The Prodigal Son, Pt. 2

Scripture: Luke 15:25-32
Date: 06/27/2009 
The second of a two part series on the prodigal son. This sermon focuses on the lost boy who doesn't know itthe son who stays home. There are several stories of two brothers who were rivals. The older son represents God's chosen people who also need to be saved.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Bear with me as I just review quickly a familiar story. Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 15, where you find this very important parable. And I'm not going to read all of it again. It begins with verse 11. In summary, there is a man that has two sons. The younger son can't wait to get away from home. He asks for his inheritance. He takes it to a foreign land and squanders it there. Then he comes home; he comes to his senses. He ends up feeding pigs in this foreign land and realizes things weren't so bad back in dad's house. He comes home, repents. His father accepts him. There is great rejoicing. So it begins with the boy, he comes back home. There is the repentance, there is a reception, and then there is rejoicing. The father receives him just as he is and then he puts the best robe on him. He says, “Let’s go back to the house and we're going to rejoice.”

Somebody once summarized this story with a clever assortment of words. I think I may have read this to you a few years ago. “Feeling foot loose and frisky,” this is the prodigal son story kind of revamped a little bit. “Feeling foot loose and frisky a feather brained fellow forced has fond father to fork over the farthings and fast flew to a foreign field. Then he frittered his fortune feasting fabulously with faithless friends. Fleeced by his fellows in folly and facing famine he found himself a foul feed flinger in a filthy farm. Fairly famishing he feign would have filled his frame with the foraged food from the fodder fragments. ‘Phooey! My father’s flunkies fare far finer.’ The frazzled fugitive forlornly fumbled. Frankly facing facts he fled forthwith to his far off family. Finally, falling at his father’s feet he forlornly fumbled, ‘Father, I flunked and fruitlessly forfeited my family favor.’ The farsighted father forestalling future flinching frantically flagged to the flunkies to fetch a fatly from the flock and fix a feast.”

I don't know if this is as much fun for you to hear, but it’s sure fun for me to try and read it. “The fugitive’s frustrated fault finding brother frowned on his fickle forgiveness of the former fool. But the faithful father figured, ‘Silly old fidelity is fine, but the fugitive is found. What forbids fervent festivity? Let festooned be unfurled and freely fly. Let the fanfares flare.’” I don't know what the point of that was, but it is the story of the prodigal son. And somebody took it upon them self to see if they could tell the whole story using only words that begin with the letter F. That was pretty clever.

The story of the prodigal son comes as the third in a trilogy of stories dealing with things that are lost. It talks about the lost sheep that is found. Then there's the lost coin that is found. Then there's the lost son that is found, but people often stop there. In the parable of the prodigal son it's really a parable of the prodigal sons because it begins by talking about two lost boys. One who is lost and knows it. One who is lost and doesn't know it. And the last boy in the story is our focus right now. As you recall, the son comes home, the wayward son, the younger son who had squandered everything. And the father, instead of lecturing him, he doesn't fold his arms and tap his foot and say, “I told you so. You ought to grovel right now. Isn't this what I said would happen?” As sometimes fathers do. But instead, the boy knew what he was doing wrong. The father opens his arms; he freely receives him. The boy repents, he confesses, he goes through all the steps of salvation. As soon as he does it, the father doesn't even make him recite his whole speech that he had prepared. He embraces him just as he is. That's justification. He then covers him with that robe; that's sanctification. And then he says, “We’re going to go back to the house and we're going to celebrate.” And they begin to rejoice. The Bible says there is singing in heaven over one sinner who returns. Luke 15:23, the father says, “’And bring here 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 begin to make merry.”

Now I should mention here that of the different offerings that could be offered; they had the offering of the poor. That was the doves or the pigeons, quail. You remember, this is what Jesus’ parents brought as an offering. That’s all they had when He was born. And then you might have an offering of a goat. And then a little more expensive, the offering of the sheep. And then more expensive would be the oxen and the cattle. That was the very expensive offerings. So the father, to celebrate, they would keep a calf, a fatted calf all ready for slaughter and it was considered the very best saved. It’s like Americans do with a fatted turkey for Thanksgiving. And they offer their best offering to celebrate this son’s return.

