The Prodigal Son, Pt.1

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
Date: 06/13/2009 
The first of a two part series on the parable of the prodigal son. It teaches that salvation is available to all, no matter where they are in life. It is a story of the great controversy and sin and salvation. There are two destinies for all people.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

I’d like to share with you this morning one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible that is a parable that Jesus shared. It's a generally known by people as the Prodigal Son. I started to try and come up with some creative new title and I realized it doesn't need reinventing. There is one example in the Bible of this story. It does not appear in the gospels Matthew or Mark or John. It's only found in Luke 15. And I thought it would be a good idea to just read through the story as Jesus gave it. And then we're going to back up and look at it carefully because it's filled with just wonderful analogies that help us better understand our Father and the plan of salvation. So please turn in your bibles to Luke 15 and we'll begin with verse 11.

“Now 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, and journeyed to a far country, and there he wasted his possessions with riotous or 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 fathers hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and 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 I 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 fated 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. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and he asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ And he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; and I have never transgressed your commandment at any time; and you never gave me as much as a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as the son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said, ‘Son, you're always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and he was lost and is found.’”

And that's where the parable ends. Jesus never tells us whether or not the older brother went in. This story is a beautiful story and it needs to be studied and understood in the context that it is the third in a series of three parables. Jesus talks about the parable of the lost sheep. He talks about the parable of the lost coin and then He concludes with the parable of the lost son. Also keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to scribes and Pharisees that considered themselves righteous. And they could not understand how God could accept these publicans and sinners so freely and give them eternal life. After the scribes and Pharisees have served God so fastidiously over all these years and the sinners who had just wasted their lives serving the devil and the world now could be also accepted and given equal status in heaven in the Father’s house. And so one of the principal things that Jesus is trying to teach is that salvation is available to all who come to the Father’s house. And so with that background what I'd like to do is go through this story with you.

By the way, you're in the story. I found that if you give a person a book and you say, “You know, I think you're in this book somewhere,” they're a lot more likely to read it. Or if you hand them a picture and say, “Are you in that picture somewhere?” They'll study the picture and what's the first thing they look for? But I'm not teasing you when I say you're in the story somewhere. Because this story really involves the great controversy. It talks about the father; who is that? It’s our Father in heaven. It talks about a son who knew the truth, but wandered away and came back. Anybody who's ended up in the pigpen, whether you started out there or you wandered there, you're in the story. It talks about those who are raised in the father's house and have never really run away from home. That would include the other group who have been raised in the faith or in the church. And it talks about the man who sent that boy out into the field to feed pigs. And that's the devil. And so you've got the father's house in the father's servants. You've got the far country and the friends there and the stranger who sends him out in the field to feed pigs; you've got the devil. And you've got everybody else involved. So everyone is in the story somewhere.

First of all, let's take it point by point and see what we can learn along the way. It talks about one father and two sons. By the way, there are two destinies. Jesus was crucified between two individuals. We believe one was lost and one was saved. The interesting thing is they both asked for salvation. “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 the father, of course, represents “our Father which art in heaven,” Jesus said. You read in the Old Testament, they even understood in the time of Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures that God was our Father in heaven. Malachi 2:10, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” Now it is true, there are some people who have rejected their Father in heaven. The Bible says, “Jesus declared, ‘You are of your father the devil.’” But ultimately every one belongs to God the Father. This is our Father's world. This young man wanted to leave. Why? Why did he want to leave? Does the Bible ever tell us there was anything wrong with the father? Well eventually he came to his senses and found out that the father was good. But somehow he didn't recognize that.

