Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Prodigal The Rest of the Story Part 1

What would be the worst job that you could possibly imagine yourself in?  If the bottom fell out of your world, and you had no safety net what would be on the very bottom of the list of occupations?  Perhaps the person in charge of Rob Ford’s Public image?

Now imagine if you will that you had been born into a very wealthy and privileged family, never had to work a day in your life, enjoyed everything that life had to offer and suddenly it was all taken from you.  You had gone from the top to the bottom in less time than it took to say it, and now you were at the very bottom of the food chain.  No job experience, unused to physical labor and hungry.  What would you be willing to do to keep from starving to death?
Jesus tells the story in the book or Luke and it begins with the scripture that was read earlier, Luke 15:11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.”
Had to be two sons for the master story teller, one would have been have been too few, three or more would complicate the story.  So there were two sons.  An older son to whom 2/3 of the family’s estates would go to.  But as Peter Parker was told, with great power comes great responsibility, and so he would be expected to take care of Mom and Dad.
The younger son, would get the remaining one third of the family fortune and he would be free to either hang around or hit the road it would be up to him, he’d get his 1/3 either way.  A story that could have been told about you or about me there was nothing special about these two kids they were just people. 

Most of us know it as the story of the Prodigal son, but it could have been called the Story of the Forgiving Father, or the Story of the Unforgiving Brother.

And so the story goes on, Luke 15:11-12 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
Now as we mentioned before that 1/3 of the family fortune, whether big or small would have been his when his father died, but hey who wants to wait around for that?  And so he said, “Hey Dad, why can’t I have my share now?”  We don’t know what the Father’s initial reaction to his son’s demand was but we do know that eventually, he divided his property between both sons, not simply the younger one. 

I don’t know if the older son wanted his share up front or not, but he got it, and with it he got the responsibility of dealing with Ma and Pa.  Now what the sons received was not necessarily just money, although that was a good part of it.  But the most important thing that the sons received was control over their destiny.  Up to that point they were still under Dad’s control but with their inheritance they obtained their freedom.

The father was saying, “I love you my son, enough that I’m ready to let go”

Now we can draw a parallel here with the gift of free will that we are given by God.  God is saying, “My child I love you, I love you so much that I never want to be separated from you, and I would never hurt you, and there are times I wish I could keep you from sinning.  But I loved you so much that I gave you your freedom, even if you use it to be separated from me.” 

This man loved his son more than words could express and even though he probably had an inkling of what might lay ahead for his youngest he loved him enough to give him the freedom to choice his own path.

Luke 15:13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
1) He Chose to Leave
His father had given him control, and he stayed only long enough to decide to leave.  So he gathered up his choice and his free will and left home.  In the story Jesus tells us that the son left for a distant land, but he didn’t have to he could have moved next door and the story would have stayed pretty much the same.  Jesus said that he wasted his money in wild living, but he didn’t have to he could have invested it carefully and lived comfortably ever after.  But he didn’t
He chose to leave and he left.  Different translation use different words to describe how he spent his money.  The NKJV called it Prodigal, the KJ called it riotous, the TEV said it was reckless and the NIV and CEV call it wild living.  Now to be truthful we really don’t know what the kid did with his money, “Prodigal Living?”  I didn’t even know that prodigal was a word. 

But we can take a pretty good guess. In the end, he blew his money.  Bought a new Harley, got himself a condo in Miami Beach and threw a party, he got down and funky.  I’m sure that he was having a blast as a matter of fact if you could have caught his attention and asked him:  “Excuse me Mr. Prodigal, what exactly are you doing.”  I’m sure that he would have said, “I’m enjoying myself.”  And maybe then you could have responded with, “well perhaps you think you are enjoying yourself but in reality you are miserable.”

You ever heard Christians use that line of reasoning with pre-Christians?  Or preachers take that track, “Oh sinners you might think you’re having fun, you might think you have the world by the tail, you might think you’re having a hoot, but you’re not kidding me, I know that you are really having a terrible time.”  Uh-huh.  Right, if sin wasn’t fun it wouldn’t be a temptation. 

Face it if sin were like root canal people wouldn’t be lining up to get in the dental chair.  Here’s the reality though folks, sin may be fun but it ain’t permanent.  Although the price you pay may be.

Even the word of God acknowledges that in Hebrews 11:25 when it talks about the pleasures of sin that last for a short time.  It doesn’t say that sin isn’t pleasurable, but it does say that it’s not going to last forever.  And your ability to play is directly proportional to your ability to pay.  Now I know the mind set of “Well I know when it’s time to quit” and I’m going to have  a little bit of fun now and then I’ll serve the Lord, I will sow my wild oats and pray for crop failure.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Sin will always take you further then you want to go,
It will always keep you longer then you want to stay
And it will always cost you more then what you want to pay.”
But don’t get me wrong prodigal is not simply a matter of a wild and crazy style of life, uh, huh.  He could have married the girl next door, lived in a split level tent and drove a four door chariot and still not been right.