Is it appropriate to spend money on a celebration? How much should you spend on a wedding? Now there’s a question. But do you spend something? Do people expect for a wedding. I mean, how many big occasions are there in life? People celebrate a birth. Sometimes money is spent at a funeral. That’s appropriate to remember a person’s life; to honor them with that memorial. And a wedding is supposed to be a great celebration. It’s really the birth of a new family. The question is, some people go over board, right? I’ve got a family member that will remain nameless that spent; I think they spent a quarter of a million on a wedding. I know they spent $50,000 on flowers. Had it at the Palm Drive Hotel in Beverly Hills. Four days later she annulled it. And we never did get our gift back. Now that to me was spending too much on a wedding. But you ought to spend something. And so there’s nothing wrong with investing in celebrating this new birth, this new life.

So they rejoiced. Now notice, in all three parables there’s rejoicing. When the missing sheep is found. It says he comes home; he calls together his friends. He says, ”Rejoice with me. I’ve found my sheep that was lost.” When the woman finds the missing coin she calls her friends and says, “Rejoice with me.” And that’s verse 9-10 of chapter 15. “For I have found the piece which I lost.” If we’re going to rejoice over a lost sheep or lost coin from our coin collection, how much more will we rejoice over a lost son, a lost child? What should cause greater celebration than this birth of one that was dead that is now alive; that was sick that is now well; that was lost that is now found? And so this is appropriate.

You have heard probably something said before about churches that are predisposed towards too much celebration. Timing is everything with a Christian. The Bible says that there is a time to sing, a time to dance, there’s a time to mourn. There’s proper times during the week. When we enter into formal worship that is to be done with reverence, awe. We listen to God. In our services we encourage people not to clap during special music, but to say, “Amen.” And when someone is baptized you say, “Hallelujah!” It’s wonderful. That’s a time to rejoice. You might sing different songs during a worship service than you would sing during maybe an evangelistic meeting or a revival or a camp meeting, right? And so there’s a time and there’s a place for all things that dictates that. But even among Christians, we ought to be a happy people. We ought to rejoice, but our worship ought to be reverent.

There’s also a time for us to sigh and to cry. You read Ezekiel 9. There’s a time to mourn. Now you don’t want to rejoice at someone’s funeral. Used to have someone came to church here all the time and they said, “Amen,” after everything. Sometimes you’d say something very bad and they’d say, “Amen.” And you’d think, “Well, that was a bad place to say it.” Timing is very important. I think one time I misspoke and I got the name of Jesus and Satan mixed up and they still said, “Amen.” And so that’s the way it is. You have to understand the right timing. When this son came home it was a time to rejoice, but the second son, who’s the focus, he didn’t want to rejoice.

So we’ve talked a little bit about repentance, reception, rejoicing, and now there’s rivalry. This parable begins by saying that there’s a father that had two sons. Go to chapter 15:25. Now we get to the second son. “The older son was in the field. And he came and drew near to the house; he heard the music and the dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what do these things mean.” He wouldn’t even go in and find out for himself. “And the servant said, ‘Your brother has come, and because your father received him safe and sound, he has killed the fatted calf.’” Everybody’s celebrating. Well how did that make him feel?

You notice, throughout the Bible there are a number of stories that talk about a rivalry between two brothers. How does the Bible begin? Adam and Eve initially have; “there was a man that had two sons.” Cain and Abel, were they different? Very different. How does one brother feel about the other? Abel’s disappointed with Cain because Cain is not doing what God said he should do. Cain is upset because he’s getting, Abel gets the favor of the heavenly Father. When Abel makes his offering the Father sends fire down. He’s favored. That makes Cain angry and he kills his brother. Jacob and Esau, there’s a man that had two sons. Are they different? Isaac gives the blessing to Jacob. Initially he’s supposed to give it to Esau, but he gives it to Jacob. And how does Esau feel? He wants to kill his brother. Well at the end of that story the brothers reconcile. That’s good news. Then you read on and it tells us that Jacob, through Rachael, had two sons. Matter of fact you can even read about this in Genesis 44:27, “Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons.’” It’s interesting that Jacob would say, “My wife bore me two sons.” How many boys did Jacob have? 12. But Jacob was thinking of Rachael as his primary wife, “She bore me two sons.” One goes into a far country, Joseph. Was there a big reunion when Joseph comes back to his father? Was there a reunion when this prodigal came home? In the story of the prodigal son Jesus is drawing upon the Jewish history of these two sons. And you can find a number of cases like this all through the Jewish history of these two boys. Some of you remember the story that Joab put in the mouth of a woman. She told King David two boys fought, one killed the other and now they’re going to take my other son away and execute him.

