The Fourth Sunday in Lent

 

March 6, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

 

  1. Did you ever lose something valuable? In the three parables recorded in Luke 15 Jesus described three different people searching for something valuable they had lost; a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. The Bible describes man as lost. He has wandered away from God and cannot find his way back. Man is also rebellious and hates God’s authority. Left to himself, man would continue wandering away from God until he died in his sins. Sin has blinded man to his true condition. Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which is lost, He came into the world to redeem and reconcile mankind back to God. God loves sinners and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). Jesus the Good Shepherd continues searching for the lost sheep who have wandered away from Him. He searches for them through the preaching of His Word of God in the Churches and through individual Christians as they confess their faith in the world. As God’s people proclaim the Word of God to family and friends, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convince men and women of their need of Christ and grants them repentance and faith in Christ. The story of the Prodigal Son is a picture of man’s rebellion to God. It is also an illustration of the power of God’s love and grace to restore a sinner unto Himself through repentance and faith.

I.

  1. The Prodigal Son rebels against His Father. Jesus tells the story about a man who had two sons. The younger son didn’t want to wait for his inheritance but wanted the money now. He wanted to be on his own, so he asked his father for his portion of the inheritance and the father agreed. He released his son without a fight or even a lecture. After receiving his father’s money the young man travelled to a distant country where he wasted it on riotous living, drinking and wild women. I’ve often wondered why this young man wanted to leave home so badly. Think of what he left, a family that loved him very much, a secure future as the son of a wealthy landowner along with his brother, regular meals, and a comfortable home life complete with servants to do all the hard work. This parable reminds us that sin will blind a man’s heart. Sin makes a person spiritually insane. Listen to Paul’s description of the unbelieving sinner. That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Eph. 4:17-18). No doubt like many young people he thought Dad was too strict, too old fashioned and he was tired of being told what to do, or perhaps he simply wanted an exciting carefree life without any obligations. With the money his Dad gave him he could see the world and live a life of pleasure and ease.

 

  1. He learned the hard way that a life of sin is not freedom at all, but the worst kind of slavery. Life without God, His Law and the forgiveness of sins leads to a life of spiritual bondage. Jesus said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (Jn. 8:34, 36). Sin leads to death. Sin causes a man to destroy his own life and his eternal soul. You will never truly understand human behavior until you consider the power of sin in the heart of a person. Sin brings guilt, fear, and death. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Ja. 1:14-15). Sin has the power to cause a man to risk everything to fulfill its lusts, risk his family, his health, his vocation, his reputation, his future, and even his eternal soul. That is the power of sin. Sin is an addiction only Christ can break. I had a pastor friend who helped us start a Baptist church in the Adrian area 30 years ago. He was the pastor of a large congregation on the west side of the state. But while he was on a mission trip in Brazil a few years later, he met a young woman and ended up leaving his wife and family for her. He lost everything, his ministry, reputation, marriage, and family, for what? For a mistress in Brazil. What makes a man that reckless? Sin has the power to deceive and make a man stupid.

 

  1. I’ve often wondered why this father gave money to a son when he knew what he was going to do with it. God is different than an earthly father. He will not force you to believe on Him. He won’t bribe you to be His child or coerce you to obey His Word. He gently and lovingly invites us to come to Christ and be saved. The Christian faith is not like Islam. The Muslim religion teaches its followers to kill anyone that leaves the Islamic faith. Throughout history Islam has forced entire nations to convert to Islam or face death. If you want to leave the Christian faith, if you don’t want to come to church, if you don’t care about your soul or the Word of God, and if you don’t want a relationship with God you can walk away. God will not force you to love and serve Him. The true Child of God serves God out of love for Christ. If you want to waste your inheritance, throw away your gifts, talents, and money, if wish to serve the flesh, the world, and the devil you are free to do so. But the Word of God warns you where such a life will lead. The Lord will chasten His children for their disobedience, but you are free to walk down that path if you wish. But if you do realize that actions have consequences, sometimes for eternity. Millions of people in this country have walked away from God; they have departed from His Word and from the Church. They are wasting the inheritance God gave them and sadly our nation and much of the modern church are doing the same.

II.

