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Oct 06, 2019

The Lost Sibling

Passage: Luke 15:25-32

Preacher: Tim Badal

Series: LOST


Take God’s Word in your hands and turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. We are concluding a four-week series we’ve entitled “Lost” —parables about a seeking God. We’re going to look at the second half of the story we started last week.

I want to encourage you to be with us next week, in fact for the next series which will be on the life of Abraham out of the book of Genesis. We’ll learn what it means to live an “all in” life. We’ll learn how God met Abraham and called him to something big that he couldn’t see or understand. Nevertheless, Abraham followed God in faith. Even though he didn’t do it perfectly, he was faithful to follow the leading of God.

One of the reasons we’re doing this series is next week we’re also kicking off a new chapter in the life of our church. I’m not going to share much about it today, but you’ll want to be here next week to hear our leaders share something that’s been on their hearts for some time. We’re going to go public with it next week. It will be a time of great excitement, great testimony and a great affirmation of what God is doing in and through our five campuses.

In order to fulfill what we believe God is calling us to be a part of, we, like Abraham, are going to have to venture out into faith. We’re going to have to be willing to sacrifice. We’re going to have to be willing to go places we may never have gone before. As we’re going to learn through Abraham’s life, I believe God will bless us each step of the way. So if you don’t make it a habit to be in church, this will be a Sunday we would want you to be here. Change your schedule, make it happen to be at one of our services and try to be here for the weeks after that. It’s going to be an awesome and exciting time and I can’t wait until we get there.

Let’s turn to Luke 15 where we have been learning about the heart of God Who seeks after lost things. Jesus said a number of times that He came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus was on a mission, but some people didn’t like His mission. The scribes and Pharisees in Luke 15:2 were grumbling because Jesus was hanging around the wrong crowd, including tax collectors and sinners. These were the deplorables of the day, the people who knew they were sinners. Everyone knew their sin and shame. The Pharisees liked Jesus hanging out with them, because He was a popular Rabbi. They appreciated a lot of the things He was saying. But when He started inviting the wrong people to the party, it upset them. He included people in the Kingdom of God they did not approve. The Pharisees thought it was their responsibility to determine who was in the faith and who wasn’t. The Pharisees and scribes kept track of who was good enough to be in the Kingdom, and they would tell you if you weren’t.

It sounds a lot like today’s evangelicals. We want to determine who is in and who is not. We want to identify certain sins as being okay, but other sins as not okay. If someone does those things, they can’t be in our party. Just like in our day, the first century was filled with people who wanted to tell God who should be in His family and who should be out.

Jesus realized He was speaking to a mixed group of people in Luke 15. Great numbers of people were drawing close to Him, including tax collectors and sinners—the scandalous ones—as well as the Pharisees and scribes. As we’ve seen, He addressed two stories to the tax collectors and sinners, then two stories to the Pharisees and scribes. The first story was the parable of the lost sheep. A sheep wandered away and the good shepherd went to bring it back to the fold. It was a reminder that if you’ve wandered from God, God is searching for you. He will rescue you and draw you back to Himself.

The second story was about a woman who had lost a coin in her house. It wasn’t far and it didn’t wander away on its own, but it wasn’t where she could use it. This was a picture addressed to the Pharisees. These were people who seemed to be in the house of God, but they were not living up to the purpose God had for them. Yet God is seeking after those lost coins, those lost Pharisees.

Then to make it even better, He went back to the wandering deplorables, giving a very descriptive story about a man who had two sons. The youngest son said to the father, “I want you to give me my inheritance, even though you’re not dead yet.” The father then divided his life between the two sons—two-thirds to the older son and one-third to the younger. The younger took all he had been given and ran away to a far-off county. There he squandered all he had on sinful living, to the point that he ended up helpless and hungry. Because of a famine in the land, he finally took a job tending pigs. As a result, he was at rock bottom. Then remembering how good it was in his father’s house, he decided to return home. He made his way from the far country back to his father, not knowing how his father would respond. Would the father punish him? That’s what he expected, but that’s not what happened. When the father saw him at a distance, he ran to meet him, hugged him, gave him a robe and shoes and placed a ring on his finger. This lavish expression of his love demonstrated his desire to care for his son who had come home. He was willing to forget what his son had done in that far country, choosing instead to focus on the son’s return. He called to his servants to kill the fatted calf and hosted a barbecue.

