The Forgiving Father and His Two Lost Sons: The Prodigal Son | Luke 15:1-32


Why are some people present with God and others are not? In this message, John Elmore walks through the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. Through this story, we see God’s heart for both the self-indulgent and the self-righteous.

John ElmoreJul 2, 2023Luke 15:1-32

In This Series (11)
Pray Through to God’s Breakthrough | Luke 18:1-8
John ElmoreAug 6, 2023
The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector | Luke 18:9-14
Blake HolmesJul 30, 2023
Don’t Waste Your Life | Matthew 25:14-30
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 23, 2023
The Forgiven Forgive | Matthew 18:21-35
John ElmoreJul 16, 2023
A Warning to Rule Followers | Luke 15:25-32
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 9, 2023
The Forgiving Father and His Two Lost Sons: The Prodigal Son | Luke 15:1-32
John ElmoreJul 2, 2023
Which Soil Are You? | Matthew 13:1-9
Marvin WalkerJun 25, 2023
The Path to Being Built Different | Matthew 7:24-27
Jermaine HarrisonJun 18, 2023
How to Get Into Heaven | Luke 10:25-37
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 11, 2023
Problems, Prayer, and Provision | Luke 11:5-8
John ElmoreJun 4, 2023
Your Best Summer with Jesus | Matthew 13:44-46
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 28, 2023


In Luke 15, after sinners and tax collectors draw near to Jesus and he eats with them, the Pharisees are grumbling Jesus responds to them with the well-known parable of the prodigal son. We see the love of the Father through the view of the first son, who is lost in self-rebellion, and a father who forgives, restores and celebrates him at his return home. In the same way, God rejoices in the lost being found, the rebel returning home, and the repentance and return of the self-righteous. God sees our bottomless sin yet has endless forgiveness for us and gives speechless restoration to our hearts and lives.

  • We have bottomless sin (Luke 15:12-19).
    • We are all guilty of sin against God (Romans 3:23).
    • Jesus spends time with sinners because they are lost (Luke 19:10). The question is not “Why does Jesus eat with sinners?” but “Why do I not eat with Jesus?”
    • Those who believe they have no sin have no need for a savior. Our unworthiness is what brings us to the cross.
    • The Church is for us who are steeped in sin, were steeped in sin, and still step in sin.
  • God has endless forgiveness for us (Luke 15:20).
    • No amount of righteousness will give us access to God (Galatians 3:11), and no amount of sin will keep us from Him (Psalm 103:12).
    • The only way to receive the Father is through His forgiveness (John 14:6).
    • No matter how far we run, the Father is always ready to run to us and embrace us.
    • What makes us right with God is our relationship to Him as a child.
  • God gives us speechless restoration (Luke 15:22-24).
    • Restoration – making something entirely new (Psalm 126:1)
    • All we have to do to receive this restoration is to turn from our sin and return to the Father (Joel 2:12-13).
    • Because we are sons and daughters, God exchanges our sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
    • In addition to restoration, we receive relationship with God. We have a seat at the table of God’s celebration feast.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Where are you steeped in sin? Where do you still step in sin?
  • Are you more prone to believe that good works will give you access to God or that your sin will keep you far from God?
  • Is there anything keeping you from returning to God today?
  • In what ways have you seen God’s restoration in your life?

Good morning. Welcome to Watermark Community Church. My name is John Elmore, and I'm one of the teaching pastors here. If you're here as a guest or exploring the faith, special welcome to you. We this summer are in a series called Parable. This is a time that we look at instances that Jesus shared to consider our own lives and who God is and how we live accordingly.

Today, we're going to be carrying one of the most famous parables, maybe the most famous parable. It's often called by theologians the gospel within the gospel. You're going to see the good news of Jesus Christ within the good news that Luke delivers as the gospel. It's most often called the parable of the prodigal son.

Now, having studied it for the last two weeks, I believe it's actually a wrong title. I've looked at many commentators who have pointed things out, and I find that I agree with them. I don't think this is a story about a prodigal son. I don't think it's a story about a self-righteous son. I think it's a story about a forgiving father and his two lost sons. One is lost in self-indulgence, self-rebellion. One is lost in self-righteousness.

You see the father extending forgiveness and going to them both, which changes everything as you look at the parable. Like, "Oh, we're not looking at a squanderer; we're looking at one who gives lavish grace to the self-indulgent and the self-righteous." So, we're going to be looking this week at the first part of the parable. Next week, TA is going to cover the second half. You're going to get two views of the father from these two sons, again, each lost in their own choice of sin.