And all through these stories in the Bible it talks about these two boys. They sort of represent two classes of people. Jesus died between two thieves. Who knows, they may have been brothers. That represent those same two classes. And then in our scripture reading this morning, Matthew 21, “What do you think? A man had two sons. One did the Father’s will, one did not.” The first one started out saying, “I’m not going to do it,” but he repents and then he does it. The other one says, “I’m going to do it,” but in the end he doesn’t. And now we get to this second son in the story of the prodigal son and all of a sudden he’s the one who’s on the outside. It’s very interesting. The father is asking him to come in, but he won’t. There’s a resistance there. Luke 15:28, he become angry and was not willing to go in. But his father comes out and entreats him. He pleads with him. Now the father does something for this older son that he did not do for the younger son. When the younger son left home the father let him go; couldn’t stop him. But he came back. Now the older son is on the outside and the father hears that he’s on the outside. He could have said, “Well I’ll just wait for him to come home like I waited for the other one.” But he goes after him. He just has to go outside. He goes out to plead with him and entreats him to come in. He doesn’t want to.

Who does this older boy represent? Let me tell you what Christ is constantly dealing with in the gospels. You’ve got the Jewish nation, now this is going to apply to you so please listen. You’ve got the Jewish nation who for 2,000 years were the chosen people. They were given the oracles of truth. They were supposed to be the special people. And now Jesus comes along and He says, “You know what? I’ve got good news. Not only do I want to save my people, the Jews, I want to save everybody that’s willing to come to me.” And the Jews are going, “Wait a second. You mean we’re not exclusive any more? This is not a members only? You’re going to let all the gentiles, these unclean gentiles? They’ve been our enemies for millennia. You’re going to let them come in? They’ve been squandering their heritage just like the prodigal son and you’re going to let them come into the Father’s house? We thought we were the only ones that would be sitting down in the kingdom with our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And one of the hardest things for them to accept is that Jesus planned on saving the gentiles.

Even the apostles struggled with this. God had to beat Peter over the head with a vision three times before he understood that God has cleansed the gentiles. That vision of the animals that came down had nothing to do with pork. Peter said, “God has shown me not to call any man unclean.” Because even three and a half years after Stephen is stoned the apostles are only talking to Jews. At Pentecost it was Jews that were baptized. And God is trying to say, “Look, I want you to realize that they get to go to the Father’s house, too. The gentiles. Not just the Jews. And there’s going to be some Jews that won’t be in.” Let me give you a few other passages that bear this out. This is the central meaning of this parable. Sure, the parable of the prodigal son is telling us about the love of God for the sinner. But there’s also something much deeper than this. It’s talking about God’s willingness to save all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Not just members of our church, but people who maybe don’t know Christ. Not members of just one race or one nation, but those who have been in a far country get to come. That was the gentiles, the ones in the far country.

Luke 5:30, “And the Pharisees and the scribes began grumbling at His disciples.” Jesus, after He invited Matthew to be one of the apostles Matthew wanted to have a dinner for Him. And Matthew invited Jesus to his house for dinner. They would eat in the courtyard outside. Everybody could see who’s eating there, in the cool of the day. Matthew, former publican, brought all of his friends from his past life. And it included some ladies of the night and some of the off-scouring of society. And the scribes and Pharisees couldn’t believe that this rabbi, Jesus, was associating with these people. And the Pharisees and scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” And Jesus overheard what they were saying. “He answered and said, ‘It is not those who are well that need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” Scribes and Pharisees thought that they were righteous and they said, “Why would the Lord save these people?”

