Sunday, August 28, 2011

To Build up or Tear Down - Part:6 - The Lost Son


To Build Up or Tear Down
Part 6 – The Lost Son
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | www.PS127.org | www.TruthDigest.org

INTRODUCTION
One of the most well known parables Jesus spoke of in the scriptures, the prodigal son is a story of a rebel who repents, a father who forgives, and an older brother who struggles with hidden sin.

In this parable, we may find ourselves, either as the rebel, or the repentant son who has returned, or perhaps the older brother struggling with accepting a sinner who has repented.

Wherever we may fit into this story, Jesus wants us to understand our Father in heaven's feeling towards the lost, and how treasured they are to Him, as well as how we can expect Him to respond to one who returns to Him.

As we look at this story, examine yourself, and your heart, and see if you are accepting the lost sinners, and building them up as we are commanded, or secretly harboring anger and resentment towards those who are trying to have a relationship with our father in heaven.


SCRIPTURE READING
Luke 15:11-32  The Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

   17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

   21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

   22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

   25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

   28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

   31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’”



I.       RESTLESSNESS
1.      Vs 11-12 reveal the younger son’s restlessness. He wants what belongs to him, and he wants it now.  Unwilling to wait for his father's death, his selfish desires bring out the greed in his heart.

2.      The fall of the prodigal does not begin when he leaves and squanders his entire inheritance on prostitutes and wild living, but when he allows the desires of his sinful flesh lead him. Every choice after that point of surrender is simply a consequence of that sin.

3.      The desire to leave home and face the responsibilities of adulthood is perfectly natural; the restless yearning to flee responsibilities is immature. As the prodigal grew restless, his polluted imagination conjured up exotic, far away places. He could envision the implications of total freedom from authority.

4.      The father allows his younger son to leave. Sometimes the worst thing God can do is to give us what we want--to show us that our desires can’t bring satisfaction. The prodigal got what he wanted, but lost what he had. When we rebel against God’s will He sometimes says, "All right, YOUR will be done!


II.   REBELLION
1.      In vs 13-16 we witness the results of the prodigal’s rebellion. Gathering up his things, the prodigal leaves for a "far country"; a place which exists first in our hearts. Like so many of us, his happiness was conditional upon his circumstances; he was not content with his situation.

2.      Freedom became freedom to sin without the authority of his father looming above him.

3.      The lost son lusted for freedom without restraints and ended up enslaving himself. When his money ran out, his so-called friends deserted him--they were only friends of his wealth. He learned the hard way that we can’t enjoy the things money can buy if we ignore the things money cannot buy.

4.      Destitute, he was forced to do for a stranger what he refused to do for his own father--to work. For a Jew, there could be no more demeaning labor than to be a swineherd. The "husks" or "pods" of vs. 16 were likely the fruit of the carob tree, which only those in abject poverty would eat.

5.      Sin promises freedom but it only brings slavery...it promises success, but it only brings failure...it promises life, but "the wages of sin is death." Those who reject God’s rule are compelled to serve the devil.


III.                        REPENTANCE
1.      We often meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it. The lost son "came to his senses", and "found" himself, we’re told in vs. 17. The first step of repentance comes when people realize the foolishness of their actions, and sense the despair into which they have fallen.

2.      The prodigal complains about no one but himself, and speaks of no unworthiness but his own. He doesn’t blame his plight on his former evil companions. He admits his eagerness to leave the protection of his home and offers no excuses to cover his guilt or justify his waywardness. He has reached rock bottom, and his only remaining resource is repentance. He confesses, "I have sinned; I am unworthy."

3.      A mark of true repentance is the prodigal’s desire to be subject again to authority. He became lost when he claimed his rights; he is found when he surrenders them. The return to the father was a return to wisdom.

4.      The now-penitent son unconditionally confesses his sin, offering no excuses. Realizing how well his father treated his servants, he turns from his sin and turns toward home. His resolutions are turned into action. This an essential step. Some people drown in guilt and depression and never turn to God for recovery. Conviction can lead to despair. It can also lead to repentance and restoration.


