Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was springtime in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood–let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus–is it the same now?
Might not Jesus well say to us, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when he deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of his church and of his truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.
It is common these days to hear people who appeared to walk close to the Lord, announce to the world that they are embracing a sinful lifestyle, or that they have doubted their faith and are moving on to other things. Usually, these announcements involve a discussion of their happiness. They will allude to the fact that they were in a time of sorrow, but now they are happy. What should we think about such an announcement? Should we not be glad they are happy? Do we want them to be depressed? What we should think about when we hear these claims is the deceptive nature of sin.
Scripture says that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and much too often, we do not take this warning seriously enough. Now, I do not claim to have insight into the exact reasons why each person would decide to grab on to their lusts and forsake their obedience to the Lord, but there are a few general contours which usually take place in all these cases.
First, it does not happen overnight. Falls of this nature usually progress from what we sometimes consider lesser sins. We are prone to wander, and we must always be on guard. Thoughts enter the mind, and instead of dealing with them, we begin to dwell upon them. Then those thoughts progress into small acts of compromise, and years later, there seems to be no way of reversing the trend. The warning here should be clear, with whatever sin we are dealing, one of the critical battlegrounds, if not the key battleground, is the mind and affections. We must take every thought captive and not wait until they manifest in other ways.
What does this have to do with happiness? Following Jesus disrupts our pleasure in pursuing sin even in our thought life. What we watch on TV, the music we choose to listen to, and what we spend our time looking at online are all free game. For the true Christian, once the Holy Spirit enters our life, a civil war between flesh and spirit begins. This struggle is not easy. For those who merely profess Christianity, it is even worse. Christianity disrupts their desires for sin, but they lack the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives to have any victory or find any joy in it. Talk about a recipe for depression. Though they experience common grace during this time, without a heart changed by the power of God and saving faith in him, failure is inevitable. You cannot subdue the flesh in the power of the flesh.
Second, comes the questioning of God. “Did the Lord really say?” is the question that inevitably comes to mind. During this point, whether consciously or unconsciously, something begins to cause them to put scripture in a place of lesser authority. Unfortunately, what usually takes its place, and causes revision to the clear interpretation of the word of God, is “happiness.” Some make this such a point in their announcements that they will admit that before they walked away, they had to take anti-depressants to cope. However, according to them, the good news is that they are happy now. So why would they bring this up? Though they often do not state it explicitly, it is for the simple reason that they want us to make the same logical conclusion they made. “If I am not happy, something must be wrong with my understanding of God or his word.” Of course, this understanding is typically the biblical understanding Christians have held thought the history of the church.
Third, churches often help lead them down this path. This trend of putting happiness first did not appear out of thin air. It saturates American evangelicalism. All we have to do is listen to Christian music, attend Christian conferences, or even attend the preaching in many churches to hear this message. Many Evangelical teachers and preachers have substituted the true gospel for something a little more palatable to culture, and the shift is subtle. Instead of preaching law and gospel where they tell us the truth that we need to come to Christ because we are sinners deserving of wrath and that the wages of sin is death, what many preach in its place are sorrow and self-esteem. The reason we need to come to Christ, they tell us, is not because we are sinners deserving wrath, but because we feel lonely, things aren’t going right in our life, and because we are unsatisfied at the moment. Jesus is no longer the mediator; he is our therapist. Jesus did not come to save us from our sin and guilt; he came to save us from our sadness. The problem with this is evident when we ask, what happens when a “Christian” becomes unhappy, lonely, or unsatisfied? What is the problem now? They already have Jesus. The issue must be with the way we interpret Jesus. And so it goes.
The problem is that striving against sin, whether in ourselves or culture, is never comfortable or pleasant. Striving against sin can even make us lonely, because some people will reject us for it, and we may also face times of heaviness and great sorrow because of it too.
The book of Hebrews makes this point; it encourages us to press on in our fight against sin. It reminds us that we “have not resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). The point of this verse is, we must strive against sin even if it gets us killed, which is certainly not a “happy” experience.
