"And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."
When I was a teenager, the game I played the most was touch football. We would get 5 or 6 guys together and choose teams and throw the football. We played in a vacant lot next door to the house of one of my friends, and we called plays, we made up plays, based upon the geography of the lot. For example, we would say, “Go down to that bush and cut and I will throw it to you.” Or something like that.
I remember one day, I was quarterback, and I told my best friend that we are going for all the marbles. I said, “Go deep to the power pole.” I should explain that at one end of the lot there was a power pole and this pole was the goal line.
So he did as I said. When the signal was called, he took off full speed. He was running so hard, he flew right by the defender, and I lobed the ball up so he could run under it and catch it right as he crossed the goal line.
But we did not figure on one thing. He was running hard and looking back over his shoulder at the ball, reaching out with his hands to make the catch, … and he ran full tilt into the power pole. He did not bounce off it. He hit it dead on, and just crumpled down right there.
I thought he was dead. We all ran over to him. I was afraid to move him because I thought he must have horrible internal injuries. However, after laying there for two or three minutes, he got up and shook himself and said “I feel a little sore. I think I will go home and get a snack.” And he did and he was fine. Later on, we thought the whole thing was funny. We began to kid my friend asking him if he was ready to “go deep to the pole.”
I forgot to mention that he caught the ball. In fact, catching the ball somehow shielded his head from hitting the post. His arms were between the post and his head, which I suspect was a good thing.
So when I think of “Go Deep,” I think of my friend's total commitment to catching that ball. He was running flat out, arms up, looking for the ball, so absolutely determined to make the catch that even a power pole was not going to stop him.
We need that kind of commitment in our spiritual lives. We need to go deep for Christ.
We live in a superficial age. Our culture is defined by shallow entertainment, mindless amusements, and celebrities without character. Too often what passes for religion mirrors the shallowness of the world. The church today majors in Christianity Lite--with no self denial, no taking up the cross, no serious commitment to follow Jesus. The art and music produced by our culture and our faith are monuments to our poverty of spirit, monuments to soullessness and lifelessness. Many who call themselves “seekers” are only dabblers, wading ankle-deep on the shore of a vast, limitless ocean. They stay close by the beach, building sand castles, afraid to risk entering the fathomless waters where dwell the risks and rewards of the open sea. We wonder why our lives seem so empty. As a young woman told me the other day, life seems like just the same old thing one day after another. There is a better way. Go deep in a shallow age. Go deep in the ocean of faith while everyone else is tiptoeing around the surf.
Psalm 1 lays out a plan for going deep. First the Psalmist puts it negatively: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Going deep requires concentration on the substance below the surface. Going deep requires building a solid foundation, sinking down roots in God's way. Again to quote from Psalm 1, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” The believer who goes deep is single-minded, stable, unmoved by fads of faith and culture. Our true wealth is in the spirit not the flesh. Our life is based on God. Again the psalm says, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” This is real life, planted and solid. This is an alternative to shallow living we live in an age of shallow faith. The Psalmist says, It is like the chaff which the wind drives away. This is not our way. We are called to fill our soul with the presence of Christ, to breathe the rich air of the Spirit, to feast on the living word, until the lord is an all consuming presence in our ever-deepening lives.
Luke 15:31 is a part of the parable of the Prodigal Son that usually gets left out. In the parable, there are two sons. The younger son takes his inheritance and goes to a foreign land and wastes it all, every penny. He is reduced to grinding poverty, so much so that he takes a job feeding pigs and realizes that the pigs are better off than he is. Finally he goes back home thinking that he can at least get a job as one of his father's hired hands. But the father meets him with open arms, clothes him with fine robes, puts a ring on his finger and declares a day of feasting, for his son has come home. Now most sermons end there. The application is that God is the loving father who welcomes his sinful people home with loving arms. It is a beautiful thought, but that is not the end of the parable. There was another son. He was out working in the field when all this happened. When he comes home he sees all this music and dancing and he wonders what is going on. The slaves tell him that his prodigal brother has returned and everyone is celebrating. The eldest son is enraged. Why, he thinks, would anyone be happy that his improvident, irresponsible, lazy brother has come staggering home? His father comes out to reason with him, even as the father had come out to the returning prodigal. But the eldest son tells him exactly what he thinks He says, I work for you like a slave and you treat me like part of the furniture, and then you celebrate when this useless son of yours rambles home.
The father's reply is straight to the point. "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." This is a revelation of God's love. We often speak of the wonderful revelation of the father's love in his welcome to the prodigal younger son, but we also have a revelation of love in what the father says to the elder son.
