Many of you likely know the story of the prodigal son. Some of you may even know it’s from the Bible. It’s the story of a wealthy man who had two sons. The younger son got bored of life under his father’s roof and demanded that he be given his inheritance.
The son goes off and proceeds to waste all his money on, as the old King James puts it, “riotous living.” When he had nothing left and had been reduced to eating pig slop he determined to return home and beg his father’s forgiveness hoping that he may be received back as one of the servants. Of course when he returns the father is overjoyed and will hear none of the son’s talk of becoming a servant. Instead the Father throws a huge party to celebrate the return of his son.
In telling this story Jesus illustrates a number of things not the least of which is the grace of God. (There’s a surprising lesson about the older son but that’s for another day.) One of the illustrations is about the nature of rebellion against God.
In my childhood I had always understood the younger son’s sin was in the wild partying. But the true nature of his rebellion was in saying to his Father, I don’t need you. I can be my own authority.
A very wise man (my Dad) has pointed out that all rebellion against God starts not with what we do but in the attitude that I can be my own god. I don’t need to listen to God; I will set my own course and make my own way, and I will be my own highest authority.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit the temptation wasn’t “eat this and you will be greater than God,” it was “this will give you wisdom and you won’t need God.”
So you see a person can be very moral and upstanding, living an exemplary life even doing much good, but foundationally is still a sinner. Jesus, by contrast, lived his life in absolute submission to the authority of his Father God. “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…I always do what pleases him.”
Right now in many of you reading this there is a resistance rising up against that thought, “I do nothing on my own.” That’s the sin nature that we all are born with, and that’s what Jesus died to replace for us. There can be no friendship with God until you give up control.