The 'Parable of the Prodigal Son' found in Luke 15 is really the story of two lost sons. The younger son was estranged from the father by breaking the rules. The older son was estranged from the father by keeping them. Both were seeking to live life on their own terms, apart from a loving relationship with the father. Tim Chester, from the Crowded House, explains how this dynamic works.
There are two ways we get life wrong.
1. We want to be our own Lord instead of Jesus
In other words, I replace Jesus as Lord with Tim as Lord. I run my life my way. I want to be in charge. That often leads to behaviour that by moral standards is bad: ‘sex and drugs and rock-n-roll’. We do not think Jesus is enough. We do not think the rule of Jesus is the good life. So we replace Jesus with others things.But there is a second way we can get life wrong.
2. We want to be our own Saviour instead of Jesus
In other words, I replace Jesus as Saviour with Tim as saviour. I want to save myself by doing good things or I want to save other people by straightening out their lives or I want to save the world through good causes.Now, here’s the tricky thing: This way of getting life wrong often leads to behaviour that by moral standards is good behaviour. People who are trying to be their own saviour are going to live moral lives. Or they are going to be good husbands and wives and parents because they want to rescue their family. Or they are going to be involved in good causes, raising money for the poor or campaigning for justice or getting involved in the environmental issues.Those are all commendable things to do. So replacing Jesus as Saviour can look like a good life. They will be people in your congregation who are doing this and you will think they are doing great.But its fruit will eventually become apparent. It will lead to pride or frustration or stress or anxiety or manipulation. Think, for example, about a parent who is trying to save or sort out their children and who thinks it all depends on them. They might be manipulative or domineering as they attempt to control and protect their children. Or they might be bitter about their children’s behaviour or weighed down with stress.
The people who are rejecting Jesus as Lord will usually be easy to spot. But be on the look out for people who are rejecting Jesus as Saviour. I can think of people who have come to us highly recommended, but whose hard work turned out to be driven by deep insecurities. Gently and firmly we have taught them the good news of justification and adoption. I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Lord to repent, find joy in Christ and change their ways. I tell people who are rejecting Jesus as Saviour to do … nothing. Stop. Listen. ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing left to do. You have a heavenly Father who loves you and cares for you.And look out for saviour-tendencies in your own heart. Many of us are rejecting the lordship of Jesus in some areas of our lives while trying to be a saviour in other areas. Here is the good news: Jesus is Lord and Saviour. And he is better Lord than you and a better Saviour than you.