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Relating to God as a Son, Not a Sinner

I was listening to a Bible teacher and he said, “God wants you to know that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, that God, Who is the Creator is your Father and it’s important that you maintain a son-Father relationship, a Father-son relationship. When you come to God, you must come to God in the posture, even the emotions, of a son*, not that of a sinner.

It was that last part that really touched me, even awakened something in me: “When you come to God, you must come to God in the posture, even the emotions, of a son, not that of a sinner.” I know what the Bible says about us having the full rights as sons (Gal 3:26-29, 4:5-6, Rom 8:14-17) and the privileges of a son. Yet these words awakened an even deeper awareness: even in my sin, even in my need of overcoming sin, my place is not that of a sinner, but as a favored one, as a son who comes to his Father.

In Luke 15:11-32, we find the account of the prodigal son, in misery and desperation returning to his father. He said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son” (verse 21). All the while his father is kissing and hugging him! The son believed that the only way that he could return to his father was as a slave, not a son. Make no mistake about it: what the prodigal did to his father was very wrong, it was a great sin and insult against God and his father. The son deserved to be rejected and cast out. But what this son failed to see was that he is always a son, sin and all. He is a son, not because he is ever “worthy” of it, but because of his father’s love. Yet, conscious only of his sin and unworthiness, his approach to his father was not as a son, but as a sinner, reduced to nothing more than a mere hired servant.

Many of us are like that prodigal son, feeling like we are unworthy to be called God’s son because of the sin we have committed, ultimately against God. So we come to God relating to him as a sinner, instead of as a son. We must remember that we are sons (and daughters) of God, not because we are so good, but because God is that good.

By the way, the prodigal didn’t even get out all of his prepared “I’m not worthy to be called your son” speech. The moment he said “and am no longer worthy to be called your son” his father interrupted him, gushing him with love and orders to his servants to bring out the best robe and put it on him, a ring on his hand, sandals for his feet and the fatted calf for a celebration.

Pause and think of that. Think of how filthy, sinful and shameful that son felt as he was returning to his father. Reflect on how his father responded with just the opposite: with the overwhelming love of a grateful father who was so very happy that his lost son was back.

That’s how God thinks of us. This story is told in Luke 15 among a trio of parables that Jesus used to teach about the kingdom and our Father’s heart. In each of the parables something precious is lost, is sought and found with great joy.

The prodigal son wasn’t the only son who didn’t understand that his father lovingly wants to relate to him as a son. That was the problem the older son had, too (Luke 15:25-32). This son was so bitter at his father’s celebration at the return of his lost son. He had no idea of his father’s love for both of his sons. The older son, meanwhile, thought he was a servant, a slave to his father. In anger he cried out, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders” (Luke 15:29 NIV). Notice the word “slaving”. And look how that slavish attitude distorted his view of his father’s love and generosity: “and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” (Luke 15:30)

Listen to what the father said to the older son, in verse 31, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours”. Notice the first word that comes out of the mouth of the father: “SON”. That’s the key right there: the older son — and even the prodigal younger son — did not enjoy the son-father relationship. In the case of the prodigal, he thought that his sins were so bad that he lost any status of a son, and maybe his father might still take him in as a hired servant so that he would not starve anymore. . We can see in this parable how both sons lost sight of the fact that they were indeed sons, because of their father. Both lost sight of his great heart of love, favor and blessing toward his sons.

We can so lose sight of the Father’s love by thinking we are servants, worse unworthy sinners, instead of the sons that we are, all because of our Father’s love and the perfect, finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. What a great difference it makes when stop and remember that we are indeed his beloved children, that we are blessed with all (Eph 1:3, 2 Cor 9:8), all because of our Father’s incredibly generous heart!

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!* Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 NKJV)

* The Bible uses the term “son” to refer to a rightful heir. In the culture of the Bible times, only a son had the rights to the inheritance, not a daughter. Yet in the heart of God, expressed in the New Covenant, both men and women are considered rightful heirs, and therefore considered “sons”.