Do you need to know that God loves you? It is good to know that Sunday laws will very soon be passed in the United States. It is nice to have foreknowledge of what is coming, but what we really need to know is that God still loves us.
The impending conflict is right upon us, but not one of us are ever going to get through it unless we know the Fatherís love. It is the only way that we can survive the prison cell. It is the only way that we can face the stake.
Luke 15:11, 12 states, "And He [Jesus] said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of the goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living."
Can you imagine the struggle this father went through? That was the most humiliating thing that a son could ask of his fatheróGive me what is mine, my inheritance, now.
The father knew what the consequences would be if he gave his son his inheritance. He knew what he was going to do with it. He knew the choices the son would make, but the father gave the son his inheritance.
In the book Christís Object Lessons, 198, Ellen White wrote: "The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son, bring out in distinct lines Godís pitying love for those who are straying from Him. Although they have turned away from God, He does not leave them in their misery. He is full of kindness and tender pity toward all who are exposed to the temptations of the artful foe. In the parable of the prodigal son is presented the Lordís dealing with those who have once known the Fatherís love, but who have allowed the tempter to lead them captive at his will."
Have you, as an historic Seventh-day Adventist, once known the Fatherís love but now find yourself being led captive at the tempterís will? Are you feeling miserable, wondering if God is going to allow you to remain in that misery? This parable is for you. It is for me. It is for those who have once known the Fatherís love but who have allowed other things to get in the way.
You see, the young man allowed awful things to get in the way. That could be our temptation, but it could also be our temptation to allow good things to get in our way. We do good things thinking that will appease and bring our acceptance before God, but it will not. It only separates us from God. Good things are a result of the fruits of knowing the Fatherís love; they are not the roots.
So the father, with an aching heart, gave to the boy his living, his inheritance. Verse 13 says, "And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living." The young man went out and thought, "Boy, I am going to live it up now. This is the way to life, joy, happiness, and satisfaction." No longer in the fatherís house, he was rough and tough, thinking he would get away and have a good time.
The Rat Race Begins
For a while he did enjoy himself, or so he thought. The devil was tricking his mind. The devil was leading him along with a rope saying, Hey, if you just make this amount of money, or if you just get this or that, you are really going to be happy then. But he was not happy. He "wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want." Verses 13, 14.
Somehow the wages of sin, the pleasures, did not satisfy. Somehow the things that were supposed to fulfill and bring joy and happiness only wrapped him in cords from which he could not be set free. All that the devil had held out to give such contentment and satisfaction, only made him miserable, guilty, and despondent.
"What a picture here of the sinnerís state! Although surrounded with the blessings of his love, there is nothing that the sinner, bent on self-indulgence and sinful pleasure, desires so much as separation from God. Like the ungrateful son, he claims the good things of God as his right. He takes them as a matter of course, and makes no return of gratitude, renders no service of love.ÖWhatever the appearance may be, every life centered in self is squandered. Whoever attempts to live apart from God is wasting his substance. He is squandering the precious years, squandering the powers of mind and heart and soul, and working to make himself bankrupt for eternity. The man who separates from God that he may serve himself, is the slave of mammon. The mind that God created for the companionship of angels has become degraded to the service of that which is earthly and bestial.ÖIf you have chosen such a life, you know that you are spending money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfieth not. There come to you hours when you realize your degradation. Alone, in the far country, you feel your misery, and in despair you cry, ĎO wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24." Ibid., 200, 201.
Destined to Misery
That is how this young man felt. Who could set him free from this body of death? Who could help him escape the thralldom of sin in which he had gotten himself? How could he be set free? Was it possible, or was he destined to a life of wretched misery? Was there hope for him? The young man did not see any hope for himself. He was a slave to the old man of sin.
Who could set him free from the body of that death? He did not know of anybody who could. But he kept trying to find somebody, something, that could set him free, somebody, somewhere that could provide the peace of mind for which he longed.
A Broken Heart
Several years ago, before my dad passed away of cancer, my older brother was involved with drugs. He was ruining his life with various pills, because he was trying to find peace of mind. He could not find it. He came into my parentís home and threatened their lives. It was a horrible situation. Dad was coming to the end of his rope. He did not know how to be set free. He did not know how to deal with his son who wanted to kill him.
