JP takes us through Luke 15:25-32, to remind us whose we are and the relationship that God desires us to have. JP compares the older brother from The Parable of the Prodigal's Son to most of us as a critical churchgoer. We learn how a critical churchgoer is apprehensive, angry, bitter, lonely, ungrateful, and doesn't understand grace. Also, a critical churchgoer seeks a slave/master relationship and not a father/child relationship. But God doesn't pay wages. He has set up an eternal inheritance for us as His sons & daughters. As critics we get lost in this world and can't see all of God's goodness. But the Father loves the critical churchgoer. He has compassion towards us, and He celebrates repentance.
Tale of Two Sons: Part 2
Tale of Two Sons: Part 1
Good morning! It's great to be with you. If you're just joining us and were not with us last week, hopefully you tuned in online via the Watermark app or on the website. If you didn't, we're glad to have you this morning. Welcome, Fort Worth and Plano, as well. I'll just do a quick recap up top. My name is JP, Jonathan Pokluda. I get to serve here in the young adult ministry in The Porch.
Last week, we started a series called A Tale of Two Sons. Here's how it kind of goes down. Jesus is hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. These are bad people. Not just sinners like we all are but people who are identified by their sin, people who stole from their own people, people who funded the torture of their friends and neighbors (the tax collectors), so the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are religious people, and they see Jesus doing this and they say this line, which really starts this barrage of stories that Jesus is about to tell.
They say, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." It says, they mutter. These are complainers. These are cynics. These are critics. That's who these people are. These are churchgoers. In fact, I could call them a lot of things. We could call them the older brother. We could call them Pharisees.
I am today going to call them churchgoers. Why? Because they were churchgoers. That's who these people were. These were people who taught the law (the teachers of the law) and kept the law (the Pharisees). They taught the law and kept the law. That's who these people were. They were folks who regularly went to church, churchgoers, and they said, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Jesus, being brilliant because he's God, says, "Let me tell you some stories." He talks about a lost sheep. He talks about a lost coin. He talks about how you look for the thing that is lost and you find it. Then, he says, "I want to tell you about a dad who had two sons." Last week, we talked about the younger son. The younger son goes to the father and says, "Dad, I wish you were dead because I'd get my inheritance. In fact, is there any way I can get it earlier?"
The father in this time would have given him one-third of the estate because he was the younger brother. The older brother would have gotten two-thirds. He takes one-third of the estate, and it says that quickly he set off for a far-off land. He wastes it and spends the money on prostitutes. A true story Jesus is telling that the Pharisees are hearing. They're outraged. "This is crazy! He did what?"
He brings himself under the authority of a Gentile, and he begins to care for the pigs, of which as a Jewish boy he could not even touch. They were unclean. The Pharisees are outraged as they're hearing this story. It says that he longed to eat what the pigs were eating. He was jealous of the pigs. He says, "Certainly, my dad's slaves, his servants, eat better off than I do," so he heads back home after being under the authority of someone who caused him to compromise his morals. He's feeding pigs.
He heads home, and he practices his speech. "Daddy, I sinned against heaven and against you and am no longer worthy to be called your son. In fact, make me like a slave so that I might eat." It says the father was looking for him. He sees him afar off, and when he sees someone who kind of resembles the way his son used to walk, he gets up, picks up his robe, and runs to him.
In the Greek, it says he falls on his neck and kisses him repeatedly. We see the compassion of the father, that he hasn't held his sins against him, but he loves him and cares for him. He says, "Dad, I'll be like a slave." He cuts him off and says, "No. Put a ring on his finger. He's barefoot. Slaves are barefoot. My son needs shoes. Get shoes! Get this boy some shoes!" With a robe on him, he's restored. He's restored.
"My son is home. Kill the fattened calf, the fattened calf, the delicacy. Let's celebrate, for this son of mine was dead, but he is alive again. He was lost, but now he is found. He's home! Let's party!" We talked about how the Father celebrates repentance. Let me pray and we'll dive back in.
Father, speak to us today. As we are in church, we are most likely the older brother. Maybe we've identified as the younger brother in seasons past, but today we're here. Many of us have more in common with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law than we do with you, so would you stir our hearts mercifully this morning and show us whose we are and what you desire from us specifically, God? Please show us the type of relationship you want from us as we open your Word this morning. We love you, God and pray you'd direct our time. In the name of Jesus, amen.
