The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

James R. Aist

Perhaps when you read the title of this article you thought to yourself, “Doesn’t he mean the lost sheep?” After all, that’s the way the later-added, extra-biblical headings refer to this parable. And, in my experience, this parable is commonly used to refer to God pursuing unbelievers until they have been drawn all the way to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, God does exactly that (John 6:44), but is that what this particular parable is really about? Let’s take a closer look, and find out.

Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search for the one which went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine which never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12-14).

Notice that the scene opens with the man actually owning 100 sheep. If he has them, then he owns them; these sheep belong to this man. Moreover, if this man did not already own these sheep, then none of them could actually go astray, because the man would have no rightful claim to them in the first place. So, right away, we can see that this is a parable about, not a wild sheep belonging to no one, but a prodigal sheep belonging to the man.

Having this perspective, then, let’s proceed to what I believe to be the correct spiritual meaning of this parable: It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones whom the Father has given Me (John 10:29) should perish. Jesus is the man in the parable. Now we can see that the parable of the lost sheep is really about the Father pursuing a backslider that He has already saved until he is brought back into the lifestyle and fellowship of the saints who are following Jesus. And, that is exactly why He will raise all of them up on the Last Day (John 6:39), not just the ones who didn’t backslide!

Now, if you will indulge me for a few moments more, I want to make a point of comparison. If you will take a look at the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-28, you will see that it begins in a fashion similar to the parable of the lost sheep: “A man had two sons.” They were his sons throughout the parable, and when the prodigal son returned to his father, he was reinstated, not adopted, into his father’s household. Although these two parables differ in detail, there are many parallels. Perhaps now you can better understand why I chose to say “prodigal sheep” in the title of this article.

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

Why Is There a “T” in “LGBT”

Why Is There a “T” in “LGBT”

James R. Aist

Introduction

The acronym “LGBT” was invented by the homosexual movement to refer to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. The combined LGB (homosexual) sub-group comprises only about 2-4% of the general population, and so, by itself, would not seem large enough to garner sufficient sympathy for their agenda. Leaders of the homosexual movement continue to stress that “homosexual” and “transgender” are really quite different in nature. So, why, then, is “transgender” included in the homosexual movement? This seems to be an enigma. Is there an explanation for this association that goes deeper than a mere desire to involve a slightly larger number of “oppressed” people in the homosexual movement in order to achieve the goals of their agenda?

Scientific revelation

In the process of researching transgender issues (click HERE), I discovered a direct, more fundamental association between “homosexual” and “transgender” than the mere desire to gain strength through numbers. Scientific studies (see References 1 & 2, below) have found that 73%-81% of male-to-female transgendered “females” are still sexually attracted to females! So, by definition, to the extent that these transgendered “females” have actually become female, they have also become virtual lesbians. This is a direct link of “transgender” to “homosexual”, and it would seem to provide a more fundamental connection of “transgender” to the homosexual movement than a mere desire to involve a larger number of “oppressed” people in the homosexual movement.

Moral implication

Here is an often overlooked ramification of Deuteronomy 22:5 with 1 Corinthians 1:6-9 (click HERE) to the practice of gender transformation and subsequent sexual relations. “Do not be deceived; God will not be mocked” (Galatians 6:7): if a male-to-female transgender person has sex with a man, he is committing a homosexual sin, because he is, in reality, still a man. Likewise, if a female-to-male transgender person has sex with a female, she is committing a homosexual sin, because she is, in reality, still a woman. In other words, such transgender sex becomes homosexual sin, thus providing another direct link between “transgender” and “homosexual”. And, as with any kind of sin, sexual or otherwise, the only effective way for such a person to be reconciled to God and spend eternity in heaven with Him is to confess the sins, repent of them and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We have God’s word on it!

References

  1. Auer, M., et al., 2014. Transgender Transitioning and Change of Self-Reported Sexual Orientation. PloS One. (click HERE)
  2. Author unspecified. 2016. Transgender sexuality, References 7 and 8. Wikipedia.    (click HERE)

(To read more of my articles on HOMOSEXUALITY and TRANSGENDERISM, click HERE)

What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

James R. Aist

“If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Freedom has been defined as the right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship, the right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference. The Bible says we (Christians) have freedom in Christ, and that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). We have this freedom if we remain in (believe, adhere to and obey) His word. But what, exactly, is this freedom that we have in Christ? Even apart from Christ, mankind has a natural freedom to make decisions and choices and to think and say most anything he wants. Our freedom in Christ must be a different kind or expression of freedom.

So then, in Christ, what exactly are we free from? Here is a short list I have put together for you to ponder:

1. We are free from the “law of sin and death.” This law is stated succinctly in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” So, if you die in your sins, your payment will be (spiritual) death. But, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Therefore, we no longer have to fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55)!

2. We are free from bondage to sin. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Who among us has not experienced the grip that sin can have on a person? If not “nipped in the bud”, sin can become more powerful than our will to resist it. Thankfully, Paul has pointed us to the solution to the power of sin, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). How glorious it is to walk in the freedom from sin!

3. We are free from the burden of the Law. The Old Testament Law served to convict mankind of sin, but did nothing to save him from the consequences of it, because “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Law is a burden too heavy for anyone to stand up under, but Jesus has made a way out of this dilemma for us, as Paul explains, “When we were in the flesh, the passions of sin, through the law, worked in our members to bear fruit leading to death. But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound…” (Romans 7:5-6a). The burden has been lifted!

4. We are free from our past. Because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), most of us have built up a backlog of unforgiven sins by the time God saves us. In the “conversion” process, we confess our sins to God and repent of them. And, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At that moment, all of our past sins are forgiven and we are set free, forever, from the guilt and shame of our past life. This is what we refer to as “justification”, and our relationship with God is, at that point in time, “Just as if we had never sinned.” We are freed from our sinful past because Jesus paid the price for our sins by His substitutionary death on the cross. There is no other way for us to be freed from our past; Jesus made the way for us!