Luke 19:7, in the story of Zacchaeus. When Zacchaeus, this tax collector, is accepted by Jesus. When the people saw that he was going to go to the house of a publican they all began to grumble and say, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Jesus responds by saying, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” You remember when Christ was in the house of Simon, a publican who had been a leper that was forgiven, a Pharisee, not a publican. And when Mary is washing His feet Simon thinks within himself, “Well, if this man was a prophet he’d know who and what manner of woman this is that’s touching him. For she’s a sinner.” They had it in their mind that God hated sinners. They didn’t understand what God hates is sin. God loves the sinner just like the father loved the prodigal son. Even though he was in a far country and needed to come home, he loved him. And God loves everybody. And there’s nothing that can separate us from the love of God. God loves the lost who are out there in these pagan countries. God loves the lost, tax collectors and harlots, that are in our community, that don’t know Him. They’re just living for the world. He loves them. He wants them to come to His house.

But sometimes the son that is in the house, like the scribes and Pharisees, think, “We’re the only ones that He loves because we’re working for Him.” We have to realize in our minds that yes, He loves us, but He doesn’t love us more than He loves the lost. God loves the saved. That’s why we are saved. But He loves the lost and if we love Him we want to save the lost. We want to love them, too. This older boy does not love his younger brother. He figures, “He’s gone and wasted his life on the world. He’s getting what he deserves.” Matthew 20:11, this is the real central message of this parable. “And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the heat of the day.’” You remember the parable. Jesus said there was a man. He asked these men to go work in his vineyard in different times during the day. He went to the marketplace and said, “I still have work to do in my vineyard. Would you be willing to go?” And he told the first ones, “I’ll pay you a penny.” That was a day’s wages. And then during the day he said, “You go and I’ll pay you what’s fair.” Finally the eleventh hour he finds some guys still lingering and he says, “How come you’re not working?” “We weren’t’ here and didn’t hear anyone ask.” “Well if you go work in my vineyard I’ll pay you what’s fair.” So it comes time to pay them at the end of the day and he starts with the ones who were hired last. And he gives them a penny. The ones who had been working all day long think, “He gave them a penny. He’s going to give us a bonus.” But it comes along, penny, penny, penny, penny. And the ones who had worked all day long said, “Wait a second here. What are you doing giving them? They worked one hour. Something’s going down. They worked one hour and you’ve given them the same thing you give us. That’s just not fair.”

God is not fair. Praise God He is not fair. People ask me, “How are you doing, Doug?” My favorite answer lately is, “Much better than I deserve.” Praise God He’s not fair. If God was fair would you have a chance? What is the penalty for sin? What do you deserve? If God’s going to be fair He gives you what you earned. Anyone here want what they’ve earned? This older brother is saying, “While I have worked all day long. How come I’m not getting. You’ve never given me a goat.” “Well you never asked for one.” He was asking too little.

Let me give you one more. Matthew 21:32. I’m dealing with the principle here of who this older boy represents. “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and when you had seen it, you repented not afterward that you might believe him.” And so here are the scribes and Pharisees, they’re on the outside. Who was it that was ready for Jesus when He came? The poor shepherds in the field and these wise men from another country. Was there a celebration among the church members when Jesus came the first time? Or were they oblivious to it? And this is sort of one of the messages that the Lord is giving us in this parable.

One of the things I see is the difference. Why did the younger son leave home? He thought his father was too strict. He wanted to get away from the law of the father. And so he was upset with the father’s too legalistic, too many rules. “I’m going to get out and I’m going to have some fun. I’ve been in the church all my life. I can’t wait to get out there in the world.” Not realizing he was going to end up starving in a pigpen. He finally realized how good it was in the father’s house. He comes to his senses; he comes home. But the older brother, he never leaves home. He never has that epiphany to realize how good the father is. The problem with the older brother was the father’s love. He thinks the father’s too merciful. He gets mad when the father forgives his younger brother. The younger son leaves home because of the father’s law. The older brother will not go in the house because of the father’s love. Isn’t that right? You could put it this way. One, he errs on the side of law. The other one errs on the side of grace. One’s upset because of the law. One’s upset because of the grace. Do we still have those problems in the church today? You’ve got these two extremes.