It's often true, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. And a lot of people who might grow up in a Christian family where there are some rules and there are some guidelines and there are some standards and they look at the world out there and they hear the allure of the pleasures of sin and they begin to chafe under the restrictions of the father's house. And they think, “I can't wait to get as far away as I can.” You notice, it's the younger son. “To enjoy my freedom. I don't want to be under the shadow of my father. I want to get as far away as I can.” Whenever I read this story is hard for me not to relate a little bit because I had one real brother who stayed home, went to work for Dad, and did all those things he was supposed to do. I was the younger brother who was irresponsible and when I ran away from my dad's house in Florida I went as far as I could get without buying an ocean liner, and that was California. I wanted to get as far away. And you know what? Well I was sort of upset with my father and just wanted to be out from under him and so fed up with what was going on there that I didn't even call home for months. Did you know, 30 years later when I talked to my father he was still upset about that. I didn't really realize how much it hurt him that here he's got this 15-year-old that's off living somewhere with these street people in California and never even called. Once every few months I’d make a collect phone call and just say, “Yeah, I'm fine.” Wouldn't tell him very much and that would be the end of that. Didn't really realize; kids sometimes don't realize how much they hurt their parents or how much their parents love them. And then one of the things that parents do, it's sort of a curse. They say, “I hope you have kids just like you.”

One Father, two sons. And he says, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” This you might call estate planning. Now that might seem odd to you, or very cold. What would it mean in our culture today if a boy walked up to his dad and said, “You know, I don't know how long it's going to take you to die, but whatever you're thinking of giving me in the will, could I have mine now?” And I've actually heard preachers portray it that way. In the Middle East that is not that unusual because fathers typically divided their estate to their children while they were alive. That's assuming they had some influence. And that was supposed to help them get established with their wives and their new families. So this young boy, he's not married so he is asking that. He says, “Look, I don't really have any prospects, but don't wait until I'm engaged and start a family, Dad. I want my inheritance now.” He wasn't really saying I wish you were dead, but that could have been implied. One thing that you can understand from this is he's kind of saying, “I want your money, but I don't want you.”

Now before I rush past this point. The father does it. He gives him the estate. I'd like to just take a moment and talk to parents here about estate planning. You know it's possible to give too much to your children. Do you know that? Believe me, I have seen it. It is possible, and my dad understood that money could destroy you. He took the bulk of his assets and he put it in a foundation. My dad was not a Christian. If he was a Christian I would hope that he would've taken the bulk of his assets and put it into God's work somehow. If your children especially are not believers, if you invest the bulk of your resources in them. How many of you have seen tragic story is for people have been Christians all their lives and they have accumulated some wealth and then they die and they give it to their children that do not believe and what happens? That money that could have gone into the cause of God and expanding the kingdom of God is squandered on worldly things or it's frittered away. And you know, those parents, they may love their children, but I believe that there's an account they're going to give to God for actually encouraging wastefulness. I think you ought to give, even to your unbelieving children you ought to give them something to demonstrate you love them. But you also ought to demonstrate to your children that your priority is God. You will send a message to them by making sure you remember the work of God in your will.

“So the father divided unto them his substance.” That doesn't tell us how much he gave him. But this evidently was a man of some means. He's the younger son, and so according to the law the older son (there's only two boys), he was to get a double portion. If there's only two sons that would mean the older son gets two thirds, the younger son would get one third. The father, he of course, gets to enjoy the house and all of the existing assets as long as he's alive. And so he gave this son what he asked for. Now, did it end up doing the son any good?

That brings me to another important point. Does God sometimes answer prayers when we’re not praying for the right thing? Is it possible for you to ask God for something and plead for something that maybe you shouldn't get, but He'll give it to you? Because you say, “I’ve got to have it.” Did the children of Israel plead and yearn for quail? God didn’t say, “You know, I really think quail should be part of your menu.” They asked for something additional. They started lusting for the fleshpots of Egypt. God said, “OK, I'm going to give you quail. I'm going to give you quail like you've never had quail. I'm going to give you quail so it's going to be piled up 3 feet deep all around the camp. You're going to eat quail so you are so full of quail it is going to come out of your nose.” That's what the Bible says. And that's talking about, that was an expression they used in Hebrew for vomiting. I won't go into detail. He said, “I'll give you what you're praying for.” One time they prayed and said, “Oh, would God we had died in this wilderness.” God said, “OK, I'm going to answer your prayer.” Be careful what you pray for. Sometimes God will answer prayers and you'll be sorry He did. So you need to pray according to God's will.

