What does God desire the most from us believers? It is that we would all become sons and daughters to Him, not just his children. Because there is a world of difference between being a child and being a son or a daughter. A child is an immature human, and a son is a mature human. A child cannot be very useful to a father because he cannot help the father take care of business, whereas a mature son can.
Apostle Paul admonished the Galatian brethren that “…As long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b]6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” – Galatians 4:1-7
Now, the main point Paul sought to make here is that though all men are made in God’s image and are therefore, His offspring, an unsaved man cannot operate as God’s son because the sinful nature of the unsaved man makes it impossible for him to relate to God as His son. So Paul likened this to a child whom, though he is his father’s son, does not yet live up to his proper and expected role as a son to the man, because there’s something still standing in the way: childishness and immaturity. And in the context that Paul used the analogy, what is standing in the way of a man being recognized as God’s son is sin. Therefore, the salvation from sin that Jesus has provided has made it possible for men to be fully recognized as heirs of God, as through salvation:
- The nature of God is restored in men, and we can now call Him Father.
- The power and authority of God is restored in men.
- The ability to take care of God’s business as His sons is restored in men.
- The ability to represent God on earth as his sons is restored in men.
So while that was the context in which Paul made that admonition to the Galatians, there are more contexts in which more understanding can be gained from that admonition. The story of the Prodigal Son provides one such context in that in this story we have the father and his sons representing God and His children, and the father’s estate representing God’s kingdom. [Please refer to Luke 15:11-32 for the full parable of the prodigal son]
This story reveals a number of issues that prevent God’s children – born-again believers – from being God’s sons, namely:
- LACK OR INADEQUATE AMOUNT OF LOVE FOR GOD
- SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY
- LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF WHO WE ARE AS HEIRS OF GOD
- SPIRITUAL CARELESSNESS
Though the prodigal son and his older brother were their father’s sons, they behaved more like children even after they had grown to the age when they should have behaved like sons unto him. As we know from the story, their father had a huge estate; the kind that requires that he appoint people in important positions to help him run the affairs of the estate. But his sons fell short of such important positions. Likewise do the majority of God’s children woefully fall short of expectations that God has of us, for the reasons listed above.
Though the prodigal son and his older brother had two very different personalities, both were very immature sons who lacked understanding of who they were in their father’s house. The prodigal son’s issues were more obvious than the older brother’s. The prodigal son didn’t care about their father at all, and simply wanted to go and live his own life for himself, at his father’s expense. Meaning that he didn’t have a sense of ownership over their father’s estate like a son would, and therefore, didn’t care to help grow the estate. Many in the church are like this man. We only see God’s kingdom as His kingdom, and not ours as well. We don’t see it as our Heavenly Father’s property that we must take part in helping to grow in this world. But most of our prayers are about asking God to give us our piece of His riches.
Had the prodigal son loved his father, he would have lovingly stayed and helped to build the father’s estate, and wouldn’t have even thought of the inheritance. And had he been wise, he would have understood that in helping to build the estate, he was building his own estate; that he was building his own future. Because you see, had he been wise, and had he loved his father, he would have waited for his father to die before receiving his inheritance. For instance, let’s say that his share of his father’s estate was 20%, and that the estate was worth 100 million dollars on the day he received his inheritance. That would mean a share of 20 million dollars. But then let’s say that their father got to live 20 more years before dying, and that at the time of his death, his estate was worth 1 billion dollars. The prodigal son’s inheritance at that time would have been 200 million dollars! So had he been wise, he would have stayed and worked to build up his own inheritance!
If only we believers were wise to understand the glorious stake that we have in our Father’s kingdom!!!
The Lord spoke to me one day, and asked me “those mansions that I said I’m going to prepare for you in heaven (see John 14:2), what do you think I’m building them with?” He then proceeded to explain to me that it is the work that we do for Him here on earth that produces the resources that He uses to build our mansions in heaven. In other words, as we serve in His kingdom here on earth, we get paid both here on earth, and in heaven for our services, and the Lord uses the payments that we receive in heaven to build our mansions for us. This is why He told us in Matthew 6:19-21 “ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (KJV)
Here’s an illustration: Many Africans who live abroad endeavor to send money to their home countries to build houses for themselves. When I was living in Nigeria, a cousin of mine who lived in Germany came home one day, expecting to find a fully-built and furnished house waiting for him. He had been working hard and borrowing money to send to one of our uncles to build a house for him. But when he got there, there was no house. That’s an example of a man who tried to lay up treasure for himself here on earth, and the treasure was stolen from him. Had he endeavored instead to lay up treasures in heaven by investing all that hard-earned money into the work of the kingdom, he would have given the Lord the resources to build him a mansion in heaven. And the Lord would not have cheated him!
