Return of the Prodigals: Our Father's Joy
The Lord spoke to me recently and He said, "Prepare the church to receive the prodigals!" As He spoke this I saw in the spirit wave after wave of prodigal sons and daughters coming back into the church.
Many of those who have gone astray will return to us, but how will we receive them? We must prepare our hearts for their return or we may lose them again to the world. We must ready ourselves to move swiftly to touch them with the fulness of Christ; they must know intimately the love of our heavenly Father.
In Luke 15:11-32, the Lord tells a story of two sons. The older son stayed with his father, faithfully serving him, but the younger son left him and went into the world. He was given his inheritance, but squandered it. He wasted his life on loose living and became entangled in all kinds of sin. He was left with nothing and was living in deprivation, eating with swine, when he decided to return to his father.
When he returned home, his father received him with open arms and was grateful for his return. He was quick to restore him to his rightful place as his son, but his older brother resented him for his sin. He resented his father's forgiveness and his restoration of his brother.
Instead of being happy for his brother's return and rejoicing with his father, he was unhappy and bitter. He felt he should "pay" for his sin. He did not realize that sin holds with it its own consequences. It is no fun living with swine!
Our Father receives great joy in the return of His prodigals, and if we love Him we will also love what He loves; we will rejoice with our Father that His joy is made complete in the return of the ones who have gone astray. And if it makes Him happy to restore them and bless them, then we should be happy that He has done so.
If we do not receive them warmly, or if we reject them because of their past, we run the risk of them leaving the church and becoming vulnerable to the enemy again. And our Father's heart will be deeply grieved by their leaving and even more by our lack of love. Most people will go where they are accepted and loved. If they are accepted at the bar more than at church, can we blame them for wanting to be there instead of with us?
These mercy-seekers are clearing a path for a multitude of prodigals to follow them and return to the Lord. If we can love them and show them we are a safe place, a refuge for those seeking shelter from the enemy, they will come and lead many others to our house of grace.
It is essential that we recognize these brave souls and serve them. We need to treat them as the kings and queens that they are. They may hold the key to your loved one returning to the Lord. They may not be easy to love, but if we don't, we will lose a measure of the harvest God desires to bring to us.
They will fail at times, and it may be very frustrating for us, but we must be patient with them and allow them time to mature. It is imperative that we respond to their failures with mercy, because they will see themselves through our eyes. And if we love them, they will be able to love themselves, but if we reject them, it will cause them to hate themselves.
The Lord's heart breaks when He sees one of His children rejected. He weeps when they are not allowed to become a part of our lives or not allowed admittance into our circle of friends. They are some of the greatest treasure we could find. Like refined gold, they have been sorely tried in the furnace of affliction.
They are so brave to come back into our churches, and they long to be accepted back into their Father's family. Must we, as their brothers and sisters, punish them for their past? Can we not rejoice with our Father at their return? Can we not love what He loves?
Will We Welcome Them?
We have been duped by the enemy time and again because we have judged by appearance and not by the heart. We have welcomed wolves in sheep's clothing with open arms and have been devoured by them, while rejecting those who do not look righteous. Yet God has given them the keys to His kingdom.
Dear Church, let us stop seeking after the cups which appear clean on the outside, but let us look deep inside the unclean cups and discover the greatest treasure on earth (Mt. 23:25-26).
The Lord said in Matthew 23:37-38, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!"
How the Lord longs to gather the prodigals to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks. The question has always been: Are we willing to receive them? And what will He do with them once He has brought them home? Where is the house that will make itself a refuge for the lost? Where is the family that will receive them? Will we welcome them? For the sake of our Father who loves us, we must!
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Our Lord gave His life to save them, we must now lay down our lives to receive them.
It will indeed be a battle for them and we must be there to help them or they may not make it. No matter how many times they fail, we must be there to show them that God's mercy is new every morning (see Lam. 3:22-23). We must teach them that He renews His mercy for them everyday and that His mercy will triumph over the judgment (see James 2:13) that seeks to condemn them for their past. And as we show them His mercy, we will be renewing it for ourselves as well (see Mt. 5:7).
Our continued love for them will be a refuge for them. The enemy wants to make them hate themselves because of their past. We must be there to remind them that they are a new creation in Christ and that all things are made new in Him (see 2 Co. 5:17). If we lay down our own ideas of what we think they should be, and just love them instead, they will become all that God wants them to become.
Dear Friends, let us love them as our Father has loved us. Let us give our all for them as He gave His all for us. For by loving them we are loving Him.