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For Parents of a Prodigal: Hope through the Pain

by Dr. Mark Shaw

Apart from the death of a child, one of the deepest hurts a Christian parent can experience is that of having what is often called a “prodigal child.” In Luke 15:11-13, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son – the younger one — who exhibits a rebellious and hurtful attitude toward his parent:

And he [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

Interpreting these verses in their historical context, John MacArthur explains that this younger son is essentially saying, “I wish you were dead, Dad, so I could spend my inheritance.” What a painful event for any parent to experience! Then, to add insult to injury, the son gathers everything his father gives him and moves as far away from the father as possible. It is easy to imagine the father’s rejection, hurt, disappointment, grief of the loss of relationship, sadness, anger, and all kinds of other emotions, all mixed together.

Modern Day Prodigals and Their Parents 

For Christians, the child who walks away from the faith of his or her parents is no less agonizing. In fact, it is often a pain that is never completely alleviated until the child truly repents. Rebellion manifests as a product of a hard heart toward God and a heart that wants to pursue what is right in the child’s own eyes. Today’s prodigal child can easily be drawn away by his own lusts into a world of new age thinking, secular humanism, sins of an addictive nature, sexual sin, and many more. All of these enticements demonstrate a direct rejection of the parents’ values and ultimately a rejection of God’s biblical truths.

Some Christian parents I have counseled have been confused because of erroneous thinking. They incorrectly believed that because they raised the child in a godly home with the Scriptures taught and the Holy Spirit present in their own lives, they were somehow guaranteed to see the fruit of repentance and eternal life in their offspring. I have heard a Christian parent verbalize past sinful erroneous thinking this way: “My children will be raised in a God-fearing home that I never had as a child and that will ultimately be what saves them.”

Correct theology helps Christian parents anchor their soul in the truth that only God by His Spirit rescues the sinning soul and that no formula exists to guarantee that someone will be saved by Christ. Our hope must be in Christ alone, not in what He is going to do with our child’s soul. A parent’s thinking must become similar to the lyrics written by the music group, MercyMe, whose song Even If says:

I know You’re able and I know you can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if you don’t,
My Hope is You alone.

On the other extreme, some Christian parents sink into despair with inaccurate thinking that they must have done something wrong and pushed the child away from Christ by their own sin. Again, correct theological thinking assures us that all children are born with a sinful nature and are in need of God’s saving grace (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). While some parents can be overly critical or poor examples to follow, the reality is that the children in these homes will still need a Savior. Yes, being critical impacts a child’s thinking (and yes, parents are responsible for repenting of their own sin before God and others), but no parent can “push a child further away from God” because children are born in sin as far away from God as is humanly possible until they are born again (John 3:3, 16-18).

Parents sin. Children sin. We all need God’s amazing grace. Parents should do their best to parent biblically, while confessing their sins and failures in parenting both to God and to their children. However, parents need to recognize that salvation of a child’s soul ultimately is determined by God and the child. Poor parenting fails to glorify God when left alone without the repentance of the parents, but it doesn’t negate God’s ability to save a child. Excellent biblical parenting skills glorify God if executed for the glory of God, but still don’t guarantee a child will be saved eternally. God is sovereign over the salvation of every soul. A parenting experience with a prodigal is a stark and painful reminder of this truth, but it is good for us to know God’s grace in a deeper way.

Resources to Help during Difficult Times

Fortunately, there’s a plethora of practical biblical help available for parents of prodigals. Shirley Elliott’s new book, From Heartbroken to Hopeful: Gospel Hope for Parents of Prodigals, encourages parents to turn their focus upon trusting who God is during a painful parenting trial. Pastor Brad Bigney, who writes the foreword in Elliott’s book, has a sermon series called “Hope + Help for Hurting Parents” that he began preaching on July 20, 2008 (search for it at  graceky.org/sermons/ if the direct link above is not available). Biblical counselors may find that these resources can be given as biblical counseling homework assignments along with writing down truths gleaned from them as they listen or read.

Another group of resources to be released in June of 2018 is an entire conference of material that will be dedicated to helping those with prodigals. The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) is the host of the 2018 Summer Institute, which is entitled “Loving Wayward Souls: Grace for Our Prodigals.” This conference will help parents learn how to become more Christ-like in their thinking and how to solicit the prayers and help of the body of Christ.

Conclusion

Parenting a prodigal son or daughter is very difficult. I caution you not to attempt to go through it alone. Seek out biblical resources. In fact, the BCC website has a search bar at the top of the page where you may simply type in the word “parenting” for many sound and encouraging resources.

I counsel parents of prodigals to never give up hope for true repentance as long as they are alive. Ask the Lord to send messengers of the gospel across the path of your prodigal and to enliven the heart of the prodigal by His Spirit. Each situation is different, so gospel-oriented, biblical counsel is a valuable necessity for parents of a prodigal child. Find a biblical counselor to walk with you and point you to Christ and His Word as an anchor for your soul (Hebrews 6:19).