And the father said, “OK, I'm going to give you what you're asking for.” You notice the boy wants the father’s resources, but he doesn't want the father. Because the first thing that happens after the father divides the inheritance, it says he takes the money and he runs. I remember the story about the Menéndez brothers a few years ago, Lyle and Eric Menéndez had very wealthy parents. And on August 20, 1989, we may never know exactly what the reasons are, the boys took a shotgun and they murdered their parents in the living room. Then they concocted some story [that] they went to a movie. It was all premeditated. Took receipts of this Batman movie they were supposed to have gone to and came home and feigned that they were calling 911 and that there had been this terrible murder. And the police evidently believed and started searching for the murderers, but then they noticed the boys in the next few weeks and months following the murder were living pretty high on the hog. They were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars and private tennis lessons and Rolex watches. Matter of fact, I think they spent $1 million of their parent’s money. They didn't want their parents, but they wanted their parent’s money.

And you know, there's a lot of people here and in the world, they want the blessings of God, they want everything good that got you give them, but they don't really want God. And some pastors out there exploit that weakness in human nature and they've twist of the gospel into this prosperity gospel that says if you take God you get all these goodies, but you've got to take God also. Because what people really want is the goodies. They don't want God. They said, “All right, well if the only way to get the goodies is to take God, OK, I'll come to God and I'll be wealthy, healthy, and wise. And I'll have all these blessings and riches.” And they've got this whole prosperity gospel. I talked about that a little last week when I was talking about the rich young ruler, but it applies here as well. Do you really want the Lord or do you just want the fringe benefits? If you could choose between the Father and the Father’s blessings would you say, “Even if my life is one of trial and a cross I still want the Father. I love Him more than His stuff.” I think sometimes we train our children to want our stuff instead of us. Because we don't have time for our children and instead we buy them gifts and toys and give them things to get them out of our hair, but we don't give them our time. And so we are training them to value our stuff instead of us. What does God really want? Does He want to just give us things or does He want us? He wants a relationship with us.

Well, this young man took the money and he ran. As soon as he got things packed he went into a far country. He said, “I want to get away so far away from dad that I don't even know anybody that knows dad. I want to get so far away that he's not going to know anybody that knows me. I'm going to do things that he won't know about. And so I don't want to be under his shadow or his eye anymore.” But where can you really flee from God's presence? Is there anywhere you can go? And so, while that young man was gone it says, “he wasted his possessions with riotous or prodigal living.” He just said, “Look, I'm going to go into the world and I'm going to have fun.” And how many young people do we all know, and they say, “You know, maybe when I'm older I'll serve God, but when I'm young I want to enjoy the world.” And so they go out there in the world. Notice the word wasted. Matter of fact, some people when they get drunk or high how do they described it? “I was wasted.” And a lot of people have wasted their lives living, trying to find satisfaction in the world.

You know, there is no happiness in the world. I know. I drank, I smoked, I used drugs, I lived immorally. I did everything I could think of that the world does. Wild living, all night parties. I won’t even go into detail, but I know what’s out there, and you know what? It leaves you sick and hung over and empty and guilty. You feel ashamed; you feel dirty. It doesn’t bring satisfaction. There’s no purpose. But the pleasure of sin has an allure to it and the devil tries to market it to the young people that they are missing out. And so they go and they do the dancing the scene, and the partying scene and the scene of the world, and all the entertainment and the talk of the world and the sports crazes and all different shopping addictions. And it doesn’t bring any satisfaction.

He had money for a while, and when he had money he had friends. And life was one big party. But how long does it last when you live that way? Any inheritance that’s received hastily like that is squandered. The new American Standard Bible says, “He squandered his estate with loose living.” Proverbs 6:26, “For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life.” By the way, his brother says, “This son of yours who has wasted his substance with harlots.” He had been living an immoral life. Proverbs 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man.” Proverbs 23:19, “Hear my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way. Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.” It’s not just the drink. It’s even the food. Some people make a life, instead of eating to live they live to eat, and they worship the pleasure of the palate. Others it’s drugs or you take your pick. There’s a broad spectrum of distractions in the world. Isaiah 55:2, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your wages for that that does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.”