Here is what I want to say to those who have given in to their lusts to find “happiness.” Yes, it is hard struggling against sinful desires that war against your soul. It may cause you unhappiness for a time, but you have not yet resisted to bloodshed. It would be better to enter the kingdom of heaven after a long and unpleasant fight than to go to hell on beds of ease. Come home! Repent, find forgiveness in Jesus, and start fighting against sin again, for any temporary happiness you think you now experience will be short-lived. Even though living a life battling with sin may be tough, it cannot be compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven with our Savior.
Sin is deceptive and always looks good at first, but it always promises more than it can deliver. In the end, when you walk away, what you are gaining is the paltry tin of worldly pleasures, and you are giving away the glory of possessing the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ. Even in our darkest nights, he has promised to be with us in the dungeon. He is our light in the darkness, our food when we are hungry, the living water when we are thirsty, and, most importantly, our forgiveness for our sins. Once we understand our sin and forgiveness, we know that anything short of hell is mercy, and, at that moment, we find joy and realize that he does turn our mourning into dancing. In the end, Jesus is our joy, but he will never be that if we do not understand our sin is the real reason we need him, not our sadness. It is here that we begin to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
For anyone who claims to be a Christian but has drifted into sin, I pray, if you will not repent now, that you are a true Christian who will be brought back by the chastening hand of the Lord (Heb. 12:11). The unfortunate thing for many who find themselves in this situation is that they never come back because they are not his, and scripture is clear:
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. -Hebrews 12:8
The only reason why someone would ultimately and finally fall away from the faith is an unregenerate heart. May we all be aware of the roaring lion and his tactics. May we guard our hearts diligently even when it is painful. I, for one, will not be glad when someone who professed Christ claims to find happiness in his or her sinful lifestyle. Instead, I will weep for them to come home.
If you want to see one of the strange ways our collective anxiety can manifest itself, go to Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, or Costco and look at the toilet paper aisle. The shelves will be empty. When I first began seeing posts about this on social media, I chuckled thinking it was probably just a few random stores. Then, yesterday, I needed to run some errands, and I paid a visit to a few of these stores. All of them were the same. The toilet paper shelves were empty, and it didn’t matter where I went. It seems to be this way all over the United States. Other countries are experiencing this as well.
Coronavirus, also known a covid-19, has many people feeling vulnerable. What is interesting, however, is that according to the New York Times on Saturday, there have only been 500 reported cases in the United States. Now, I do not want to belittle that number. We do not want this to spread, but we have hardly reached hysteria-level proportions. As of my last check, the death rate for the virus is around 3.2%. To give you some context, the flu has a death rate around 0.5%, so covid-19 is a bit more serious, but it is nothing like SARS which had close to a 15% death rate. How contagious is the coronavirus? The flu has a contagious rate of about 1.2. That means that for every person who gets the flu, it will be transmitted to 1.2 people. The coronavirus is slightly higher at 2.2, and, thankfully, it is not airborne, as many people originally feared.
As you read the stats above, I assume you had a reasonable response. First, I hope we felt concern for those infected, and like any virus, I hope we all will do our part to keep our hands clean and help prevent the virus from spreading. Second, I hope we saw this for what it is. Though concern is warranted, it is not something over which we need to panic, even if it does make us feel a little unsafe. What I want to focus on for a few paragraphs, however, is not the disease itself, but our feelings of vulnerability that seem to be manifesting themselves in strange ways. As Christians, our response should be different.
When something like the possibility of the coronavirus comes into our lives, our façade of safety and security begins to fade quickly. Our anxieties rear their head and begin to show, even if we try to keep them under wraps. To be honest, I am less concerned about coronavirus than I am of the uneasiness of the culture around me. I have a feeling that when many people went to the store this weekend, they did not think to themselves, “I need to buy extra toilet paper because of the coronavirus.” What probably happened is that they went to the store and saw the supplies running low or completely out, and thought, I better get some before it is all gone. If other people are this alarmed, maybe I should be too. It appears that the fears of others are more contagious than covid-19.