Questions for Reflection

How can you encourage someone to grow during a difficult time? What Scriptures provide a balance of truth and grace during times of suffering?

Tweet: Today’s prodigal child can easily be drawn away by his own lusts into a world of new age thinking, secular humanism, sins of an addictive nature, sexual sin, and many more. -Mark Shaw https://ctt.ec/UHjg8+ #Parenting

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org on November 15, 2017. View the original post here.

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

Follow Mark on: Facebook  and  Twitter

 

Top Image: (c) Can Stock Photo / photography33

Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – PART 2

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

by Bill Hines

In Part 1 of this blog it is my hope that I made the point that sobriety, either from a substance (alcohol, other drugs) or an activity (i.e., gambling, pornography, cutting) is not the goal of the command, “don’t get drunk.” The goal of the passage in Ephesians 1:15-21 is that followers of Christ would be filled with the Spirit rather than controlled by something else.

Regarding the word filled The NKJV Study Bible points out: “The tense of the Greek word translated filled indicates that filling is a moment-by-moment, repeatable action. It is something Paul commands the believers at Ephesus to do.”[1]

It is interesting that the repeatable activity for the believer is to be filled with the Spirit moment by moment. Just as someone would have to continually drink an alcoholic substance to “stay” drunk, so followers of Christ are to continually “drink in” or be filled with the Holy Spirit to stay filled. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit includes a heart full of singing songs to and about our God who is faithful. We must be prepared, however, that sometimes being filled with the Holy Spirit in service to the Lord is not associated with upbeat or happy feelings. Sometimes our most profound works of service happen when we are worn out, tired and even persecuted as were the Disciples.

How Are We to Stay Filled with the Holy Spirit?

I won’t take the time here to give a complete answer to this question but I offer the following as those elements in the life of the Believer that must be present in order to grow into a mature follower of Christ and when entered into by faith will aid in this calling of following Him and being filled with the Spirit.

We must start by affirming that being filled with the Holy Spirit is something only a Christian can experience and only an active follower of Christ can experience in increasing measure (see Romans 12:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

The following broad categories are seen in Scripture in various ways. Some have tried to express that all followers of Christ must do these things in particular ways such as all study of the Scripture must be done in the morning. What is important is that these things are a consistent part of our lives on an ongoing basis. To use our earlier example, just as one would have to drink in wine on a regular basis a follower of Christ must “drink in” the Holy Spirit regularly to be filled with Him.

In order to be filled with the Spirit I suggest the following must be engaged in by faith:

Worship/Praise

Consistently offer praise and worship to the Lord both privately and corporately (Psalm 150; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 5:13). God is always there with us. Saying a simple thank you to Him at any time or offering a brief testimony to another person of what He has done for you today are ways to praise Him. When one recipient of demonic deliverance wanted to stay with Jesus he was told to go home and tell of the wonderful things God has done for you (Mark 5:18-20).

Study

Study the Word of God which will make you wise in the things of God (Psalm 19; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:14-16; 2 Peter 1:2-3). As valuable as devotional books can be, we must also learn to study God’s Word by using scriptural helps like a Bible Dictionary or word study tools or a good work of Systematic Theology. Most important is learning how to study the Word in a systematic way through

  1. Observation (what does the passage say).
  2. Interpretation (what does it mean).
  3. Application, what does the passage have to say to me today.
  4. Correlation, how does it relate to other parts of the Bible.

Fellowship

Be involved in meaningful relationships with other believers (Hebrews 10:23-25; James 5:13-16; Romans 12:10-13, 15:1-6, 14; Galatians 6:1-2). This includes discussing the Bible, works of service, accountability with mature Christ followers, using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you to minister to others. This is part of fellowship as well as the next section.

Ministry

Become involved in ministry to others (Matthew 20:26; Ephesians 4:11-13). Use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you to minister to others (Romans 12:4-8). We are called to use the gifts of teaching and evangelism (for example) with friends and family. We can exercise any of the gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 ; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ; Ephesians 4:11-16 (see the context in each case) yet I agree with many teachers that the Spirit gifts each Believer in special ways bringing the gifts and the skills and experience of the person to bear in ministry to others.

Church

Be certain that you are involved in a meaningful Church relationship. At the minimum this should be a Body where the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, the sacraments are faithfully administered, and Church discipline is taken seriously (Hebrews 10:23-25; Matthew 18:15-20). In this day of live streaming and recordings we must be careful to not neglect our gathering together (Hebrews 10:23-25). The reason for this is that what is taught is to be shared. If we only listen in private to preaching and singing, we lose the connectedness that we are to enjoy with other Believers. 

The calling on the life of a Christ follower is to glorify God by walking with Him as a growing Christian who loves Him with all they are and loves others as themselves (Mark 12:29-31). Staying free of those substances and activities that hold us as captives to this fallen world is only a work of the flesh if it is not replaced with a life of faithful love for God which is evidenced in obedience to our God who saves.