Now of course I’m not saying that one should not build houses for oneself here on earth. But I am very much encouraging us to re-evaluate our priorities in life! Because it is a fact that we believers do spend AND WASTE the resources God gives us on personal things, instead of spending it on things that concern and benefit the Kingdom.
- A TRUE SON OF GOD IS ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THAT KINGDOM MATTERS COME FIRST IN HIS LIFE!
- A true son of God understands that he is only a steward of whatever God puts in his hands, and that paying tithe of 10% doesn’t mean that the remaining 90% is for him to spend as he wishes. Rather He asks God how he is to spend every red cent that comes into his hands.
So much more work would be accomplished in the kingdom of God if more believers committed their possessions to serving God with it first.
Brethren, so many people will be shocked when they get to heaven and see the mansion that was built for them. Those believers who spent their time on earth pursuing their own things, seeking fulfilment in their own ways, serving God how and when it pleased them, will be shocked to see what they got. And they will be even more shocked to see the greater mansions that were built for those who selflessly and tirelessly served God! Those who gave Him their all here on earth, WILL go to heaven to receive their great rewards! All because they were wise enough to understand that their reward up in heaven is the more important one.
Proverbs 11:30 says “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.“ (KJV)
I used to wonder a lot about the meaning of the second part of this verse; I mean it’s obvious that winning souls is a good thing to do, which all believers are expected to do anyway. But what has wisdom got to do with it? I used to ponder this issue until the Lord gave me the understanding about the relation between serving in His kingdom and laying up treasures in heaven. If the work we do for the kingdom here on earth is the means by which we’re paid in heaven, then you’ll agree with me that a person who denies himself much personal pleasure here on earth in order to devote himself to the work of the kingdom is a lot wiser than a man who doesn’t, because he is wise enough to look ahead and build up a treasure for himself where it truly matters – in heaven – where he will get to enjoy the fruit of his labors FOR ETERNITY!
So we can see how the prodigal son lacked insight into the future, and was not wise enough to make the best decision for himself. ALL BECAUSE HE DIDN’T CARE ABOUT HIS FATHER’S AFFAIRS! Believers who spend their earnings on themselves and neglect the affairs of the kingdom are no different. True sons of God are mature and wise believers who know better! Who understand that true fulfilment in life is in helping to build their father’s kingdom by helping to populate it with His lost sons and daughters! Who understand that if they don’t do it, nobody else would! If they don’t do it, who would? The unbelievers? The careless and unserious believers who don’t have time for God?
So from all this we learn that a true son or daughter of God:
- Loves God and wants to serve Him out of love and devotion, not for what he can gain from God
- Sees God’s Kingdom as his own, and devotes himself to helping build it
- Is wise to understand that worldly gains cannot be compared to eternal gains in heaven, where it truly matters. Like the prodigal son who would have gained much more if he had stayed and served his father to the end, we stand to gain so much more if we serve wholeheartedly, and never stop serving to the end!
Let’s now take a look into some of the older brother’s issues, which are summed up in his angry comments to his father when he said: “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15:29, NIV)
By his own admission, the older brother was so immature that he didn’t understand who he was in his father’s house. He saw himself as a slave, though he owned the estate. He served his father, not as a heir to his father, but as a slave because that’s how he saw himself. Not as a co-owner and co-builder of the estate, but as a slave. Hence another lesson from Paul’s statement to the Galatians that “as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.“
The employees at a multi-billion-dollar retail chain don’t have a sense of ownership in the company as do the owners of the company because they are not heirs to the company. And by owners I mean the man or woman who owns the company along with his/her children. They’re the ones enjoying the billions. The employees only get their fixed salaries, so it’s understandable that they couldn’t care any less whether the company is doing well or not, because as far as they’re concerned, even if the company went down, they could go somewhere else and get another job making the same salary. But if the heirs of the company’s owner are grown up and are working in the company, they would take their jobs and positions more personally than the employees would, and the wellbeing of the company would mean everything to them.
We believers must see God’s kingdom as our very own kingdom because it belongs to us. We are heirs to it; so what concerns it MUST concern us! We must take personally the affairs of the kingdom of God. The church we belong to does not belong to the pastor-in-charge or the overseer, but it belongs to us because it belongs to God our Father. What concerns the church MUST concerns us deeply. The needs of the church must be our needs. We must love the church as Christ loves her, and avail ourselves to be used by the Lord to see that the affairs of the church are running smoothly.