  1. The prodigal son returns to His Father. We follow this young man into his new life as he journeys into far country to live in a fool’s paradise where he found lots of drinking buddies and loose women to help him spend his Dad’s money. But after his money was gone, hard times hit. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. His sense of freedom quickly became panic. He was in a distant country without money a job or anyone who could help him. He was getting hungry and destitute. He finally sank so low he took a job feeding pigs for a local farmer, the worst job imaginable for a Jewish boy. He was so hungry he was tempted to eat some of the pig’s food. Solomon wrote: The way of the transgressor is hard (Prov. 13:15). Sometimes the Lord will let a person hit rock bottom to wake him up. He often chastens people by allowing them to experience the consequences of their decisions. When this young man was at the lowest point in his life he began to wake up. Jesus described what happened to him with the words: He came to himself. In other words, he woke up to the stupidity of his situation. He was pathetic and had been acting like a total idiot. The Lord leads you to repentance by shining the Light of His Word into your heart and circumstances to show you your true condition. As this young man contemplated his circumstances he began to reflect on His Father’s kindness and love.

 

  1. How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! The Light of the Law convicted him about how shamefully he had acted toward his father. Paul writes: By the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). He had sinned against God and against his father but now he was faced with a decision. What would he do? Would he stay in the pig pen and continue his rebellion or would he go home and seek reconciliation with his father? The Prodigal Son is a picture of repentance. True repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction. For this young man to repent his next step required action. True repentance says I’m sorry for my sin, sorry enough to stop sinning. And I will prove how sorry I am by beginning to obey God’s Word and amending my sinful life. Repentance for this young man included not just being sorry or feeling regret, he had to get up, leave the pig pen, go home and be reconciled to his father. So he started the long journey home. It was a long walk, but he kept going and as he walked he rehearsed in his mind what he was going to say to his father. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. This young man is now humble. He is no longer the proud, rebellious man that had demanded his inheritance and left home.

 

  1. He was coming home with the attitude of a servant because he knew it was more than he deserved. But as he approached home his father saw him coming a long way off and ran to meet him. His Dad fell on his son’s neck and kissed him. The young man gave him the speech he had prepared but his Dad wasn’t listening. Instead he said to one of the servants: Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. There was no discussion about him becoming a slave. There was nothing he could do to earn his father’s love. He didn’t need to try. The son had put his father out of his mind for a long time but his father had never forgotten him. He had never stopped looking for his son to return home just as God always longs for the sinner to return to His love and grace. The father graciously forgave his son and restored him once again, not as a servant but as a son. The father gave his son the very best robe to put on, a picture of the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all our sins, the spotless garment that is ours in Holy Baptism when we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). He gave him a ring which displayed his status as a son and shoes to wear. Slaves and servants in that day were forbidden to wear shoes and went barefoot. This was truly a day of celebration.

 

  1. Jesus said: I say unto you, that likewise there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. While the party was getting started the older brother was out in the field but when he came near the house and heard music and dancing a servant told him they were celebrating because his younger brother had returned. He was angry and refused to join the party. His Father came out to talk to him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. The older brother saw his relationship to his father in terms of service rather than love. He could have had anything he wanted from his father not because he had served for so many years but because he was a son. If you are a child of God He loves you with an everlasting love. Christ redeemed you from all sin and when you wander away he searches for you, calling you by name and finding you, restores your relationship to Him again. How did the Father deal with the older brother? He showed the same gentle kindness he had shown to his younger brother. Our sins are forgiven through Christ alone. Only Jesus gives us peace with a Holy God.

 

  1. By Christ alone we are admitted into God’s presence without fear. In Christ alone God can be just and still justify the ungodly. Both the prodigal son and the older brother were lost before God, both must repent and return. The older brother was lost in self-righteousness. He had fallen into an even deeper pit of sin. Can we say that we have served God properly? Have we done our duty to our neighbor? Is there anyone who would like to bring forward his prayers, his service, his morality, his faithfulness, his church going and ask to be accepted by God for any of them? Which of these things will stand before God’s perfect holiness? Which of them can justify us? None. If we take any of the Ten Commandments and examine ourselves by it we will discover that we have broken God’s law repeatedly. Before God’s Law there is one verdict, we are guilty and deserve hell. How can we come before God? We come in the name of Jesus with no other plea than this: Christ died on the cross for the ungodly and I trust in Him. Christ died for me and I believe on Him. The robe of Christ’s righteousness is the only garment that can cover our sins, the name of Jesus is the only name by which we will gain entrance into eternal glory. The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. The older brother had stayed home within his father’s house, but in reality he was living in a distant country as much as his younger brother had been. God’s grace reaches out to both of them and to us. Amen.
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