Just like the story of the lost sheep and the shepherd, and just like the story of the lost coin and the woman, the father also called his friends to celebrate with him. Not only had that which was lost been found, the father went on to say, “That which was dead is now alive.”

I wonder if the people who were listening to the story were cheering at the end of it. “Yes! What a great fairy tale ending.” I wonder if the tax collectors and sinners were thinking, “This rabbi just told us that God loves us so much that despite what we’ve done, we can have new life in Him. We can be forgiven. If we repent and turn to Him, He won’t harm us; He will hug us and usher us into heaven.” They must have been feeling, “This is a new day, with new hope. We have a new opportunity to engage with this loving God we never really knew existed. The Pharisees only told us this God was a God of wrath and judgment, a God Who saw our shame and did not see us as sons. But Jesus has started a new day.”

Jesus did not stop in verse 24. I wonder if the reason He didn’t was because the scribes and Pharisees were grumbling all the more. “Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. This guy rebels against his father,” which in Old Testament days meant you stoned him. “He left with his father’s money and squandered it in shameful ways in a foreign land.” This was a Jewish man doing un-Jewish things in an un-Jewish land. “And then  tended unclean animals, came  home and his dad is hugging him? His dad’s giving him good gifts as though he had been a good son? His dad’s going to forgive him for all of that? Wait a minute. Time out. That’s not the God I know. My God wouldn’t do that. You see, I’ve gone to rabbinical school. I’ve been a Pharisee for a long time. What I know is that God can’t stand sin—and that kid sinned.”

But Jesus then continued the story. At this point, who was Jesus talking to? In the first part of the story, He was talking to the tax collectors and sinners, but He now turned to the Pharisees, reminding them that there was another character in the story. In fact, this was a character that the Pharisees would connect with, but they weren’t going to like where He would take this character. I think when Jesus first described the older brother, the Pharisees thought, “Finally, someone in this story sees it right. Someone is smart enough and bold enough to call out the father’s mistakes.” They believed the father was making a mess of his holiness. But let’s see where Jesus actually took the story in Luke 15:

25 "Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.”

Hurrah! Awesome! It’s a great day in this house.

28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” 31 And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

You see, the whole question being asked is whether we’re going to party with God or not. God is going to invite people into His party whom we may not like, whom we may think do not belong there.

In my catering business, one of my favorite customers over many years was a guy named Big Jim. Jim lived up north in Boone County, but has now passed away. The thing I loved about Jim was that he was larger than life. When he threw a party, he threw a party. We’re not talking 50-75 people. We’re talking 500 to 700 people. But there was no reason for the party. “Jim, why are you throwing this party?” “Because we can.” Now, a caterer loves that. Jim would drive me nuts though, because the number would continually grow. He’d call me, “Tim, bring more chops.” Why? “I was over at this place and invited all of them to come to the party.” All right. How many more do you think? “A couple hundred more. Just bring it. Just bill me. It’ll be great.” Then he would always say, “Bring your family. The more, the merrier. Man, we’re just going to have a blast.”

Eventually I catered Jim’s funeral—and Jim made it very clear he wanted his funeral to be a party. He knew he had been struggling with cancer, although his passing away was a long process. During that time, Jim prepared a video for his funeral luncheon, which hosted 600 or 700 people. His picture came on the screen: “Hey, welcome to the party!” He said, “I’ve got Tim cooking the pork chops outside.” How did he know that? He went on, “I want you guys to have a blast. I know I can’t be there, but I love it when we throw a party.”

Can I tell you God is a lot like my friend Jim? He loves to throw parties and loves to invite as many people as possible to come attend. Everywhere He goes, He’s inviting people. And not only is He inviting, but He’s inviting us to go about inviting others as well. The more, the merrier. Peter said God wants all people to come to repentance; He wants none to perish (2 Peter 3:9). What we’re going to learn, however, is that not everyone who is under the banner of religiosity wants the party to be so big. In a party like that, there’s waste. In a party like that, you invite people who maybe shouldn’t be there.

This older brother in the story took umbrage at the idea that his father would go to this length for a scandalous, filthy sinner. “He came back, big deal. Do you know what our response should be? We should kill him. But instead of hearing rocks hitting flesh, I hear music and dancing. Something is wrong.”