I thank God that I had the opportunity to talk with my parents in their home. My dad was almost in tears. This 65 year-old man, whom I have looked up to all of my life, said, "Bill, I do not know what to do. I do not know how to be set free from this. I am miserable. I do not know what to do with your brother. I do not know how to handle it."
I looked at my dad and said, "Dad, three years ago I was in the same situation, but, Dad, I found that through the power of Jesus Christ, I could handle anything. And you can be set free! You can have peace in this situation."
Three days later my dad, with this heavy weight upon his shoulders, went to his bedroom and kneeled down at his bedside, for what I believe to be the first time in 65 years. He said, "Jesus Christ, if You are there, as my son says You are, please set me free. Please deliver me from this burden."
He told my sister that when he went to his knees, he felt like a huge sack of potatoes was on his back. And he said that, as he prayed, it fell off. The Fatherís love had been following Dad for 65 years. The Fatherís love is so intense!
Straight-Laced and Old-Fashioned
The prodigal in the Bible looked upon his dad as rigid. Dad was hard! Dad demanded of him certain things, and the young prodigal ran away, because he thought he wanted a happier life. But it was not happier!
Verse 15 says, "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." That is just the way we are, is it not? He tried to find every possible place to find peace and satisfaction, except going back home.
He had a lot of time to think of what a miserable existence he now had and what a mess he had made of his life. "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him." Verse 16. The world is a cruel place.
All the while, as the son is far away from his fatherís house, trying to find contentment in the things of this world, somebody has an aching heart. Every morning that the son has been gone, someone is seen walking down the long lane to the main road. Every day he goes out to the main road and looks down that road, because he longs to see his son come home. He longs to see his boy.
Every day he returns to his house with an aching heart, to begin that dayís toil. He works with an aching heart; he eats with an aching heart; he lays down in bed at night with an aching heart and with a prayer, "Please, son, come home! Please come home!"
"The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring him [us] back to the Fatherís house. The prodigal son in his wretchedness Ďcame to himself.í The deceptive power that Satan had exercised over him was broken. He saw that his suffering was the result of his own folly." Ibid., 202. It was not someone elseís folly.
How often, when we find ourselves in a bad situation, do we blame everybody else but ourselves? Well, if so-and-so had not done that, then I would not be inÖAs long as we are saying, somebody else made me do it, or it is her fault, or it is his fault, we will never go back to the Fatherís house.
In Luke 15:17 it says, "And when he came to himself.Ö" The prodigal son finally realized that it was his own fault, he had done the action; it was his problem, and he had to resolve it with his father.
The psychology of today says, Well, your mom and dad allowed you to do such and such when you were a child, and now that you are grown up, your situation is their fault. No, it is not your parentsí fault! It is your fault! Until we are willing to acknowledge that it is our fault, we will never go back. The prodigal son came to himself. He realized that it was his problem, and then it was that he could head home.
"He saw that his suffering was the result of his own folly, and he said, ĎHow many hired servants of my fatherís have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.í Miserable as he was, the prodigal found hope in the conviction of his fatherís love. It was that love which was drawing him toward home. So it is the assurance of Godís love that constrains the sinner to return to God. ĎThe goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.í Romans 2:4. A golden chain, the mercy and compassion of divine love, is passed around every imperiled soul.ÖThe son determines to confess his guilt. He will go to his fatherÖThe young man turns from the swine herds and the husks, and sets his face toward home. Trembling with weakness and faint from hunger, he presses eagerly on his way. He has no covering to conceal his rags; but his misery has conquered pride, and he hurries on to beg a servantís place where he was once a child." Ibid., 202, 203.
Drop the Hammer
A lot of people, who were raised Seventh-day Adventists, view the writings of Ellen G. White as a hammer. She says do not do this and do not do that, but do you know what? The Spirit of Prophecy was given to help us come to ourselves, to show us where we have come short, so we will go to the Fatherís house. Over and over again I marvel at the stories I have read of the gift of prophecy and how Ellen White dealt with people. She did not hammer them over the head.