So the son is out there squandering his life. Who is paying the expense for his folly? The father is. He is doing this at the father’s expense. All those years the father worked to raise that money, the son is now wasting it. We are wasting the sacrifice of Jesus sometimes when we run to the world. And then, in His mercy, God sends trouble. It says, “A famine arose.” God often sends trouble to save us. A lot of people out there in the world will tell you; when they come back to the Lord they’ll say, “You know, then a crisis came and God put this weight on my back and sent me to my knees. There was this terrible health problem that I had, or my best friend died in a car accident and suddenly I woke up.” Some famine comes into their life. They begin to run out of the resources of the world and they realize it’s empty.

When you pray for the salvation of your loved ones, do you just pray for their protection? Or have you prayed and said, “Lord, you do whatever it takes. If it means you need to send a famine in order to save them, send a famine.” There’s Bible support for that. Now we all know the story about Elijah praying that God would send the rain at the end of the famine, but many people forget Elijah is the one who prayed for the famine. James 5:17, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain.” Why would you do that? Now in California what are we praying for, rain or no rain? But if California starts going down the wrong road morally. I guess it’s time isn’t it? Do you then pray for a famine? “Well, what will that mean to me?” If it means the saving of a nation or the saving of God’s people should we pray that God sends trouble, that God will save His people?

Folks have asked me before, “What do you think is going to bring the latter rain? What do you think is going to bring revival?” If I read my Bible correctly, it’s going to be persecution. There’ll be trial. God’s people during times of plenty end up becoming Laodician. We think we’re rich and increased with goods. And it’s often only after we go through a famine that we turn back to God and we come to our senses again. So when you pray for your loved ones that may be lost. I’m assuming that we all know somebody. Let me just see if I’m right. How many of you know someone, a loved one or family member, friend, that’s lost. And you pray for them. And you’re tempted to pray that God will protect and bless them. Maybe what you ought to be saying is, “Lord, do whatever you need to do to save them.” Because what good will it be if they’re comfortable and protected until; so they die in their bed of old age and they’re lost. Wouldn’t you rather have God do whatever He needs to do to save them? So you might pray that God will send a famine. That’s what Elijah; did that famine bring the nation back to God? It did. It brought a revival ultimately.

So a famine arose. Now while that young man was buying drinks for everybody in that foreign land; when he had money he probably had a lot of friends. He was wasting his substance with riotous living. And you can buy the illusion of love if you’ve got enough money. I’ve seen that play out. If you’ve got enough money you can be wrinkled old man, or woman, and you can find someone who will say, “I love you, and you’re beautiful.” Trust me, I’ve seen it. It’s real tragic. But when the money runs out the love runs out. There’s another verse in the Bible that talks about that, Proverbs 14:20. “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor.” Why? A poor man’s always borrowing everything. “But the rich man had many friends.” And I think there’s a little bit; now does Solomon know about rich men? Were they friends? And when that young boy’s resources ran out how many friends did he have left?

There was a famine that arose in that country and he began to be in want. And he went to his buddies that he used to drink with. They were always willing to take a drink when he was buying. Or when they needed some new contraption for their chariot he’d say, “Look, I’ll buy it for you. It’s on me.” Because he found everyone liked him when he was generous, good old guy. And now all of a sudden he’s out and he said, “Hey, bud, I’m kind of running a little short here. Would you be able to help me?” “No, I don’t know who you are.” “Not now, I’m having hard times myself.” “No man gave him anything.”