So who is the Lord speaking to in this parable? Me and you, and you. He’s talking to all of us. We’re all in here somewhere. Just think about all the players in this parable. It talks about the father. Who is he? It’s God, Jesus. Talks about the far country. That’s being lost. It talks about the young son. He wanders in the far country. He’s lost. It talks about the older brother. Those who are lost in church. The younger boy comes home. It talks about the pigs and the food of the pigs. It’s talking about what the world eats. “Why do you eat that which is not good?” It talks about the bread in the father’s house. That’s the word of God. It talks about the stranger in the far country that enslaves the younger son. That’s the devil. Makes him feed his pigs. All the players in the plan of salvation are really in this story. So we’re in there somewhere. And we’ve all probably been different parts of that. Sometimes we might look down our noses at other and are playing the part of the older brother.

In the response of the older brother to the father, listen to his emphasis on himself. Luke 15:29, “And he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served 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.” By the way, in that passage in Isaiah where the devil says, “I will be like the Most High. I will make my throne up in the stars,” he mentions I five times also. And here you’ve got it, “I, I, me, I, my.” What is the focus of the older brother? You would think since he never left home he represents the saved; it’s going to be love, love, love. You mean there could be somebody in the Father’s house and all they’re thinking about is them self? Most of our problems in relationship are due to selfishness. Most of our problems in our relationships with each other, whether it’s a brother and sister, brother and brother, husband and wife, almost always, 99.99% of the time have to do with selfishness; typically on the part of both, sometimes on the part of one. But somebody’s being very selfish. And that’s what brings in the conflict.

This brother, is he thinking about the father’s mercy or is he thinking about “all I’ve done for the father”? “I have served you these many years.” It’s like those laborers in the vineyard, “We’ve worked through the heat of the day.” Even the disciples said, “Lord, we’ve served you and left everything. What do we get?” It’s kind of human nature. “What’s in it for me? What do I get?” The devil plays on that even within the church. Pastors are tempted, I’ve been tempted, to try to attract people to Christ by telling them what the benefits are. Now there are benefits. And there are blessings. But He doesn’t promise to make us all rich, as some pastors have said. There’s great blessings in the health message, but not everybody’s going to be healed. You’ve got to be honest with folks. And there is a cross, but we’re always wanting to know, “What’s in it for me?” So you’ve got to talk to people about heaven. That’s important. You’ve got to talk to them about the golden streets. But the best thing is the love of being in the Father’s house.

Why did that boy not run away with his younger brother? You know, you almost have to wonder, when the younger boy left and he took the fortune and he went to this far country and he was partying—these wild parties—the older brother might have been thinking, “I’d like to do that, too, but I’ve got to stick around because I’ll get more if I stick around. I’ll get the house.” And you wonder, why did he stay home? His focus is not, “Dad, it’s really been great being with you all these years.” His focus is, “I’ve served you. You didn’t even give me a little goat for me and my friends.” So we notice one thing, one reason he’s not happy. He’s saying, “This isn’t fair.” He’s thinking he’s earned something. So who does he represent? Well, I talked to you about the scribes and the Pharisees, but he also represents many in the church today who think that we earned it.

He’s also conscious of his perfection. Luke 15:29, “I never transgressed your commandment at any time.” First of all, what was the most important thing to the father? That you love your brother. And he doesn’t love his brother. Luke 18:10, “Two men went up to the temple to pray.” You notice Luke is often emphasizing the contrast between the wicked lost in the self-righteous who think they're saved. Another parable bears this out. “Two men go up to the temple to pray, one is a Pharisee, the other’s a tax collector. The Pharisees stood and he prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men-- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” And of course the publican in the back does not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but he smites on his breast, and says, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Here, again, you've got the one who was in the church, self-righteous; and then you've got the publican, the sinner, he's asking for mercy. This younger son came home. He repented; he asked for mercy; he is forgiven. The publican does not go down to his house. No, the Pharisee does not go down to his house forgiven because he's trusting in his own righteousness. He's trusting in his works. This older brother is saying, “I've served you all these years. I've earned it.” He's conscious of his perfection. “I've never broken your commandment.” It's like that Pharisee, “All these things I've kept from my youth up.” Remember the rich young ruler comes to Jesus? “All these things I have kept.” They had a very puny idea of the law. It was all external obedience to them. It wasn't the internal attitudes. They would pray to be seen of men, and fast to be seen of men, and give to be seen of men. It's all on the outside. “I've never broken your commandment.” Paul even thought that way. He said, “According to the Jewish perspective I was never outside the law once until sin revived and then I died.” He realized, through God's Spirit, he was a sinner. It's more than an action, it's an attitude.