I'm calling these Pharisees and the older brother churchgoers, because they were, and I will tell you I did not like going to church growing up. I never enjoyed it growing up. It was always too early. I remember Dad would walk in my room and turn on the light. "Oh, man! Seriously? Again?"
You'd get up and have to dress up for church, so I'd find this pair of pants I'd only wear to church, this pair of khakis I hadn't touched since last Sunday. I'd put them on and a button-down shirt I never wore anywhere except church. I would tuck it in. That was always an argument in the car. "Tuck in your shirt." "Okay."
I'm walking to church with my pants unzipped, tucking in my shirt. That happened many times, and we'd get in. It was God's house, but I never saw God there. Just a man in a robe, and that was confusing. "How come he didn't have to dress up? He's still in his bathrobe." We'd sit in these pews which seemed like an experiment. Like some Texas A&M grad said, "What's the most uncomfortable chair we can possibly make for people to stay awake in church?" We'd sit down. It would be wood. I'm like, "Get a cushion, please, or something!"
We'd sit down in the chair, and we'd sing these songs in this operatic voice, if that's a word. I hated it. I didn't like it. I never wanted to go. I didn't enjoy it, so when I had the freedom to choose if I could go, I didn't go. College? "No! I don't want to go to church. I don't like it." Then, I came into this place.
Someone had invited me, and I walked in, and I really enjoyed myself. I almost felt guilty for it. I'm like, "This isn't church! The chairs are comfortable. This isn't church. That guy didn't even tuck in his shirt up there. This is not church. He's funny. You can't laugh at church. Stop it!" I'm like, "This is not church."
Then, I got plugged in here, and I loved it. I just remember telling everyone, "Did you go? Did you catch the message on Sunday?" I would love the teaching. I would love the music. I'd talk to somebody every now and then. I'd bump into a friend who was plugged in here. They were like, "No, we didn't go. It was just a hectic one." I'm like, "You didn't go? Are you serious? How could you miss it? You know it's free? Come on! How did you not go?"
Then, I've been plugged in here for about a decade, so it's easy for me to tell you the things I don't like about it. Let me tell you the things I don't like about Watermark. I'll start with parking. I'm serious. Can somebody fix this? There are all of these people out there. What took so long? Then, I walk in. I want to check my kid in. I'm always delayed. I get hung up with different things.
Then, I want to put my kids in kid's ministry, and there's no room. No room at the inn. "No room for you, JP!" Alright. Okay. Well, then we'll go sit in these rooms back here with these little TV screens. I'm not catching a word of the service, and I want to. I want to hear it. Then, we come in here and every now and then we're going to meet someone for church. "Do you want to meet me at church?" But this place is huge! I'm up here like, "Hey! I'm over here! The tall guy!" I can't find him. It's a big place.
All of these things have kind of piled up over the years that brought me to a breaking point. About a year ago, I was headed to church. We were running late. I drove south on Coit and got close to this place, but you would have thought there was a wreck because cars are parked on the street. I was wondering what was going on. Oh, it was just a bunch of people going to church. That's what was going on. We were running later than normal, and if you're running late you don't get in this place.
You'll see some friends walk in, and about 15 minutes they're running late, like I was. We got here. We were parked. There are people directing traffic. I'm like, "They're not directing traffic very well. Let us get in! What's so hard about bringing cars into the parking lot?" Then, we actually pulled into the parking lot, and it was like a parking lot. I'm looking for a spot. Then, they put me in this spot in this far-off corner way over there by Benihana, and I'm like, "Okay."
I got the kids. I got one kid in this arm and one kid in this arm. Then, I realized one doesn't have shoes, so I'm taking them back. Then, I realize I spilled coffee on my sleeve. "Okay. I got them." I'm doing this limp across the parking lot. I get here, and I've checked one child in. Then, I get to check the other one in, and they're like, "You can't." "Great! I'm not going to catch the service today."
Then, I have to meet my in-laws, who are here somewhere. Where? GPS tracking device. I'm like calling, "Where are you guys? By the coffee?" "No. The other coffee. The other coffee. Okay." Finally, I find them, and they're like, "Where are we going to sit?" I'm like, "Well, I have to sit over here. Why don't you all go in? I have a kid with me and we're going to sit in this place." We come in here. We can't get in those doors. "Nope. Too late. Come up. Go up top." I'm looking for a spot. I sat up there in the nosebleeds. Shout out to my people up there.
