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Posted: March 6, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Journey away from home begins in the mind

In our last column, we began exploring the parable of the Prodigal Son. Last week we left the prodigal son as he headed away into a far country with his cash and dreams. No more rules, no more regulations, he was going to live the good life, and like many today he was too short-sighted to consider the ultimate cost.

In the story of prodigal son, we learn a number of important lessons. The first we looked at last week — the fact that there really are no free rides; eventually the time comes when we have to pay the proverbial piper.

There is another sad reality in this young man’s journey toward self-destruction. As good as things were at home, he somehow came to believe that there was more. Life on the farm was tedious and boring. The glamour of the wild life lured him. Like the mythical siren’s call, forbidden pleasures piqued his imagination and the rules of the father became burdensome. He was meant for more than the restrictive living of home.

Sound familiar? Many times discontentment begins in the mind before it ever reaches the feet. I am told that the great danger of our modern means of media is its ability to by-pass the conscious mind and appeal directly to our imaginations.

A number of years ago, I found myself a fan of a certain style of music. The move into this new genre was a great and sudden departure from my old listening habits. I enjoyed the music. It kept me company through long nights of patrol as a college public safety officer. I really didn’t think much of it; it was harmless entertainment. However, I was shocked at myself when I started entertaining thoughts that were foreign to my belief system. I will not elaborate more than to say these thoughts were disturbing and troubling. They were sudden and persistent. They were different than anything I had ever experienced. They produced in me thoughts and feelings that alarmed me.

As I began analyzing those thoughts it dawned upon me that I was rehearsing what I had been placing in my imagination through the new music I discovered. All of a sudden my choice of entertainment was not so entertaining.

Like the boy in our story, the journey away from home begins in the mind, and if we are not careful, it will reveal itself in our actions. I don’t know the source of the boy’s affection — maybe it was friends who went off to Jewish University and discovered that partying was more exciting than studying. Maybe traveling salesmen filled his mind with stories of wild night on the town. Whatever the source, the boy decided he wanted it and he headed off to sow his wild oats.

In the parable, Jesus points out that this boy headed for a distant land. I have discovered that the second step toward destruction begins with the process of removing ourselves from the presence of those who hold us accountable. In this case, it was father and older brother. But by extension it was probably his old Synagogue teacher and the local priests.

As a pastor it always alarms me when I see people who have been active in the church, suddenly becoming inactive; moving away from the fellowship. Nine times out of ten, this is the first step people make when they are preparing to head away from Christ and into enemy territory. They don’t want people knowing what they are up to. They think by going to their distant lands, people who care about them won’t know or won’t suspect.

I can’t help contrasting this young man with another young man, Daniel. Daniel was only 17 years old when he was taken into a distant land. But unlike this prodigal we read of, Daniel, despite the distance, despite the anonymity of being so far away from home, made up his mind to stay true to God (See Daniel 1:8).

Well, space eludes me. Where are you on the path today? Are you following the example of Daniel determined not to defile yourself with the world’s choice delicacies (which ultimately will leave you empty) or are you following the example of the prodigal, determined to satisfy your imagination and getting as far away from your conscience as possible?

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016 or john.pearrell@gatewaycommunity.org

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