Friday, March 25, 2011

Worshipping a Prodigal God - by Kevin Carey

PRODIGAL: prod-i-gal 1. recklessly extravagant 2. having spent everything

"Jesus is showing us [in the the story of the two sons] the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God's reckless grace is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience," (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God).

God is a prodigal God. He is a God that loves His Creation with "reckless grace," with spendthrift love. He has spent everything to be in a love relationship with us. And we are simply asked to come join the party, to love Him in response to Him first loving us.

If we knew that and lived that, our lives would constantly exhibit the freedom and abandon that I believe Adam and Eve lived with during their time in Eden before the Fall. What I'm talking about is a perfect relationship with God, a relationship unscathed by sin, the relationship that humanity was designed to experience when we were first created in the image of God - with none of the constant brokenness that reminds us that this life is messed up compared to what it once was.

If we are to worship this prodigal God, we have to first understand that "He first loved us" (1 John 4:19) and, because of that, we can love Him in return. Worshiping God is a response to what He has already done, what He is doing at the present moment, and what He will continue to do tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, and on for an eternity. The Bible takes on a whole new meaning when we realize that it is the story of God working in the midst of humanity, showing us how God interacts with humanity and how humanity is to interact with Him.

If we recognize that, our lives can take on a totally different dimeanor, one where our choices and our lifestyles and our work habits and our arts and our sports and our churches and our Sunday servies are a reflection of God Himself, not merely a production created by human hands.

"So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us," (2 Cor. 5:20, NLT) - as if to say, God wants us to show the world was He looks like and acts like.

Everything that God is about is meant to bring us into relationship with Him. A.W. Tozer puts it this way:

"The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of thier hearts," (The Pursuit of God).

I would hope that, when Sunday comes, we "may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of our hearts." More than that, I hope that we experience that no matter the day, no matter the time or the place.

God is accessible here and now, a truth made possible by the fact that Jesus took our brokenness with Him to the cross and absolved us of our sinfullness. As Charles Wesley says in his hymn "Arise My Soul Arise:"

"Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

We can worship Him in this moment, because He is a prodigal God. It's not about our brokenness anymore. It's about His faithfullness and love for us and His grace towards us. That is a reckless God who is worth giving ourselves to today and for eternity.

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