[1] Nelson, Thomas. NKJV Study Bible, Full-Color, eBook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Click to Tweet: … sometimes being filled with the Holy Spirit in service to the Lord is not associated with upbeat or happy feelings. Sometimes our most profound works of service happen when we are worn out, tired and even persecuted as were the Disciples. – Bill Hines #Biblicalhelp</a

Click here for: Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – PART 1

Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235
817-733-2712
bill@tostand.org

Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 1

by Bill Hines

In ministry to addicts I have observed a tendency to make a mistake that I made as a young Believer. We think that because someone is no longer addicted to something they are doing well. When this is our attitude we settle for too little and we may end up doing the person great harm. We all, as biblical counselors, want people to find freedom over their addictions and it seems nice to praise them for no longer being addicted and we certainly should encourage them for their hard work. It’s not nice, however, if we are “nice” at the expense of lifechanging truth that has them truly pleasing God. We must not settle for too little too soon.

A couple of years ago I told a friend that if he wanted to just get sober there were probably several hundred programs in the Ft. Worth/Dallas area that could help him achieve that goal. I went on to say that if his desire was to get free of his drugs in order to please God and follow Christ that’s where I could help. We have all known the people that for years focus on staying sober but often their personal lives are simply a sober version of their old unredeemed self.

I am convinced by Scripture that God wants us sober but for far more important reasons than being free of addictions. I am certainly pleased when any person’s sobriety helps society, but I also understand that in terms of the addict’s relationship with God that he or she must become a follower of Christ in order to please God.

As a new Christian at age 15 I needed a reason to avoid alcohol. What did the Bible say about it? I was led to Ephesians 5:18 by my older brother. I focused on “Don’t get drunk” and I remained sober. But I didn’t take in the rest of the passage until later. As we examine the rest of the passage it will become apparent that God is calling us to a lifestyle that only a true Christ-follower can live.

Look at our passage in context before we make summary observations:
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB).

As we look at the parts in summary, we see what it is that God wants of His followers (some comments are based on the Amplified Version thanks to biblegateway.com).

15-17. As Believers we are to walk through life carefully living life with honor, purpose, and courage while shunning those who tolerate and enable evil. As wise people we are to live in wisdom as those who live as sensible, intelligent, discerning people. Further we are to realize that our time on earth is relatively short. We are not to live as those who only have this life to be fulfilled or make our mark. Therefore, we should make the very most of our time on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence because the days are filled with evil.

It is after the statement of how we are to live in wisdom that Paul mentions drunkenness as an example of an unwise activity that would prevent us from living a life of wisdom under the Lordship of Christ. Paul could have used any sin but as we will see, drunkenness lends itself not only to explaining being under the control of a substance, but it also incorporates the doctrine of demons and the spiritual battle involved.

5:18 – do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation [or wickedness – corruption] but be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this passage of Scripture, John MacArthur states: “Although Scripture consistently condemns all drunkenness (see notes on Proverbs 23:29–35; Proverbs 31:4, 5; Isaiah 5:11, 12; Isaiah 28:7, 8; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1Peter 4:3), the context suggests that here Paul is speaking especially about the drunken orgies commonly associated with many pagan worship ceremonies of that day. They were supposed to induce some ecstatic communion with the deities. Paul refers to such as the “cup of demons” (see note on 1Corinthians 10:19, 20). Instead, be filled with the Spirit … True communion with God is not induced by drunkenness, but by the Holy Spirit.”[1]

As is pointed out walking in drunkenness is to be motivated by and participating in the evil associated with darkness. Being under the control of alcohol invites the demonic to gain control. Our resistance is down, our sensibility is muted, and we give into demonically influenced debauchery.

So, is it enough to simply be sober? No. The context won’t let us stop there. The command is not only to not be drunk but rather to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be under His influence rather than being filled with wine and its influence. We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.

Next week, in Part Two 2, I will look at the Lord’s instruction regarding what to put on in the place of drunkenness.

Click to Tweet: We are not to be under the influence of the powers of darkness we, as followers of Christ, are to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. – Bill Hines #Help4Addicts https://ctt.ec/310F7+

[1] NIV, The MacArthur Study Bible, eBook (Signature) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Click here for: Don’t Just Settle for Sobriety – Part 2

 

Bill Hines is the president of Covenant Ministries, a biblical counseling, education and Christian discipleship ministry in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is the author of Leaving Yesterday Behind and Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling (with Dr. Howard Eyrich). He co-authored The Pursuit of Perfection with Dr. Mark Shaw. He edited Paul the Counselor: Counseling and Disciple-making Modeled by the Apostle Paul and is a contributing author of three of the chapters.

Covenant Ministries, Inc.
P.O. Box 121235
Fort Worth, TX 76121-1235
817-733-2712
bill@tostand.org

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