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The Heart of Sonship (Part Two)

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The Heart of Sonship (Part Two)

By Matthew Hexter

Luke 15:11-24
John 14:18

In part one of this devotional series, I wrote about how God loves us as a son, that his heart for us really is good. In this second part, I'll focus on how most of us live like orphans and misinterpret the Father's heart for us.

In the story of the prodigal son, most teachings I've heard primarily focus on the younger son. But it's equally interesting to note the response from his older brother. At first blush, it sounds like he was the better son, doesn't it? He never disobeyed his dad, never squandered his money, and was a hard worker. In fact, while the reunion was playing out between his dad and brother, he was working in the field.

But note his response when he hears how his dad reinstated his errant brother: he became angry and refused to go to the reunion party.

"Look!," he said to his dad. "All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"

His dad responds, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

The incident between his younger brother and dad exposes what he really thinks about his relationship with his father: I am a slave and you are the taskmaster. Both of the sons misinterpreted their dad's heart for them.

The response of the older son is what Jack Frost calls the orphan spirit.

An orphan lives as if they don't have a home. They scratch, claw, fight, manipulate, and control - anything they can do - to get an inheritance because nobody is going to give them one. Inheritance is for sons.

Just like the older brother, the orphan does all the right things for the wrong reasons. They value relationships for what others can do for them. They "work the system" for their benefit, regardless of the consequences, fallout, and impact on others. They look for love in all the wrong places, finding relief in counterfeit affections and the false lovers of passions of the flesh, possessions, position, power, people, and places.

All of this bad fruit gives us clues we are living like orphans. And while we may not be physical orphans, we can exhibit signs of being a spiritual orphan.

The bottom line is that the orphan can't receive the Father's heart. The orphan doesn't believe the Father's heart for him is good. The orphan is not "at home" in the Father's love.

So what is the prescription to overcome orphan thinking?

First, we must repent. Our culture and American version of Christianity defines repentance as something we do. But it's not. Dr. Ken Bailey, Theologian and Middle Eastern scholar, challenges us on the true definition of repentance: Simply accept being found. If you read the story of the Prodigal Son, that's exactly what happened to the younger son. When you finally give up trying to be good and just rest in the Father's love, it is the change that changes everything.

Next, we must find our identity in God as his son. A son doesn't "force" his relationship with his dad; he just "is" the son. Likewise, as I shared in part one, we must be defined by who we are in Christ, not by what we do, and not by our successes or failures. The truth is we are deeply loved (I Jn. 4:9-10), fully and totally accepted (Col. 1:19-22), fully pleasing (Col. 2:13-14, II Cor. 5:21), and absolutely complete in Christ (Col 2:10, I Cor. 5:17).

Finally, we must forgive those around us who have misrepresented the Father's heart. This can include our dads, moms, pastors, teachers, coaches, siblings and friends. While they may have had good intentions, none of them are God and if they didn't have a full revelation of the Father's love, there is a good chance they had no idea they misrepresented God's good heart for you.

In the third and final part of this devotional series, we'll wrap it up by looking at an external force that seeks to undermine our sonship.

Discussion Questions

  1. At what time did you stop receiving God as Father?
  2. In what ways do you act like an orphan? What type of "fruit" do you exhibit? The fruit of being a son (love, joy, peace, etc.) or the fruit of living like an orphan (manipulation, striving, control, etc.)?
  3. When you need relief, where do you run? To God or to "lesser lovers"? If so, which ones?

Additional Reading

  2. Search for Significance by Robert McGee
  3. The Steps to Freedom in Christ by Neil Anderson

About the Author

One of Matthew's many interests growing up in Cleveland, Ohio was hockey. After being inspired by watching the "Miracle on Ice" live, he worked hard enough to gain a spot on an independent high school team which won their city championship. Matthew and his wife Melanie celebrated 25 years of marriage this past year and have six children. Matthew co-founded a ministry that helped men discover who they are in Christ and walk in their identity as sons. He currently resides in Colorado Springs. Connect with Matthew at


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