And he said in verse 29, Luke 15, “I'm not getting what I deserve.” “Yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” “This is favoritism.” How many of you have siblings? I have one stepbrother, one real brother. Now, by a show of hands, how many of you think sometimes your parents show favoritism? How many of you can’t raise your hand because it might get out? I think every kid that has a brother or a sister thinks at one time, “I’m not being treated fairly.” We had Nathan and Stephen here. They’re probably thinking that, too. I didn’t notice their hands. Was the father showing favoritism? In a sense, but you know every parent shows favoritism towards the one who is lost as opposed to the one who is saved. If you’ve got a Thanksgiving dinner and you’ve got 10 kids and there’s one empty chair because you’ve got a kid in the far country, which kid are you thinking about as a parent? You’re thinking about the one that’s in a far country. Is that favoritism or is that the natural, yearning love of a parent towards the one who needs it the most?

You know why I raised my hand when I said I think my parents showed favoritism? My brother was born with cystic fibrosis. So Falcon got a lot of special attention. I don’t begrudge him that. I understand it. But, yeah, he did get favoritism. Why? Because he needed it. Because I love my brother I understood it. And that other brother, that older brother, should have understood, “I am so glad my brother’s home. He needed favoritism. I am so happy for my father. He’s rejoicing now.” But he doesn’t care about the happiness of the father. He doesn’t care about the servants that are rejoicing. He doesn’t care about his brother who’s found his way home. Who is he thinking about? Just himself. He’s been in church all these years, and he’s still just selfish. The bottom line is at the end of the story everybody’s inside the house except the older brother. Is it possible that at the end of the story people who’ve been in church all their lives still are motivated by selfishness? And they’re not in there celebrating salvation? Everyone always focuses on the first part of the story. And I’ve heard even preachers stop with the son coming home, the father receiving him. They don’t read the rest of the story. Jesus told the whole parable as a warning. That’s why Christ said, “Many will come to me in that day saying, ‘Lord, Lord.’” “I’ve been in church all my life. I cast out devils and I taught in the streets and I’ve done many wonderful works. Matter of fact, I just came from the field.” And the Lord is going to say, “I don’t know you.” They’re not doing it because of love for God. They’re doing it; He says, “Depart from me ye who work iniquity.”

As long as we’re still motivated by selfishness we don’t have it right. You’ll never be happy in the world motivated by selfishness. You won’t be happy in the church motivated by selfishness. You need a new heart. This is what conversion is all about. It’s a new heart. It’s a heart of love. The father, his heart’s been broken. The younger brother’s heart has been broken. They embrace; they receive; they love. This other boy’s out in the field. He’s doing all the work. He’s like Martha. Mad at her younger sister. There you get sibling rivalry again. She’s saying, “Jesus, I’ve just been out here slaving, getting ready for a dinner to honor you. If you care about me at all tell my sister to help me. You’re showing favoritism. She’s just sitting there gushing over your every word. Make her get up.” Does Jesus make her get up? He says, “No, Mary’s here because she loves. She’s drinking in the word. She was lost and now she’s found.” Of the two girls, Martha and Mary, which one was the prodigal? Mary was. And she’s sitting at Jesus’ feet. She’s happy to be in the house. Can you see this theme? Being in church is really important. I am so thankful for those of you who come regularly, that have a commitment. And I know some of you kind of bounce around from church to church, week to week, depending on who the preacher is. I’m thankful for those of you that have a commitment to come. I’m not trying to diminish from the importance of regular church attendance. But are we saved by being in the house?