Both sons are distant from the father. One is distant in a distant land. One is distant out in the field. Both sons, you see, want his presents rather than his presence in proximity. Both have sin, one in self-indulgence, one in self-righteousness. Only one acknowledges it and, thus, you only see one with the father, and the rest is left open-ended, as if to say to the Pharisees, "Yes, the tax collectors and sinners are with me. The question is…Why aren't you?" Because they believed they had no sin.

So, to call it the parable of the prodigal son rather than call it The Forgiving Father and His Two Lost Sons is actually to fall prey to that Pharisee mindset, to be like, "Oh, yeah. It's the one about the great squanderer." No. It's a parable about a great father, whether it's lost in rebellion or self-righteousness. What Jesus uses here, too… Some theologians say this is actually one parable shown in three different ways.

In Luke, chapter 15… We're going to read the entirety of it because the meaning of a parable is found in the whole and not the particulars. Though I'm going to be looking at a view of the father from the rebellious son, we're going to read all of it. What you have is what's called an a fortiori logic or argument. Meaning, it's going to go from lesser to greater for Jesus to accentuate and punctuate his point. It's this.

If someone said, "Hey, if you lost $100 in your house, would you go look for it?" you'd be like, "Yeah, I'd look for a $100 bill." They'd say, "I thought so. What if you lost $500?" You'd be like, "Absolutely." They'd be like, "I thought so. What about a million?" You'd be like, "Yes! Yes, of course." That's precisely what Jesus is saying. He's like, "Hey, you'd look for a lost sheep, right?" and they say, "Yeah, of course we'd look for a lost sheep. That has value and worth."

"Yeah, I thought so. Hey, what about a day's wage, a denarius? Would you look for that if you lost that amount of money?" They're like, "Absolutely." Then he says, "What about a lost person? What's the worth of an immortal soul?" He's putting to the face of the Pharisees, "They're lost. They're dead, and I have come that they might be found, and you're grumbling about this? What is the value of a person, an immortal soul, who will spend eternity in heaven or hell? Are they not of greater worth?"

So, we're going to read now from Luke 15, and you're going to see three things in these parables that all have the same parallel in the parable. First, you have a person with ownership or authority. There's a person who has possessions. They're in charge. Something goes lost. That owner then goes into a relentless search until it's found. Once it's found and restored back to the owner, there's this huge celebration. Those are the parallels you'll see in all three of these parables.

I'm reading from the ESV. Luke 15:1: "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him [Jesus] . And the Pharisees and the scribes…" Scribes are those who copied the Law onto manuscripts day after day after day, and in copying it that much, they're committing it to memory. They're just soaked in it. So, they know it by heart, the Pharisees and the scribes, those who have the Law on lock.

" [They] grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" So, not only does he receive them; he's fellowshipping with them. Because of that, he told them this parable. Again, this parable is a response to them, saying, "You have grossly misunderstood the love of the Father." Jesus would say elsewhere, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." He would say, "I and the Father are one." So, he's about to project himself into all three instances within these parables. He's going to be like, "Oh, you want to know why? Let me tell you a story."

"What man of you…" That's a rhetorical question because he's like, "All of you. All of you would do this." "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?" "I'm not going to give it an hour search or even a three-day search. I'm going to search until it's found." There you have a glimpse into the love of the Father.

"And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders…" This is also the love of the Father. He's like, "You don't walk back. You don't pay penance. I'm putting you on my shoulders. I carry you back, rejoicing." "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

In that, he's actually drawing them offside, because they would have been like, "Exactly. They need to repent." He's like, "You've missed it. Everyone has sin, and everyone needs to repent. You're the 99 who think you don't need to repent when every single person has sin. All have fallen short of the glory of God and need to repent, so I'm rejoicing over the one who actually does."

He continues and says, "Or what woman, having ten silver coins…" It's a denarius. It's a day's wage. It's a large amount of money. We're not talking about a quarter…a day's wage. "…if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?" There's the diligent seeking and, again, the word until. "I'm not going to stop until what is lost is found. My love compels me to do so."

"And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." At that, again, the Pharisees and scribes would have said, "Amen. May the sinners repent." So, with his "from lesser to greater" logic, he then goes into, "Okay. Lost sheep? We're all in agreement. Lost coin? Still in agreement. What about a lost person?"

"And he said, 'There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me." And he divided his property between them.'" A lot of commentaries, a lot of preachers have said this is the equivalent of saying, "You're dead to me. I don't want you. I want your money, and I'm gone the second you give it to me." For that, the Old Testament would have even said to stone the rebellious son to death.

"Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country…" We know it's Gentile land by what follows. "…and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself [to his senses] , he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here 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. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."'

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in.

His father came out and entreated him [pleaded with him] , but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

The most repeated word in that entire parable is the word father…father, father, father, father, father, father, father. Jesus is saying, "You don't understand the love of the Father. Nor do you understand the gravity of sin that you have. The tax collectors and sinners are being drawn near to me. They're listening to me. They're dining with me because they're keenly aware of their sin, but you Pharisees don't, so you grumble, but they're drawn near to me."

The parable is a response to that question. They're saying, "Why are you eating with them?" and it's the wrong question. The question is, "Why are you not eating with me? Because you believe you don't have sin." If you don't have sin, you really don't have a need for a Savior. You have no need for Jesus apart from your sin. That is what will bring you to the Father: an awareness of sin to place your faith in Jesus.

So, the point is not the Prodigal, and the point is not the self-righteous son. The point is this unrelenting searching of the Father for those who are lost (and all are lost) that they would receive his grace. So, where we're going to go today in our outline is bottomless sin meets endless forgiveness, and with God it never stops there. He doesn't just forgive. This is mind-blowing. It so personally has affected me. It's enough that I would be forgiven, but then he goes on to give speechless restoration. Bottomless sin meets endless forgiveness and then speechless restoration. Let's begin.

  1. Bottomless sin. Jesus tells this story because they say, "Hey, the tax collectors and sinners are drawing near to you, and you eat with them." So he goes into this, "Well, you'd go after a lost sheep, and you'd go after a lost coin. Let me tell you something. What about a lost son? You guys are dads, probably." He's talking to the Pharisees. "If one of your kids was lost, would you go after them?"

They're thinking, "Yeah, of course, but not that scoundrel." What he does is he paints a worst-case scenario. He goes, like, low-bottom sinner. This is bottomless sin. In recovery circles… I came out of A.A. I walked into A.A. in 2005, and that's what God used to get me to look up to him. In those circles of A.A., recovery circles, they have what's called a low-bottom drunk.

This is someone that when you see them, you're like, "Oh, they got a DUI. I bet that's going to be their bottom," but they don't turn. They keep drinking. It's like, "Oh. Now they have aggravated assault with public intoxication. Wow! I thought this was the bottom. That's not the bottom. Oh, involuntary manslaughter and prison time. Oh, they lost their family and kids."

Jesus is portraying a low-bottom sinner. He's like, "You think tax collectors and sinners are bad? Let me tell you a story. There was this kid. He had a dad, and he had another brother, and he said, 'Hey, Dad, give me my share of the inheritance.'" They would have been like, "But the dad wasn't dead yet. You can't do that. He's saying to the father, 'I wish you were dead.'"

"Yeah. He got his money. He didn't then buy a house next door, like, 'Okay. We'll have Thanksgiving together.' He's like, 'Cool. I'm gone, Dad. I'm going into Gentile land.' 'What are you going to do with the money?' 'I'm going to blow it on reckless living. I'm going to get drunk. I'm going to see prostitutes. That's how I'm using your inheritance, Dad.'" The Pharisees, literally, per Old Testament law, would have been like, "Stone him to death."

But it wasn't enough, because then a famine comes upon the land. They already would have been pulling their hair out, mind blown, like, "This one deserves death." Jesus would have been like, "Nah. It gets worse. You think that's the bottom? No, this is a low-bottom sinner, because then, when the famine came, he hired himself out…" They would have been like, "Well, he should have. He needs to work off his debt." "…to a pig farmer." They would have been like, "What? No! They're unclean. You can't do that."

Then he would have said (maybe he leaned in), "He even wanted to eat the pig food." I mean, they would have torn their clothes and been like, "No!" Here's a picture of what pigs eat. This is a picture of trash. I lived at an orphanage in Haiti. There were pigs. We fed them the trash. I think it's probably why they're unclean animals and God says not to eat them in the Old Testament. They're like the shrimp of the sea. They're like cockroaches, just eat all the trash. Some of you just went, "What? That's what shrimp do?" Yes. Bottom feeder catfish. These are land-dwelling catfish that just eat trash.

Now, praise God. We're in the New Testament, and you can eat bacon. I love bacon. That's Acts, chapter 15, but it's a different message. He's saying he longed to eat what the pigs were eating. This is what they would have had in mind and been like, "No. No. No! He's the most unclean person ever." They would have heard the whole parable and been like, "That bottomless sin? That's who got forgiven and restored?"

