The following is a sample devotional from Bear’s new book Living Under The Cross, available now through Amazon. If you’re looking for a personal, or family, or couples’ devotional to get you ready for Easter, this might be a perfect resource!
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:3
Living under the Cross will change the way we look at holiness, a lesson illustrated by the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son.
When the prodigal son returns, and his father kills the fatted calf for him, the older brother is incensed and refuses to go in to the party. He says to his father “Look, these many years I have served you.” (The NIV says, “I have slaved for you.”) “And I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” (Luke 15:29)
His very words show that the way he thinks of holiness is defective. Here he’s been obeying his father, and how does he look at it? My brother’s out having fun while I’m back here slaving for you. How many times have we thought: Oh I’m a Christian now. No more fun for me. It’s the Mardi Gras fallacy. Let’s party it up while we can, ‘cuz the next 40 days are going to be sheer drudgery.
Could we think this through logically for a moment? Who is going to end up happier in life – someone who goes around carousing each weekend, staggers into the house at 3 AM, wakes up puking, can’t think straight, can barely hold a job, can scarcely hold his marriage together, hardly knows his kids – or someone who doesn’t do all those things?
Who’s going to look in the mirror at the end of his or her life and feel better? Sure there’s pleasure in sin. The Bible says as much. I’m sure at first, the younger son was having the time of his life when he ran away. But it’s a pleasure that never lasts. And this movie always ends the same way. Addiction. Poverty. Regret. Shame.
Where is true happiness found? It’s found in obeying God. In keeping his commandments. King David wrote in Psalm 16, “In your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There’s nothing to be gained or learned by ever giving in to sin.
The older son griped because his dad never gave them a goat to celebrate with. But whose fault was that? Did the father ever forbid it? No! In fact, the father turns around and says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Christian, do you know that you’re home right now? You just need to click your heels together three times and you’ll be there. And if your life of faith has seemed droll and drab lately, whose fault is that? You need to look at your life the way this parable tells you to look at your life. You are always with the Father. You are forgiven of everything you have ever done wrong. You are an heir of eternal life. And the Holy Spirit is inside of you to teach you and help you live rightly.
You’re not missing out on any true joy by being a Christian. And you should never envy those who are adrift in their sin. It will all dry up on them in the end. And then it will enslave them, and destroy them.
Don’t envy them. Instead pity them. Love them. Pray for them. Go to them and share with them the hope that is in you. Introduce them to Real Joy.
1. Why do you think the “pleasures forevermore” that God gives sometimes seem less desirable than the pleasures our sin offers?
2. What would you tell the older brother if he came and asked you for advice?
Father, you are always with me, and everything you have is mine in Christ. Jesus you said that if I loved you, I would obey you. So Spirit of God, would you increase my love for you. Fill me to overflowing, that I would see the pleasures of sin as they really are – lifeless and empty.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.