Now there’s some significance to that verse. When we are in spiritual want is there anything any man can really do for us? Or do we have a problem that only God can really address? And no man will really give you what only God can give you. You’re not going to find your satisfaction except in the Lord. “So finally he joins himself to a citizen of that country.” Who says, “Yeah, I’ve got a job for you. I want you to feed my pigs.” And he sends him into the field. Pigs like to wallow in the muck, and he’s slogging around out there in the mire and the muck and he’s slopping pigs. He’s throwing husks out to the pigs. And you know, that’s a dirty job. I’ve got a neighbor that had pigs when we lived up in the hills, and once they had to leave town. He not only asked me if I’d milk the goat and feed the horse, but he said, “And can you take care of our pigs?” And I’ve never been able to find a better way to describe what that’s like except to tell you that pigs are pigs. They’ve got a whole word that’s grown up around their reputation because they stink and they’re filthy and they’re uncouth. And if you’re a Jew, what would be the lowest thing that you could end up doing? Christ is speaking now, of course, to Jewish listeners. And they understand. Just to remind you, even Jesus said, speaking of the pig pen, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, for they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces.” Again, Peter says, “But it’s happened to them according to the true proverb: the dog is returned to his own vomit and the pig, having been washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Some of you remember that cartoon written by Charles Schultz, Peanuts. One of the characters, what was his name? Pig Pen. And everywhere he went he took with him this atmosphere of filth that just swirled around him. And he always had flies buzzing around him. Maybe Charles Schultz had a friend like that growing up. We probably all knew somebody in school, especially elementary school, hopefully they grew out of it, that always showed up looking a little bit like Pig Pen. And you worried about their home situation, right? God’s got some children out there in the world that are like Pig Pen. And in their thoughts and in their lives and in their attire they just look like the world. And they’re filthy, they’re poor and they’re wretched and they’re miserable.

You remember the demoniac that Jesus delivered? And He cast the devils out and where did the devils go? They went into the pigs. That man who was living there among the dead was surrounded by pigs. That’s a picture of the lost world that we’re in. He ended up in the pigpen. Started out thinking, “Oh, I’ll be so much better off if I can just get away from home; I’ll be free.” And then you begin to find out, “It’s not as nice as I thought.” Eventually you might enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, but it doesn’t last. Your sin will find you out. And that’s what it says there in Numbers 32:23. There are always difficult returns on the investment with sin. We don’t know how long it took, probably just after a while, feeding those pigs, getting so hungry that he could feel the top of his stomach shaking hands with the bottom of his stomach. Even the husks of the pigs looked good. Have you ever been so hungry that you’d eat even the food you like the least? I’ve got some things that I just can’t eat. I don’t know how anybody can eat them. It’s beets. First time I ate beets I thought, “Why would anybody eat dirt?” It tasted like dirt to me. I see some of you nodding. We’re all made different. But I’ve never been hungry enough to eat beets. He was so hungry he was willing to eat the pigs’ food.

And then he began to yearn after the aroma of the fresh baked bread in his father’s house. And to think, “What’s wrong with me? I had it so good. Here I was wearing brand new clothes off the hangar and now I’m wearing rags. I had a clean bath every day and now I stink with nowhere to be clean. I was surrounded with servants and now I’m surrounded with pigs. I had friends that would always share and lend and now nobody will give me anything. I had a family and now I’m serving a stranger.” And he says, “How many servants in my father’s house eat better than me? They’ve got an abundance of bread; the servants do.” And finally he came to his senses. Luke 15:17, “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!’”

You don’t need to eat the pig slop. God wants us to come to our senses. Sometimes it takes a while for people to realize, “What am I doing in the pigpen? I could be in the Father’s house.” You’ll never find satisfaction with what the world has to offer. You’ll only find it in the bread of God. There is bread in the Father’s house. Now what is the Father’s house? Well, ultimately Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Ultimately the Father’s house is heaven. While we’re in this world the closest thing to the Father’s house is the church, what we call the house of God. And when you come to church every week and we open up the Bible, this is the bread of life. There is bread in the Father’s house and to spare, an abundance. There is a famine for the word of God out there in the world. You read in the book of Amos 8, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine for food, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of God. And men will wander from north to south and east to west looking for the word of God and they’ll not find it. You listen to what people talk about out there in the world and some of the goofy things that people believe, and the empty things—the husks that they’re eating. Why do you want to eat that which is not bread? And there’s no satisfaction, there’s no nutritional value in the food of the world, but there’s bread in the Father’s house that will satisfy you. It will give you a purpose for living. It will nourish your soul. What is that bread? Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Christ is the word. Christ is that bread of life.