You see, he was steeped in sin. It wasn't just a little bit of sin. This brother went full bore, full send. "I'm all in on this sin." It would have confused the Pharisees so much. Let me tell you what this church is for, and any church that's truly a church. It is for people who are steeped in sin, just as he was. That's present tense…who are steeped in sin. Or who were steeped in sin. I used to be steeped in sin. Or, third (and there's no one else invited), it's for those who still step in sin. You see, those who are here either are steeped in sin, were steeped in sin, or still step in sin.

We were at this farmer's market recently with my kids, and we were walking through, looking at the stuff, and we came to this booth. This guy (no joke) is selling rocks, which feels criminal, because rocks are free, but here we are. My kids want to buy rocks. I'm like, "Guys, I'll give you all of the rocks you want. We don't have to buy them." They're wanting to buy pyrite and a crystal or whatever else. The sign says, "Metaphysical rocks." I'm like, "Oh man! I'm going to have to pray over these rocks. They have, like, demons on them."

Then my son picks up this little jar. He's like, "What's this?" The guy is like, "Oh. Oh, you've got to wait till you're an adult," because it was drugs. He's selling mushrooms and weed. I'm like, "Oh my goodness! What in the world?" Judd is like, "I want the fool's gold." I'm like, "Yeah, this fool. All right." So we buy it, and he's like, "You know what? Here, buddy. You ought to have an extra." I'm like, "Okay. I'm going to have to wash these rocks. They probably have fentanyl traces on them."

We were walking away, and the kids were like, "He was so nice. He gave us free rocks." I was like, "Yeah, he's selling a different kind of rocks too, but nonetheless…" They said, "Do you think he knows Jesus? He was so nice." I was like, "No. I don't think he knows Jesus." They were like, "Why?" I'm like, "Because he's selling illegal drugs in Richardson, Texas." They were like, "He was?" Their little hearts shattered.

Then they stopped and were like, "Dad, you've got to share the gospel with him." They're like, "He's going to go to hell, Dad, if he doesn't know Jesus." I'm like, "Oh man! We were supposed to go to the pool." I was like, "All right. You're right. Here, sit in the car." (I grew up in the 80s. That's what we did. We put kids in cars. The A/C was going, so don't send me an email. I know it's like, "Pets and children." I'm like, "Whatever.")

They're sitting in the car. I walk back to this guy. No joke. He has two frozen wines with straws, carrying them. I was like, "Hey, man. I used to be addicted to that stuff." He was like, "Oh." I was like, "Yeah, it almost killed me, but I cried out to Jesus, and he set me free. Has anyone ever told you about Jesus?" He was like, "I don't know."

I was like, "Well, can I tell you? Here's the thing. Man has made a mess of religion, and the Bible is a big book. All it is is God loves you. We all have sin, so he sent Jesus to die in our place that we could be forgiven. That's it. It's super simple but profoundly changing. I have a wife and kids now. He'll just change you. Have you ever heard that?" He was like, "No, not really."

I was like, "Well, is anything keeping you from being forgiven today, placing your faith in Jesus?" He was holding his two wines. He's like, "Yeah. Yeah, there's something keeping me from trusting in Jesus for my sins." I was like, "What?" He's like, "I've never sinned." I'm like, "Well, I hate to break it to you, but you're selling drugs." I was like, "You've never lusted?" He's like, "No." I'm like, "Do you have a pulse?" I was like, "Have you ever been prideful?"






I'm like, "Well, I believe everyone has. I know I have. I have today even. That's why I need Jesus. I think someday maybe you're going to do something wrong, and before you die, you need to ask to be forgiven, because when you die, you'll face judgment and spend eternity in heaven or hell." At this point, he has checked out and is probably sipping on both of them. I was like, "That's it. You just have to be forgiven."

He's like, "I'm a good person." I'm like, "Your good deeds… I'm sure you are a good person. You gave my kid a free piece of pyrite, but it doesn't undo your sin." He's like, "I just see things differently." True. You don't need a Savior apart from your sin. Because he didn't see his sin, like the Pharisees. He didn't need a Savior. He didn't need Jesus. He didn't think he was lost, so why would he need the forgiveness of the Father?

I want to do a little experiment. I don't think we've ever done this before. It might come across as a little strange, but I'm going to ask all… Anyone who's visiting or a guest, you stay seated. This is a members-only thing. You're like, "See? Members only." Wait for it. If you are a member and you sinned in the last week, would you please stand? Yeah. Okay. Now turn to your neighbor and ask them what they did. Just kidding! Just kidding! You can have a seat.