5. We are free from the veil of separation. Until Jesus was nailed to the cross, there was a veil in the Temple separating the people from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33). But while Jesus was still on the cross, that veil was torn in two at the middle (Luke 23:45), giving us free access to God, so that now we are instructed to “…come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). No more layer of priests standing between us and God’s throne of mercy and grace!

6. We are free from self-serving motives. I was blessed beyond words when this revelation was given to me. All religions, except Christianity, teach that our good works earn us a place in heaven with God when we die. This false doctrine of “salvation by works” makes it virtually impossible to do a good work that is not, at least in part or at some level, motivated by the perceived need to earn your way to heaven. Thus, apart from the uniquely Christian doctrine of salvation by grace alone, good works are done with a self-serving motive, not with a pure love for either God or for the one being blessed. But, Jesus already did the work – all of it – that is required for a born-again Christian to qualify for heaven (click HERE), and there is no good work we can do that will improve on that. Jesus declared from the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30), and so, it is finished! Since we are already guaranteed a spot in heaven (1 John 5:13), we are now free to do good works for pure, unselfish motives, e.g., it will please God, it is the right thing to do, someone needs help, etc. And that, my friends, is what “love your neighbor” is really about! Paul put it this way, “But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound, so that we may serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter of the law” (Romans 7:6). Jesus “paid it all”, that we may be free to truly “love one another” with pure motives!

My friends, I believe that these are six of the most important freedoms in Christ that we have as born-again believers. Perhaps you will want to add to the list. In any case, I trust that you have been blessed, as I have, by thinking on these things with me for a few moments.

(To read more of my BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Forgiving as We Are Forgiven

Image result for forgive free images

Forgiving as We Are Forgiven

 James R. Aist

 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

What does it mean to “forgive” someone, and how can we know that we have truly forgiven them? In Ephesians 4:32, we are instructed to forgive as God has forgiven us. So, answers to these questions can surely be found in an understanding of how God forgives us. Let’s go to the Scriptures to find out how God’s forgiveness of our sins is portrayed there.

First, let’s check out what Hebrews 10:16-18 has to say in this regard: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” Here, we see clearly that “remember no more” is indeed referring to forgiven sins that no longer need a blood sacrifice (because Jesus paid the price for them with His own blood). But, it does not say that God cannot remember them (i.e., that He has amnesia); it says that He will not remember them (i.e., by choice). And Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Once again, we see that it is God’s will at work here, not amnesia. And it clarifies the matter for us by explaining that the Lord will never “count our sins against us.” So, we see that when God says that He will “remember our forgiven sins no more”, He is not saying that He will forget them in the sense of amnesia, but that, by an overt act of His sovereign will, He will, intentionally, never again bring them to His mind and count them against us. That, in effect, blots them out from our “record” in heaven. That is what God requires of us: by an overt act of our will, we must resolve to stop bringing their sins to our mind and to stop holding them against him/her. And, when we do this, we are bringing ourselves into obedience with the “golden rule”, which commands us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

But, let’s not leave it at that. Let’s flesh this out a bit with more detail, so that we can get a better overall picture of what true forgiveness does and does not “look like” on the level of human experience. To do this, consider first what true forgiveness is not. It is not pretending that we cannot remember what was done to us. It is not pretending that the wrong done against us was not really wrong. It is not pretending that we were not offended. And it is not pretending that, when reminded of the offense, we don’t feel the same feelings as we did before. True forgiveness is honest and real. When we have forgiven someone, we no longer allow our minds to obsess with what they did. We no longer allow our minds to dwell on how we feel about it. We no longer allow ourselves to rehearse their sins in our mind, or to anyone else, to get sympathy or to avenge the wrongdoings. We do not allow ourselves to hope for anything bad to happen to them. We treat them with the respect, courtesy and honor that is due to everyone made in the image of God (i.e., everybody), even if we don’t feel like it. And we pray that God will bless them with all good things. In short, we follow the “golden rule” with respect to them, despite what they did and how we feel about it.

Having said that, let me insert a few caveats to try and balance out this brief treatment of forgiveness. First, forgiveness is often very difficult to accomplish, and it may take a long time to get there, so don’t give up when you fail in one aspect or another. Just ask God to forgive you, re-double your efforts and try to do better next time. Second, you may experience doubts that you have really forgiven. When that happens, consider whether or not you are doing what forgiveness looks like. If you are not, then you have more work to do. If, however, you are doing what forgiveness looks like, then it is probably just Satan trying to discourage and condemn you because you can still feel the hurt. Remember that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Do not believe him, and continue to walk in forgiveness. Your feelings will, eventually, catch up with your (continuing) acts of forgiveness. Third, forgiveness does not always mean that you have to renew a broken relationship. For example, a marriage that is “on the rocks” because of adultery does not have to be resumed, and a spouse who was physically abused does not have to return to the relationship, just because they have forgiven the wrongs that were done. Forgiveness is required (“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15), but continuing with the relationship is not; that is a separate, albeit related, issue. And fourth, forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that you do not want to see justice done. If the law has been broken by the person who sinned, the law will require justice through punishment of the guilty party, and you can stand for justice. But, you are required by the law of God (e.g., Matthew 6:15) to forgive them for what they did.

Finally, let’s keep in mind what Jesus said about this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45).  Because all have sinned (Romans 3:23), not one of us has a right to hold back forgiveness from anyone for anything done against us. The only one who ever had that right was the only righteous One, Jesus Christ, and He said, instead, “Father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34).

(To read more of my biblical teachings, click HERE)