One of the biggest struggles people face when wrestling with habitual sinful behavior is living in a cycle of defeat and failure. Today, we are going to address how you can break this for good. Are you ready to learn how to break free from shame and condemnation? If you are, let’s dive in!
In the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel, we find the familiar parable of the prodigal son. But as familiar as this story may be to you, let’s try our best to look at it with fresh eyes.
The story reads as follows:
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32, ESV)
If you’ve been stuck in porn or another sinful behavior for any length of time, you are familiar with the pigsty that it leaves you in. Porn is a thief and a liar. It promises fulfillment, feelings of being loved, and satisfaction, but it doesn’t give you these things. Instead, it leaves you empty and starving, covered in shame, and feeling like you’ve messed up so badly that you can’t go back home. This is where the enemy has a hay day with us. He covers us with shame and whispers accusations of worthlessness and condemnation over us. He tells us lies about the true nature of our Father—that He cannot be trusted to be good to us, that we cannot trust Him to be merciful and loving, and that we must stay at a distance or face our Father’s wrath.
While there are many potential takeaways from this story, the goal of today’s lesson is simple. If you have wandered away from home, lived in sinful behavior, and you find yourself starving in a pigsty, it’s time to come to cast these lies aside, come to your senses like the prodigal and come home. You may be afraid, but when you decide to take the journey home, you will not find a wrathful, angry father who shames you for your wrong choices.
Rather, when you repent and turn toward home, you will find a loving, forgiving father who runs out to meet you while you are still on the road. You will find a father who kisses you. Rather than cover you with shame, He will get you washed up, put a new robe on you, and place a ring on your finger. He’ll even throw a party to celebrate your return. Feelings of shame and condemnation will melt away in His embrace. At once, you will realize that your Father is better than you could possibly have imagined—and in the revelation of His love, you will begin to find healing and restoration. You will realize that though you left home searching for love and life in all the wrong places, you have finally found those things by coming back on the very road you left on.
So what should you do if you fall back into your struggle? It’s simple. Every single time you fall into temptation, get up quickly, and run into the embrace of your Heavenly Father. The writer of Hebrews says it this way,
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
Our Father is not waiting to smash us with a hammer when we mess up. Rather, He is grieved that we have chosen to walk away from life, and He is longing for us to return to Him. He knows how sin will destroy us—which is why it grieves His heart when we choose to sin—but He also knows how His love will restore us. Every time we return home, we are reminded that our failures do not have the final word over us—but that God’s love does. Despite our wanderings, failings, and outright rebellion at times, time and again, we will find our Father to be full of mercy, grace, and love. We need only to leave the pigsty and begin the journey back home, and before we are even there, we will find our Father running to meet us. We need not stay far off in fear. We must come home in faith that our Father truly is good, and that He will at once receive us and lead us back into the life He created us for!
Day 12 Freedom Work
Scripture Reading — Read Luke 15 and Hebrew 4 slowly and carefully, taking note of why we run to God in our time of need, and what God’s heart is toward us.
Journaling Exercises — Answer the following questions at length in your journal. Aim to write for about 5-7 minutes per question:
- Why did the prodigal son choose to starve in a pigsty rather than go back to his father? What wrong view of his father kept him from repenting and returning home?
- If we view God as a temperamental, angry father, what effect does that have on our ability to trust him? Does this cause us to hide from him or to run to him? Why?
- If we view God as a loving father who is grieved when we sin because it hurts us and others, and is longing to lavish His restorative love on us, how would it cause us to respond differently when we sin? Would we remain hiding in fear or would we run into his arms as quickly as possible? How would this play out in your own life?
Prayer — Father, if I’m honest, there are times when I struggle to see you as loving and restorative, and it keeps me from running back into your loving arms. Under the weight of my own sin, my vision of you gets twisted, and I feel you are out to get me—even though this is not the truth. I thank you that you are love. You hate my sin simply because you love me and you cannot stand to watch me go down paths that are destructive and harmful of both myself and others. Help me to see you not as an angry father who is waiting to punish me when I mess up, but as a loving father who is longing to restore me through his relentless love. Reveal to me by your Spirit the lies I’ve believed about you that have caused me to be afraid of you rather than run to you in my time of need. May I be quick to return home should I find myself wandering, and may I find rest in your loving arms. Amen.