And so this boy, he’s saying, “I’m not getting what I deserve.” The Lord’s going to declare to a lot of people in the last days. Luke 15:29, “So then he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I’ve been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment…But as soon as this your son.” How does he refer to his brother? “This son of yours.” I can always tell when one of the boys is in trouble. Karen says, “Your son.” She says, “Your son is up there.” And I’ll say, “Karen, that boy of yours needs some attention.” And whenever they’re misbehaving I’ll say, “Just like your mother. You take after your mother.” And they’re misbehaving and she says, “Oh, just like your father.” We want to disown them when they’re bad, right? I’ve seen parents do that before. They have two or three kids; one’s adopted. When the adopted one misbehaves they say, “Well, you know, they’re adopted. Couldn’t have anything to do with me. It’s genetic.” We want to disown them. He says, “This son of yours.” He said, “I never transgressed your commandment, but this son of yours, who squandered your inheritance with harlots and prodigal living, he comes home you have a party.”

You notice he’s comparing himself. II Corinthians 10:12, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they,” speaking of this lost category, “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves.” Notice again the emphasis on self. “Comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” That’s a very dangerous was to operate as a Christian. In looking at others around you and saying, “Well, as long as I’m better than them.” And it’s real easy for us to say, “Lord, I thank thee I’m not as other men.” And we point to others in the church that we think are spiritually inferior. And you notice, we’ve all got a really special gift. We usually have very clear vision when it comes to identifying flaws in other peoples’ lifestyle, but we don’t ever like to compare ourselves with the ones that are holier than us. That doesn’t make you feel very good.

We are to use comparison. You should compare. You only should compare yourself to one person. Who is that? Christ is your measurement. We are to measure ourselves by Him. We’re to put our feet where He puts His feet. We’re to walk like He walks. We’re to forgive as He forgives. Even Paul one time, he says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” So the only way we ought to hold anyone out there as an example is only as they follow Christ. Christ is our ultimate example. Otherwise, we could end up like Peter. You know, when Jesus said, “One of you is going to forsake me,” Peter had to be the big mouth who said, “Though all these forsake you I’ll not forsake you.” And later he had to eat those words, didn't he? Jesus, after the resurrection, said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” More than these; do you want to compare yourself? He wouldn’t do it anymore. He said, “Lord, you know I love you.” Didn’t compare himself anymore. Christ knows our hearts. God frowns on it when we compare ourselves among ourselves.

The big problem, in summary, of the older brother was an attitude of self-righteousness. He thought he had earned it. He was trusting in himself. He thought he could get it by his works. The son who came home, you know one advantage he had? He realized he did not deserve it. He said, “Father, make me one of your hired servants. I don’t deserve. I am no longer worthy to be your son.” The older brother feels like he’s earned it. He feels worthy. It’s dangerous when we start thinking, “God owes me.” Like those who say, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we taught in your streets? Haven’t’ we earned this?”

Now you know why this message is very important, not only for those that might be in this congregation today? But it’s really important for any professed Christian in the last age of the church. In case you didn’t know it, I think we’re living in the last age of the church. The last age of the church, if you look at the ages of the church in Revelation 2 and 3, is called the church of Laodicea. And the word laodicea means a judging of the people. And the characteristic of the church in that last age is the characteristic of the older brother. He says, “I’m here in the father’s house. I’m rich and increased with goods. I don’t need anything. I have earned it. I’m entitled.” And he doesn’t know that he’s poor and wretched and miserable, blind and naked. See, one boy came home dirty from the pigpen, but he was covered by the father’s robe. He’s in the house. The other boy came home dirty from the father’s field. He’s been out working, right? It says he returned from the field. Do you think he was clean or dirty? He doesn’t feel he needs the father’s robe.

And my appeal right now is for everybody, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a convert to Christianity or whether you were raised by Christian parents. There is a very real danger, according to the words I’ve read this morning; Jesus says it all through the gospels, that you and I could make the very same mistake as the Jews of thinking that somehow because we’re in the church that we’ve earned it. It’s only by grace that we get into the Father’s house. You know, Christ doesn’t tell us what happens at the end of the story. This chapter ends by the father saying, “It’s appropriate that we should rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and he’s alive, he was lost and now he’s found.” And it never says whether or not that older brother relented and said, “You know, Dad, you’re right. I’ll come in with you and I’ll celebrate.” Maybe, like Esau, he reconciles with his brother and it ends well. Maybe it doesn’t. Like the Jewish nation that just couldn’t understand why the gentiles would come in. You’ve got that parable: father had two sons and he says, “Boys, work in my field.” The younger one says, “I’m not going,” but he later repents and he goes. The older one says, “I’m going,” but he doesn’t go. He stays on the outside. So I don’t know how the story ends. You know what? You get to write the ending to the story.