Truly, it would not take much to disrupt our delicate cultural ecosystem and send us into a panic. Hoarding paper goods is a perfect reminder of this fact. If you think about it, there is no shortage of toilet paper. There is as much there as there has always been. What changed is that coronavirus reminded us that we are not bulletproof, and many people do not know how to deal with feelings like that.
The answer to these problems is not what culture often tells us it is. The answer is not to try to calm ourselves by convincing ourselves that everything will be fine. Our job is not to whip up enough courage to convince ourselves that we are a shield unto ourselves. Nor to pretend that nothing can touch us because we are the captains of our destiny. To do that would be like trying to hide behind the walls of Jericho. It is false security that will soon come crashing down.
We also do not need to run out and follow the anxieties of others in their irrational shopping. What we need to do is admit our vulnerability and turn to the One who will never be shaken. As Christians, we know the Lord, and he is our refuge in times of trouble. He is our strong tower, and the righteous can run into it and be safe. If our anxieties over coronavirus are getting the best of us, it is probably an indication that we are not as spiritually minded as we should be. We are looking at the waves instead of our Savior who is walking on them.
We are vulnerable people. This world has fallen in sin and it is not the way God originally created it. The fall is why viruses like covid-19 exist. We not only live in a fallen world, we, as individuals, are sinful as well. We not only have to deal with the sins of others, but we also must also deal with our own sin and guilt. The good news is that God is merciful and gracious.
In his mercy, the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross as a substitute for the sins of all who will place their faith in him. On top of that, when we come to him, he begins a good work of conforming us to his image, which he says, “He is faithful and just to complete.” Of his children, he will not lose one, and he has promised to set all things right again one day. The power of death is sin, and our sins have been washed clean. He has delivered us from the fear of death, and we are no longer subject to its lifelong slavery.
It is okay to feel the danger of this world like a small ship on an angry sea. The question is, as a Christian, what will you do with the knowledge of that danger. My prayer is that it will cause you to draw up under the wing of your heavenly Father. He has promised, if you draw near to him, he will draw near to you. One day our time will come. If it is not coronavirus, it will be something else. At that time, there is only one rock to stand upon, but he is not only telling us to find our refuge there on the day that we die, he is also calling us to find our refuge there right now. In doing so, we not only find peace with God in the forgiveness of our sins, but it is there that we will also find rest for our anxious souls.
In these anxious times, may you find your comfort in the God of all comfort, and when people ask you about the hope that is within you, may you comfort them with the same comfort you have been given. As our culture is clamoring for more toilet paper, may we point them to our great Savior. As this happens, let us pray that, through the Holy Spirit’s work, our faith in Jesus will have an even greater contagious rate than covid-19.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. – Psalm 46:1-3
She stopped by again today and gave me one of those looks. The beauty of her face set against the backdrop of the tumultuous sky of my life promised me peace. It was soft and gentle. It was like she was telling me, “I know you are hurting, and I can help.” There was a grace in the whole thing that spun my world with confusion.
The power she wielded over me was devastating. She continued to promise relief, but I have spent time with her on more than one occasion. She keeps telling me to trust her, that she can sooth the pain I am feeling. I reminded her that every time previously, her relief has only been temporary and that she always leaves me more troubled than before. Her response to this has always been the same, “Just one more time and you will be satisfied.”
Either I go with her and enter the vicious cycle once again, or I resist and find myself with an unquenched thirst that still leaves me feeling worse than before she showed up. When I resist her, she plays upon my fears: as if somehow I am missing out, or failing to take care of myself. Many times she has told me “this is what life is about about, and you are not living it to the fullest.”
She appears in different forms to everyone, but always with an air of beauty. Usually, when I hear them talk about her, most people put all the blame on her. In exasperation, they conclude, “If she were not always around, I wouldn’t have this problem,” or “If society didn’t endorse her so much, I would be safe.” The reality is the problem with temptation is us, and even without her, our hearts naturally try to find fulfillment apart from our Creator. This, of course, is why we often go out to look for her.