That brings us to ask questions of ourselves this morning. For some, the story last week hit really close to home. Maybe you have wandered or are wandering far from God, the knowledge that God will receive you back and love you with grace and mercy is a balm to your soul. But this morning, some of you are thinking, “What was he doing? What was he thinking? The son was so unloving to do these things.” Maybe you find a little bit of the older brother in your life. If we’re really honest, there’s part of the prodigal son and part of the older brother in each one of us. So like we looked at the younger brother, let’s look at the older brother. I see three truths that I want to communicate by comparing and contrasting.

Self-righteousness and shameful rebellion

The first comparison I want to do is between self-righteousness and shameful rebellion. We understood what happened last week. We know the shame the younger brother lived in. We also know the older brother brought that up with the father. “Hey, this son of yours—I don’t want to be connected to him—this son of yours...” We do that as parents. “That’s your kid, not mine.” “This son of yours has devoured your inheritance with prostitutes and reckless living.” We know his sin. We know the prodigal’s resumé.

But what about the resumé of the older brother? Is he righteous? Notice in the text. While the party was going on, he was working out in the field. Or rewind it farther back. When the younger brother took off with the money, the older brother stayed in the family and continued to work in the family business. He’s a good son. So, one son was a rebel and one was a goody two-shoes. But I want you to see that the younger and older were two sides of the same coin which was lost. They’re both lost. Let’s understand why by first thinking about self-righteousness.

Self-righteous people are usually rule followers, not rule breakers.

Some of you, by nature or by choice, don’t break the rules. You stay within the fences. That drives me nuts. I’ve been sharing with the church at different gatherings the story about how people tried to put fences around me when I was a young man. I would laugh, because I would kick those fences down. You couldn’t fence me in.” I was a rule breaker. I didn’t like rules. Rules meant no fun.

But there are some of you who thrive on rules. I married one of them. Pray for her. She sees rules as her friends, not her foes. She would say rules kept her where she needs to be and keeps her out of trouble. Amanda never gets into trouble, but I get in all kinds of trouble. Some of us are rule followers. We want to be upright. We want to stay clean.

This is what the Pharisees were doing. “Look at us. We follow the rules.” To be a Pharisee meant you memorized the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that contain the Law of Moses. You knew the rules and lived by them. Some of you here know the rules and follow them. It drives you nuts when you see people breaking the rules. There’s a part of you that says, “You should get what’s coming to you. You didn’t need to do that. You could have stayed home, younger brother—but you didn’t. And now when you come home, it’s stones on your head. You didn’t have to do it, but you chose to and now you’re going to pay the consequences.”

Self-righteous people are usually sinning internally but not externally.

The second thing we know about self-righteous people is that they sin internally rather than externally. From the outside, this older brother looked awesome. He was dutiful and loyal. He apparently did everything his father asked him to. He even said in verse 29, “I never disobeyed your command.” But he had a problem on the inside that began to show its ugly head. Was this something that began when the party was thrown? No, it had been festering there for a long time, but no one saw it. We know that some people sin externally, as did the prodigal son. Everybody can see that kind of sin. His shame was visible.

On the other hand, the elder brother—like some of us today—sinned in a way that no one saw. As a result, we can be sinning internally where no one sees and this was true of the Pharisees.

Turn to Matthew 23. Here Jesus was warning the Pharisees that while they could make themselves look clean on the outside, they needed to also consider what was on the inside. In other words, if someone is sinning internally, they might as well be sinning externally, because it’s all the same. Let’s read verses 25-28, then we’ll see how this connects to self-righteousness:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Before Jesus started to rebuke the Pharisees, He had warned them earlier in the story of the prodigal son, “Don’t be the older brother.” This brother looked great on the outside and maybe today that’s true of you as well. That’s wonderful, but that’s only half of what’s needed. In fact, it’s probably less than half, because Jesus says we need to clean the inside first, then the outside will follow.

The Pharisees had a man-made religiosity that made themselves look really, really good. People really admired them, thinking they were all put together. And maybe in the church today people are thinking you have it all put together, but you know what’s going on inside—and by the way, God also knows.

Jesus also brought this up in the Sermon on the Mount. He said in Matthew 5:27-29, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In verses 21-22 He told them, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”

What we see here is Jesus’ ongoing teaching to us as self-righteous people that says even though we put on a good show, if there’s sin in our hearts, we’re just like the younger brother.