All of you who are visiting, that's what church is. We're not here because we're perfect. We're here because we have sin and we have a perfect Savior, the perfect provision who laid down his life for the forgiveness of sins. That's why we came through this door, not as perfect Pharisees but as those who are like, "Man, I've got sin. I need a Savior. I need to be forgiven so I can be adopted by the Father."

I just want to make it super safe for you, as a visitor or guest, if you've walked through these doors like, "I don't know if I'm like them." Well, there's the great equalizer. I could have probably said, "Today" and everyone still would have stood. That's my point. That's the point Jesus is trying to draw. Everybody has sin, but not everybody has a Savior. The question is not, "Why do I eat with them?" The question is "Why are you not eating with me?"

Then he goes through his own way of trying to work out his sin. He says he's going to work his way out of his sin. He says, "Father, I've sinned against heaven and you. I'll be one of your hired hands." He's going to work his way out of this. This is a works-based salvation. See also every other religion. He's going to try to work his way out of it. He has already rehearsed it. "I'll never do it again, God. I promise. The last time was the last time. I'm going to try harder." It never works.

At re:generation, oftentimes… It's our biblically based, Christ-centered recovery program. I've served there for the last 12 years. Here's a little throwaway, but it's not a throwaway; it's profound. Someone told me once, "If you want to know what God is going to do with your future, take a good look at your past, because God will redeem it and use it." So, recovering alcoholic. There I am serving in re:gen the last 12 years.

People will be walking with me, and having had bottomless sin, they'll start to experience forgiveness and restoration, and they're like, "I just don't understand how God could forgive me. He has reconciled my marriage" or "Now I'm in communication with my adult children again" or "I got a job" or whatever it may be. They'll say, "I just feel so unworthy." I'll say to them, and I think they're a little taken aback… I'll say, "Oh, you are. You're totally unworthy. That's the point."

I mean, what's the opposite? The antithesis is if you were to say that you're worthy. Like, you're worthy to be forgiven of sin? You're worthy to receive these things from God? You are altogether, I am altogether, we are altogether unworthy. That's the point of the gospel, yet God sends his Son to die for our sins. So, while we are unworthy because of our sin, God sees us as having great worth, like the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son. He's like, "No matter what you've done, no matter what your bottomless sin is, I'm coming after you because I love you."

Then the other thing… It says before he goes back to his father… He has rehearsed his speech, but it says he longed to eat the pods the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. This is really important. Usually this gets overlooked. I think if someone would have given him something, if they would have given him that trash to eat, he would have stayed in the distant land. He didn't need to go back until and unless no one gave him anything. At that point he's like, "Well, I guess I've got to go back."

This is one of the teachings of a ministry we have by this very namesake called The Prodigal. It's for people who have a loved one in rebellion: how to love with right and biblical boundaries so that you don't get sucked into the craziness, because one crazy person is enough. I can call them crazy because I used to be one. It's like, "All right. How do I love you without enabling you? You're an alcoholic/addict, and I'm letting you sleep on my couch. I think I'm actually enabling your lifestyle. This isn't good."

You know, "You're a porn addict, and you're in my house, and I'm still paying the Internet bill. Why have I not cut this off?" Proverbs 19:18 says, "Discipline your son, for in this there is life." Then it says this profound thing: "Do not be a willing party to their death." If you're enabling someone in their sin, you're being a willing party to their death. That's sobering.

Somebody in here just lost their free ride, but it's good. Consequences are good, because consequences lead you to turn to the Father. Apart from my consequences of sin, I didn't need Jesus. I started to feel the sting and reality of it, and I was on my knees, pleading for Jesus. Then my bottomless sin met endless forgiveness.

  1. Endless forgiveness. You have no access to the Father through your own righteousness or any preventing your access by your bottomless sin. It is only the forgiveness of the Father that will grant you access to him. That is the only way to God. The only way to God is through the Son, his death, burial, and resurrection. That is how you gain entrance to the Father: only through the forgiveness of sins. You'll never get there by your own righteousness, and you will never be kept there by your bottomless sin. It is only his endless forgiveness.

No matter what the sin was… Jesus lays out this low-bottom sinner. He was steeped in it, and all he had to do was turn. That's repentance. All he had to do was turn. He didn't have to stop; he just had to turn. So often, when we hear the word repent, we think "Stop." Like, "Oh, you're addicted to porn" or "You're addicted to alcohol" or "Your control struggle. Stop!" It's not stop; it's turn. If you're lost in the woods and you stop, you will die in the woods. If you're lost in the woods and you turn, you actually will find your way out.

