This week's small group curriculum is a study into grace-filled living as presented by Jesus in His story of the Prodigal Son.
Grace-filled living is being able to experience all that our heavenly Father has for us - His goodness, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and ultimately, His presence. Grace-filled living also empowers us to live for God in a new manner, choosing His ways over our ways.
Jesus told a story about a father and his two sons that paints a vivid picture of God’s grace. This “Prodigal Son” story shows a younger brother who was missing out on an intimate relationship with his father and the grace-filled life because he chased after the trappings of the world. The story also depicts an older brother who was missing out on the full impact of his father’s grace, not because of rebellion, but because he chose to base his relationship with his father primarily on performance rather than intimacy. The younger son represents the person who is looking for love in all the wrong places, but finally finds what he is looking for in the Father. The older son represents those who have already found what they are looking for, but can’t fully receive it because they can’t accept the fact that the Father’s love is unconditional and free. They focus on ways to earn the Father’s love and decline an invitation to the party. Christians too often fall into this trap by becoming ultra-religious and following the rules instead of the Ruler. Honoring and loving God through a life of obedience is critical, but it must flow out of a close, personal relationship with God, not simply a commitment to the rules.
Ultimately, the “Prodigal Son” is a story about us - a story about a Father in heaven who sees humanity bound by sin or bound by religion. God wants us to experience grace-filled living by being free from sin and free from religion. Allowing our hearts to wander away from God’s provision by the enticements of sin or the deception of religion are both destructive.
Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)
What was the result of the younger son’s rebellion? How did the Prodigal Son finally experience grace-filled living? Discuss how living for ourselves and the world separate us from God and His grace.
How was the older son’s relationship with his father based on performance? (v. 29) How can “mature” Christians intentionally and unintentionally act like the older son toward new believers? How has religion impeded your relationship with God?
Discuss how this passage expands our definition and understanding of God’s grace. Share examples of how God’s grace has empowered you to live for Him, to love others, and to experience grace-filled living?
Taking Action: Examine your life and your heart. Are you rebellious like the prodigal son? Are you comfortable with the world and sin? Or, have you become a religious Christian who follows the rule book instead of the Ruler? If so, repent and turn back to Him, accept His grace, surrender yourself, and enjoy living solely for Him again.