Self-righteous people are usually stuck up but not scandalous.

Finally, we need to see that because self-righteous people are not rule breakers and because they only sin internally, they are usually stuck up but not scandalous. Pharisees, whether modern day or first century, were people who thought highly of themselves.

You may remember the story of the Pharisee who was praying in the temple, “O Lord, I’m glad You didn’t make me like all of these sinners. I’m glad I’m better than them and that I don’t sin like they do. I’m glad I don’t have the stench of their scandalous acts on me. I’m worthy and acceptable because I’m better” (Luke 18:9-14).

This is essentially what the older brother was saying in Luke 15:29. “Old man, look at my service. I never disobeyed you.” He was confident. And by the way, I think he was telling the truth. I think he was saying, “Look, dad, that brother of mine never did anything right. I can show you all the things I’ve done for you. I’ve always been a good son. You know it and I know it. So give me the credit I deserve.”

Some of us are treating God that way. “Look at my church attendance. Look at my giving. Look at my service. Look at all I do. I’m not out running wild. I’m not doing those things. I don’t talk that way or act that way. So I deserve something from You, my heavenly Father, and I want it now.” That’s arrogance connected to self-righteousness.

Resentment and rejoicing

How can we know if we’re self-righteous? The answer can be seen in whether we are resentful or rejoicing. One way we can tell the older brother was self-righteous was his attitude toward the party that was thrown when his brother returned home. There was music and dancing and the smell of Kingsford charcoal cooking the fatted calf. It was an exciting event. As the older brother walked in from the field, he could hear and smell what was going on. So he asked a servant, “Hey, what’s happening? It sounds like quite a ruckus.” The servant said, and I think he was saying this joyfully, “Your dad’s doing all this because your brother who was lost has been found. Let’s go celebrate! The longer we’re out here, the less time we’re at the party. Let’s go; the buffet line is open.” We can see the clear contrast here between resentment and rejoicing.

Sometimes I don’t know why my mind goes to the places it does. Most of you who are under the age of 35 or over the age of 55 will have no idea what I’m talking about, but what I envisioned was the old cartoon “The Smurfs.” They were always celebrating, right? “La, la, la-la-la-la-la.” “The son’s back and here’s the fattened calf!” What happened with the Smurfs? They would be celebrating, then the camera would shift to Gargamel’s house. “Dun, dun, da-dun-da-dun dun.” Some of you are really loving this. My children are probably running for the exit right now. So this is the contrast I see in this parable. Everybody’s happy with the Smurfs, but there was this one angry guy who didn’t want them to celebrate. I don’t know what Gargamel’s issue was with the Smurfs, but he did not like happy things. This was the older brother’s attitude. “I don’t want to celebrate. I’ve got a problem.” Essentially he threw a flag on the play, for those of you who are football fans. If you don’t like Smurf, we’ll shift to football. He threw a flag.

Here are some check points that can show you if self-righteousness has created resentment instead of rejoicing in your heart.

Beware of resentment if your anger leads the way.

First, watch to see if your anger is leading the way. The older brother heard the sounds of music and dancing. He smelled the barbecue and was told there was a party because his brother had returned home. What was his first response? It wasn’t more questions. It wasn’t, “Oh, wow, is he okay?” No. It says he was angry. In fact, he was furious.

I do feel bad for the servant. That servant probably would rather have been at the party. He was probably saying, “Come on, man. Let’s get to the party.” “Nope. I’ve got a problem.” But then, did the brother go storming into the party and start flipping over tables? Did he start speaking angry words to the guests? No. He was too righteous for that. What did he do? “I’m going to stay right here and I’m going to pout.”

Be careful if you’re the type who responds with passive aggressiveness. It will rob you of great joy. Now, my personality is one of the rebel. I would have run in and thrown the tables around. I’d have been a bull in a china shop. I would have taken something out. We have no idea how some of you would react. Would you react aggressive or  deep down inside be seething? You’re not going to tell anyone. Rather, you’ll let your silence do the talking.

In this brother’s case, his decision was to not go to the party. Meanwhile, the father was having the time of his life. “Neighbors, look—my son is home! Isn’t this great! He’s found his way back.” But then someone said, “Hey, what about Tony, your other son?” The father thought, “Hmm, where is Tony?”