If an heir to the retail company needed a 60-inch TV set, all he would need to do would be to order that one TV set be brought to his house from one of the company’s stores, because he knows that the TV set, along with everything in the stores, belongs to him. The prodigal son’s older brother didn’t even have this understanding. He didn’t know that he had the right to order a servant to kill a goat for him to enjoy with his friends. He was waiting for his father to see him working hard one day and tell him to reward himself with a goat, when he himself was in the position to see one of the servants working hard and tell the servant to reward himself with a goat. But if he didn’t even know that he could reward himself with a goat, how could he tell the servants to reward themselves with one?
Brethren, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, how can you tell others who they are in Him??? If you don’t know who you are in Christ, how can you know what rights, authorities and powers you have in his kingdom as co-heirs with Him??? How can you call yourself a son??? It is a child who goes about his father’s house not understanding these things, because he is a child. Which is why the father assigns servants to care for him and provide him with things that he needs but doesn’t know how to get for himself. But it is expected that with time, the child would grow into a mature man who knows what rights he has as his father’s son, and begins to exercise his authority over the estate. Likewise MUST a believer grow into a son or daughter of God in whom now dwell God’s power and authority, and who knows how to use this power and authority to perform his God-assigned duties in the kingdom!
And just as a small child cannot be expected to work alongside his father to help build the family estate, neither can an immature believer successfully work with God. So it is expected that a believer MUST mature into a son whose existence on earth is all about working alongside God-the-Father and our Senior Brother Jesus, to help build and advance the kingdom!
This is why Romans 8:19 says “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (KJV)
Not the manifestation of the ‘children’ of God, but of the ‘sons’ of God! Only true sons of God have what it takes to manifest His power and glory for the world to see and believe in Him!
Lastly, we see the same lack of love in the older brother as well. In fact it’s not at all surprising that with all his immaturity, the older brother would also lack love, because a mature son would be man enough and loving enough to graciously welcome back his wayward brother. One of the greatest failures of the Church is in the way newcomers are treated sometimes. The existing members can at times be incredibly hostile to newcomers. Whether they realize it or not, they react as if they aren’t happy to see a lost soul come home to the Father. But a true believer is a son of Love. God doesn’t just have love, HE IS LOVE! So as His children we are children of love! And as we grow into sons, we grow to become sons of Love! Love MUST be a defining trait in a true son of God. AS GOD IS LOVE, SO MUST A TRUE SON OF HIS BECOME LOVE! The ability to love ALL men unconditionally and to readily welcome them into the kingdom must dwell in a son of God! Our lives must be all about working to reconcile our lost brethren to our Father, out of deep love for our Father and for our lost brethren!
WHO THE BROTHERS BECAME
In the parable, the Lord did not say what happened after the prodigal son returned and was accepted back into his father’s house as a son. But as we can see from the story, he and his older brother were subjected to some serious life-changing lessons on who they ought to be in their father’s house. The older bro found out that his father’s possessions were his to use freely, and that he was not to see himself as just one of the servants. And the prodigal son became a different person from who he was before he left.
As a result of this transformation that took place within both sons, they could now truly be sons to their father! How so?
The prodigal son was now a broken man. He had had his fun in life and was no longer interested in having fun. All he wanted before was to use and abuse his father’s wealth, but now he was ready to be useful to his father! HE HAD ‘DIED’ AND WAS BORN ANEW into a reformed and responsible person who could be counted upon, as a true son! The experience that he had gone thru was the kind that gives wisdom, and produces in a man the right kinds of personality traits, such as humility, wisdom and understanding, graciousness, dedication, selflessness, temperance, etc… Therefore, I can imagine that he must have gone to his father the next morning and asked where he could be of service on his father’s estate! And we can be sure that WHATEVER he was told to do, he would have done it judiciously and excellently, as he was now selflessly dedicated to the service of his father!
This is the kind of brokenness – and resulting reformation to our personalities, that God seeks to produce in believers that He is looking to make into sons! This is why He takes His time to put us thru harsh ordeals that are akin to the hardship the prodigal son endured.