When we decide to do what we want to do at the expense of what God wants us to do we are in trouble.  And the time will come in every one of our lives that we have to make that very decision and as that great American philosopher Yogi Bearra said, “When you come to a fork in the road take it.”  God won’t simply let you coast.  You say, “But Denn, I haven’t made a choice not to serve God”, maybe not but you haven’t made the decision to serve him either, and you need to come to the place that Joshua did in Joshua 24:15 when he told the people of Israel Joshua 24:15 But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
Now we can approach this from a different angle.  Maybe the son did make a conscience decision to remain with his father but after a while changed his mind.  You know there were too many rules, wanted to let his hair down, sow his wild oats.  He may very well have been a perfect son while he was home, but now he is gone.

Now I know that people want to play games with this one and say, “See that proves that if you are a Christian and you backslide, or walk away from the Lord that you will come back.”  Nope the story said he did come back, not that he had to come back.  We can get into all kinds of arguments by saying “well what if he had died when he was still in the foreign land?”  Well personally I feel that he would have died a pauper and been buried in an unknown grave because he had choose to leave the privileges of being his father’s son far behind.  But not everyone believes that way, and I’ve been wrong before.

But you do understand that he had blown it.  He had walked away from his relationship with his father and he had blown it.  And he was able to come back and he did come back and the moral of the story is that you can come back too.  Luke 15:14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.

Denn’s translation was, “He was broke” and remember what I said earlier about your ability to play being directly proportional to your ability to pay.  You got it!  When the money dried up so did his friends.  It wasn’t the famine that made his life wrong, but it took the famine to show him that his life was wrong.
And you know as well as I do that you can be surrounded by everything you ever wanted, craved and coveted and still be empty.  You can have a beautiful family, a wonderful job, everything the Jones have and more.  Be secure, confident and comfortable and still be experiencing a famine in your life.  Because those things only fill a temporal need.  The one big need we have is to be at one with our maker.

There are all kinds of people out there who look like they have the world by the tail, but they are out of step with God.  There comes a time in our lives when we look around at all we have accumulated and say “What does it all mean?” 

We can be prodigal and not even know it.  We’ve developed a twisted sense of what being out of the will of God is.  If a woman cheats on her husband and lies about it then she’s out of the will of God.  If a man is a wife beating drunkard then he is out of the will of God.  Sure, but so is the nice clean cut business person who only attends church to keep up appearances.  You ok?

Because in the book of John 3:3 Jesus said, John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
It has nothing to do with what occupation you have, what church you go to or how you vote, Unless a person chooses to begin a relationship with God, in effect beginning a new life, experiencing a new birth,  then they are choosing to remain separated from God.
But the story doesn’t end there.  In Luke 15:16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
He was broke, destitute, without hope and without prospects.  He was so far down he had to look up to see the bottom.  He hired himself out as a pig keeper, now for you being a pig keeper might not be bad, but remember where the story was taking place and how it was laid down in the Old Testament that the pig was an unclean animal.

This boy was had broken every barrier and now this was the final insult, to be a pig keeper.  Ouch that had to hurt.  You know a lot of us have been pig farmers, and we’ve discovered that just because you’re down in the swill and dirt you’re not alone.  People have been there before and crawled out and so can you.  Sometimes it isn’t even all that dirty, sometimes swill is served on fancy china in a swank restaurant, you know what I mean.  Cause if you are supposed to be a child of the King and you’re not then everything else is just swill.

Luke 15:17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
And then one day he woke up and said, “Whoa Nellie, what am I doing?”   I’m sure that he knew it all along, but he finally admitted it.  You ever been there, you ever know what you should be doing, and what you shouldn’t be doing and just refuse to acknowledge it?  But in his case it took more than knowledge, it took action.  It wasn’t enough to simply acknowledge the truth he needed to act upon it. And so if we continue to read in the story we discover in Luke 15:18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you. . .
I would think that this would have been tough.  Imagine having to go back, cap in hand and admit that you had been wrong, ever had to do it?  It’s not the easiest job in the world to do.  But he recognized that he blew it.

It’s only when you can get to the point that you can finally admit that it is not your parents, and not society, and not your spouse but you who are responsible for where you are, that you can move on. 

Christ won’t come as your personal saviour until you take personal responsibility for your sins. 

Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. . .” 
2) He Chose to Return
It’s not rocket science to figure this one out people, the kid returned home.  It doesn’t matter what your theological position is, the fact is that the prodigal son went home, he didn’t stay in a far off land, he didn’t stay feeding pigs instead he went back to his father’s house.

You have to make that first step, if you have walked away from the Father, you have to walk back to the Father, he’s not going to carry you kicking and screaming. I love the last part of this verse because it says Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
His father didn’t drag him home, but he must have been watching and waiting for him to come back because when he was still a long way off, his father saw him.  He probably kept a porch light on and got up every morning thinking perhaps today will be the day my son will come home.

If you’ve walked away from God I want you to know that he’s left the porch light on for you.  And notice that the Son didn’t come back as a second class citizen, the father didn’t give him a job with the workers in Luke 15:22-24 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
The Father forgave his son, not just a little bit but completely.  Because with complete repentance comes complete forgiveness. 

So, where you at this morning?  Do you need to come home?  The Father still has a light on and there is still a celebration waiting, listen to Jesus words in Luke 15:10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

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