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JP takes us through Luke 15:11-24, to remind us that we are God's, and He desires to have a relationship with us. JP compares the younger brother from The Parable of the Prodigal Son to those of us whose lives are messy and full of unrepentant sin. We learn that God is a perfect Father. He waits with open arms for us to come to Him and then He makes us right, something we cannot do on our own. God celebrates repentance!
Tale of Two Sons: Part 2
Tale of Two Sons: Part 1
Good morning, Dallas, Fort Worth, and now Plano. Good morning, people all over the place. I got texts from folks in Colorado and other parts of the country, so we're glad you're tuning in with us. I'm excited to be with you this morning. Did you guys love the Declaration series? I loved it!
That has become my favorite series we've done so far, I believe, so I talked with Todd this morning, and I think he's going to come and do one more, an encore in Declaration, which I'm excited about. If you're a guest with us here today and you came to protest the Declaration series, I want you to know we have a guest speaker this morning. That's important. Just take it easy on me. It's great to be with you guys.
Three weeks ago, my grandfather passed away. It was a celebration. He loved Jesus. A very God-fearing man who had an incredible legacy he left through his children, through my mom as she poured into me. It was fantastic to go home and to celebrate his life in my very small town about six hours from here.
We piled up the family and drove down there. The first night (Wednesday night) was the visitation. At the visitation, my mom had asked, "Can we just share about his life? We just want people to go up and talk about him." She asked if I would go first, and I didn't want to plan it. I wanted to go and speak from the heart, so it came the time to go up and share about his life, so I walked up there and took the podium.
I don't know if you've ever been in this situation. It was like everything came to mind but nothing came to mind. Really, honestly, to be fully transparent with you, all I could think about was when I was 7 years old my grandfather went to sit down, and like a mischievous kid, I pulled his chair out from underneath him. He fell to the floor in front of everyone and told everybody he didn't mean it; it was an accident.
All I could think about, as I stood at that podium with this open casket right there and how wonderful this man was, was, "It wasn't an accident." I found myself confessing this to about 400 of his closest friends. It was just coming out of my mouth. I was like, "I'm sorry, Gramps." Then, I sat down. I'm like, "What happened? I speak for a living. What just happened?"
People kept going up and talking about his life. It was people who worked with him, folks who fought a war with him, people who went to church with him for decades, and you'd catch these snippets of his life that you could piece together and you could begin, if you didn't know him, to know my grandfather, who he was, how lived, what he loved, his values, and how he treated his wife and his children.
Even people would come back and circle and talk to the family. Folks would want to share with me stories. "I remember when I was with your gramps…" They were telling me these stories (some I knew and some I didn't know). Then, my mother took the podium at the very end. She stole the show. She said, "Let me tell you about my daddy." Everybody there leaned forward, and she painted a picture of her father.
My mom had spent more time with him than anybody else. My mom knew my gramps better than anybody else. His children knew him because they saw him in all of those avenues: at work and at church and at their school and interacting with their teachers through life and in their home and at the dinner table and breakfast table. They knew him. She said, "Let me tell you about my daddy."
Today, this morning, Jesus, the Son of God, is going to say, "Let me tell you about my daddy." He's going to tell you about God, and no one knows about God more than Jesus because he has been with him for an eternity past. He spent more time with the Father than anybody. Jesus knows God the Father.
I've heard it said what you believe about God is the most important thing about you. Why is that? Is that true? I mean, is that the most important thing about me? Well, it affects the most important relationship. Thousands will gather in this room today, and every single one of us…you have to hear this…have misconceptions about who God is, and it impacts the way we go to him, the way we confess to him, the way we pray to him, and the way we talk with him or don't talk with him.
Our view of God impacts that, and all of us have, in ways, a wrong view of God, so Jesus is coming to say, "Let me set the record straight. I want to tell you about my daddy." Specifically, today he's going to say, "I want to tell you about how my daddy treats sinners. I want to tell you about how my daddy treats people who have done him wrong."
This is important, because it's all of us. We've all done Jesus' Father, our Father in heaven, wrong, so he's going to tell a story, a parable. It's the most famous parable in the Scriptures, the most famous story Jesus ever told. You may know it as the Prodigal Son or the Lost Son. That title was added later. It's in Luke 15. If you have your Bibles, you can turn with me to Luke 15.
We're going to spend two weeks talking about this parable because there are two sons in the parable. For two weeks, we're going to talk about the younger son in the first week, and next week the older son, but, really, what we're talking about is how the father interacts with them because the sons are characters. Each of us can resonate with one of the sons or maybe both of the sons, and Jesus is trying to tell us how the father interacts with those sons.
He's trying to paint a picture of the character of God and specifically how the Father treats sinners. As we move through this series we call A Tale of Two Sons, this morning we're going to talk specifically about how God the Father responds to our rebellion and how he responds to the results of our rebellion, and before you leave here this morning, how he responds to repentance.
I'll start in verse 1. " Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'" This is Jesus' audience, which is good news for us because we're all made up in this audience. There are tax collectors and sinners. That's one group of people. Then, there are Pharisees and the teachers of the law. That's another group of people. That's the religious group of people.
Everyone this morning is there. We're all sitting there listening attentively. You are one of those folks. We make up one of those people somewhere in life or maybe you've been one and you've become the other. I don't know where you're at, but let me just define them. Sinners aren't just people who sin. These are people who are labeled by their sin. It is known in the community that's a bad guy and he does bad things. Not just like, "I'm a sinner. Everybody is a sinner." No. That's a person we look at and think, "We know they really messed up."
Tax collectors… This is important because it doesn't equate to our world today. Tax collectors are people who were Jews specifically who sold out their own people. They would take 80 percent of what their fellow Jews made and would give it to a government that would then use that money to torture their friends and neighbors. They would skim from the top. These tax collectors were very, very wealthy, and everyone knew they had lots of money because they stole from their own people. They're not really popular amongst the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
Then, you have the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, those who come and have memorized the Torah and hold people accountable to it. They're angry. They're upset. They're judging Jesus. "This man here welcomes sinners and eats with them." Jesus said, "Can I tell you about my daddy? Let me tell you about the way my daddy treats sinners."
He goes on to tell two parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. I'll come back to those if there's time, but I want to jump to verse 11. Jesus says, "Let me tell you how my daddy treats sinners." He's going to teach this through a story. He's a genius teacher, Jesus is. Verse 11: " Jesus continued: 'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate." So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.'"
Let me commentate on this. In this culture, to go and ask your father for your inheritance early would have been an outrage. It would actually be against the law, against the Mishnah, which was the oral law of the Jews. They had specific laws that would articulate how this transaction could go down, and the father could not divide his estate early.
For a son to come to the father and say, "Can I have my inheritance early?" in this culture would be like, "Dad, I wish you were dead. I want your stuff. I don't want to be in right relationship with you. I just want what I have coming to me. Can I have it early?" The Pharisees hearing this would have been completely outraged by what he's asking, so there are two reasons he would ask this.
First, he's impatient. He knows he has something coming to him, but he doesn't want to wait for it. Secondly, he's untrusting. "Dad, I want to do things on my own terms and not under your authority." That's important because I think, as we wrestle with our relationship with God, we wrestle primarily in two areas.
First, we're impatient. "God, I don't want to wait on you. I don't want to wait. I'm single. Is there anyone out there for me? I'll just settle for him. He's fine. If he owns a Bible, it's all good. This sex thing… I really want that, and I don't want to wait for that, and everybody else is doing it, so I'll just take shortcuts. I don't need to listen to you, God."
In your marriage… You want a good marriage, but you don't want to put in the work it takes to have a good marriage, and you look at the situation. "This is really bad, and everyone is saying, 'You should go to re|engage.'" You've even said, "Maybe we should go to re|engage," or "Maybe I should just start over."
We become impatient with God. "I don't want to do things the right way. Long obedience in the same direction doesn't feel fun. I want to take a shortcut. God, I'm not really sure I trust you because this Book says some really crazy things in it. I'd rather just do things my way." This son goes off to a far-off land, somewhere where there are pigs west of Galilee. There were no pigs east. He would have had to go west of the Sea of Galilee, so he goes over there.
I mean, this is a Jewish boy! Pigs are unclean. He may have never in his life ever have seen a pig. He goes off to this far-off land and brings himself under an authority there that is causing him to do something and asking him to do something and bribing him to do something and exchanging money for him to do something that he had earlier a moral standard against.
Is this not like us in a world distant from the kingdom of God coming under Satan's authority doing things we thought we'd never do or giving in to our control or giving in to our impatience or giving in to our greed or our materialism and calling it normal, saying we know God but really coming under the authority of the Prince of this air?
Jesus is a genius teacher. He squanders his money. We know later from context that was on prostitutes, so he not only wastes his dad's inheritance but he does so in the worst way according to these Pharisees and teachers of the law. He finds himself in a place where he's jealous of pigs. He's sitting there and he wants what the pigs want. When you feed your sin and you keep feeding your sin, you grow an animalistic desire.
You feed the desires of God, and you grow godly desires. You begin and continue wanting the things of God, but when you feed the desires of your flesh and you keep feeding the desires of your flesh, it's a slippery slope that brings you to a place where your desires are animalistic. A big word. You have an animalistic desire. He wants the things of pigs. He has found himself in a place where he's jealous of the pigs. He has become dysfunctional in his desires. If you sow to the things of God, you grow godly desires, but if you sow to the flesh, you grow dysfunctional.
This would be an outrage to the Pharisees who are listening. The teachers of the law are like, "Rebellion! Pigs! This is crazy!" They're listening to Jesus, but they're kind of pleased because he said he was hungry. He was starving. They're happy about that. Here's what you need to know.
In Deuteronomy 21, verses 18 through 21, it would have the law outlined specifically in your Bible how this son should have been treated, so the Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew this. This son should be dragged outside the city, presented to the elders, and stoned to death. That's what it says should happen right here specifically. Go back and read it later. It's Deuteronomy 21. He should be dragged outside the city and stoned to death, so the Pharisees are like, "This is what's going to happen."
Do you ever read something in the Old Testament and that shapes your view of God? We forget the grace that Jesus comes and enters in. I'm not saying that God has changed. I'm not saying he's different today, but sometimes we hold on to this old verse. We're like, "That must be what's going to happen to me. I deserve to be dragged outside the city and stoned."
The Pharisees are like, "Stone him! Stone him! That's what needs to happen! Are you serious? You're telling me this story, and this guy is with pigs. Drag him outside the city and stone him!" But how does the Father respond to our rebellion? My first point this morning is…
1._ God will let you search for life apart from him._ It's very important. How does he respond in your rebellion? He lets you rebel. This is the most unsettling of my three points this morning. There was just something very unsettling as I studied this. I was like, "Is this true?" I wrestled with it. "God will let me go apart from him? God will let me look for life in other things apart from him? God, don't let me do that! I don't want to find life in anything but you."
But I open the text and I'm like, "Yeah." The son says, "Dad, I wish you were dead. Can I have your stuff?" The dad says, "Okay. Okay. You can." He would have given him a third of his estate. The younger brother would get a third and the older brother would get two-thirds. God will let you search for life apart from him.
Some of you are like, "Wait a minute. Is that true? Romans 8 says that nothing will separate me from the will of God." God doesn't stop loving you. I'm not saying that. I'm not talking about salvation here. I'm not talking about losing your salvation. I'm saying if you want to search for life apart from God, he'll let you. He will let you.
Some of us came out of the womb and heard the gospel and we're like, "There's life in God. God knows better than me. I just believe it. I just want to follow him." For me, I had to search for life in everything else to come to a place where I believe life could be found nowhere else except for God.
I searched for life in drugs. I searched for life in alcohol. I searched for life in relationships and specifically sex and pornography and all of the sins of this world, in materialism and stuff and status and achievement. I'm like, "Certainly, there has to be life here or maybe here. There has to be life maybe here," to come to a place where it's God and God alone. Only God. There's only life in God.
I don't know where you're looking for shortcuts this morning, where you're settling, and where you're not pursuing what you should. I don't know what your idols are. The younger brother had an idolatry problem. I don't know if it's your control. I don't know if it's the way you followed the rules hoping to get something back from God. You need to know. I want you to think about that.
What is the thing this morning that you've just been going through life saying, "This marks me," and "This is just what I do"? "I'm a little OCD." How long are you going to be OCD? Really, you're going to just snap that label over your life and say, "That's what I am. That's who I am. I just struggle with lust. Lust is just my deal. I keep feeding it." How long? Will you keep doing this? Are we going to live an entire life in this cycle or are we going to believe God knows better than us?
The other day, I was with my two girls, Presley, who is 7, and Finely, who is 5. We were going to have a daddy/daughter date. They didn't know that, though. I was planning it in my mind. We were going to get ice cream. Not just ice cream but frozen yogurt. We were going to go to the place where you dump the stuff on top and they weigh it. We go big when we do frozen yogurt. I was excited.
I was sitting there. I know what's about to happen, and I'm just excited because it's fun to give good things to your kids. I was kind of getting my stuff on and tying my shoes, and Finely, my youngest daughter, sees some leftover Halloween candy by the stove. It's like a bag of three candy corns. I mean, sad and pathetic. She sees it and is like, "Daddy, can I have some candy corn?" I'm like, "No, baby girl. Not right now."
I'm thinking, "Because we're about to go get ice cream. We can put candy corn on the ice cream when we get there." She begins to throw a fit. She begins to spiral, and I began to panic. I'm like, "No, no, no. Don't do this!" She's like, "Daddy, I want candy corn!" I'm like, "Finely, don't do this. Not right now. You don't understand. I have something good for you."
She's like, "I want candy corn!" I'm like, "No, you can't have it." It's getting escalated. I'm getting frustrated because I know. I just walk out of the room to separate myself from the situation, and Presley, my oldest daughter, goes to her and I hear from the other room, "Finely, you can trust Daddy. He gives us good things." I was like, "I knew she was my favorite." No. I'm just kidding.
Finely, when you listen to this years from now, I'm just kidding. I have no favorites. What happened? Come back with me. What happened was she spent more time with me. She has seen this go down. She knows I don't just say no for no reason. She knows I have good things for her, so she's going to her sister and reasoning with her. "You can trust Daddy."
Listen. This is the choice we have to make today. Do we trust the Father, his timing, his plans, and what he has for us? Do we believe that or do we not? Do we want to take matters into our own hands and do it on our terms and do it our way? That is the choice we have this morning. Life comes from him alone.
Verse 17: "When he [the younger son] came to his senses…" He's with the pigs. He came to his senses. By the way, this is why God will let you go: so you would come to your senses that life is found in him alone. You may need to go and find out that life is in him alone. "…he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father."
He's on the way, and he's practicing the apology. He's like, "Father, Dad, Father… I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like a slave. Make me like an employee." He's practicing while he's walking. Do you ever do this? Do you ever think about what you're going to pray instead of just praying?
Sometimes I'm sitting there in my truck, and I'm like, "Well, do I need to confess that? I don't know if I need to share that with God." Like God's not right there in the truck with me! Like he's not listening! Like he doesn't see that and say, "Hey, buddy! I'm right here. Why don't we just talk about it?"
We think about what we're going to pray instead of just, "God, I'm here. I don't know if I need to confess that or not. Could you let me know? Could you help me?" He's saying, "I want to help you. I'd love to show you. I'd love to talk with you about this." The son doesn't have any hope of being his son. He's like, "Just make me like a slave."
Some of us come to that place in our sin where we view our relationship with God as an employee/employer relationship and not a father/son relationship, or maybe you just had a bad father, so that father/son relationship is just really distorted in your mind, and you have to relearn what a perfect Father responds like because I'm not a perfect father and you didn't have a perfect father and you're not a perfect father, but he's a perfect Father, and he has no interest in you being a slave. He has no interest in you being an employee.
He wants a son and a daughter. You are not working for a wage. He has for you an inheritance. There's a big, vast difference, so the son is going back to the foreign land. What's going to happen now? The Pharisees are hearing this. He's going to walk in. He's smelly. He has pig stuff all over him. He's barefoot and nasty and stinky and filthy. He's going to walk in the door, and the dad is going to see him.
He's going to look up and go, "Oh. There you are. You're gross. Shut the door. It stinks. Is that pig smell? What have you done with my money? What have you been doing? Tell me it hasn't been with prostitutes. You've been with hookers, haven't you? That's what has been going on! You want to take my inheritance and go to some far-off land and work for some Gentile pig farmer!" Is that what's going to go down? Some of you think that.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." It says he was looking for him. He was longing for him. He was waiting for him, and when he sees him, he does the most scandalous thing in this culture. It was very scandalous. Maybe not the most scandalous thing but very scandalous. He picks up his robe and he begins to run.
For an old man to run in this first-century Jewish culture would have been unheard of. It would have been disgraceful. He picks up his robe, and he begins to run to him, and it says in the Greek, he fell on his neck and kissed him repeatedly. Oh! Where's the, "Oh, no, you stink"? He got his filth all over him.
The son smells like a pig. The father begins to smell like a pig because he's just happy the son is back. Are you learning about the character of God here? This is your God. This is the one you will talk to when you leave here. This is how he responds to you when you come to him and say, "Daddy, I've messed up." He took on his filth like Jesus takes on our filth and the son wants to repay his debts.
This week I was getting a haircut at some crazy place. I've never been there. I just saw it. I was like, "This looks like a story." I pulled in there. It was like gangster bald fades. I'm like, "I'm in." I go in there. It really was crazy. The guy cutting my hair was a real character. I mean, he had in his 24 years of life gone hard. He had a bottle of Moët (if you don't know what that is, it's like champagne) open on his counter. He's drinking from the bottle while he's putting sharp objects next to my skull. I'm like, "This is interesting."
I'm like, "What's your name?" He said, "Joseph." I started beginning to share the gospel with him, and he said, "I used to be in church. I just like to get drunk and every now and then light up a blunt." He tells me, "God doesn't want anything to do with me." I'm like, "Are you high right now?" Because that's not going to go well for me. We were talking, and he said, "I just think I'd have to pay too much to get back right with him."
I sat there. Honestly, I just sat there and thought about it. He finishes and takes off that thing I'm wearing and dusts me off. I get up and pay him. I said, "Joseph, I want to ask you a question. What about if, after I leave here, somebody comes and they want to pay you for this haircut?" He's like, "What do you mean?" I'm like, "Well, I just paid you. What if somebody else wants to come in and they want to pay you for it?"
He goes, "Well, I'd tell them you already paid." I said, "Bro, that's the gospel." I said, "You can't pay God back for your sins. God paid for your sins. That would be the biggest insult. Joseph, let me ask you a question. Why did Jesus have to die? He had to die because you like to get drunk and every now and then light up a blunt. That's why. That's why he had to die."
How is God going to respond? How does the Father respond to the results of our rebellion? Is he disappointed? I always think he's disappointed. If I'm honest, the feeling I have is that he's disappointed with me. My second point is…
2._ God responds to our sin with compassion._ God responds to our sin with compassion not, "I told you so!" Not, "That's what you had coming to you." He sees the results of our rebellion. He sees it in our lives when we come to our senses. You may be here this morning and you may not realize the result of your rebellion, but at some point, you'll come to your senses and you're going to be really tempted to think God is disappointed in you, that he's discouraged, but it says he sees the results of your rebellion and he is moved with compassion.
The word there in the Greek for compassion is a very peculiar word that Jesus uses. It only shows up a few times in the New Testament. Just to explain it, and I'm telling you it's weird, it's that you are moved deep within your bowels. That's the way we would translate this word. I'll interpret it for you.
The father looks out and he was kicked in the gut not because of what the son had done to him, the father, but because of what the son had done to himself. The father sees how the son has hurt himself, and he's moved deep within himself with compassion. He gets up and he runs to him and falls on his neck and kisses him repeatedly. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law are outraged, and the sinners and the tax collectors who are listening to this story as Jesus talks about his daddy are hopeful.
The Father says, "I hurt with you." The gospel is Jesus was hurt for you. Jesus was hurt in your place. This is the compassion the father feels not because of what the son did to the father but because of what he did to himself as he was looking for life apart from God, which will always bring consequences to you. Always. You cannot look for life apart from God and not bear consequences. You just can't do it.
We're dirty. We're filthy. We're nasty. We're in our sin, and all of a sudden, this sin has separated us from God, or at least we feel that separation. God is everywhere. There's no geographical separation, but he feels distant. The son is in a far-off land. He has felt distant from the father. You feel distant from the Father, and you feel like you can't go to him, so you'll sit on it for days before you repent, before you go, "Dad, I'm sorry!"
You wake up one day like, "Man! I was really awful in that meeting. The way I responded to her or the way I shouldn't have said that in that text message or the way I responded to my kids two weeks ago at dinner… Wow! That was nasty! God, I'm sorry. Will you help me? Will you fix that? What do I need to do now? I want to give that to you. I need to go back and ask their forgiveness. What does that look like?" The father did not respond with disappointment. He responded with this unique word: compassion. This is not just here in this relationship. This is how he responds to you. Compassion. Son. Daughter.
The other day, I was going to a young adult leader's retreat out of town. I was packing for that. It was the night before I had to leave, and I was in our master bedroom packing. The kitchen is across the house. I hear this, "Babe!" It's not like, "Babe, come here. I miss you." It was like a panic like something was on fire or someone broke into the house. Sort of an at gunpoint kind of, "Babe!"
I run from the master bedroom into the kitchen where Monica is sitting there behind Weston holding him. He was on the tile floor, and this 30-pound child has thrown up about 150 pounds of puke all over. I'm not trying to be gross, but I'm just trying to be accurate. It was on the refrigerator and the dishwasher, so both walls and everything in the middle. I've never seen this before. It began to pile up. It's literally heaping piles. I have a picture. No. I'm kidding you. I don't have a picture.
I walk in and the smell… I was like, "Oh! You got that one. It looks like you have it under control." She's behind him. I didn't even know what to do. She's trying to hold him so he doesn't slip in it. I'm thinking, "What is this? This is not good." I have to speak in a few days and this looks contagious, whatever this is. She goes, "Can you take him to the bath?" I kind of reach around and grab him, and I get a little on my arm, and I panic. I'm like, "Oh!" It's stringy and sticky and stinky.
She looks at me, my amazing wife, my very loving, God-fearing, Proverbs 31 wife. She looks at me with this look. This is how I would translate it. "You're such a wuss." I'm like, "Well, it's for the ministry. I don't want to get sick." She goes, "That's your son." She turns him around, and she grabs him, and she embraces him. She begins to pat his back. She goes, "I'll take him to the bath." I sat in the kitchen like, "I think I missed that one. That felt like a test." She takes him to the bath and cleans him up.
Like some of you, you think God is like me in that story. Jesus is going to great lengths to show you that your Father in heaven whom you pray to and who loves you is like Monica in that story. He knows everything you've ever done and every thought you've ever had, and he finds joy to be merciful toward you. It says in the Scriptures, it is to his delight to show you mercy, to grab you, to clean you up in spite of you, to love you in spite of you, to hold you in spite of you.
We think we have to get right to go back to God, but you can't get right without God. Only God makes you right. Let me say that again. We think we have to get right to go back to God, but you cannot get right without God. Only God makes you right. Verse 21: "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants…" He cuts them off.
He says, "'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." The father just cuts him off mid-confession, which is interesting because I was raised in a denomination where you would confess your sins. Then, you would pay a penance and have to say a bunch of prayers. I was reading this and I was like, "Where's the penance here?"
There's no penance. The father is not, "Oh, it's you. I'm going to put you over here. Listen. I'm glad you're back. I've missed you. I just want to see you be faithful for a little while. Maybe you can come back. Maybe one day you'll be at the table again, and that will be great." No. He grabs him and kisses him repeatedly. "Put a robe on him. Put a ring on him. Put sandals on him."
Slaves went barefoot. "This is my son! Put some shoes on the boy! My son's back. Son, you're not going to be a slave. That's ridiculous! You are and always have been my son and you're home! Kill the fattened calf," which would have fed about 75 people. It's not just a fattened calf. "It's the special one, the one we've saved for this special occasion. Get it! Bring it in! It's party time! Let's go!"
As you might have heard, the Prodigal Son is a bad name for this passage. Relax. It's not an error. It was added later. It should be more appropriately called Prodigal God, as Tim Keller recently made well-known. It's a long thought of idea, but prodigal is defined as spending money or resources freely and recklessly and wastefully and extravagantly, giving something on a lavish scale. That's what the father did. He says, "Put the robe and the ring on. He's restored. Put the shoes on his feet."
The last thing it says, and I want to point this out to you, is, "So they began to celebrate." Now, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, at this point in the story, are just confused. They're like, "Celebrate? What an idiot this dad is! Really? Celebrate?" The sinners and the tax collectors know how to celebrate, but can I tell you something else?
God knows how to celebrate. God knows how to celebrate. The biggest metaphor throughout the Scripture for heaven is a celebration, a feast, a wedding banquet. God knows how to party. The father here is like, "Let's party. In a way that won't cost us tomorrow, let's party." How does the Father respond to our repentance? My third point is…
3._ God celebrates repentance._ This is the main idea. This is the most important point I want you to leave with. God your Father in heaven who loves you celebrates repentance. He doesn't just accept you. It's not an acceptance. It's a celebration that ensues, and you can tell…listen to me… a lot about a person by what they celebrate.
Like my grandfather, for example. He celebrated birthdays. He loved birthdays. For his own birthday, they would have this big celebration that the whole town would come to. Everyone knew about it. There were no invitations sent. They would just show up every year on the same day.
He celebrated Christmas. They loved Christmas. We would go there for Christmas. It was this big two-day long thing of going to church and watching plays and opening presents and doing the Advent candles and the whole deal. He celebrated rain because he was a farmer. He would always get so excited when it would rain and the crops would grow. He loved rain.
You can tell what someone values by what they celebrate. You see this in your marriage, if you're married, or in other relationships. If someone celebrates birthdays… Maybe they don't have a birthday, but they have a birth week or a birth month. "It's still November. Where are the presents? Let's keep the cake going."
Or anniversaries or good grades in your house. Maybe that's what you value. "I want you to have good grades." We celebrate good grades or good behavior. Maybe that's what you value. We celebrate good behavior. You see what someone values by what they celebrate, so what does God the Father value in one word? Repentance.
Here in this story he's going to great lengths to show you…Jesus is showing you…that God values repentance. Why does he value repentance? Because repentance is the path that leads you back to relationship. Shame is so powerful. It will keep you in there with the pigs. "I feel ashamed." Under the authority of that ruler in a foreign land, I want you to feel shame, and God says, "No. You repent. I want to celebrate. I want to party." Repentance is the road that leads from shame and guilt back into relationship.
Jesus has gone to great lengths to show this. I told you I would talk to you about the lost sheep. I'll just read you this verse. They leave the 99 and look for the one. When he finds him, he rejoices. In verse 7, " I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Then, there's a lost coin. A lamp is lit. The house is carefully swept, and when it is found, there is much rejoicing and much celebrating. This is Jesus saying, " In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." The lost son is found, and maybe you've always read this story to talk about people who don't know God. I find it interesting that all of the things that are lost were once in the possession of the person. They had them. They lost them. They found them. They celebrated.
Is it talking about unbelievers or believers? I don't know, but one thing is abundantly clear. God celebrates repentance. Not sin, but you turning from your sin back into relationship with him. Why? Because he knows sin will kill you, and he gives you life. He loves you, and he wants you to have life. He does not want you to be given over to sin, so he celebrates repentance.
The application today is, first, knowing and understanding that life is found in God alone. Secondly, it's understanding that he meets you in your sin with compassion. Thirdly, it's understanding that he, God the Father, celebrates repentance. If we understand those things, what do we do? We repent. We repent.
True repentance is not, "God, please make the consequences go away." Sometimes I think that's what we mean when we go to God and say, "Forgive us. Father, would you make this all okay?" True repentance is, "God, I messed up, and I'll do what I need to do. I will come back under the authority of you, and I will walk the path you have for me. I'm not scared anymore. I trust you. Maybe I am scared, but I trust you to help me trust you." That's true repentance, turning from sin and turning to God.