The servant whispered, “Boss, come here.” “Yeah, what’s up?” “Tony heard that his brother came home and he’s pretty mad. He’s outside and won’t come in.” “What do you mean, he won’t come in? I’ve saved the leg for him. There’s Angus beef here and I’ve saved the best part for him. Tell him to come in.” But the servant insisted. “No, he won’t come in.” “I can’t believe this. His brother was dead and now he’s alive. I’ve never heard Tony say a bad thing about him. He’s always been a loyal son and done what I’ve asked him to do.”  “Tony says he doesn’t want to be a part of it and he’s refused to come in.”

If you let anger lead the way, it reveals your resentment. Why was the older brother angry? was he really mad about the cow? He’s all about the cow. He wanted the cow, but his brother got it. So he was having a cow. What about you? What small thing gets caught in your craw and keeps you from rejoicing with others—and with God? Resentment may be more alive in you than you realize.

Beware of resentment if it’s all about you.    

Where does this resentment come from? It happens when everything is about you. The dad went out to the older son and it says in verse 28 that he “entreated him.” The next verse begins with “but...” There’s a lot of b-u-t in this passage, showing us the contrast. We have a picture of a father going to a son in love, wanting to minister to him. The younger son received this love gladly. He basked and rejoiced in his father’s grace and mercy. But self-righteousness can keep us from gaining these things.

Here’s how the older brother 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.” It was all about him. Five times in that sentence he pointed to himself. “I have served. I never disobeyed. You never gave me...that I might celebrate with my friends.” His thoughts were not on his younger brother. Nor was he thinking about his father. His only thoughts were about himself.

Some of you are mad at the world, but the world is not at fault—it’s your problem. You’re angry because you believe the world should have given you something, or maybe you think your parents should have given you something, or even God should have given you something. When you didn’t get what you wanted, so now you’re saying, “It’s time to pay the piper. I demand what is mine.”

Let me tell you some places where it might be all about you; places where I can struggle, for that matter. You pull out your phone and are on that social network site. You’re flipping through the various things your friends are saying. “Oh, so-and-so got a new car. That’s really nice. I’ll bet you their priorities are all out of whack. I’ll bet you they don’t give to God.” “Oh, Junior, so-and-so’s son, he made the honor roll. I’ll bet you they did all his homework.” “Oh, look at that. So-and-so and so-and-so went on a romantic getaway. I’ll bet you their marriage is falling apart. They’re probably living a lie.”

We begin to impugn others for things that aren’t true. Why? Because we don’t want others to have joy when we don’t. We don’t want others to celebrate when we’re unhappy ourselves. This older brother was unhappy with his life. When someone else was celebrating, he threw a fit.

Beware of resentment if an affectionate response does not move you.    

This is when grace and mercy come. The father came and entreated his son. Notice how he spoke to him in verse 31: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  He was saying, “Son, will you listen for a moment? What I’m doing for your brother doesn’t take away my love for you. You have the rest of what I own. I’ve always cared for you.”

Do you remember that I mentioned last week how one commentary described the father running to his younger son and embracing him? The father was acting like a mother in that case. The father spoke to his older son in a nurturing way like a mother would. It’s not that guys can’t be nurturing, but it’s more characteristic of a loving mom gushing over her son. The father was telling this son, “You mean the world to me, but we’re a long way apart. I’m celebrating, but you’re not.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “In my self-righteousness, is God celebrating while I’m pouting?” Have you ever seen God work somewhere near you, but you’re angry about it, even though everyone else is happy? Is there a party going on while you’re sitting with your arms crossed? “I won’t like this.” This was what the older brother was doing. He didn’t want to join in the excitement or joy; he would rather pout where he was. This happens because we think we’re owed something we aren’t getting. “You’re not doing it my way.” “You’re giving the fatted calf to him and not to me.” “I would have given the world for a goat; you’re giving him the calf.” These things really mattered to him.

Do the affectionate overtures of a father—or of God—move you?  Are you still cynical? How do you know where you’re at? I can tell you that the difference is really subtle.

Religion and relationship

That leads to my third point; we won’t spend a lot of time here, but it’s important for us to consider. It comes down to the difference between religion and relationship. I need to ask  why are you here this morning? Why are you involved with your heavenly Father? I’m going to ask this question in three ways.

Is my life with my heavenly Father more about duty or delight?      