N. D. Faulkhead was a gentleman in Australia who worked for the publishing house. He was a high-ranking, thirty-second degree Mason, involved in the secret societies, and he was spending much time in these societies. Shortly after Ellen White arrived in Australia, in 1891, she was shown the experience of Mr. Faulkhead. She wrote it all out on paper and was about ready to send it to him when the Lord said, "Put it away." A few months later she was shown another vision of Mr. Faulkhead and how he put very little money into the offering plate at church, but he put a lot of money into the Masons.
Mrs. White wrote it all down, and she was about to send it to Mr. Faulkhead, when a voice said, "Put it away and do not send it." This went on for an entire year. Then toward the end of that year, a gentleman came to the publishing house, as Mr. Faulkhead was about to leave Adventism all together, and asked, "What would you do if Ellen White were given a vision about your life?"
Mr. Faulkhead said, "It had better be a strong one. It had better be a powerful vision or I will not accept it."
The Secret Sign
Shortly after that Mr. Faulkhead and Ellen White got together and visited. And Mrs. White said, "You know, for the last year I have seen ten visions about your life, and now I will read some of them to you." She began to read everything about his life, about how he was putting less money into the offering plate and putting more into the Masons, about how, in the Mason meetings, people were calling him Worshipful Master.
In the course of the conversation, Ellen White made a sign. N. D. Faulkhead was shocked. He looked at her and said, "Where did you learn that sign? Where did you see that sign?"
She said, "What are you talking about?
Mr. Faulkhead said, "That sign that you just gave was something that only the highest-ranking Masons know."
Mrs. White continued her testimony, and after a short while, she made the sign again.
Mr. Faulkhead stopped her and again inquired where she had learned the sign.
"That was the sign that the angel showed me," she replied.
As a result of Ellen White knowing that sign, which only the angel of God could have shown her because no woman was allowed to have that high of a rank in Masonry, and because of her testimony, N. D. Faulkhead became a follower of Christ again, and he remained a Seventh-day Adventist for the rest of his life. (See Ellen G. White Volume 4, The Australian Years1891Ė1900, by Arthur L. White, 1983, 49Ė54.)
So what was the purpose of the Spirit of Prophecy? It was to bring Mr. Faulkhead to himself, to help him recognize where he was going and where God wanted him to be.
A Rebuke From God
Another gentleman, a rather famous evangelist named M. E. Cornell, worked with J. N. Loughborough in San Francisco, California, holding evangelistic meetings. While they were holding the meetings, they were separated from their families.
Mr. Cornell began to be a bit too familiar with some of the women at the meetings. J. N. Loughborough said, "You know what you are doing is not right. You have a great influence here. If you do not stop being so familiar with the ladies, you are going to destroy your influence."
Mr. Cornell said, "Leave me alone, Loughborough. I am going to do what I want to do."
The situation got so bad that the church in San Francisco was going to have a business meeting to get rid of Mr. Cornell. Just before the business meeting, Mr. Cornell received a letter in the mail from Ellen White in which she told him that he was being too familiar with the ladies, that the Holy Spirit had revealed to her that his activities had to stop or he would go deep into sin and walk no more with the people of God.
As J. N. Loughborough went to the meeting that night, he was met by a man by the name of M. E. Cornell, but this was not the same man that he had known before. This man was broken, because Ellen White, with the power of the Holy Spirit, had spoken to him. He came to himself, and he was saved for the Advent message and for the gospel. (See Ellen G. White Volume 2,The Progressive Years 1862Ė1876, by Arthur L. White, 1986, 363Ė366.)
A Verbal Death
A young watchmaker in Switzerland become a Seventh-day Adventist, but one day he did something inadvertently and some of the older folks in the church in Switzerland chastised him verbally. They were pretty tough on him, and as a result, he left the church. He did not want to have anything to do with the old folks who were so rough on him.
He became an apprentice to a watchmaker with a flourishing business. In one year he was going to have his own shop and make a lot of money. But he was doing things that he knew he should not be doing. He was working on the Sabbath and getting involved in other things that he knew were wrong.
