This post last updated on November 13th, 2021
Grace Brings Prodigals Back
It was 6 months after my 20th birthday when I surrendered my life to Christ and first experienced God’s grace. And I was on fire. I read my wife’s old children’s NIV until the binding came off and the pages fell out. Every spare moment was spent in God’s word.
I can look back and see that this was an absolutely critical step in my spiritual formation. A few years following my initial zeal, I gave in to my own foolish choices which contributed to trials of every kind. I was broken at many levels over the next several years. Hindsight shows me how I needed the reinforcement of His word planted deep in my mind and in my heart.
In my wandering years, no matter how stupid my choices were or how far I wandered, and I can assure you it was quite far, I always knew that God was there. But the reality is that in those years, and with that knowledge, I was taking God’s grace for granted. The truth is that God did not abandon me, I abandoned Him.
That is not the proper response to God’s grace, by the way. It’s only by His mercy that I did not die in that sin.
When I finally returned to the Lord, I realized that God is faithful to forgive us when we confess our sin (1 John 1:9). He is also incredibly patient. But we should never use his kind faithfulness and His loving patience to justify our sinful behavior.
What Is God’s Grace?
Sometimes it’s easier to say what something is not in order to understand what it is. Grace and mercy are often used together, but they’re not the same.
God’s grace is when He gives you something you cannot earn and do not deserve. God’s mercy is when He doesn’t give you what you do deserve. Most namely, condemnation for your sin after you’ve received Christ.
In my own example, it was God’s mercy that I didn’t die in my habitual sin when I wandered. And it’s God’s grace that allowed me to return. Another prodigal, just like you.
Just understand that sin was punished in Christ on the cross, but discipline is meant for correction.
God’s Grace in the Bible
Grace is one of the themes found throughout the entire Bible. Yes, even in the beginning, way back in Genesis.
And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.Genesis 3:21
So God killed an animal to do that. Physically, that covered their naked bodies, but spiritually it’s an image of the covering of their sin. Biblically, it was the beginning of a pattern of blood sacrifice throughout the Old Testament that restored mankind in relationship to God.
He could have rightfully destroyed man and wife in the Garden of Eden for their disobedience, but instead He began the process of grace that would ultimately lead to Christ’s blood sacrifice on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But keep in mind that it was never the blood of animals that covered our sin and restored us to God (Hebrews 10:4). It’s always God’s grace that provides forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7).
Abusing God’s Grace
You saw in my own example how I wandered away from the Lord. During my aimless years, I gave in to all kinds of temptations. I think that’s pretty common among us prodigals, isn’t it?
Our pattern is to give in, compromise, do the things we want and expect to be forgiven anyway. We want life without the unintended consequences.
In Galatians 5 we see that there certainly is freedom in Christ, but that it can be abused. How many times have you heard someone say, “With freedom comes responsibility”? Here’s how Paul says that:
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.Galatians 5:13
There are massive Christian denominations and church leaders that have bred generations of people that think they can get away with sinful lifestyles and behavior simply because they claim Christ and confess every now and then.
The Christian life isn’t easy, I get that. Our flesh is strong, our spirits are frequently weak. Addictions come in endless flavors and are completely destructive. Many Christians believe they can live like hell 6 days a week and still reach Heaven.
If we just keep running back to God for forgiveness, then we say what we want, watch what we want, drink as much as we want and just have a grand old time. We even put ourselves in places that God’s children never should be with people we should never be with.
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?Romans 6:1-2
Christian, you should not live a life of compromise. Your life story shouldn’t contradict the message of the cross.
Responding to God’s Grace
The proper response to God’s grace then is discipline. That can only come from surrendering to God’s Holy Spirit, every single day. It’s foolish for you and I to willingly give in to temptation and sin and expect ourselves to become faithful to God later. Peter warned us about that in one of his letters:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.1 Peter 2:11
Think about that a moment: things that wage war against your soul. If that isn’t the strongest of warnings of things that we shouldn’t screw around with!
I don’t know who said it, but it goes something like this, “If no one can tell you’re a Christian, then you probably aren’t one.” Realistically, the Christian life is one of discipline. It’s also a life of falling down and getting back up.
But one thing it is not is a life of compromise. If you’re living in compromise and dealing with habitual sin, then you need to seek Godly counsel and take care of that stuff. Don’t play spiritual roulette and end up dying in and for your sin.
6 Bible Verses on Grace
Remember when you need God’s grace the most, especially if you’re feeling distant from Him that He has promised to never leave or abandon you. When you’re far from God, it’s not because He has moved away.
He also promised that when we urgently look for Him, we’ll find Him. That always begins with spending time in His word. Here are 6 Bible verses that will help to equip you in those moments when you’re in need of God’s amazing grace.
- God is full of grace: “Then he passed in front of Moses, calling out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive.'” Exodus 34:6 (GW)
- God is slow to anger, patient, and ready to forgive: “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15 (NLT)
- God’s grace makes salvation possible: “Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness.” Ephesians 1:7 (NLT)
- It’s only God’s grace that saves us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
- God’s grace calls us to be holy, disciplined, and gives us hope: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)
- Sin has no power over us: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14 (ESV)