Here Jesus says, "No matter how far gone you are, turn. Turn back to the Father." It's endless forgiveness. This is Psalm 103 where it says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he separated our sins from us." It's not just like here to El Paso. He's endless. He stands outside of this earth. It's an infinite measure by God's perspective. East to west? That's infinite. He's like, "That's how far I've removed your sins from you."

In that same psalm, Psalm 103, he says, "As a father has compassion on his children and remembers we're dust." Just this love of the Father, endless forgiveness, but all we have to do is turn. When we were newlyweds, Laura and I were out on a walk. We lived in the M streets right there by the Granada. Like, two houses away from the Granada, all of the bars, Aw Shucks, and all that. Our house got broken into. It smelled like stale beer every morning. I mean, it was rough. If you live there, it's a charming neighborhood with beautiful old houses.

We were out for a walk one night. I think it was like 10:00. I said something super rude as a dumb newlywed, and she literally just started running. Like, "You know what? I'm going to go for a jog. I don't want to be with you anymore." At first, I was like, "Good. Run on along." Then as I'm watching her get smaller and smaller on the horizon and thinking about the neighborhood we're in and all the ingestion of alcohol and whatnot, I'm like, "Okay. All right." Conviction kicked in, and I started running after her.

I didn't want her to know I was chasing after her, because like a chased dog, if you chase them, they just run more. So I'm, like, sneak attack. She stops as she gets back to the house, and here's me. She turns around and is like, "Oh! What are you…?" Seeing her on the horizon, I felt compassion. I fell on her neck and embraced her and we kissed. No. Rom-com. It didn't happen like that. But I ran after her because of my love. I wasn't going to let her run away from me.

Different in the parable, you have someone running to someone in sin, not because of the sin they committed but the sin that was committed against them, and all the one who was running had to do was turn, no matter how far they had run, and there were met with the father. They turned, and the father was on the horizon, waiting, and ran, kissed, embraced, and then this incredible restoration.

I think a lot of times we vacillate between Galatians 5 and Galatians 3. Here's what I mean. Once we receive forgiveness of sins, we can fall into a trap of works-based salvation, works-based sanctification. Galatians 5 is the wrestling of the flesh and the Spirit. He says, "You do what you don't want to do. The flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another." He goes on to talk about the fruit of the flesh and then the fruit of the Spirit. He's like, "There's drunkenness, envy, jealousy, rage, and fits of anger." That's all that in chapter 5.

I think we trust in Jesus, and then we go backward in our faith to Galatians 3. In Galatians, chapter 3, he's talking to the Galatian church, the Judaizers. They're like, "Well, we'll trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, but now we're going to follow all of the rules, because that's how we're going to be right with God." He's like, "No. No, no, no. That's a false gospel, and if anyone gives you a gospel other than the one I have told you, let them be eternally accursed."

He uses strong language. He even says, "Go ahead and emasculate yourselves to stop reproducing this heretical theology," because what they were doing was… It says it here in chapter 3, verses 2 and 3. He says, "You foolish Galatians! Let me ask you one thing. Did you receive the Spirit? When you trusted in Jesus and the Holy Spirit came and indwelled you… When you received the Spirit, was it by following the law or by hearing with faith?"

They would have said, "Well, of course. It wasn't by following the law. It was by hearing with faith." He said, "Do you now think you'll be complete by following the law? Are you going to be perfected, completed, sanctified by good works?" It's what the son was doing here. He's like, "Oh man. I've blown it. I'll go back to the father, and I'll work this off." He's like, "No. You can't. The only way this is going away is through forgiveness."

So, I don't think we're prone here to a prosperity gospel, but I think we could be in danger of a good works gospel, a good works gospel that says, "All right, God. I trust you, and I'm going to live good, and as I live good, now you do good to me. My life just goes well. I get the job. I get the girl. My life is not going to have stress. I'm not going to get cancer. I'm going to do good, and then I'm going to live good."

What the Scripture says is "No. The sufferings of Christ are going to overflow to you. The point is not that you follow the rules. The point is that you're in a relationship." Then you get to Galatians 5 where it says, "And, by the way, you can't produce any good. You abide in me, and I will bear good in you."

The Promised Land that had the huge bunches of grapes they had to carry between sticks they were so big… That was God's Promised Land. They didn't grow those grapes. In the same way, the big fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and all that…that big, amazing fruit…that's all his fruit. He just says, "Walk with me." The son just needed to return. He couldn't work that off. He just needed to be in relationship with him. "Abide, and he will bear good." Endless forgiveness.