And so he said, “I’m going to go back to where the bread is. Why did I ever leave?” Especially people who are raised in the church are at risk. Because if you grow up surrounded with fresh bread every day you get to where you take it for granted. You get out there in the world and you start finding out the bizarre and zany and empty things that the world believes, their idea of bread. And how people just chase their own tail looking for purpose out there. And do the craziest things trying to find happiness. And you start thinking, “What am I doing out here? In the church I had purpose. In the church I had truth that satisfies.” So he came to himself. And you notice it also says, “the servants have bread enough and to spare.” When Jesus fed the multitudes was there bread to spare? Were there leftovers? When Elisha, not too many people know this story. When Elisha multiplied the bread in the Old Testament there was extra. When he multiplied the oil there was extra. God has leftovers. So he realizes, “I need to go back to my father and I’m going to make confession.” He said, “I will arise and I’ll go to my father and I’ll say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee, and I’m no more worthy to be called thy son.’”

One of the first things that has to happen if we’re going to make our way home. We need to realize this is going to be grace. If our Father takes us back we don’t deserve it. He went out proud. He’s coming home humble. So when you come home it needs to be with a spirit of humility, realizing, “I’ve wasted my life. I’ve wasted many precious years.” Hosea 14:1-2, “O Israel, return to the Lord your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.’” The son was preparing a speech. When we come back to God should we take words with us? What does this symbolize? One of the steps in salvation is confession. You often hear preachers talk about coming back to God and they’ll simply say, “You just come and you repeat this prayer and now you’ve got eternal life.” And we really don’t teach what it means to humble ourselves, to repent and to confess to God our sins. You don’t confess them to people; there might be someone you need to apologize with or reconcile with and sometimes there’s rights that need to be righted or wrongs that need to be righted with other individuals. But you should confess your sins to God and you know what they are. Might even ask the Holy Spirit to help you make a list. And we’re to come to the Lord.

Now he begins to make this journey. This is one of the beautiful parts of the story. So the boy gets up and it says he’s gone to a far country. He probably, first thing he did when he got out of town is he bought a chariot when he left and he rode this gilded chariot to this far country. Now the chariot’s been pawned. His clothes and his jewels have all been pawned. He’s got nothing. He’s going back home on foot. Sandals are worn out, if he even has them, and it’s a long trip. Sometimes the journey home takes a while. You can read where even Mary and Joseph took their eyes off Jesus. It says when they found Christ, “We have spent three days sorrowing, searching for you.” We take our eyes off Christ, it might take a while to find our way back. Some people have a revolving door idea of God. That you can leave Him and come back, leave Him and come back. It’s dangerous to leave Him because sometimes you wander away from the Lord and you go 10 miles in this direction, you’ve got to turn around and backtrack. God will receive you right away, but sometimes it’s a process to extricate yourself from the pigpen. So he begins his journey home.

“And he arose.” I like all the times I find in the Bible where it says when people came to God they arose. “And came to his father.” God said to Jonah, “Arise, and do my will.” Instead he went down to Joppa. “But while he was still a great way off his father saw him.” How is it his father saw him so soon? Because the father was looking for him. Can you imagine what Thanksgiving was like in that father’s house with that empty chair every year? And he just constantly thought about that son that was missing. What do you think it did to the son that stayed home when he saw the father pining for the missing son? He probably began to get a little bit resentful. He said, “Look, I’m still here and I see you all the time looking down the road. What about me?” And I think during the time the father was longing for and pining and yearning for this missing son, he kept glancing up the road, wistfully wishing his son would come back. So that as soon as he saw the familiar silhouette of his son cresting the hill was a little slower, he said, “That’s him. He is coming home.” Did the father say, “I’m going to wait until he comes to the front door and I’m going to tap my foot and fold my arms and say, ‘Well, look at you! Where are those fine clothes that you were wearing? You thought you were so smart. You wouldn’t listen to me. I was right, wasn’t I? All those lectures that you weren’t listening to.’” Is that what the father does? That’s what my father did. And sometimes I think those of us that are here, we don’t act like the father in the parable. Moms and dads, when our kids make mistakes and we told them not to get into trouble and they get into trouble, we like to sometimes fold our arms and say, “I told you so.”

