The Party | Embracing the Joy of the Father
Our Father has a party for us, but how will we respond?
The wonderful story of the prodigal son illustrates two different reactions to the reconciliation between a father and his penitent son. On one hand we see the reaction of the servants in the father’s house. They are overjoyed with their master’s show of affection toward his repentant son. The response of the older brother, on the other hand, is totally the opposite. He is not only disapproving of his father’s open display of mercy and forgiveness toward his younger brother, but he reacts in bitter anger towards the generosity of his father who throws a lavish party in honor of the return of his long lost son.
The Call to Celebration
Since Jesus first came 2000 years ago, God has been beckoning the redeemed to remain in a state of first love abandonment and with child-like faith sustain the spirit of praise and adoration necessary to welcoming the prodigals home. “Let us celebrate,” said the prodigal’s father. And through the message of this story, Jesus is voicing the will of His Heavenly Father and to all of us who know Him. Our Heavenly Father is saying,
“My children, my servants, join my heavenly welcoming party, enter into the divine celebration of my glorious salvation! Embrace my complete and final sacrifice on the cross for you and thank me for the great price I have paid in order to provide you with total forgiveness and removal of all your sins. Jump in the river of my grace with passionate abandon. Go all over the world making a joyful noise and shouting my praise for the absolute freedom from all bondage and curses of the past, which I have wrought for you. Sing of my Son’s stunning performance on Calvary on your behalf! Go ahead, encourage your new born brothers and sisters in Christ to believe and consider themselves to be dead to sin and their old way of life, and alive to Me, their loving heavenly Father.”
Wow! What an exceedingly extravagant party our heavenly Father has prepared ever since His Son delivered Himself on the cross for our complete redemption. What a lavish banqueting table loaded with all the gifts and blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus accessible to all who would believe and confess Him as Lord! And every time one of us comes to his or her senses in repentance and puts his trust in Jesus, there is another wave of joy rolling through the great party in Heaven, celebrating the triumph of God over His enemies. What a task He has given us!
Yet for some reason, not all see it that way and like the story goes, there have always been two types of reactions to God’s display of gracious mercy and reconciliation with mankind.
The Willing Servants and the Party Poopers
Those who gratefully and joyfully share the Father’s generosity with those who are receiving His plan of salvation are saying, “Let the party begin.” They’re staying busy with their lamps continually refilled with joy and anticipation, ever ready to cheer the newcomers as they are arriving home.
But of course, every party has a party pooper, and Jesus’ “party” story has one, too. It’s the older brother who represents the typical reaction of the religious legalist who finds it hard to forgive and is unwilling to forget the past, applying the judgments of the letter of the law correctly. This son is totally void of revelation of the Father’s gracious Spirit. Here goes another case of “zeal without knowledge,” and don’t you hate when that happens!
"It is even puzzling to me why so many seem to enter into revival, but are not willing to stay in the flow of the river for very long."
But we’re not supposed to act like the older brother who was too busy working in the religious field, so preoccupied with his own deeds that he wasn’t able to enter into the Spirit of his father’s grace and forgiveness. No, we’re called to be like the master servants, who eagerly join in and remain in the Father’s joy.
The last decade of the 20th century was marked with an incredible display of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in renewal and a phenomenal global harvest of souls, perhaps the greatest in the history of the world. And yet in the midst of all this mighty display of signs and wonders, why are so many of us in the main stream of the Christian western world still unwilling to enter into the river of God’s manifest presence and embrace this awesome move of the Holy Spirit? It is even more puzzling to me why so many seem to enter into revival, but are not willing to stay in the flow of the river for very long.
I’ve asked these questions so many times in the last six years since my wife and I were freshly touched in the current outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So many of my old friends in the ministry have long since separated themselves from us and don’t want to have much to do with our ministry. “Too much laughter and joy,” some say, “it couldn’t be of God!” Could it be that many of us in the ministry have become so burdened with the task of the harvest that we’ve lost sight of the person of Lord of the harvest and what He is doing?
I was born again in 1974 right at the tail end of the Jesus movement. It was like time stopped for me during those glory days as young people were everywhere on the streets witnessing of the wonders of Jesus, and we were all getting high on the Holy Spirit. Then well meaning but hard-core movements, which were more like army boot camps, replaced the euphoria of that revival. But, I became disciplined!
Parachurch ministry mushroomed everywhere, but with the obvious lack of grace and touch of the pastoral spirit and on its heels came the church growth explosion with all its result oriented tactics and success formulas. Teaching ministries flourished and began to show me all the keys and principles I was apparently missing.
"Is anybody longing for the real thing?"
Then I became introspective and absorbed with self-improvement. Instead of adoring Christ and losing sight of myself, I became preoccupied with renewing my own mind and building my positive self-image. Along came my psychology friends to give me a hand with their expertise and psychoanalysis offering therapy methods for smoothing out my frazzled emotions.
Well, where are we now? I wonder, has my mind been renewed enough, my soul healed sufficiently and my will strengthened to choose only the right thing, or am I still missing yet another do-it-yourself program? Or maybe there are some new ideas from the pop culture out there? Maybe longer fasting, a special diet, or how about some sort of Christian exercise adapted from the latest yoga revival? I heard someone say, “You know what happens when the fundamentals drift away? They loose their fun and become de-mental!”
How about it, new Jesus generation, is anybody longing for the real thing? What about just getting back to Jesus and having another drink of His Person alone and His goodness and greatness for a change? I don’t know about you, but I want to find my way back to the glorious God where His presence is so prevalent that one glimpse of His glory and my soul is supernaturally saved, my emotions are healed, and my mind is overwhelmed with His beauty! I want my will so melted into one with His and my heart so filled and intoxicated with His Spirit that everyone around me is asking what I’ve got.
Anybody else thirsty out there? There’s good news for you! All over the world there are places where the pastors have refused to go back to business as usual. They keep the doors open for His presence daily, some for over eight years now, so we can enjoy the Father’s party! It’s a gift from above, as millions of prodigals burned out by works-oriented programs have come home to the Father’s love and approval and have become restored, not as slaves, but as beloved sons and daughters of the King.
"Enter into the joy of the Lord."
You may want to pray this with me:
Thank you, Jesus, for the blessings you have poured out in churches small and large around the world. Keep a deep hunger and thirst for you in the hearts of those pastors and leaders who have found the divine grace and humility to stay out of the way of the work of Your precious Holy Spirit. Please free us from the religious bitter spirit of the older brother and enable all of us to enter fully into the joy of our Blessed Father.
Quickly bring the finest robe, kill the fatted calf, bring out the instruments and let the music begin! Enter into the joy of the Lord and let the party continue!