Going Down

The Path of the Prodigal Son

By Charles F. Stanley
  • May 12, 2020

The condition of your heart determines the direction of your life. This is a very important issue because there are really only two directions in life, and they go in opposite ways and lead to opposing destinies. You can either walk toward the Lord Jesus Christ into eternal life or away from Him into eternal death. And the determining factor is the state of your spirit.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the character descriptions could represent each of us. We could be living a sinful lifestyle like the younger brother, be self-righteous and unforgiving like the older brother, or have a merciful heart like the father in the parable.

This story is the last of three consecutive parables that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in response to their grumbling against Him for His mercy toward sinners (Luke 15:1-2). Each one dealt with something that was lost—a sheep (Luke 15:3-7), a coin (Luke 15:8-10), and a son (Luke 15:11-32).

Since the Word of God is true, we can trust that the guidance and warnings He gives in this illustration of a lost son are accurate and should be heeded. If we head down the path this younger son chose, we can be certain that we too will meet a similar outcome even though we
can’t see it at the moment.

Desire. This young man’s heart was filled with a desire for freedom. He had begun to view life in his father’s house as restrictive; therefore, he asked his father for his share of the estate. Despite the fact that the inheritance was normally received after his death, this father complied with his son’s request and gave him his portion of the estate.

Decision. Shortly thereafter, the son decided to leave home to pursue his desires unhindered. One of Satan’s goals is to convince us that having our own way and leaving God’s restrictions behind is the beginning of real life.

Departure. The son went away to a far country. For our purposes, we can consider a far country as anywhere we choose to go outside of God’s will. It could be a block away or across the globe because it speaks of the condition of our heart, not the location of our bodies. The devil stirs up discontent by pointing out what we are missing. Then he paints us a picture of the good life that awaits us if we’ll follow him. However, he always omits the end result of a life of sinful indulgence.

With plenty of money to fuel his desires, the young man set off to enjoy the pleasures of sin. In a far country there would be no one to hold him accountable, so he could do whatever he pleased. But God sees everything and will one day hold each person accountable. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Deception. The Prodigal Son fell for the devil’s lies without considering the consequences that would inevitably follow. He squandered all the money “with loose living” (Luke 15:13). Life looked good for the moment.

Wandering. The problem with living for our own pleasures is that the novelty soon wears thin. The enjoyment we once experienced diminishes as we discover that sin’s satisfaction is temporary. In an attempt to regain the pleasure, we may wander from one experience to the next, only to discover that there is no lasting pleasure in sin.

Wanting. The young man soon found that not only was his satisfaction waning, but his funds were diminished. Following his desires had left him bankrupt and friendless. To make matters worse, a famine came to the land, causing a scarcity of food. Satan never reveals the outcome of following his temptations because his goal is to destroy and ruin people. His path to pleasure is littered with broken homes, lives, and the bodies of those who believed him.

What is the condition of your heart today? One way to determine this is to examine the path you are taking. Are you drawing closer to God or running away from Him? Be sure you’re headed in the right direction. Visit intouch.org/god to learn more about the path to eternal life in Christ.

This article was originally published on June 4, 2018, and is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “The Characteristics of a Godly Mother,” which aired this weekend on TV.

Related Topics:  Addiction  |  Sexual Sin  |  Forgiveness

1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them."

3 So He told them this parable, saying,

4 What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!'

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

11 And He said, A man had two sons.

12 The younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them.

13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.

14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.

15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

17 But when he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!

18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;

19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."'

20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

21 And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22 But the father said to his slaves, `Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;

23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.

25 Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.

27 And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'

28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

29 But he answered and said to his father, `Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;

30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

31 And he said to him, `Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,

13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.

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