The only reason she has so much power over me is because deep down I desire the treasures she offers whether she is present or not, and these are the desires that war against my soul. If this were not the case, I could easily send her on her way without a problem. John Owen once wrote, “Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before,” and he was working from a truth he had read in Scripture which says, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14).
I am always amazed at how much influence she has over me, or should I say, how much power I have given her. There is only one remedy, and that is to abide in Christ who offers the real fulfillment I am seeking: to look upon true beauty. There must be a change in me for her to lose her power, and, through the Spirit’s work, that change has already begun. I know this because never before have I been so aware of the deceit that lies behind her smile, but being aware and resisting are two different things. There is so much more to say about her, and even more to say about our great Deliverer, but she is here again giving me that look.
It was a saying of a noble Roman when he was hasting with corn to a city in famine, and the mariners were loath to set sail in foul weather, “it is necessary for us to sail – it is not necessary to live.” What is it that you count necessary? Is your bread necessary? Is your breath necessary? Then your conversion is much more necessary. Indeed, this is the one thing necessary!
Your possessions are not necessary – you may sell all for the pearl of great price, and yet be a gainer by the purchase. Your life is not necessary – you may part with it for Christ, to infinite advantage. Your reputation is not necessary – you may be reproached for the name of Christ, and yet be happy. Yes, you may be much more happy in reproach then in good reputation. But your conversion is necessary – your salvation depends on it.
Is it not needful in so important a matter to take special care? On this one point depends you’re making or marring to all eternity! Without conversion your very being is in vain! Is it not a pity you should be good for nothing, and it unprofitable burden to the earth? – a wart in the body of the universe?
While unconverted, you cannot for fill the purpose of your being. It was for divine pleasure that you were created. Did not God make you for himself? Are you a man, and have you reason? Look how you came into being and why are you exist. Look at God’s workmanship in your body, and consider the noble faculties of your heaven-born soul. To what end? Did God rear this fabric for no other end than to please yourself and gratify your senses?
Are you like the swallows, who gather a few sticks and mud, and build their nest, rear their young, and then away? You are fearfully and wonderfully made! Surely you were made for some more noble and exalted end!
Repentance is the tear of love, dropping from the eye of faith, when it fixes on Christ Crucified.
Repentance begins in the humiliation of the heart, and ends in the reformation of the heart and of the life. Sincere repentance is never too late, but late repentance is seldom sincere. The thief on the cross repented, and was pardoned in the last hour of his life. We have one such instance in scripture–that none might despair; and only one–that none might presume.
Still, however, the probability that apparent repentance which comes at a dying hour will be genuine, is very small. The following fact will furnish an affecting illustration of this sentiment, and a solemn warning against the too common delusion of deferring the work of repentance to a dying bed:
The faithful and laborious clergyman of a very large and populous parish had been accustomed, for a long series of years, to preserve notes of his visits to the afflicted, with remarks on the outcome of their affliction, whether life or death, and of the subsequent conduct of those who recovered.
He stated, that, during forty years, he had visited more than two thousand people apparently drawing near to death, and who revealed such signs of penitence as would have led him to indulge a good hope of their eternal safety if they had died at that moment.
When they were restored to life and health–he eagerly watched if they should bring forth fruits fit for repentance. But alas! of the some two thousand death-bed professions, only two people manifested an abiding and saving change! The rest, when the terrors of eternity ceased to be in immediate prospect, forgot their pious impressions and their solemn vows, and returned with new avidity to their former worldly-mindedness and sinful pursuits.
-Gorham Abbott, 1833
“Forgodly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death!” 2 Corinthians 7:10
The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year. Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart. Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are events that should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.
Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.
If this was where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise? Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.
As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.
Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.
