Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prodigal Son -

So many sermons focus on the "Prodigal" son's actions - his leaving home, taking his inheritance, partying, losing, ending up in the pig sty begging to eat the same food he was feeding the pigs. However, I chose to not focus on that, rather to focus on the returning of the son - returning, humbled, to his home. Here's today's sermon:

Prodigal Son

Luke 15: 11-24
“Seven Things You’ll Never Hear Your Dad Say”:

7. I notice all your friends have a hostile attitude–I like that!
6. Well now that you’re 13, Princess, I want you to start dating older guys. 
5. No son of mine is going to live under this roof without an earring!
4. Why do you want to get a job? I’ve got plenty of money for you to spend!
3. Your mother and I are going away for the weekend–you might want to consider throwing a party. 
2. Here’s my credit card and the keys to my car–now, GO CRAZY!
1. Well, looks like I’m lost–I guess I’ll have to stop and ask for directions! 

One thing you’ll never hear your Heavenly Father say is, “If you walk away from Me; you can never come back.” Instead, God is a loving Heavenly Father. He loves you so much, you are free to walk out of fellowship with Him–He won’t stop you. He will run to meet you more than halfway if you decide to return to Him. And He says when you repent; He will treat you as if you never left. There is a Biblical parable (universal in its telling, but I will be using the Bible version here), often titled the Prodigal Son. Do you know this story?

Well, prodigals still exist. These individuals rebel, stepping away from God’s blessings, indulging in reckless living and ruining their lives. But God runs to meet those who are at the point of total desperation and who are willing to repent and return home.

Today, we are going to back up and look at the parable again–but this time we’re going to look at what it took for the Son to go home.

What a great story! In just a few short words, Jesus shows us the selfishness and sinfulness of a rebellious son. Charles Dickens once wrote about this parable, “The Prodigal Son is the finest short story ever written.”

It’s a story that touches all of us at different points. Some are the parents of Prodigals and are feeling the pain of the father. Others are like the son who has wandered away from fellowship with the father. Still, others are like the older brother.

In this message, we’ll examine the steps of the rebellious son that will take him back home.

There is an immutable law of God that says you reap what you sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he WILL harvest.”

Through the years, I’ve known hundreds of Prodigals. They are teenagers and adults who had a loving relationship with God, but they allowed restlessness, and reckless living to enter their lives. They walked away from God’s blessings and they end up a mess. Some of them are still there, others have come back home.

That’s the good news: you can come back home. You don’t have to wait until you reach the pig pen either. At any time, you can decide to return to the blessing and fellowship with your Heavenly Father. Here’s how.


If you have wandered away from God and allowed sin to take control of your life, it’s not hopeless.

Over 200 years ago, the hymn writer, Robert Robinson spoke for all of us when he wrote: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

The son took three specific steps to return to his father and these are the same three steps you need to take to return to your heavenly Father.

1. The first step is to Realize!

The son, “Came to his senses.” This is the turning point of the parable. Before you can return to God, you must first realize you are in a mess without Him. Let’s climb down in the pig pen with our boy for a minute. There’s our boy–covered with the slimy mud and mess of the pig pen. He is so hungry he is tempted to eat the pig food, but he can’t even eat, because the owner of the pigs won’t allow it. He is being treated worse than the pigs. Finally, when he is about as low as you can get, a light bulb comes on in his head. “Click!” Suddenly he looks around and sees himself for who he really is. He looks down and is repulsed by his own filth and dirt. Sin had blinded his eyes, but once the light bulb of realization came on, he could see his life was a real mess. He reached the Point of Total Desperation. He says, “I don’t belong here. I’m made for something better than this. I’m tired of drinking, drugging, partying, running; I’m tired of slop; I’m tired of these chains. I want to go home. I want to see my daddy. I miss my mamma’s food. I want to go home.”

God meets people when they realize they are at the Point of Total Desperation. Before he reached this Point of Total Desperation, the son was proud. His attitude was: “I’ll never go crawling back to my dad and admit I was wrong. I’d sooner die in this pig pen than admit I was wrong.” When you get to the Point of Total Desperation, you stop denying your problem, and you get humble in a hurry.

The only way you can approach God is in humility. In Psalm 51:17 
we read, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Let me ask you: Has the light bulb to come on in your mind?

2. The second step on the road back home is Repent!

After he realized the shame of his situation, the next thing the prodigal son said was, “I have sinned.” He admitted his rebellion was a sin against God. AA Step 1! That’s what the Bible calls confession. Step 5: confession and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Confession always precedes repentance. When you confess your sin you aren’t notifying God of what you have done – He knows. Confession occurs when you agree with God about your behavior, and at the same time you display a measure of remorse and regret.

Next, he was willing to confess to his father he was wrong, Step 8. All sin must be confessed to God, and some sin is against another person and must be confessed to that person. AA teaches the circle of confession should be as large as the circle of the sin.

Do you see the change? At the beginning of the story, he was saying, “Give me, give me, give me. Give me my inheritance, give me my freedom.” After repenting he was saying, “Make me, make me as one of your hired servants.” That’s what real repentance is.

But true change is not just admitting you are in the pig pen, it means leaving the pig pen. Change involves more than just feeling regret or remorse over your sin, it is being willing to walk away from your sin and walk back toward God. Doing the 12 Steps means changing your mind about your behavior and then being willing to change your behavior.

Jesus doesn’t condemn sin, but He demands repentance. Are you willing to admit to God your life is a mess? Are you willing to walk away from your sin? Then you are ready for the final step back to God.

3. Lastly, the son had to Return!

After he came to his senses, and admitted his wrongs, he was ready for the final step – Steps 9, 11, 12. He said, “I will go back.” Two of the most powerful words in the human language are, “I will.” It was by an act of his will he decided to demand his inheritance to run away from home, and it was by an act of his will he decided to get out of pig sty and head back home. He didn’t say, “I’m going to send a letter to my dad to come get me.” He knew, he and he alone, could walk out of the mess and back toward his home.

Can you picture him? He was prancing and strutting when he left home, but now he was weak, thin, dirty, and humbled. The trip home took a lot longer than the trip away from home. But he had one thought in mind–his home, his father. I can imagine him limping along down a dusty road singing, “I’ve wandered far away from God; now I’m coming home. The paths of sin, too long I’ve trod; now Lord, I’m coming home. I’ve wasted many precious years; now I’m coming home; I now repent with bitter tears; Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home; coming home; never more to roam; Open wide your arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.” 

And that’s what he found when he got home. His dad came running (This is the only place in Biblical scriptures that shows God running - can you imagine the excitement the Father felt at seeing His son? So much so that He ran to meet the son.) down the road and he opened wide his arms of love and hugged and kissed him. He put a robe on his back, a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. He killed the fatted calf and they began to celebrate. 

Is that what you need to do today? Do you need to come home? You may be a child of God who’s wandered for years–it’s time to return home. Are you tired of wandering? Are you weary and tired of being weary and tired? Jesus said, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Will you come home today?

A life-line is has been thrown your way. The life-line has been thrown your way because you matter to God, to your family, to your community, because you are of value, valuable, and because you can change your life. My God, my father, is saying, “I love you I want you to return home.” In Joel 2:13 we read,
 “Rend your heart not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.”

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