There's a guest speaker this day. "Oh, great! It's not even Todd! Are you serious?" I'm sitting up there, and this guy starts talking. He's like, "We're going to teach on the Prodigal Son." I'm like, "Could it be any more cliché? A guest speaker teaching the Prodigal Son. Come on, man! I know this story, the most famous parable ever told. I know my role. I'm the Prodigal. I'm the porn guy. Drugs. Alcohol. Check. Check. Yeah, I'm that guy. I know my role in this story. I left. I grew up in a Christian home. I didn't go to church in college. I came back later on. The Prodigal. Check."
He starts teaching and starts talking about the older brother, the critical churchgoer, and I realized this drift that had occurred in my heart that God mercifully showed me. I had become a critic, a complainer, a cynic. When did this happen? I'm sitting there, and the man who was preaching kept saying, "Come in off the porch!" I'm like, "Okay. I will! I'm coming off the porch. I'm sorry!" I'm weeping up in the nosebleeds.
This thing happened slowly. If you're here this morning and maybe you thought you were the younger brother but you might have become the older brother, and the hardest thing about realizing you're the older brother is that you don't realize you're the older brother. The older brother is the Pharisee who teaches the law, complainers, cynics, critics, churchgoers. Mature Christians. They don't see the drift that has happened slowly.
I think this is kind of the evolution of the churchgoer, of the Christian, if you will. You start out. You're a convert. "Yes! Praise Jesus!" Then, you're a contributor. "Where do I serve? I'll hold babies. I'll stand in the back. I'll park cars. I just want to contribute to this amazing place." Then, you become a consumer. You sit back. "Feed me. The music is too loud. What's going on? Give me something good! Did you prepare for this? What are you doing? Give me something good. Teach me!" Then, you're a critic. That drift happens.
Now, I'm sitting in the back. "Let me tell you everything that's wrong with this place, everything that's wrong with…" They were talking about Jesus; we're talking about the body of Jesus. Complainers, grumblers, and mutterers we have become. I share that with you today because we're talking this morning about the Father's love for the critical churchgoer. They're not saved. I can't call them Christians. They're Pharisees. I call them churchgoers.
We're going to talk about how the Father loves his critics. We're going to specifically cover the heart of the critical churchgoer, the attitude of the critical churchgoer, and before you leave here this morning, we're going to talk about the Father's compassion toward the heart and the attitude of the critical churchgoer. Luke 15. The party is happening. The older brother walks up. His younger brother is home. Verse 25:
" Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'"
Jesus, an amazing teacher, does this incredibly brilliant move. He puts the Pharisees and the teachers of the law in the story. They were angry at the father's celebration of the repentance of the younger brother, and he says, "Wait for it. Wait for it. Okay. Cue scene two. Now, you're in the story." They identify with this guy. The older brother captures their feelings of the critical churchgoer. What was going on inside his heart?
1._ The heart of the critical churchgoer._ They're also known as the Pharisee or the older brother or the cynic or the complainer. Verse 29: "Look!" He's rude. "All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.""I've been slaving. I do not have any interest in being your son," much like the younger brother.
"I don't want to be your son. I don't want you to be my father. I want to be a slave, and I want you to be my master because I'm a critic and critics judge people based on behavior, even my own, and it's just easier to manage a relationship with someone if I'm just in this place of, 'Just tell me what to do.'"
"But I want you to love me."
"No, no! What do I do?"
"Well, you have to feel a certain way."
"What do I do to show you that I feel that way?"
"It doesn't work like that. It doesn't work like that." He's working for merit. He says, "You killed the fattened calf? Are you serious? He doesn't deserve that! What did he do to deserve that?" Nothing. That's grace. See, grace is confusing to older brothers, to critical churchgoers. Grace is confusing.
"You're just going to celebrate him? Why? Because he came home? Are you serious?" It's ironic that the younger son asked to be a slave when he came back and returned to his father, which would make him like a slave, but the older brother had become one. The older brother had been a slave. This is the irony of this passage. He had turned the father/son relationship into a slave/master relationship, and there's no love in a slave/master relationship. There is no romance in a slave/master relationship, just a honey-do list.
"What do I do? Just tell me what to do!" I've been in community with some of the same group of guys for over a decade. It started as a Foundation Group here. They're all software engineers. The best kind of engineers. They make programs. I'm kidding. I just love those guys. They make programs. They make software.
One of them was talking about accountability and what it looks like to love his wife, so he writes a software program to remind him when to buy her flowers arbitrarily. It just comes up with random dates. There's an app for that. How do I love my wife? There's an app for that. It just tells him randomly when to buy her flowers.
