A Grateful Rebel: Book Study – Chapter 5

16 February, 2015
Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son

In the story of the prodigal son Jesus presents a father who responds to his rebellious son differently than any one would expect.

The son who loved himself more than his father and who ran toward rebelliousness returns home broken, repentant, and humbled. The father runs to him and wraps him in his arms and in his love and then throws a feast in honor of his son’s return.

Jesus reveals something to us in this story not only about our own tendency to run from the Father toward self fulfillment, but about the Father himself. He shows us that the Father loves us and gives us a home regardless of whether we deserve it. We are His beloved children whom He rejoices over when we return home. That’s what it means to be be the beloved.  He loves us not because of anything we’ve done (like the older brother might like to believe), but because he loves us.

The story of the prodigal son is a great story. It’s even better when we realize that it’s our story! This is how our Father has responded to us. In love. That’s the invitation of the Gospel. That we get to come home!

This tremendous outpouring of Love can be difficult for us. What are we supposed to do with it? How are we supposed to respond? This chapter proposes that we begin with thankfulness. If you want to experience being the Father’s beloved child, start with gratefulness and watch how he transforms you into a child who celebrates being back home with the Father.

Study Questions

1. Think about the story of Rick’s son who was given a car. He received it freely, but often when we receive a gift we twist it into something we have to earn or repay. Do you feel guilty or grateful for the free grace you have received from God?

2. On page 77 Rick says, “If we took a test, we would likely say that God is good and loving. But if we’re being honest, we would have to admit that we often don’t feel as if God even likes us.” When we start there, we don’t have freedom because we start with a lie about who God is. What are some of the lies you have believed about who God is?

3. Think about the parable of the prodigal son and this quote from Rick: “You are not good or bad at being the beloved.You simply are the beloved of the Father, whether lost or found” (81). What inspires you about this story?

4. In that parable we see the prodigal son act in two completely different ways. The first time we see him, he is athome with his father who loves him, but he runs away from it all toward rebellion. At the end of the story we see the same son as one who returns humbled and grateful to be near the father. What are you currently running to?

Previous Chapters

To engage previous chapters follow the links below.

1. http://rickmckinley.net/the-cry-for-freedom

2. http://rickmckinley.net/live-fully

3. http://rickmckinley.net/god-is-love

4. http://rickmckinley.net/being-the-beloved-book-study-chapter-4

8 Responses to “A Grateful Rebel: Book Study – Chapter 5”

  1. Wes

    3. “You are not good or bad at being the beloved.” Thank you for those words. They are a reminder to me like a foothold. Something for me to chew on and get strength from. Much like a life preserver in a storm those words keep me above the waves. It’s all of those and more for me when worries (waves) come.

    I don’t mean that as bleakly as it sounds. It’s not that dark now. But sometimes the light is not as bright. I have experienced God’s love many times. But those words alone are worth way more than the price of the book. I can carry those in my pocket.

  2. Heidi Dahlin

    1. I find it very hard to receive gifts, including when someone says thank you or pays me a compliment. I find myself feeling very uncomfortable and usually say something self-deprecating and come across as ungrateful. Then I tell myself I was stupid, just for good measure. Learning how to receive is so hard and the example of your son receiving a blessing with gratitude rather than guilt is something to strive for. I can understand God loving other people, but get uncomfortable when it comes to me receiving his grace. I appreciate you pointing out that in wanting to “deserve” (earn?) God’s love, I am really trying to tell God how to run the show; trying to invent a different God than one who offers grace and looks at me as his beloved. Gratefully receiving grace is something I have to practice over and over; it doesn’t seem to come naturally for me. I think your observation is spot on in that we did not grow up in a culture of grace like Josh did. Growing up, favor needed to be earned from my parents. They loved me, but later they expressed fear that I would not learn the value of work if things were given without being earned. I don’t blame them; I found my own way to mess up my children. Practicing gratitude is something I’m working hard on to be the default response to God’s grace.

    I second Erica’s thanks for the sermons on the parable of the Prodigal. Your series 9 years ago inspired me to check out Refuge, which has been so helpful in working through these issues.

    • Rick McKinley

      Thanks Heidi! You’re words are very encouraging.
      Thanks for reiterating the point that when we try to earn God’s love we are really trying to invent a new God that we are more comfortable with. One that gives us what we earn instead of our God who gives without our deserving it. Heidi, it sounds like you understand the amazing gift of love that God has given you, and It is easy to tell that you are grateful for it.

  3. Ruben J. Alvarado

    #1—I know that God loves us unconditionally, but there are moments of uncertainty. There are moments of guilt and gratefulness. When I’m feeling guilty, am I worthy of such love? I remind myself that I did not earn being the beloved, Jesus did. For that, I am very grateful and filled with love for Him. There seems to be more moments of gratefulness for his blessings surround us. Then a thought creeps in and stealthily says why are you so favored? There’s danger in feeling so favored that we feel guilty. One wonders how long will this favoritism last? Will one feel loved in a time of trial or tribulation? The danger is that we lose our focus on Him. Self-love can overtake us and place us in a position of the older son. We must be pleasing to God for we have been righteous. Others become our prodigal sons. Do we feel that our sacrifice of thanksgiving is inadequate?A daily battle ensues between feelings of guilt and the receiving of God’s gift in thanksgiving. Along with thankfulness, I must come to him in humbleness as the prodigal son. Thus I will be nearer to God our Father.

    • Rick McKinley

      You’re right. Humility and thankfulness go hand in hand. Guilt keeps us focused on ourselves. Gratitude reorients us toward Him. Though, God has shown us favor, he does not show us favoritism based on anything we do. His favor does not set us on a pedestal but reminds us who we are in relationship to Him. We are the ones receiving a generous gift without deserving it. We could never deserve it. Therefore the only response is thankfulness. Thank you Ruben for your thought provoking response. You paint a good picture of how we all struggle between guilt and gratitude. May we continue to come to the Father with thankfulness and humility and see how God changes us in the process.

  4. Erica

    2. I was in this place a few year ago and now I am working out of it. I found my life unbearable. I didn’t blame the person who cause the pain, I blamed God for letting someone like that come into my life. I wrestled with why God allows children to be abused. How can he be up in Heaven and bear it, not doing anything? And I could tell myself that God would redeem it, or that God was grieving too, but to daily live through it just hardened my heart. I couldn’t be thankful. I believed that he found happiness in my despair. I believe that he wanted me to hurt so I would learn. I believed He was angry, indifferent, sad, but folding his hands. That if I could just figure out why He wouldn’t help, maybe someday He would help.

    3. I’m glad we’ve done so many sermon’s on this parable. There’s something incredible each time. Realizing why the older son wasn’t right to yesterday’s message of hospitality. (Please come to our 600 sqft house and enjoy our crying infant) My family actually acted out the prodigal son as Star Trek characters at church when I was a kid. I’m inspired by God knowing and pointing out our indifference, and cruelty towards him. Yet he runs to meet us. When we “ask for our inheritance” and try to control our own lives. By the lost older son. Inviting Jesus into our space, to be in our stuff, which is all over our floor.

    • Rick McKinley

      Erica, thank you for your encouragement.

      You’re right, it is so easy to interpret God’s silence as a lack of caring. You mentioned that if you could just figure out why he wasn’t helping then you could change your ways and maybe he would start helping you. This is so common. We think that God’s attention requires us to earn it. Thank you for being honest about this.
      It is great to hear that God is helping you see that He loves you, and that you are letting him teach you about His love, and His hospitality. Thanks for reminding us that we need to trust Him enough to let him into our messy spaces!


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