If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation. Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” – A.W. Tozer
“Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.” – Jerry Bridges
“Ingratitude is the sepulcher of love.” -Unknown
“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord ” – John MacArthur
Gratitude to God makes even a temporal blessing a taste of heaven. -Unknown
“An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“When thou has truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent. But little time will then remain for murmur or lament.” -Hannah More
“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward
“Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” -Matthew Henry (when he was robbed)
Ingratitude is never comely. The life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it. -J.R. Miller
God is in control and therefore in everything I can give thanks. -Kay Arthur
“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. -Robert Louis Stevenson
“See that you do not forget what you were before, lest you take for granted that grace and mercy you received from God and forget to express your gratitude each day.” -Martin Luther
To increase in happiness in Christ’s service, labor every year to be more thankful. -J.C Ryle
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays the most or fasts the most, it is not he who lives the most, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” – William Law
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. -Psalm 107:8-9
I could hear the voices whispering, “Persevere. Don’t give up. You need to press on.” The only problem was I was fairly certain these were the voices of the enemy. I was torn because persistence is something to honor. A sense of despondency and joy burned within me at the thought of ending several lifelong pursuits.
I knew it was the right thing to do. I needed to say goodbye to what I loved, because what I loved was toxic. It was like a destructive friendship. Friendships are to be cherished, and it always seems wrong to dissolve them, but when they are harmful, the appropriate thing to do is to bring them to an end.
I realized I had a long and unhealthy relationship with the world. I loved it and I was attempting to stake my claim, and find my refuge, in its kingdom. The discovery that these dark skies of adversity have revealed to me is that the things of the world are unable to protect or satisfy.
Faith has been awakened, and it is pointing my mind to things above. I know at this point the way to press on is to bring all these worldly pursuits to a close. I must say goodbye to these lifelong loves, and deep inside I can feel the heartache that will ensue. If left to myself, I will not have the strength to do it. I will run back into their arms like a lonely man returning to an abusive lover.
I will persevere, however, not because I have the ability, but because I am starting to realize that true perseverance in the things of God is not of myself. I am, as Peter once said, being kept by the power of God through faith. Christ Jesus has begun a work He has promised to complete. I know my old nature will not give up easily, and it may win a few battles as I am being conformed to His image, but I will press on, because He has promised to never lose His child.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. – 1 John 2:15
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. – Luke 15:20
What a beautiful picture we have here. The prodigal has returned home, but only after forsaking his father and laying waste to his inheritance. The prodigal, living comfortably in his father’s house wells up with pride and renounces his father’s authority. He requests his estate and leaves. Filling his life with debauchery, he takes harlots as his companions, feeds his lusts, and squanders his father’s precious gifts. Oh’ but the child of God is never outside their Father’s providence, and famine hits the land. The prodigal’s hopes are soon dashed upon the rocks of vanity and sin, and he finds himself in bondage.
He is joined to a citizen of that country where he is required to feed pigs. In this state, the lords of this country do not offer him anything but to eat and sleep in the pig stalls. For a Jewish man to live with pigs is but another image of his descent into spiritual impurity. Sin brings temporary satisfaction but piles on long-lasting burdens, impossible to remove. The prodigal is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and delusion, but the grace of God is far reaching, and the prodigal comes to himself and says, “It would be better to be a slave in my father’s house than to live here.” What a shame it is, that many never come to themselves and never feel the burden of sin on their back, and what a shame many who do feel it, never venture to go home. They die in their despair, seeking some way to have the burden removed. They sink ever slowly into the “slough of despond.” What a shame, many have even taken their own lives in this despondency.
In his unworthy state, covered in the stains and wounds of the foreign land, the prodigal walks slowly home, crestfallen, seeking only servitude in the house of his father. However, he is not even worthy of that, for dishonoring your father and mother is a crime worthy of death under the law.
When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion. Our Father’s eyes are ever on us, even when we cannot see Him. When our heads hang low, dejected from our sin, He looks and has compassion. How His heart aches when His children hurt, even from their self-inflicted wounds. The prodigal’s father then ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Before the son could say a word, the father had placed his lips upon his son. He did not wait until the filth was washed away. Nor was he concerned with any of the scoffing that the community might bring.