IV.RECONCILLIATION
1.      It seemed unlikely to this young man that his father would allow him to return, even as a servant...but he had reached the point of desperation. With nowhere else to turn, "He got up and went to his father". He was dying of physical hunger, and was hungry and thirsting for righteousness.

2.      What kind of reception would he receive? Would he be cast out, abandoned by the father he rejected? Some Bible teachers say this story should be called "the Parable of the Compassionate Father". The father runs to meet his son half-way, and lovingly embraces him. This is a vivid picture of grace. It was the hope of mercy that brought this son to repentance and forgiveness. God offers the kiss of reconciliation when we turn to Him. (James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.)

3.      The returned son attempts to deliver his prepared speech in vs. 21—he admits he has sinned against "heaven", too shamed to even speak the name of God. He begins, but doesn’t get to finish, for his father calls to the servants to bring out the best robe--to cover the son’s poverty and shame; a ring--as a seal and symbol of his identity as a member of the household; and shoes--so that he can now walk in a new way...also, shoes were not worn by servants!

4.      The father does not humiliate his son, but welcomes him into all the privileges of the family and treats him with honor. He then directs the servants to prepare a feast! Everything this wayward son hoped to find in the far country he discovered back home. He moves from "give me" in vs. 12, to "make me" in vs. 19, resulting in reconciliation, vs. 24—“He was lost and has been found".

5.      Sometimes we think we need to clean ourselves up before we come to God. All we need is to come home...and the Father will give His best even though we’re filthy. If you’re afraid to come to God; if you’re ashamed of your past; if all you have to offer is your guilt, then remember the loving father of the prodigal--He is in fact, the Father of us all, and is ready to run to us with open arms.


V.    RESENTMENT
1.      We could stop here, but the story isn’t over yet. The first-born son is informed of his brother’s return, and is furious. He feels betrayed by his father, and bitterly complains that mercy has been wrongly granted to this rebel. Not wanting to even speak his brother’s name or acknowledge the family relationship, he rebukes his father in vs. 30 for welcoming "this son of yours, who has devoured your wealth...." The greatest commandment is to love our heavenly Father and then love others--the older brother broke both. The younger son has been compared to the prophet Jonah in his running; the older is like Jonah in condemning the Father’s forgiveness.

2.      Who was this older brother? When Jesus told this story, He had a group of people specifically in mind; He adds this postscript for the benefit of the Pharisees, the self-righteous experts in Jewish law. They cared little about those who were lost in sin. In verse 2 they condemn Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them. These 3 parables are intended to instill compassion for the lost.

Are you lifting up, or tearing down lost sinners?  Are you acting like a Pharisee?

3.      This older brother remained at home, out of trouble, obeying the rules. In self-conceit he considers himself the perfect son based on outer conformity. Outwardly he was in compliance with his father, but inwardly he too was far from home. He regarded his position in the family as one of bondage. He was home, yet not at home! It is a sign of spiritual decay when we’re uncomfortable in a healthy environment.

4.      This parable is really about two prodigal sons. Both were slaves--the younger by economic plight and the older by perception.  One suffered from outward sin, while the older suffered inwardly.

5.      People can be active in church work yet harbor wrong attitudes and motives. It is a fatal error to assume that we’re members of God’s family because we were raised in a Christian home. The Pharisees based their spirituality on their Jewishness.


CONCLUSION

We can become, or may already be the prodigal son, lost to the world.

Or we may have returned to the Father, repented and restored.

Or, we may be the older son, who resents those who were lost, but come to the Lord.

We must guard ourselves against restlessness in the kingdom, rebellion against our father in heaven, and try to live by the Spirit, in a state of repentance so that we may have reconciliation.  Most of all, we must ensure that we do not fall into resentment toward sinners, whom our Lord loves enough to have died for.