ask forgiveness. Those who put their faith in Him know that God hears and answers such prayers . . .
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:7–11)
For me, these passages are a comfort. They tell me that even though people might not show it on the outside, God can still be at work on the inside, convicting them of sin and not letting them forget the faith that they once had. It is my prayer that one day soon, these whom I love will speak the following prayer to God, or something like it, and their spirits and joy in Him will be renewed . . .
For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. (Isaiah 59:12–13)
Oh Lord, you know the hearts of those on my heart. May a prayer like this soon be the prayer of everyone of them. Amen.