Think about the first part of this verse: "Thou art ever with me;" God says, I am always with you. You can live every hour of your life in God's presence. As God's people, we have unbroken fellowship with God. That was the privilege of God's people in Old Testament times. We are told that "Enoch walked with God." God's promise to Jacob at Bethel was, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15). God was with his people. This is the truth taught in the Old Testament; and the New Testament. Thus, in John 14:23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” This is a message that we need to hear. This is a message that needs to penetrate our lives. The child of God has a blessed privilege. We can live every moment of our lives in God's blessed presence.
There are many Christians who think Christianity is only about conversion. They say, “I have been saved”—whatever they mean by that—and that is it, that is all there is to being a Christian, and I should just live like the world and be like the world. That is not Christianity at all. Christianity is about the HS dwelling in our hearts, and revealing God to us. We can live everyday with God's presence resting upon us. Thus no matter what happens around us, we have peace and confidence in our soul—because God says to us, "Thou art ever with me."
Then there is the second part of our verse, the father says to the eldest son: "All that I have is thine." We see this in the life and death of Christ. God has given us Jesus. God has given us the love of Jesus, the spirit of Jesus, the glory of Jesus. "All things are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." (I Cor. 3:22-23) All the riches of the Son, God bestows upon every one of His children. Thus the father says to us, "Thou art ever with me; and all that I have is thine."
That should be our experience in God. Unfortunately, it is not the experience of most people. Think back to the eldest son in the parable, and his complaint. “I work for you all the time and you never gave me even a scrawny goat, and the wastrel comes home and you kill the fatted calf and have a party.” We should ask, Why did the eldest son never have a party? Because he never asked. He did not believe that he would get it, and therefore never asked it, and never enjoyed it. So he lived all these years in murmuring and dissatisfaction. The point is that his father would have given him anything, yet because he never asked, he never received—and then he blamed his father for his lack. This does not really make any sense, but it is the way many people think.
Every believer has the promise of unbroken fellowship with God, but many say, “I do not feel much of God's presence. I guess God is just not with me.” Or they say, “I do not have time to devote myself to religion and prayer. I so busy I just do not have time to find God in my life.” This belittles God. If God placed each of us in our circumstances, God can be with us in those circumstances. No matter where we are or who we are, we can have a joy "unspeakable and full of glory," if we want it, if we ask for it.
The Father says, "All I have is thine." Are you rejoicing in the treasures of Christ? Are you conscious of a plentiful supply for all your spiritual needs every day? God has all these for you in abundance.
Think of it this way: God's sun shines on every flower, on every blade of grass, on everything that springs out of the ground. All receive a wealth of sunshine and water and they grow toward their destiny. Would the creator who made that sun be less willing to pour out his love and life on you and me?
Sometimes people say, God has given me some blessings, but never the full blessing. That is, God has never filled me with his Holy Spirit. This is like complaining that the father has never even given me a scrawny goat. The elder son thought he was serving his father faithfully “these many years,” but it was in the spirit of bondage and not in the spirit of a child, so that his shallow spirituality blinded him to his father's love, and he was unable to see that his father was ready, not only to give him a scrawny goat, but a hundred fatted calves--if he would have them. The problem was the elder brother was living in a superficial way, robbing himself of the privileges that the father had for him.
So, if there is a difference between our life and God's promises, the fault is ours. If our experience is not what God wants it to be, it is because of our shallow belief in the love of God, in the power of God, in the reality of God's promises.
If we are to have a deeper spiritual life, we must begin at the beginning and acknowledge our lack of trust in God. We must understand that by our limping faith we have prevented God from doing his work in us. We have not really reached out in faith and this is the cause of our sins and shortcomings. The root of wrongness in our lives is that we do not really believe that the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and strengthen us, and fill us with the grace of God all the day long.
Look at that elder son, and ask what was the cause of that terrible difference between the heart of the father and the experience of the son. There can be only one answer. Lack of belief blinded the son to a sense of his father's love.
If you are not living in the joy of God's salvation, the cause is a weak faith. You do not really believe in the mighty power of God. You do not really believe that the Holy Spirit can work a thorough change in your life. A superficial faith in a superficial age keeps us from claiming God's promises.
But what would happen if we really reached out in faith? What a change it would bring about! God in His love is ever willing to impart his blessing. God is all powerful in his love and God is doing His utmost to fill every heart .
But wait a minute. You might say, Can that be true? If God is all powerful, why does he not just do it? Why does God not make every human being into a loving person who is full of the HS? Because God does not work like that. You have a will, and by the exercise of that will, you can hinder God. You can be like the elder son and live a low life of semi-faith.
The elder son represents most people. They sort of believe. God is urging them to break through to a deeper way of believing. The elder brother represents all those who have sort of heard the promises of God, but are tiptoeing around the edge of those promises, not really willing to commit themselves to a deeper way of living.
But that is no way to live at all. What about you? You need a commitment to a deeper faith. You need to go deep.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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