We were sitting there. You can imagine what this Community Group time looks like. I'm like, "It doesn't work like that." "Why not?" We thought it was funny for a moment, but let me ask you. Why is that funny? I heard the women laughing. The guys weren't laughing. The guys were like, "That's brilliant!" Why is it funny? The end result is the same. You get flowers. You want flowers. You get flowers.
No, no, no. It's not the flowers; it's the thought. It's the thought that counts. "I want to know you cared enough about me to think about the flowers. Basically, you want to love me in a way that you don't have to think about it." You want to replace a relationship with routine. Routine religion. Mechanical religion. Slave/master.
Let me go one more with you. My wife, Monica, loves Mexican food. Mi Cocina. She loves flowers (Gerber daisies). She loves romantic comedies. I'll go Pitch Perfect. Imagine if I come to her, my wife whom I love, and say, "I've planned an amazing date for you. Yes, you are lucky to be married to me. I've thought about this. I'm picking you up. I'm taking you to Mi Cocina. By the way, I got you your flowers. That's right. Gerber daisies. Yes, they're pink. We're going to come home and watch Pitch Perfect."
She's like, "Wow! You really sought to know me." New Christians really want to know God. "You really took an interest in who I am." We did that. It goes amazing. The next day comes. "I planned an amazing date for you. That's right. Mi Cocina, Gerber daisies (still pink). We're going to come home and watch Pitch Perfect." "Okay. That's kind of weird, but okay."
The next day comes. Mi Cocina, Gerber daisies, Pitch Perfect. "Something's up. What are you doing?" The next day comes. Gerber daisies, Mi Cocina, and Pitch Perfect. "Are you really thinking about this? Do you really love me? It worked one time. I know you got lucky four days ago, but this is routine. This is different. Why are you doing this over and over?"
What does our relationship with God look like? There's no romance in that. I've been a Christian a long time. "Just tell me what to do! What do I need to do? Just tell me what to do!" But some of this routine religion marks our relationship with God, and this is where I have to say the harsh thing. You can go to hell for breaking all of the rules, and you can go to hell for keeping them. You say, "Wait! What? What did he say? I can go to hell for keeping the rules?" Yeah. That's right.
The only way to get to heaven is to acknowledge a deep need for God as Savior. "Will you save me? I can't do it on my own. I can't! I need to be saved. I need someone to save me." He says, "Look! I have obeyed all of your commands," which then the father should say, "Then, obey this one. Go inside," but he doesn't. The son says, "Where is my wage? I've been working hard for you. Where is my payment?" The father says, "You're not a slave. You're not a servant. You're my son. Sons don't work for wages. Sons live for an inheritance."
I grew up on about 20 acres in south Texas, and I would mow the lawn. It's funny because I would long to be able to mow the lawn, and then when I could mow the lawn I hated mowing the lawn. My dad had a surveying business, and he had employees, and every now and then when business was slow, they would mow the lawn.
Those were good days for me, but they would mow the lawn for a wage, for a paycheck. I would mow the lawn because it was my lawn. I lived there. It was my home. It belonged to me. It belonged to my parents. It belonged to me. One day I would take care of it not because I'm a slave and not because I'm a servant but because I'm a son. That's what's going on here. The son says, "Where is my wage?" as if God needed his work. God does not need your work.
Acts 17, verse 25, says, " And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he[God]himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else." If you think you're serving God, you're not. In fact, the only time you do something with a positive outcome it's God working through you. You can't even do good on your own, and if you find yourself where you think you are owed a break… "I just need a break, God. Don't you see what I've been doing?"
Let's look at what happens. This is what's going on inside. Let's look at what's going on outside. We'll look at the attitude of the critical churchgoer and how they feel toward the Father. I said last week the most important thing about a person is what you think about God. The second most important thing about a person is what you think God thinks about you.
2._ The attitude of the critical churchgoer._ Let's look at the attitude, the outpouring of this heart. "I want a slave/master relationship. It's easier to have a slave/master relationship. I don't want to have to love you. I don't know how to love you. I can't see you. I open the Book, and it's like you're not there. Just tell me what to do." What is the attitude of the critical churchgoer?
First, he's apprehensive toward God's work. He's apprehensive. I'm defining that word as a skeptical curiosity that's anxious. An anxious, skeptical curiosity. Verse 25: " Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on."