Oh, the kisses of the Father say so much. The kiss shows much love for the son. There has been no loss of love in the heart of the father. No uncertainty in the love for his child has occurred due to his son’s crimes. The kiss demonstrates full forgiveness, as it speaks of absolution. The debt the son incurred has been forgotten, and the burden of sin and guilt is gone. In the kisses of God, we see full restoration. The son is as much a son as he had ever been; the thoughts of servitude in his father’s house are to be rejected. No more food fit for swine, nor clothes fit for prisoners. There shall be a feast fit for royalty, a new robe is to be placed upon him, and a ring to signify to the world that he is part of his father’s family. The son has full restoration, and all this happens before the son can speak his confession, which he has undoubtedly been rehearsing.
There is a beauty in true humility, for it does not flow from our natural self. It is the direct result of the working of the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, the son proceeds to acknowledge his sin before his father. True repentance is shown in this way, that even those accepted by the father long to confess. It is almost as if the son is making sure the father realizes what he has done. He wants to make sure his sin is fully understood before accepting the welcome. Oh, but the father knows, and this kiss was no mistake.
Those who come to the Father by faith, in repentance, will receive all the kisses of God. We are given the kiss of a new heart and a new spirit as our hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh by the grace of God. We are kissed with strong assurance. Though the prodigal may have intense fears of walking away again, we see that the father is not apprehensive that son will disgrace his mercy and forgiveness. For the Father knows that of those who are His, He will not lose one of them.
There is also the kiss of intimate communion. The kisses that God gives are not like the kisses of Judas. Our Father looks at us and sees everything we are. He sees all of our depravity, yet He places His lips upon us and kisses us with close communion. The kiss He gives is more intimate in it than a husband could give his wife, or a wife could give her husband.
Children of God and those who long to be, run to your father while there is still time. Satan tells you that you are unworthy of the kisses of God, and the truth is you have never been worthy nor will you ever be, but that is the very reason you must go. Only the kisses of your father can offer you anything. The world will offer you its kisses, but they are the kisses of Judas. Betraying kisses that will lead to your demise. Reject the kisses of this world and run to your Father.
There are kisses for every one of your despairs. Every wound and disease that eats at your soul can be addressed by the kisses of God. It would be worthwhile to quote Charles Spurgeon at length here, for much of this was drawn from his influence.
“Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble for through my sin I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Thy bread shall be given thee, and water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, his son.”
Child of God, let the world scoff and the consequences of your sin run their course. You have the kisses of God. For every trial, even the self-inflicted ones, can now do you no harm. All things work together for the good of those who love Him, even the haunting effects of our sin with which we now live. Everything in this world will pass away, and we will one day enter the kingdom of our Lord where every tear will be dried, and sadness will be no more. The world may continue to wound, and people may even look at you with disdainful eyes, remember it is not their approval you need, you have the kisses of God.
It would be beneficial to address those sit and ponder their sin, feeling proud that they are not like the great sinners being spoken of here. If you feel that you have not done such a great evil that you should drop you head in shame, may God be merciful and show you your misery. For like the Pharisee, you may fulfill your ritual of prayer in the public places, but remember the Pharisee walked away without forgiveness. It was the tax collector who beat his own breast as if to say, “it is I who should be accursed.” who found his sins washed away. The image of beating his chest symbolizes that he did not see his sin as mental mistakes, but something that flowed from his very soul. For that is what sin is, our very nature mocking the Holiness of God. He cried to God, “have mercy on me a sinner”, and how lovingly the Father kisses Him with forgiveness and acceptance.
There may be still others reading this who started out strong but have begun to be choked out by the cares of this world. Pleasures, promotions, and the search for prestige has taken you captive and have begun to steal your time away from God. May God grant you repentance, for many start strong down the narrow path only to taken away by such lusts never to return. They become like the man despairing in the cage in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who took the hand of his lusts and could not repent because he loved them so. They overtook him and blinded him of his need for salvation, and he proved to have never been a child of God.
Come to His feet in repentance, for it is our only hope. The wrath of God will be poured out on sinners unless we accept the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. He did what we could not and lived a sinless life, and was crucified in our place. For scripture states “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” The repenting sinner is the only one who can receive a crown of righteousness, and it is not our righteousness but Christ’s.
How can we neglect so great a salvation? Make your election sure. May all those who are children of God, and those who long to be, come to Him today, and be embraced by his love and forgiveness.