Summary: Do you have ever wonder whatt causes someone to walk away from God or how it could even happen to you? Learn the stages and how to get with God and even stop the Prodigal in his tracks.
The 7 Stages of the Prodigal
We can be a prodigal and not even know it. The young man in this parable "came to himself" when he was slopping with the pigs. But if we are aware of the stages we might come to ourselves much earlier and avoid some of the consequences of being estranged from God, or perhaps we can recognize them in others and can assist them in cutting short the fall to rock bottom.
Stage 1 - Steady State
At home, everything seems normal, but he is unsettled. Why does sin’s siren song reach us:
We become complacent, self sufficient, and feeling as if we’ve arrived.
We let our guard down.
1 Peter 5:8-11 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. ESV
We take our relationship with God for granted
We start looking out more than up (seeing the world’s example of success and applying it to our lives in the church or our relationship with God)
Stage 2 - Demanding Freedom
This may sound odd, but I think a little of the new/old prosperity gospel is like the son who asks for his inheritance now. They want worldly wealth and health and that is their focus, not spiritual maturity and brokenness.
Others look at the Bible and find ways to answer their desires under Stage 1. They look at verses like Romans 6:14 "you are not under law but under grace" and think that means they can do whatever they want and God HAS to forgive them.
For others it is the "Lone Ranger" concept. They don’t think they need to be accountable to anyone so they don’t join a church or read the Bible or anything and think they are just God’s secret agent.
Or they may be angry at the church. The son in this parable showed his total disregard for the Father’s wishes and basically wanted no part of the family. For some they have experienced a deep hurt in the church and so separate themselves from it, thinking that will stop the pain. Instead of working through it by going to source of the pain and searching your own heart, they run away.
For others they may have learned something that tickles their mind, or they learn something that is incorrect about the Bible but it makes logical sense and so they disconnect their minds from obeying God or from trusting in His Word.
Stage 3 - On the Wild Side
The Wild Side means you get as far away the church, Christians, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit as possible. Your conscience has become "seared" (1 Timothy 4:2) or beyond sense (Ephesians 4:19) so you no longer feel the pull of the Spirit.
For some it is compartmentalization. They can appear like a Christian on the outside, but on the inside they do, think, and say things they know are not giving glory to God but are yielding to the flesh, but something is not penetrating deep into their hearts to affect that part that wants to sin.
You separate yourself mentally, spiritually, even physically. You go to places to do things where you know you won’t run into Christians. You figure that the world won’t call you on what you’re doing. The Prodigal Son moved outside of Jewish territory. If you find yourself avoiding Christians you might really wonder why?
Stage 4 - Where’s the Feeling Gone?
Hebrews 11:25 …choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. ESV
Sins pleasures are fleeting. Why? Partly it’s because the only true satisfaction comes from God. That being said, sin only offers enough to keep us on the hook.
Ephesians 4:17-19 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. NIV
When the money was gone and the famine changed the environment, suddenly the pleasure was all gone. Sin is a great mask for reality. Satan, who tempts us to sin in concert with our flesh, lies to us that it is in our own self interest to sin. In fact it isn’t, as we saw in Galatians 6:7-8.