First, are you engaged with your heavenly Father out of duty, like the older brother? “This is what I do. This is what oldest sons do.” In the Badal house, it’s what we do. We go to church on Sunday. We say we believe God. But is it a duty? Or is it this? “We’re at church, and we’re involved in ministry because this God created us and even though we rebelled against Him, He still loves us. He sent His only Son to die in our place, so that we might have eternal life in Him.”

So it should not be, “I have to.” Rather, it should be, “I get to worship, praise and serve  and love Him. I can give Him all of me. This is not a duty; I delight in these things, because I love God.” Why are you here this morning? Is it because you have to be? Is it because people are expecting you to be? Then you’re the older brother. You’re doing your duty. You’re doing a great job. Just as the father in our story wanted, so our heavenly Father wants us to be with Him because we delight to be with Him.

Is my life with my heavenly Father more about service or sonship?    

Number two. Are you a slave or are you a son? The older brother’s words referred more to a master/slave relationship. “Look at all I’ve done for you. I have worked and toiled for you; what have you done for me? You won’t even give me a goat!”

Maybe today you’ve been serving God. And let me tell you, I’ve lived this as a pastor. We sometimes don’t get the adulation or affirmation we think is due us. For me, this can happen on Sunday nights. I’m worn out. I’ve given everything I’ve got, but it doesn’t seem that anybody is grateful. Now please, don’t all come and say thank you to me tonight. But the self-righteousness in me can say, “Why am I doing all this? They don’t even want it. What good is it? I work, I labor, but nobody cares. Nobody cares about me. Poor little Tim.”

God bless Amanda—she’ll say, “Are you done? Can you come inside; it’s raining out there. Your arms are crossed. Come inside and let’s figure this out, Badal. You’ve got to do it again next week.”

But that’s what we sometimes do. “I lead a small group, but nobody says anything. I serve in the kids’ ministry, but the kids don’t care. The parents never say thank you.” By the way, when you pick up your kids, say thank you to those people.

When we begin to say, “I’m just doing this, but I don’t even like it,” that’s the attitude of a slave. On the other hand, a son will realize that all his father has is his. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing under heaven and now we have the opportunity to love Him in response. He has blessed us with so much.

Is my life with my heavenly Father more about acquiring or agreeing?

Finally, I want you to notice that the sin of the two boys is identical, even though it is shown in two different ways. The first son said, “Dad, give me my share of the inheritance. I want nothing to do with you.” Then he ran off with his friends, apart from the father. It’s subtle, but notice what the older son said in verse 29: “I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” Both sons wanted their dad for what they could acquire, but they never wanted to be with him after they had it. The first son took what the father gave and ran off to a far country. The older son said, “Dad, give me a goat and I’ll go hang out with my friends.” Neither of them invited Dad to their celebration or into the gathering of their friends.

Listen carefully. Some of us are taking what God has given us, but we never invite Him to be part of it. We take His blessings, but we don’t ask God to join in them with us. What He wants us to do is what the father wanted the son to do, which was to agree with him. In verse 32, the father wanted the son to agree: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” The father was pleading with his son. “Can’t you agree that your brother was lost and is found; was dead and is alive?”

What’s crazy is that Jesus stopped the story at this point. We don’t know how it ended. Here’s why: He wanted those who were hearing the story—both in the original audience and in our audience—to put themselves into the story at this point. In other words, we need to ask ourselves this: “Will I go in or not? Will I enter my heavenly Father’s joy by agreeing with Him that lost people need to be found? Will I enter into His joy when lost people are found, or will I, with my pharisaical and self-righteous attitude, stand outside and pout, because God is not doing enough for me?”

Here’s the great mercy of it all. Our heavenly Father welcomes us in still. He invites us. He’s inviting you. Despite all of your self-righteousness, self-pity and arrogance, He does not say, “You know what? If you’re going to act that way, I don’t want you in My party.” No, He says, “Will you come? Will you come? Will you come?” It’s an invitation to join God where He is.

So the question this morning as you leave this place is, “Will I join God or will I stay in my pity party by myself?” God is calling us. He’s inviting us—the scandalous, the shameful, the sinner. He’s also inviting those who are seemingly all put together, self-righteous and already cleaned up. He’s inviting each one of us to the altar. He’s calling each of us to receive His mercy and grace through the great joy He has in welcoming people back to Himself.


Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |

All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.                                                                               

Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (