Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
March 6, 2016
Central Passage
Luke 15:11-24
Subject
Promises of God
Description

March 6, 2016

PRODIGAL LIVING

Luke 15:11-24

Jesus said: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’  So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still 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 to him, ‘Father I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here 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” (Luke 15:11-24).

Do you have regrets about some parts of your earthly journey?  If you don’t…you’re a rare bird.  I know that I have many regrets.  That’s because I now realize how wonderful it would have been if…after accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as savior…I would have from that day forward lived a life totally committed to God’s mission in the world.  But, I didn’t…and there’s no way to go back and change that.  Obviously, all I have is now and what future I have left.

Even though the path of righteousness was laid out before me…and easy to follow because of the light God provided in Jesus Christ…I strayed off the path for all sorts of reasons, which I tried…without success…to justify.  On both sides of the path of righteousness were snakes just like the one that tempted Eve…and I listened to them…and they beguiled me by offering me fruits from an alleged “tree of knowledge.”  And, the alleged knowledge I received from that tree caused us to think I could outsmart God.

Throughout my entire life God has said to me: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Parable of the Lost Son…which could easily be the Parable of the Lost Daughter…provides significant symbolic insight into the nature of God…insight easily lost or misunderstood if we analyze this parable only in the physical sense.  So it’s important to note that much of what Jesus said…as recorded in the New Testament…has to do with the spiritual…not the physical.

My propensity is to look at everything in the Bible from a spiritual…rather than physical…perspective.  But, the spiritual is applicable in the physical word in which we live.  And, one must understand that something symbolic is just as true as something physical when Jesus is making a point with one of His stories…or parables.  So, to discover the deeper meaning and purpose of why Jesus told a particular story, it’s important to probe beneath the surface…to view it from a spiritual standpoint.

Symbolically, the father in this story represents God…and the son represents all of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior.  When we did that…trusted Christ as our Savior…we became not only sons and daughters of God…we also became His heirs.

So this son demanded, “Give me what’s mine.”  The son can’t wait to get his hands on his part of the estate.  There’s a SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT here on the part of the son.  “You owe me this because I’m your child,” the son is saying, although there’s nothing to indicate he did anything to deserve such consideration.  Still, he asked for…and received…unmerited favor from his father…just as we receive unmerited grace from God when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.

This is how God loves…UNCONDITIONALLY.  You might say, “No, God’s love is conditional, because my salvation depends on whether I accept…believe in…and trust in…the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And, my response is: “No, God loves every human being on the face of the earth, regardless of whether they accept…believe in…and trust in His Son…the Lord Jesus Christ.”  However, just because God loves you doesn’t negate the fact that you must ask for forgiveness before you can receive it…and that can only happen if you repent of your sins and allow Jesus Christ to be your sacrifice for them.

That’s a Holy Spirit moment…when the Spirit convicts…you repent…you trust in Christ for your salvation…and you receive eternal life.  You may not like what I’m saying, but I didn’t make the rules.  God did.

But, let’s go back to our story.  There was nothing particularly logical or loyal about this son.  My impression is that there was also a pervasive SENSE OF ARROGANCE that clouded his mind…that all he had on his mind was INSTANT GRATIFICATION.  He had used the father to get to a particular stage in life, but now he was just in the way.  The father…who had provided for him throughout his life…was no longer useful to him…just a useless old man with outdated ideas.  Is the picture coming into focus here?

Following my salvation experience…I took all I could get from God.  But, I didn’t want God in the picture.  Of course, I acted as though I did…because I was too ignorant to separate what God expected of me from what I wanted.  I asked Him for blessings and gifts…but I didn’t want Him to tell me how to use them.  I simply wanted to take those blessings and gifts and get as far away from God as possible.

I was an ingrate…soon able…in my mind at least…to remove God as the source of all my blessings and gifts…able to somehow attribute those blessings and gifts to what I perceived to be my own intellect and talents.  And, of course, whatever intellect or talent I have is a gift from God.

I’m going to take some license here and say that the father in this story gave the son a lot more than he actually wanted.  The son was interested only in material possessions, but the father gave him much, much more.  By his very nature the father imparted to his son virtues like compassion, courage, faith, friendship, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, responsibility, self-discipline and a work ethic…gifts much more valuable than material possessions.

Maybe it wasn’t just the bright lights of the city that beckoned the boy.  Maybe he was just sick and tired of being under the thumb of his parents…having to adhere to their rules and regulations.  That’s how a lot of people perceive God…as an impersonal entity that wants to control them with a lot of rules and regulations.  Whatever his reason, the boy took his inheritance and went out on his own…journeying to a far country.

Then comes one of the most telling statements in the story: “…and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”

My guess is that the first thing he did was to buy himself the biggest SUC on the market.  If you’re wondering what an SUC is…it’s a Sport Utility Chariot.  It might have been an eight-horse pulled SUC…and anybody who has ever owned just one horse knows that can put you in the poor house.

A retired friend told me that when he was a teenager…he became quite agitated with his parents when they wouldn’t buy him a car.  He was certain they were going to get him a car for his 17th birthday…but they got him a set of encyclopedias instead.  He told me he still had the encyclopedias and over the years had learned quite a bit from them.

Some things last and some things don’t.  What you learn lasts.  What you drive doesn’t.  But, the son in our story was probably like most of us in our youth…thinking a set of wheels was much more important than learning.  It takes some time and life experiences to think differently.

The dictionary defines prodigal aswastefully or recklessly extravagant.”  And, what Jesus didn’t say in this story He left to our imaginations.  The words “prodigal living” cover a multitude of sins.  This boy wasn’t just wasteful and extravagant with his material possessions…he was wasteful with all that he had been taught in his father’s house…all that defined him as one of God’s children.  He wasted his spirituality…and all the virtues taught to him by his father.

So what’s THE PENALTY and PUNISHMENT for this prodigal living?  Well, it was self-imposed to an extent…but it was probably as bad as it could get for a Jewish boy in the culture of the times.  He became the bondservant of a Gentile and had to feed and live with the man’s pigs.  It definitely wasn’t what he envisioned when he demanded his inheritance and went off to become the Donald Trump of his era.

Unfortunately, it sometimes takes this kind of rude awakening to make us realize that things aren’t so bad in our Father’s house.  It’s not so bad when God rules…when we allow Him to have control of our lives.

In this story we find the boy out there feeding those pigs and thinking, “They’re eating better than I am.”  But, the storyline continues with the fact that no one gave him anything.

He begins to get a glimpse of reality here…that people in the world…probably even alleged friends that helped him spend his money…tended to disappear when he was in need.  Suddenly, there came the realization that it wasn’t like being at his father’s house…where even the hired help had plenty to eat and good sleeping quarters.  So where was the justice?

The truth is…he got a good dose of justice…worldly justice.  Living with pigs can either destroy you…or it can cause you to get your head on straight.  It probably took a while…lamenting his fate…feeling sorry for himself…regretting what he had done…but the son finally started getting his life into proper focus.

REGRET is often the prelude to REPENTANCE.  Sometimes there has to be sincere regret for where you are…and for where you’ve been…before you can get on the road to repentance.

I’m thinking this boy went through some real emotional turmoil before finally thinking, “I was wrong.  I’m going home to face the consequences.  I just hope my parents and my brother don’t hammer me with that ‘I told you so’ stuff.”

So this kid who’s at the end of his rope heads home…sheepish, hat in hand, eyes looking at the ground…you know…like a puppy that’s been caught doing something wrong.  His father runs out to meet him and the boy said, “Father, I’ve sinned against Heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

This is the FORGIVENESS SCENE in the story…when we find out just how compassionate the father is…just how he feels about this son who broke all the rules.  That’s revealed when he says, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here 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.”

The son was dead in trespasses and sin.  He repented and returned to his father’s house expecting some sort of punishment for what he had done.  Instead, he received love and forgiveness.  He learned the hard way that he had never ceased to be his father’s son…that his father had never given up on him…and that there would always be a place for him in his father’s house.

Like the son, we can’t undo our past, but…thanks to God’s love and forgiveness…we do have something to say about our future.  When we forsake God temporarily…He doesn’t forsake us.  He continues to be our Father…and His love and forgiveness is assured.

We can’t expect…nor do we receive…the same type of acceptance and treatment from mere mortals…just another indication of the depth of God’s love as compared to human love.  Nothing this world offers compares to living with God…to living in our Father’s house.

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