In my recent three-part series of blog posts, “Leaving the Faith of Their Fathers,” I discussed how parents and grandparents grieve over their prodigals — children who have grown up in the church but, as adults, no longer share their Biblical values. Yet I cannot leave the subject without addressing the prodigal children themselves.

       Most prodigals suggest their parents or their church are to blame for their defection. Others claim intellectual doubt. However, in reality, most are like a man in the New Testament named Demas, who the Apostle Paul describes as a “fellow worker” in ministry with him. Yet Paul later writes that Demas left the faith because he “loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10NASB). Indeed, this is simply the case for most prodigals. Their love of the pleasures of the world has drawn them away from the faith of their fathers.

      While it is unlikely that most prodigals will read this post, I write it in hopes that even one with a softening heart may be willing to hear the pleas, repent, and return to the God of their fathers.

Dear prodigal,

      Please set aside your differences to thoughtfully consider why your parents are so heartbroken. Your parents are not perfect. None of us are. But chances are they love you more than anyone else in the world. So whether you are intentionally trying to hurt them or just being selfishly ambivalent to their concerns, they do not deserve the agony your spiritual defiance is causing. Despite their flaws, there is one perfect Father who loved you enough to sacrifice his son for your eternal salvation. Your parents are heartbroken because they fear your rejection of God will destroy you for eternity and keep you from a wonderful relationship with them in Heaven.

      Hell is certain for those who reject God. I am not going to sugarcoat it. You will die one day. It is certain. There is no escaping it. Worse, God’s judgment and the punishment of Hell is also certain for the unbeliever. So please don’t be flippant. Hell is not to be laughed off as a giant party or a place you can mingle with worldly friends. Jesus explicitly warned several times that those who reject Him will be cast into fiery darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (see Luke 13:28). That does not make God unloving. Rather, it is by His love that His justice abolishes sin and evil to make all things new and pure for the believer in eternity.

       Perhaps you think that once you accepted Christ, you were saved regardless of how you lived or what you believed from that point on. However, the Bible warns us:

“By this gospel, you are saved IF you hold firmly to the word I have preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).

“…if we disown him, he will also disown us” (2 Timothy 2:12).

“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20).

       While you may think you have plenty of time, there is no promise you will live until old age. Death may come at any time without warning. While you may be lucky enough to live a long life, your heart becomes more calloused with every passing day, and repentance will be increasingly difficult. Therefore I plead with you to consider that your defiant rejection of God is a dangerous bet against the punishment of Hell.

     However, for those who believe there is the magnificent promise of escaping the punishment of Hell and spending eternity in Heaven. Jesus assures us. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). That is not wishful speculation. It is a proven demonstration. Jesus conquered the grave and promised, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).

     The Bible describes a grand reunion in Heaven called the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” where we will enjoy fellowship with our loved ones in Christ, worship God, and rejoice in His grace forever. “No eye has seenno ear has heardand no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 GW).

     This is why your parents fervently pray that their family’s spiritual circle be unbroken for eternity. They want you there!  God promises He is making “all things new” for us in Heaven (see Revelation 21:5). This means what may have been an imperfect relationship with your family on earth will be a new, wonderful relationship with them in Heaven! Do not miss that exciting reunion! Do not miss it for the world!

     In the final book of the Bible, Jesus makes this straightforward appeal to prodigals, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:4-5).

     After the prodigal son wasted his entire inheritance in wild living, he wound up at rock bottom…feeding pigs on a farm. He suddenly realized he was totally wrong, repented of his sin, returned humbly to his dad, and begged for forgiveness. His gracious father embraced him and immediately restored him to the family. He called everyone within shouting distance, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate! For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:23-24).

     So, please, dear prodigal, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts [as in the rebellion]” (Psalm 95:7). Heed these words and return now to the faith of your fathers. Your parents desperately need you now. Your children need your Godly influence now. The church, the family of God, needs you now. And the world needs your Godly impact now. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

     Your Heavenly Father is waiting now on the front porch, eager to race to you and welcome you back home. So are the rest of us.


 Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.


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