But it doesn’t say the father did that. You know why? I’m slowly learning. You usually don’t have to tell a person when they’ve done something dumb. They usually know it. And what they really need is not your lecture. They need your acceptance. Now there might be times with our kids that you might need to debrief a little bit. But what they really need is acceptance when they’ve made mistakes. And so he began his journey home. “And he saw him coming near.” What did the father do? “He ran and he had compassion.” Instantly he was filled with compassion. “And he fell on his neck and he kissed him.” Immediately he receives him, he embraces him. The Bible says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” As soon as God sees you drawing near, your heavenly Father, He runs to meet you. Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Draw near. I Chronicles 28:9, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.” That’s where David said to Solomon. Seek God, He will be found. He wants to be found by you. But we need to come home. We need to draw near to God. Malachi 3:7, “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” So all through the Bible you see that if we are willing to repent, if we’re willing to confess, if we’re willing to come back to God and soften our hearts and humble ourselves He’ll receive us. He’ll run to meet us.

And how did the father accept him? He put the best robe on him. What does that represent? He covers his filth, that’s justification. That’s that robe of righteousness that God will give to everybody that comes to Him. Just like we are; He then covers up the whole mistake of the pigpen with His best robe. Why is it the best robe? What did Jacob make for Joseph, his son that he loved? The best robe. Jacob was like the Father, Joseph like Jesus, the Son, had the best robe. And how did the brothers cover the sin? I’m talking about Joseph’s brothers. When they took the robe from Joseph? They covered it with blood and they presented it to the father. This represents that blood stained robe of Christ that He offers us to cover our sin. We come just as we are and He accepts us.

And he puts a ring on his finger. Some people who like jewelry and they love to point to this and say, “Ah ha!” And I like to remind them, friends, that had nothing to do; may have been the ugliest ring in the world. It was a signet ring. It had to do with you know have the authority of the family. You remember when Ahasuerus told Esther and Mordecai, “Look, I’m going to give you authority. Here’s a ring.” When Joseph was brought into the palace of pharaoh he said, “I’m going to give you authority. Here’s a ring so you can seal documents.” And the father was saying to the son, “I’m not making you a hired servant. You’re coming back with the full status of a son. I’m giving you the best robe and I’m giving you a family signet ring so that you’ve got the authority of a son. Even though you wasted your inheritance.” This is what God is saying. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us,” I John 3, “that we should be called,” not just the servants of God, but “the sons of God.” He adopts us back in as His children. Even though by every right He should say, “I’m through with you. I’m writing you off. And a lot of fathers do that. Sons run away from home, they say, “I’m through with you.” In some religions sons go away and fathers say, “Look, if you change your faith I’m going to disown you. I’m going to act like you’re dead.”

He comes home and he celebrates and accepts him. And the father says, “Bring the fatted calf here and kill it.” There’s a sacrifice that’s made. “And let us eat and be merry.” There’s rejoicing that’s happening now because the son has come home. What happens in heaven when someone is saved? Rejoicing is what happens. You can read in Luke 15:6, “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends,” after he’s found his lost sheep. He says, “Rejoice with me.” Luke 15:9, “And when she finds the missing coin, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which was lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It doesn’t matter how far away they went from God, how despicable their waste was, how many privileges they spurned, how much Jesus suffered for them. There’s rejoicing in heaven when one of those children comes home. And that’s still true today.

Now you’ll notice in the story it says, The Prodigal Son, Part 1. I was even tempted to title this sermon The Prodigal Sons because there’s two in the story. That are really prodigal, just in different ways. Right now we’re going to pause and think about the beauty of the father’s reception. He fully receives his son just as he is when he comes home. Even though it’s cost him so much. He wants the son; he’s not worried about his wasted resources. What he wants is the son. And what the Lord wants, our Father wants every child that has wandered away. And He is looking to have each one of us come home. Now I don’t know where you are in your journey with God. I don’t know if you see yourself as one of the sons that stayed home or if one that had maybe squandered. It’s possible there are even those who are in church; I know there are folks who are watching, maybe on video, this program, and you’re out there in the world or you’re watching on TV or someone gave you a CD or a DVD. But even those who might be sitting in the church, it’s possible to have people who out of habit or a sense of loyalty, they come to church each week, but they know they’ve been in the pigpen. And they’re still in the pigpen, and yet they’re in church. As soon as they leave church they’re in the world and the world’s in them. And God is praying and looking down the road. He’s your heavenly Father like the father in the story, yearning for you to say, “The world just is not satisfying me. There’s no peace. There’s no happiness.” And He wants you to come home.

