Many of us are confident we’ll be justified on the last day – acquitted before God through the death of Jesus. But what about justification today and tomorrow? Are you still trying to prove yourself?
- Do you ever get angry or brood because you want to prove you’re in the right?
- Does your Christian service feel like joyless duty?
- Do you ever feel the pressure to perform?
- Do you serve others so you can feel good about yourself or impress people?
- Do you look down on others or exaggerate their failings?
- Do you worry that you won’t make the grade in life?
- Do you enjoy conversations about the shortcomings of others?
Read Luke 15:11-32. The attitude and behaviour of the father is a picture of God’s grace to us in Christ. Look at the behaviour of the older brother. How do we behave when we don’t grasp God’s grace and our status as his children?
‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in.’ (28) We view life as a contract: we do good works and in return God blesses us. When things go well we’re filled with pride. When things go badly we either blame ourselves = guilt (anger against ourselves) or we blame God = bitterness (anger against God).
‘All these years I’ve been slaving for you.’ (29) The older son doesn’t see himself as a son at all, but as a servant. The father has his obedience, but not his love. Joyless duty will characterise our attitude if we think of God as an uncaring boss. But when we see him as a gracious Father our attitude will joyful service. Does God the Father have your obedience, but not your love?
‘I never disobeyed your orders.’ (29) There are people trying to perform day after day in a desperate attempt to prove themselves. They live in a constant state of stress and busyness, always striving to put in another great performance.
‘This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes’ (30). We highlight other people’s faults so we can look better ourselves.
There are acts that look like good works, but in fact reflect a belief that I’m a better saviour than Jesus. That’s why Jesus says: ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:29) There’s only one thing God wants us to do: have faith in his Son. Everything else will flow from that.
All is not lost. The father goes out to plead with the older brother (28). He welcomes his dissolute son and he welcomes his self-righteous son.