Do you want to know who my favorite people here at the church are? I know the Bible says don't show favoritism, so I'm not going to show it, but truly, in my heart, they are my favorites. I just won't let you know it. I'll treat you all the same, but my favorites are the people at re:generation every Monday night who are seeking healing in Christ. They're my favorite because they're poor in spirit. They know they have nothing. They have walked through these doors volitionally and been like, "All right, God. I need you. I've squandered what you have given me. It's yours. I'm ready. I'm listening."

It doesn't mean you have to be at re:gen to be poor in spirit, but it's a pretty good indicator if you are. I love it about them, because people are moldable when they are poor in spirit. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Here's the crazy paradox. This is wild. You could have sin stacked up to this roof, like, reams of paper with all your sin stacked to the roof, and if you see it and are aware of it, that's actually a better place to be than if you had one sheet of paper with your sin listed on it and you didn't see it.

This person is better off if he has sin to the ceiling and sees it versus one who has one little sheet and doesn't see it. It's what is going on right here with the Pharisees and the tax collectors and sinners who are drawing near to him, which is why in Matthew 21 he says, "Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you, because they know their need. All they have is need, so they're coming to me."

So, a blanket invitation for all to come to re:generation on Monday nights at 6:30. This coming Monday, because of the holiday, it'll be in the West Tower. Typically it's in this room. We need leaders too. We need leaders to take those people. Can you imagine if the son came back toward the house and found no father on the horizon? Sometimes people are coming to re:gen, but we don't have the leaders ready.

So, invitation. If you've never been through re:gen, that's okay. All it is is biblical discipleship. Spoiler alert. It's a daily walk with God in community. We can teach you that. What we can't teach you is to be faithful, abiding, and repentant, but if you are, I'm inviting you to sign up as a spiritual mother or father to come see some miracles before your eyes serving at re:gen. So, bottomless sin meets endless forgiveness, and then with God there's always more.

  1. Speechless restoration. I say "speechless" because the son wanted to come with his speech, like, "I've sinned against you and heaven," and the father cuts him off. He's like, "No, no, no." He starts talking to his servants even, like, "I'm going to tell you what to do now. I'm not even hearing your speech. This is going to be without a speech that I give you restoration. I just needed you to return to me."

As it says in Joel 2:13, "Just return to me. Don't rend your clothes; rend your heart. Return to me. I'm loving, compassionate, steadfast, slow to anger. Just return. There's no need for a speech. I just want you." So, speechless there, but then speechless also, double entendre, like, mind blown. "I don't even have words for what's going on here."

The restoration that's being bestowed upon this squandering son… They did not have words for it. Like, "You're giving who what? He just squandered everything, and you're going to give him the best robe, a ring, sandals, and kill the fatted calf? Are you kidding me?" They were speechless.

When we moved into our house… Our house was built in 1963. It had some work to be done. It was an old house. Things were broken, messed up, and dysfunctional based on how the old owner wanted them. So, we're knocking out walls, like, me taking a sledgehammer to things. We're moving things around, raising up cabinets, changing the backyard. Even the fencing changed. It was clear there was a new owner in that house, so it was changing.

When I say "speechless restoration," I don't mean we took our house back to its former state when it was made in 1963. I mean speechless restoration, like, your mind is going to be blown at what God will do with your life if you will give him your life, if you will repent and say, "All right. I've tried being lord of my life. Here are the keys. Do what you see fit." You will have speechless restoration, not to before your sin really got bad 10 years ago but to a life you have never dreamed of.

This is what it says in Psalm 126, one of my favorite psalms. "When the Lord brought the captives back to Zion, we were like men who dreamed." They had been taken into captivity to Babylon because of their sin. God brings them back, which was altogether unthinkable to them. They were like, "We're going to die in Babylon."

God brings them back through incredible circumstances, and he says, "We're like men who dreamed." Like, "How is it that we're looking at temple mount? How is it that we're back in Jerusalem? How is it that we're here?" There was speechless restoration. You go on in that psalm, and he says it happens fast. He says, "He who weeps with carrying seed to sow will come back carrying sheaves, or the harvest, with shouts of joy." In the matter of seed to harvest is what it takes God to perform miracles in somebody's life. Speechless restoration.

So, here is some of the restoration that takes place. He says, "Bring the best robe." He doesn't say "a robe"; he says "best robe." When Rembrandt painted The Return of the Prodigal Son, he's in these tattered clothes, and you see the father in rich garments. If you could put that painting into life, it's the father taking off his garment and wrapping him up. The best robe… He would have had the best robe.