The older brother also underwent a transformation that day, stemming from the understanding that had just been handed to him by his father. Here’s how his own future might have changed: From the way he saw himself, and the way his father spoke to him, it is doubtful that the father had given him a befitting position of responsibility and authority in his estate. Let’s remember the statement “As long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father…“
Their father had servants who occupied positions of authority and helped him run the estate, instead of his own sons. One son had run away, and the older one who had stayed was unfit to take on such important positions. Just as the father waited for the day his prodigal son would come back and be a son to him, he waited for the day his older son would overcome his shortcomings and become a son to him. Therefore, if the father’s words to the older brother had had the right effects on him, then the older brother would have had the kind of change of heart, change of perspective, and change of self-view, that would have transformed him into the person his father had been waiting for him to become: A grown man who knew who he was as his father’s son! It is to such a son that their father would assign a position of importance within his estate.
The ‘new’ older brother would be a new person in that he would no longer be insecure and resentful of his younger brother and his father. His anger towards both men would dissipate and turn into love. And this love would produce in him the gentleness and graciousness with which he could lead the servants and treat them well and justly. He was already dedicated to serving their father; but while he used to do it with bitterness and resentment, he would now do it out of love and devotion to his father, and would happily and lovingly serve alongside his reformed brother.The Lord is not looking for slaves in us! He is looking for dedicated sons and daughters who CHEERFULLY seek to serve Him because they have grown to love and value Him above all things!
We will conclude this teaching by pointing out the powerful role that righteousness plays in all this discussion about sons. BECAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE SOURCE OF THE POWER IN A SON OF GOD!
We’ve mentioned that a son of God must be holy. But holiness is simply man separating himself from sin, and the simple fact is that no matter how much we try to be holy before God, we could never attain the standard of holiness that God has. Therefore, God devised a system by which He puts His own righteousness upon us once we believe in His Son. That way, He overlooks our imperfect state by looking at us thru His Son’s own perfection, and sees us righteous.
This presence of God’s righteousness in us brings us into an incredible position! In fact the greatest tragedy this world has ever known is the fact that believers do not understand the kind of position the righteousness of God brings them into in this world! Imagine a homeless vagrant with no good name and origins, no possessions, nothing whatsoever to boast of in this world. One day, a wealthy and powerful man takes in the bum, adopts him and confers upon him his own powerful name, then places him in a position of power within his estate. This is literally what happens when God confers His righteousness upon a man! His authority and power are suddenly placed upon the man!
Now imagine that the only condition placed upon the bum is that he be faultlessly obedient to the man who has adopted him and made him his son. That’s exactly the condition that sons of God MUST meet without fault! The secret to the Lord Jesus’ success is simple this: He was always obedient, even to the point of death!!!!! (See Philippians 2:8) As long as He was obedient to the instructions that He received from God the Father, the power and authority of the Father were upon Him and worked for Him. Likewise, as long as every single person in the Bible whom God had worked with, had been obedient to God, His righteousness was upon the person, and produced the mighty manifestations of the power of God in the person’s life!
God’s kingdom belongs to God!!! He decides how things are done in it. His Church belongs to Him. He decides how it is to be built! His sons are his servants. Therefore, all that is expected of them is to listen attentively to His instructions and do as instructed. Nothing else and nothing more or less!!! If the Lord Jesus came to earth and did nothing other than to receive instructions from the Father and then do strictly as He was instructed, how much more we whose righteousness comes thru Him!?! As long as the prodigal son and his older brother obediently served their father as instructed, he would be pleased to maintain his authority and power on them. The day any of them disobeyed in any way, his position of authority would be in jeopardy. The estate belonged to their father, and he had a specific vision for where he wanted to take his business. The sons were there to help him take his business where he wanted, and the only way they could do so was by receiving their father’s instructions, and strictly doing as instructed. Even if they never understood where he was taking the estate, they would obey faithfully because they now believed in their father, that he knew best, and they loved and respected his judgment.
So brethren, God is looking for sons and daughters of His who have grown into mature believers who have learned to be obedient to His every command, for therein lies the secret to their success as sons and daughters of God! EVERY SINGLE SON AND DAUGHTER IS UNIQUE! Therefore, the way God works with one son or daughter is not the way He works with another. Every church or ministry is unique. Therefore, God has a way that He plans to build every church or ministry. Watch and learn the way God works with you to build what He has committed to your care, and determine to follow His lead no matter what the cost of doing so may be! Seek out and faithfully follow His instructions no matter how ludicrous, crazy, unpleasant or scary they may sound! Therein lies the key to your success as a son or daughter of God!
If you’re a man, be a SON unto God! If you’re a woman, be a DAUGHTER unto God! Go and be great in our Father’s kingdom and vineyard! Be blessed!