It looks like this. "What's going on over there? What's that? Why are they celebrating? Come here! Why are they celebrating? Come here! What's going on at re|enage? Marriages being changed… I've heard it all! What's really happening there? That's not for me."
"Your marriage isn't doing well."
"I know, but that ain't it! What's going on at re:generation? That's a cute name. They have a lot of 're' words. What's really happening there? I hear they chant or something. That's weird. What's going on at re:generation? People are coming out saying, 'I have a new life.' That's cute. I mean, that's great. Praise God! Praise God! New life. What's really happening in there?"
"I think you should check it out."
"No, it's not for me. The Porch… What's going on at The Porch? It's like a meat market. Be careful. What's happening in there with these young adults hanging out? What's happening in there? What's really going on? That's not me. I've been in church my whole life. That's not for me. A big Bible study is not really my thing." Apprehensive, critical churchgoer. You've seen the scene. "Come on! Let's go dance! Let's go…"
"No. I don't want to."
"Everybody's having a good time."
"That's not my thing, man! Go ahead. Go without me. You can dance with them. That's fine. I don't want to." A stick in the mud. "Always talking about Watermark." No, we're not. We're just talking about God at work at Watermark. You see, there's a difference. I don't boast in Watermark. I don't boast in re|engage. It's Christ's work. Are you serious? Church critics.
He's angry. The older brother became angry and refused to go in. He's angry at what? He's angry at God's results. "This isn't what I bargained for. This isn't how I see this going down. He's going to come home? I didn't see that coming. As the older brother, I thought I had obligated you toward a blessing, and you're going to give that blessing to him? I did everything right, Dad! I did it all right!"
I'll tell you a strange story and the way this impacted me. I like to buy and sell things, and I love Craigslist. I had budgeted for a car. I had saved money for a new car. I had looked. When I'm looking for a new car, I'll look at hundreds. It's just kind of a hobby. I had found this one. It was the right deal. It was $9,000, exactly how much I had saved. I emailed the guy. He said, "I can meet you after work." I'm like, "That's perfect."
He says, "Where do you work?" I was like, "I work at this place called Watermark." He shows up in the car in the parking lot right outside those doors. I look it over and it's everything I thought it was going to be. I was like, "What a great deal!" We test drove it and everything ran perfectly. I look at him and go, "Great. I'd like to buy it. How do you want me to pay?"
He's like, "I would prefer cash." I went, "Okay. Let's go to my bank." We get in the car and drive out to the Wells Fargo at Skillman and 635. If you're in Forth Worth, just say way east of town. We go there, walk in, get the money, and check his ID and everything and checked Carfax on the car. Everything came back clear, so I'm like, "Where do you want me to take you?"
He's like, "Take me to my house." I'm like, "Where's that?" He's like, "Frankfort and Midway." Now, I'm heading way east in the car, but I'm making good use of the time because I'm a Christian and he's not, so I shared the gospel. "Do you know Jesus?"
"Let me tell you about Jesus."
"That's interesting." I have a spiritual conversation the entire way, drop him off at his house, and enjoy the car for a month. It was fantastic. I get this call from Monica a month later. "The DMV is here at the house. They say they need your car. It's stolen."
I drive home quickly. They load it up on the back of a tow truck. Bye-bye, car. Bye-bye, $9,000. That's a weird illustration. It's just true. I just remembered going to this dark place. "God, are you serious? Did I not do everything right? I shared the gospel with him! I checked Carfax! I mean, I checked his ID." Fake ID. "Did I not do everything right? Why would you do this to me?"
When you believe in the sovereignty of God, everything bad that happens to you… Maybe for you, it's not a car. Maybe it's the loss of a loved one. "Are you serious?" Maybe it's cancer. "Are you serious?" A prodigal kid. "When is he going to come home? We did everything. We parented to the best of our ability!" You saved yourself for marriage. "But there's no marriage! When? Do you not see me down here?"
Slave/master. I worked for merit, but when the results come different than I expected, then I'm angry. The older brother became angry, it says, and not just angry but bitter. What's the difference between anger and bitterness? He feels an injustice. He feels as though he has been slighted. Not only does he not get what he thinks he deserves but somebody else does.
"Hold on! Why are they catching all of the break? I can't believe the way you're loving this son of yours! Not brother of mine. I separate myself from him, this son of yours, and now I'm embittered. All of these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders, yet you never even gave me a little cabrito," for my Spanish friends in the other room, "so I could celebrate with my friends, but when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf. A delicacy. Really? A fattened calf? Not just a pizza party but a fattened calf? Are you serious?"
It's jealousy and bitterness. If someone got more than what they deserved, that's grace. I remember early on in the days, Todd used to talk about the most important people are the next 100 and what would happen to the critical churchgoers if we said, "Wait a minute! What about us? The next 100 are the most important? We're still here. What about us?"
The Father celebrates repentance, guys. He leaves the 99 to go for the one, it says here in the story. "Pick me!" We will. There are lots of options. Check out one of them. He's lonely, this guy. The older brother is lonely. The critical churchgoer is lonely, not because you're alone but because you're surrounded by people other than the people you desire to be surrounded by.
He says, "I wish I could celebrate with my friends. Not you, Dad, but my friends." You feel misunderstood. "No one understands me. I'm different than everybody else. That's fine that works for them. That's just not what works for me." The party is right in front of him and he can't see.
What if he would have said, "Dad, he's home? Do you mind if I call some of my friends over so we can celebrate, too?" I bet the dad would have been like, "Yeah! That's awesome! Call them over," but that's not what he does. It's not what happens. He's lonely. His perspective is off. He's being selfish.
Lastly, he's ungrateful. There was no celebration Thursday for this guy. Not for the Pharisees. There was no holiday. There was no joy there. Not even gratitude. You see, at least in being the critical churchgoer it costs you joy. At worst it costs you salvation. Am I saying you lose your salvation? No. I'm saying you may not have had it.
You had something that looked like a conversion. Then, you became a contributor. Then, you became a consumer. Now, you sit in the back as a critic. He didn't want a relationship with the father any more than the younger son who ran off. He just didn't have the spine to run off. His heart was messed up. How does the father respond?
3._ The Father's compassion for the critical churchgoer._ If you're here and you're like, "Wait a minute." You feel angry. Is it okay to be angry with God? Let me answer that question in this way. If you're angry, God knows you're angry, so it's not okay to be angry and pretend like you're not angry. That's certainly not okay, but is it okay to be angry with God?
No. Wait a minute! David was angry. Yeah, descriptively he sure was in the Psalms, but our anger toward a perfect, almighty, all-knowing God who is working everything out for our good purpose is the result of sin, the result of not trusting him. "God, I'm angry because I don't trust you. I don't trust your timing. I don't trust your provision. I don't trust you."
You say, "Wait a minute! You're telling me I feel angry but I just can't be angry?" No. You be honest, and you work through that, and you find the root of that anger. "What is really going on in my heart? Why am I angry? Why do I feel angry at God? What didn't turn out? When did I kind of start making this if-then statement with God? If I serve you in this way, then you will certainly… And when he doesn't, now I'm angry. What's the root of it?"
Let me show you his compassion toward you. If you are here and you're angry, hang on. Hang tight. Let's look at this together. The servant comes up and walks up to the father. The older brother is outside. "I'm not going in there." The servant says, "Your son is outside." He's like, "No, my son is right here."
"No. Your older son is outside."
"Cool! Tell him Jon is back. Bring him inside."
"No. He doesn't want to come inside."
"Why doesn't he want to come inside?"
"It's something about a fattened calf. I don't know. He's upset. Goats. I don't know, man. You need to…"
"Oh, man! Buddy, let's go inside and party. Did you see Jon is back?"
"I'm not going in there, man! What did he do to deserve that?"
Do you see what the father does? The father goes out to him. Did the father go out to the younger son? He did run outside, but did he meet him in the pig pen? No. That's the hard part. He waited for him. He waited for his return. It's really challenging to know when to wait for someone and when to go out and find them, but the dad here shows unbelievable compassion that he leaves the celebration and he goes to him and he pleads with him.
"Would you please go inside? Please! Don't you see? Your brother is home! Let's go inside." He leaves the party and he goes to him. Do you see the compassion that marks the father? If you're here and you're the older brother, he's moving toward you. How do you know? You're here! You're listening to the message. The father goes to him. It says, "So his father went out and pleaded with him."
He left the 99 in the party and he went and found the one. How crazy is it? Jesus was talking about the Pharisees with the sheep. When the shepherd leaves the 99 and goes to the one, he was telling them they were in the story then. They just didn't realize it. Are you tracking with me? The father left the party, and he went and found the one, and the one he went and found was the older brother, the Pharisee, the churchgoer, the critic, the complainer, the cynic. "Let's go inside, bud!"
Verse 31: "''My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" **He says,"My son…"** In the Greek, it's teknon. It's my child. It's not my son. It's my child. "Come here, my child." Very tenderly, "My child, we've always been together. We've made so many memories, but now your brother is home."
There is no brood of vipers. No whitewashed tombs here. "My child." I mean, he can do that. Right? Jesus can do that. He can go, "You brood of vipers! Woe to you Pharisees, you whitewashed tombs! My child." He looks up at one of them, one of the teachers of the law, and he looks up at you and says, "My child."
The Father says, "My child, come inside. I know you've been around for a long time. I know you've been going to church. You haven't missed a Sunday in a long time, but you're missing the party. You're missing it. Don't you see all of the celebrations going on?"
"Yeah, it feels boastful!"
"It's not boastful. It's boastful in me. It's my work. My child, come on! Let's go inside. Let's party. Let's celebrate. This is what I love to do." The father compassionately pleads with him. He says, "…everything I have is yours."
Is he being generous? No. He's being factual. The younger brother had taken one-third of the estate. There are two-thirds left. It belongs to the older brother. He says, "…everything I have is yours. You've been working for me not to get paid but because it's yours. It's your estate you've been working on. It's no longer mine. It's yours! That's why you've been in the fields. They're your fields. It's all yours. Stop!" There's an application. "Stop! Look around and see my work, you Pharisees."
"This man meets with sinners and eats with them. He sits with sinners and eats with them."
Do you see the broader narrative that God is doing here? "I'm his son, by the way. Stop! You're working for a wage. I don't pay wages. I give inheritance." I never have understood. We grew up with relatively not a lot of money. Every now and then you'd meet a trust-fund baby. Have you ever met a trust-fund baby? Some of you are trust-fund babies. I don't hold that against you, but they've always intrigued me.
One particular guy was in my life. He'd get this check every month. I saw the check. It was a big check. I'm like, "Every month? For what?" "Well, I'm a grandson of my grandmother." I'm like, "Wow! That's awesome!" This is what goes through my mind. "What do you have to worry about? Why would you ever worry if you get that every month?"
"Yeah. I'll get it one day. It goes into an account. One day it's coming to me."
"Really, that's just waiting for you?"
"You're never going to have a bad day then, because you know that's there. Right? Basically, you have to wake up. You have to eat something. Then, you have to go to bed. Then, you're going to get paid one day. That's what you have to do. Wow! That's awesome! You're a trust-fund baby."
You're a trust-fund baby. I'm a trust-fund baby. This is the gospel. You have a kingdom set up for you, an inheritance of great riches with God in the presence of God, and everything he has is laid up for us. It's waiting on us. We get lost in this broken world. "It's so bad here!"
But you have an inheritance set up for you. You work this world as though it's your world. "Stop! Look around! Everything I have is yours!" It's all yours. I'll show you in the Scripture a very great verse for Christmas coming up. Galatians 4, verses 4 through 7 say, " But when the set time had fully come…" **The time that God had ordained before time."…God sent his Son, born of a woman[Mary], born under the law…"**
You Pharisees and teachers of the law, he was born under the law "…to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." Not slaves. Not servants. "Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir."
With Christ, he has an inheritance. C.S. Lewis said it like this. "The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God." This is the gospel. You have been purchased. You're a daughter and a son to a God who created everything. He's your Father, and he has an inheritance for you, and when you forsake the things of the Father you don't understand what the Son paid.
When you forsake the things of the Father you don't understand what the Son paid, so you're here and you realize you're the older brother, you're the Pharisee, the complainer, the church critic. You've been one or maybe you've become one, and you're just realizing it. The application is the same as last week.
The Father celebrates repentance. Imagine the story. It changes. He comes out and says, "Hey! We have to go in! Jon's home!"
"But, Dad, you never even killed a goat for me!"
"Okay. Well, listen. It's your goat. Kill it whenever you want. Jon's home. Please! Let's go in! Let's go celebrate!"
"Dad, you're right. I'm being an idiot. Let's go. Can I call some of my boys?"
"Yeah! Call them up! It's a party!"
"Okay, Dad. Let's go."
Do you see how everything changed? The story changes. Do you see how that changes? But that's not what happened. The story is over. He's outside. Some people say, "Maybe he makes it in." He doesn't. He doesn't make it in. He doesn't make it in. How do you know? The story is over. Jesus is telling a fictitious story. It's not true. The characters disappear as soon as he's done. He tells it for a purpose.
The Pharisees would lean in and hear this. They would see they're outside of the party. They're missing out on the work God is doing all around them. God is at work all around them, and they're missing out on it. "You can't even see the goodness of God all around you because you're a complainer, a cynic, a church critic, a Pharisee, an older brother. You can't even see it. I'm out here and I'm begging you to come in. Won't you please come in and join the party? Won't you come inside?"
It's the end of this story, so in summary, a critical churchgoer is apprehensive, angry, bitter, lonely, and ungrateful. The critical churchgoer seeks a slave/master relationship and not a father/child relationship, but the Father who loves you moves tenderly toward you, and he calls you to change your mind in the form of repentance. "Come back to me. Let's do and sit and be together the way we once were."
What a joke for me! Right? What a joke that I had that attitude. I mean, people in foreign countries walk hundreds of miles to church. I've read stories of people who walk three days to get to church where they would worship for an entire day. They'd just sing. The music was loud, and they would just sing and praise God. Then, they would sit and teach themselves and gather in small groups. That was church, corporate worship. They'd be fed.
Here I am like, "Don't you understand? I didn't even have time to get my coffee." The Father says, "I miss you. I really, really miss you. Will you look up to see all that I'm doing?" After church a few weeks ago… We always get in this strange debate around where we're going to eat. That's always problematic after church. "Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know. Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know. Kids, where do y'all want to go?" Like they're going to be the tie-breakers. No. They're going to tell us, and they always have an opinion, but this particular day, I knew where we were going to go, a place we had never gone before. I was going to be a hero. I'm talking in code to Monica. "Let's go to D&B."
She's like, "What's D&B?" I'm like, "The second B is Buster. Let's go to Dave & Buster's." I know you guys are slow to that. Dave and Buster's is where we were going to go. You're like, "What's Dave & Buster's?" It's a party! It's an amazing place to eat. We were going there. I'm like, "Kids… Presley, Finely, Weston… We're doing it today."
"What are we doing?"
"We're going to go somewhere amazing!"
"No! More amazing! It's better than Spring Creek." We drive down 75. We get there. We walk inside. I mean, it looks like a casino for toddlers. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Stuff everywhere. They're like, "This is better than Mr. Gatti's!" "I know it is!"
We find a seat right by all of the stuff, and I just say, "Here's the deal. Let's have a nice lunch together as a family, and then we're going to go big. We're going to do everything in here. We're going to go big." We sit down. I'm eating. Actually, I'm waiting on food. I'm eating some fries that came early. I look up to this grumbling and complaining. "She won't let me play with Mommy's phone!" I took a picture, because I'm a pastor and I illustrate things. I just grabbed my phone.
Look at all of the things behind them. Look at all of the things. She's grumbling and complaining like these Pharisees. That's why I said, "You Pharisee!" No. I didn't say that, but I'm just like, "Don't you understand the goodness of what your father wants to do for you? And you want to play Candy Crush? Do you see Pop-A-Shot and Skee-Ball? Would you look around? This is a little better than Doodle Jump. Let's go! Would you stop? Can we just enjoy each other?"
It's sad, and I'm telling you, some of you came in here and you can't see the goodness of the Father. You left the party. He loves you, and he's compassionately coming toward you right now that you're here saying, "Come back to the party. Let's go celebrate." It's the end of this story. It's not the end of yours and it's not the end of mine.
It wasn't the end of mine a year ago. God mercifully showed me some corruption that had happened slowly in my heart, and it has been a fun journey getting to know him again. Not that I didn't know him, but sitting with him and enjoying the things I did early on. Let me pray we would.
Father, we love you. Help us to love you. Remind us of your grace and mercy now. As we lament over the end of this story, may it not be ours. Father, would we put down our pride and the things that hold us outside the gates and outside the door, and would we go inside? Would we join in the celebration? Father, thank you for the way you in your sovereignty would have us here and just show us this. Help us not to be angry right now and to hear your Spirit as we worship you in song. Amen.
It's not over for the younger son. It's not over for the older son. If you're here and you're an older brother, I want you to please hear that God loves you every bit as much as he does the one who squandered his inheritance with prostitutes. As he runs out and embraces and falls on his neck and kisses him repeatedly, he's coming toward you, saying, "Let's go! Let's go back. I miss you. I hate that this relationship has gotten stale. I miss you."
It's a joy to be with you these two weeks. If you have any complaints for us, you have a Watermark News… I'm just kidding. I'm sorry. I love you guys. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.