The servants in the Father’s house have plenty of bread. And there’s joy in the Father’s house. He wants you to rejoice with Him. And I’d like to invite you to turn to our closing song. It’s I Have Wandered Far Away From God and Now I’m Coming Home, hymn 296. And I’d like to invite you to stand and I’m going to make an appeal this morning and invite some who may be here who sense that they’re in that category, they’ve been out in the world, they’re not satisfied, they’re empty. Maybe they’ve drifted from God. It’s so easy for the world to take over because we’re surrounded by it every day. God wants you to live not only in the Father’s house one day a week when you’re in church. He wants you to abide in the Father’s house every day. If you come to Him just like you are how is God going to respond? You look in the story here and you can see it, right? He runs to meet you. You draw near to Him, He’ll draw near to you. Have you been unsatisfied with the things of the world? Have you felt empty and you’re looking for that peace? As we sing this song, and you’d like to return to the Lord, or if you have some special need of prayer, I’d like to invite you to come.


I’d just like to extend the appeal again. Who is our example of what is truth and what is righteousness? It’s Christ. Have you been keeping Christ before you as your example? Are you living the life that He wants you to live? I really believe and I’ve been under conviction, friends, personally that God is wanting us to live by a higher standard. You know it’s possible for a person to be so used to the pigpen that they don’t even know they’re there. I was just out in the desert a few days ago and we drove over to a town out in the middle of the desert that had been built right by a sewer treatment plant. And I could not believe that people could live by something that smelled so bad. I guess they just get used to it. I think that’s happened to a lot of folks in the church. We’re not really reading our Bibles, we’re not praying every day, we’re not trying to be like Christ. We’re hoping that if we just go through the motions of religion that somehow that will be good enough. And we’ve just gotten used to the pigpen. What are you feeding on? Are you feeding on the word of God, the Father’s bread? Are you feeding on the husks of the world? Are you spending more time in the word or watching television, movies and videos, surfing the Internet and all the gibberish and garbage that’s out there?

I really believe we’re near the end, friends. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you right now, maybe that’s God asking you to come to yourself; come to your senses. “It’s leaving me empty. I want to come back and really live for God, follow His will for my life.” As we sing verse three together, if you have special prayer on your life or if you sense it’s time for you to come back, come and we’ll pray with you.


Will the Father receive us if we come? Even more than you can imagine in this parable that we’ve read. God is anxious; He’s paid so much for our redemption. If we show even the inkling of drawing near to Him He runs to meet us. Draw near to God and He’ll draw near to you. And He’ll cover you with that robe that has been washed and made white in the blood of His own Son. He wants you to be saved, friends.


Father in heaven, Lord we are very thankful for this picture that we’ve seen in this beautiful parable, this timeless story that reveals your love. That you are standing there with your arms stretched out. Indeed, this is what happened to Jesus on the cross. He stretched out His arms to demonstrate His love and His willingness to receive us. Why would we hesitate? Lord, I pray that each person that hears the call, the Holy Spirit stirring their hearts to arise and to come to their senses and to go to their Father’s house, that they’ll respond right now. I pray, Lord, that those who have come forward will sense that you are embracing them, that you are saying that you love them, that you’ll receive them, that you will cleanse them, that they can be accepted back into your house not with the status of servants, but the status of sons. I pray your blessing in their lives, Lord. Help them to know that their sins are forgiven. And then as we just sang in the song, Lord, we’re coming home, and by your grace, never more to roam. We want to come home and we want to stay home. I pray, Lord, that we can grow in our faith. Thank you for the acceptance that you demonstrate in the beautiful parable, Lord. That you’re willing to receive us as your children. I pray that we’ll be willing to abide in the Father’s house and to eat your bread. Bless us, Lord and I pray that you’ll fill us with the Holy Spirit. Help us to be your witnesses. And Lord prepare us for your soon coming. We ask in Christ’s name, amen.

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