Not getting stuck in the cycle and being labeled by your sin, but turning from sin and turning to God, and when you do that, there's a party. It's a celebration. Jesus is trying to tell you God is not sizing you up. He's not giving you a to-do list. He's celebrating. There's a party. We have to know that. We have to understand that as we read this text, that there is freedom in trusting the Father. I'll close with this.
The day after my grandfather's funeral, I had to jump on a plane and fly to Washington, DC, for a men's retreat there at another church, McLean Bible Church, there in Virginia. I got off of the plane and gave two messages to a roomful of about 500 or 600 or 700 men. In the second message I began to talk about my own struggles with pornography. It's a message I've done here before or a similar message about similar things.
I talked about how people come and say, "How do you talk so openly about pornography?" I say, "It's because I'm free because God has set me free. I'm not saying I no longer struggle with lust, but I realize life is found in him, and I've entered into a process that I'm not afraid to bring that to the light anymore."
There is freedom when you bring stuff into the light. God uses that. He takes your mess and gives you a message. I said that. I said, "It's because I'm free." I ended the message. Then, I sat down and these guys were on the stage. It was like a movie. I've never seen anything like it. These guys were on the stage. They were commentating about some of the things I had just said and giving an overview and some next steps.
In the middle of this room full of hundreds of men, this guy literally screamed, "I want to be free!" I was like, "What just happened?" Then, this other guy over here stands up, too, and screams, "I want to be free, too!" Then, this other guy over here stands up and screams, "I want to be free, too!" This other guy goes, "Me, too!" I was like, "Oh, my! Is this part of the program? They didn't tell me. No one told me this."
I was sitting there going, "Whoa! That's awesome." I mean, if there could have been streamers and balloons coming down, there would have been. It would have been a party, a celebration, but that's what was going on in heaven. I'm not saying literally streamers and balloons. I don't know. I can't wait to see with you one day, but that day… Can you imagine above them in the angelic realm in the kingdom of God? "Party! Party! Another one! Party!" How awesome!
The guy who started it came up afterward, and he said, "Man! That's the scariest thing I've ever done." I said, "That's because you had a bad view of God." Let me say it this way. That's because he had a wrong view of God. It's not scary when you know a party is waiting for you on the other side. Right? That's not scary. You get to start the party. There's nothing scary about that. Right? He had a wrong view of God. I said, "You've been set free." How can it be? Let me pray.
Father, may parties in your kingdom ensue today. Many, many parties… May we leave here with a greater understanding of how it can be that you sent your Son specifically and strategically to pay for the things we've done so when we come to a place in our shame and guilt where we think we have to repay you for the things we've done, it is blasphemous. It is a heresy to what you have intended for us. Would you stir our hearts and our minds around that?
Father, that we would run to you and cling to you, that repentance would be the outpouring of this room today, an ongoing repentance for believers changing our minds from the things of this world and the sin that marks us to the things of you. Father, that we might be told we're free and be tempted to ask, "How can it be?"
The other day I was gathered with a group of friends and one of them said he was struggling to share the gospel. He said, "It just doesn't ever seem to go well." Another one very intuitively and very appropriately said, "When you share it, does it sound like good news?" He said, "Next time you share it with someone, just ask them, 'Did that sound like good news?' That will help you get feedback." Because the gospel is a word that just means good news, and "I am free" is great news.
I will tell you there is this cerebral thing that happens when you've been in the church for a long time where you view repentance as kind of this thing like, "I know God forgives me and I no longer need to go through that discipline." It's like, "Yeah, I repent." There's something that happens almost subconsciously, and that's not what we're talking about today. We're talking about you turning from a sin that you might be blind to, a sin that maybe has marked you for decades that you've just identified with, and turning back to the Father.
Some of you don't know him. The most loving thing I can tell you is that you don't know the Father, and it's time that you would come to your senses, that you would be awakened, and you would turn from the sin that has marked your life to him. I pray that you are free. It has been a joy to be with you today.
I love you guys. Have a great week of worship.