It just so happened that one day Ellen Whiteís watch broke. It was sent to this young watchmaker to be fixed. The night before Ellen White was to pick up her watch, she had a vision of this young watchmaker. She saw how he had been unkindly treated by the older people in the church in Switzerland. She saw the path that his life had taken, and she saw how he had walked away from Seventh-day Adventism.
The next morning, when she went into the watchmakerís shop, she picked up her watch from the young man, and then she looked at him and said, "You know, I have seen you before."
The young man looked astonished and said, "I have never seen you. Where did you see me?"
Ellen White said, "I saw you in vision last night. I saw how those older folks had treated you so rudely in that church, and I saw how you left keeping the Sabbath. I saw how you left off from following Christ. I saw it all," and she continued, "Now, I am not going to leave this shop until we kneel together on this floor and you rededicate your life to Christ."
Why did Ellen White give that message to that young man? So he could come to himself, rededicate himself to Christ and become a Seventh-day Adventist again. (See Ellen G. White in Europe 1885Ė1887, by D. A. Delafield, 1975, 233.)
The purpose of the Spirit of Prophecy is to bring us to ourselves, to realize our need to return to the Fatherís house.
A Heart of Compassion
So the young prodigal heads for home. "Little did the gay, thoughtless youth, as he went out from his fatherís gate, dream of the ache and longing left in that fatherís heart. When he danced and feasted with his wild companions, little did he think of the shadow that had fallen on his home. And now as with weary and painful steps he pursues the homeward way, he knows not that one is watching for his return. But while he is yet Ďa great way offí the father discerns his form. Love is of quick sight. Not even the degradation of the years of sin can conceal the son from the fatherís eyes. He Ďhad compassion, and ran, and fell on his neckí in a long, clinging, tender embrace." Christís Object Lessons, 203.
I am thankful it did not say that when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him coming and turned and went back to his house. It says that his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. "And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Luke 15:21.
I do not think the father heard a word his son said. We are told, "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." Verses 22, 23.
When we start taking steps toward the Fatherís house, He comes yearning, running to us. "The father will permit no contemptuous eye to mock at his sonís misery and tatters. He takes from his own shoulders the broad, rich mantle, and wraps it around the sonís wasted form, and the youth sobs out his repentance, saying, ĎFather, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight.Öí" Ibid., 203, 204.
Have you been running from the Fatherís house and right now feel pretty miserable? Do you feel that you have to get yourself a little bit better before you can return? You just have to clean up a few more things and then you will be ready to go back to the Fatherís house, is that how you feel? If you wait until you get everything in order, you will never get there. You will never get back to the Fatherís house.
"Do not listen to the enemyís suggestion to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better; until you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until then, you will never come." Ibid., 205, 206. The fact that we feel miserable, hopeless, discouraged, or guilty is the very reason why we need to run in haste to the Fatherís house. "When Satan points to your filthy garments repeat the promise of Jesus, ĎHim that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.í John 6:37. Tell the enemy that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Make the prayer of David your own, ĎPurge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.í Psalm 51:7.
"Arise and; go to your Father. He will meet you a great way off. If you take even one step toward Him in repentance, He will hasten to enfold you in His arms of infinite love. His ear is open to the cry of the contrite soul. The very first reaching out of the heart after God is known to Him. Never a prayer is offered, however faltering, never a tear is shed, however secret, never a sincere desire after God is cherished, however feeble, but the Spirit of God goes forth to meet it. Even before the prayer is uttered or the yearning of the heart made known, grace from Christ goes forth to meet the grace that is working upon the human soul.
"Your heavenly Father will take from you the garments defiled by sin. In the beautiful parabolic prophecy of Zechariah, the high priest Joshua, standing clothed in filthy garments before the angel of the Lord, represents the sinner. And the word is spoken by the Lord, ĎTake away the filthy garments from him.Ö[and as they did, He said] Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.Öí" Ibid., 206.
So, brothers and sisters, if we would take one step toward the Fatherís house today in repentance, He will come running to us today. He loves us today. Our case is not hopeless. If you are being drawn to Him, you have not committed the unpardonable sin, and you can find joy. You can find peace today, if you choose to return to the Fatherís house.