Are you willing to recognize that we all need the Father’s robe? We all need the Father’s mercy. Are you serving God because of what’s in it for you, or are you thinking that you deserve it, or do you recognize that we all are unworthy, and that it’s a gift; that we’re all saved by love. One of the most important things I left out I really wanted to talk about here is the love of a brother. What breaks the heart of the Father more than anything? That his boys don’t love each other. Listen, I John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” The Bible says we ought to love our enemies, right? We certainly ought to love our spouses. And we ought to love our siblings. We ought to love fellow church members. This is so basic and yet there are people in the church and we haven’t learned to love each other. How can we love God whom we have not seen if we can’t love our brother? This older boy, he stayed at the father’s house, but he never really loved his brother. So you wonder, did he make it inside the father’s house for the celebration?

All of us are saved by grace, friends. And none of us can say we’ve deserved it. That’s why I picked this as our closing hymn. It’s 295 it’s Not I But Christ. We don’t deserve it. All of us need to come to the Father like that younger boy did and say, “Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Does he accept him as a son? He does. Does he get the robe? He does. He gets justified. He gets sanctified. He goes to the father’s house and there he is glorified and there’s a celebration. I want to be at that wedding feast. I want to be at that celebration in the father’s house, friends. Be careful that we don’t make the mistake that Martha made, saying, “We work for the Lord.” Be careful that we don’t make the mistake of that older brother or the scribes and the Pharisees, just concerned about the externals. That it really is a heart religion. That we love the Lord and we love our neighbor. And that all of it comes as a gift. If you would like to demonstrate that than make this song a prayer. Let’s stand and sing it together, 295, Not I But Christ. Chief of Sinners, I’m sorry.


Now you probably realize I pause here during the hymn. We’re talking about the prodigal son. It really is a story about coming home, but it’s not just the younger son that went into a far country. That’s those who are blatantly out in the world that say they want to come back to the Father’s house. But it’s also talking about the boy who has the illusion that he’s home, but he’s still outside the house and he won’t go in because of his pride and his selfishness. Whatever category you might be in, the Father loves both sons. He wants to accept both sons. He went out and pleaded with that older boy. He entreated him to come in. he ran to meet the younger boy and covered him with a robe. That means the Lord loves everybody here. And He wants us all in that place of celebration when the time comes. If you’re not sure that you’re there and if you want to have that assurance, maybe you need special prayer for some reason, you’d like to come forward and just demonstrate that today and say, “Lord, I want a new heart. I want to have love for you and for my brother,” come as we sing verse three. Chief of Sinners, 295.

Our Father in heaven, Lord, as we have considered during these two weeks the story of the prodigal son we see that it is really the story of the prodigal sons. Some realized that they were out in the world and they came home. Others were in the house and didn’t realize how separated from the Father and their brother they were. Lord, I pray that wherever we find ourselves that we will realize you love us, that we are all sinners, that we all need cleansing, and we’re willing to come to Thee. I pray that you’ll bless each person here with that new heart, Lord. Save us from our pride, our stubbornness, our selfishness. Help us to have the mind and the hearts of Jesus in our own hearts. It’s a miracle, Lord, we can only have this as you give it to us and we receive it by faith. Thank you for your forgiveness. We come to you and we repent of our sins. We say, “Father, we are no longer worthy to be your sons,” and we also hear you say that you accept us. We feel that you embrace us. You cover us with your robe. And if we’re in the church, Lord, but we’ve been separated from you, you come out and you entreat and you plead with us to come in. Lord, thank you for that persistent love. You have borne patiently with us for years. I pray that we can not only accept that love, but now demonstrate that love for one another. Be with each person in our lives. Bless our homes that are represented here. Bless the families and the marriages, Lord. Bless in the sibling relationships, that there can be love. Thank you again for this Sprit. Thank you again for this church. And may we all be found in the Father’s house during that great feast. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.

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