Spiritually speaking, this is what is going on in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where it says, "He [the father] made him [Jesus] who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus is like, "I'm giving you my righteousness. You are naked and filthy in your sin. I'm wrapping you up in my righteousness. Now I'm going to take your filthy garments, and I'm going to put them on me," which is Colossians, chapter 2. All our sin was nailed to Jesus. The best robe. Not a robe…the best robe. That is the great exchange.

Then the ring…authority, ownership. Jesus says in the Great Commission, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been granted unto me. Behold, I'm with you to the end of the age." He's like, "You're not servants; you're sons." Athanasius said the one who was son by nature has made sons and daughters now by grace. You've been brought into the family. You're not a hired servant. You have the keys. You have the deed. It's all yours. We are co-heirs with Christ. He was a son, and he has made us now sons and daughters.

Then sandals, which are seemingly insignificant to us, but a hired servant would have been barefoot. This showed everybody. "Okay. Best robe. Well, he was naked and needed some clothes. Wait. He has shoes on. He's not like one of us." He said he wanted to be a hired hand. The father won't allow it, won't have it. It's an identity thing.

When you read your New Testament, it doesn't say you're sinners. I think it has become commonplace for us to say, "Well, I'm just a sinner," as a Christian. You were a sinner. Now Scripture says you're a saint. You're not a sinner who saints; you're a saint who sins. Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, who were licentious in their sin… Like, a guy sleeping with his stepmom. You had homosexuality. You had prostitution. I mean, just rampant sin…drunkenness, theft, all of it.

He's like, "You're saints." They would have been like, "Excuse me? Who are you talking to? What?" No, you're saints. Holy ones is the term…hagios. You're holy ones, saints of God. Yes, you still sin, which you need to repent from. There's not perfection; there's progression as you follow Christ. It's an identity. He's restoring identity to the son.

Then this last one. I think this last one is so powerful. You don't just get restored, speechless restoration. You get speechless relationship. Maybe you've eaten at a fancy Dallas restaurant that has farm-to-table. Like, "Yeah, this carrot we hand-scrubbed, and there it is. Farm-to-table." This is the OG farm-to-table. Jesus is like, "I'm taking this guy from the pig farm to the table."

He's going from the trash, the pods the pigs ate, to the father's table. From utter trash… Look at the juxtaposition on the screen. That's what this brother would have seen. "I wanted that? I wanted the filth and stench of sin when what awaited me was the beauty, goodness, and nourishment of the love of the father?" And he's restored to the father's table in right fellowship through, at that table, the means by which is the killing of the fatted calf.

I wonder… I don't mean to make too much allegory here, because I believe the parable is about the love of the father, but I wonder if as Jesus said, "Kill the fatted calf" he would have gotten chills or shuddered or looked past the Pharisees unto Golgotha and thought, "And I am the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world by laying down my life. I will be laid down in death that estranged, lost, and dead sons and daughters would draw near to the Father through the Son who died the death for your sins, was buried, and raised again to life, that whoever would trust in him would not perish but have eternal life."

And who wasn't there? Who wasn't at the meal was the self-righteous big brother. The question wasn't, "Why do I eat with sinners?" The question is "Why are you not eating with me? Are you not a sinner? Do you not have sin to be forgiven?"

Some of the dearest brothers and sisters I have in this church are ones who have bottomless sin, but they have been met with endless forgiveness and, I can tell you, speechless restoration. Some of those brothers and sisters are registered sex offenders. They would want me to say they're here with all legal parameters, chaperones, avoidance plans, but if they can't come to church, where can they go? It's modern-day leprosy.

Former prostitutes, felons, drunkards, addicts, porn addicts, sex addicts, mental health strugglers, suicidal… I'm telling you here today in your hearing they are some of the most dear and favorite people I know in this church, not because of their bottomless sin but because they've met endless forgiveness and it is speechless restoration.

If some of those things I just said made you cringe a little bit, then please come back next week and hear how the self-righteous son can be forgiven of sin also, because the man who's playing the piano right now… He heard the first service, and he said, "Go ahead and tell them my story." Five-time felon, meth addict, prison time, and he's leading you in worship. That is speechless restoration. As he plays, let's pray.

Father, thank you that you go after us as we are lost and that we need only turn, and there you are to wrap us up in the righteousness of Christ to cover all of our sin. Thank you, Lord, for what is speechless restoration. Those fingers that are playing those keys that committed five felonies now being used as an instrument of righteousness. Only you can do that. There are those here who maybe need to be forgiven today, or they've been forgiven, but they haven't yet experienced that speechless restoration. I pray they'd come forward to receive prayer and the grace of Jesus Christ. We love you. Amen.