Prodigal Children - Faithful God (Part 1)

Luke 15  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Think of a movie that you’ve watched a million times. You know the lines coming up, you know the storyline, you know the main characters, you know the plot, you probably have done some research on the actors and actresses, you are a fan of this film and you know pretty well! For Lindsey’s family, they have a Christmas tradition of watching the movie Elf every single year - sometimes multiple times during the Christmas season! They know this movie extremely well and I found out about this whenever Lindsey and I first started dating. We were talking about our favorite traditions around Christmas and I talked about visiting family and having Christmas with my parents on their anniversary on December 20th and she immediately talked about their family tradition of watching Elf! There were other good things mentioned, as well, but that was up there! Because they’ve watched this movie a lot, they know the lines really well. Maybe you have a movie that you know really well - or maybe you’re more of a book person and you’ve read a specific book several times and you can summarize it to someone and give them lots of information that an ordinary person might not know.
For many Christians, the story of the Prodigal Son is one that we have read many times. It is a text that we’ve heard many Bible study lessons and sermon messages on as well. For good reason! It is a very powerful parable told by Jesus Christ to his audience and it illustrates lots of important points about salvation and the attributes of God. This might be the best parable in the entire Bible as Jesus tells it masterfully one that we should know very well. But with reading the story many times, there comes a risk of being numbed by what we read. If you watch a movie lots and lots of times, you come to know what happens next and the shock factor isn’t there anymore. The same can happen to us with the Bible. We know that Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended back to heaven. Because we know that story, certain details might not stand out as much to us now as they used to. Details like the birth or death of Jesus might not resonate as much because we know how the story ends!
In the story of the Prodigal Son, we often focus on the younger of the two brothers - after all, many Bible’s have a subtitle for this story and it is called the Parable of the Lost Son.
How many lost sons exist in Luke 15?
Tim Keller shares in a book about this passage that the subtitle should really read like this, “The Parable of the Lost Sons.” Friends, in this story, we will find not just 1 lost person… We find 2. In our culture, and even in church life, it can be easy to be the “older” brother and think that we have it all figured out and to play the “at least I’m not so and so” game. I know that I’ve sinned, but at least I didn’t sin like she did, or at least I didn’t go out and do what he did. This mentality can be pervasive in the church and it was a common attitude held by many people in Jesus’ day. That’s why Jesus tells this story in the first place. This is a story that communicates God’s love for His children - certainly! But it is also a story that illustrates our lostness and our desperate need for God. Not our need to obey rules and compare ourselves to others. Not our need to play the “I deserve” this game. Not our need to look good in front of others. Our desperate need is to be saved by our heavenly Father from the punishment of our sins.
What Kind of Person Does our world say that God Loves?
Survey indicates the following:
Those who are nice
Those who are wealthy
Those who go to church
Many people say that either God loves only the really good and rich people, or that God loves everyone equally.
But as we think about the idea of God loving everyone equally, we don’t always like our conclusion. Obviously, God opposes evil and there are some very evil people in our world. The Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and Nero’s of the world. Many in our world would draw the line with those types of people. Even the Mormons, as inclusive as they try to be, admit that those types of evil people are in hell. We would be hard pressed to love those types of people. Murderers, powerful people who tortured and executed millions of innocent people just because of their race? If you’ve been here on Sunday nights with our study of Jonah, you know that we’re not all that different than him! There are people who are hard for us to love and we might expect God to not love them either…
What’s the problem with assuming that there are some people who have sinned to greatly to be saved?
If you turn your eyes closer to your heart and your home, you quickly realize that you’re not all that different. Sure, you haven’t done x y or z, but the Bible tells us in James 2 that
James 2:10 CSB
10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all.
What about laziness? What about gluttony? What about legalism? What about anger? What about pride? What about gossiping? What about selfishness?
We love pointing fingers and saying that God can’t possibly love and forgive this type of person until we realize that we’re exactly that person. What we desperately need is to rediscover what the Bible says about Jesus, forgiveness, lostness, and salvation. Luke 15 is the message that many longtime churchgoers and new Christians need to study, meditate on, and prayerfully consider often. The next 2 weeks we’re going to dive into this passage of Scripture and chew on what it says as we consider who we are in the story and what God’s Word tells us about our condition.
Let’s look at Luke 15:11-24
Luke 15:11–24 CSB
11 He also said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

From Riches to Rags (11-16)

Literally in the Greek in verse 12 where it says the father distributed “the assets” the Greek word there is bios which is where we get the word biology which is the study of life. The Father in the story is distributing his life to his son.
The son is communicating that he views his father as dead to him at this point. Monopoly says to not pass go and go directly to jail - this is the younger brother. He is skipping the remaining years his father has and going straight to his death. This is incredibly rude! He is selfish and ungrateful and we are never told why. We aren’t given a picture into his background or past. All that we see is that he leaves his father’s side with possessions, money, and he goes to a foreign place to live a wild life for a period of time… But that doesn’t last very long. The money that he thought would provide him with happiness and fun has left him lost and in poverty.
Is this universal? Will sin ever provide us with the happiness that we long for?
Short answer is no!
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
Ecclesiastes 2:11 CSB
11 When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Jesus shares this parable with the pharisees, tax collectors, sinners, and scribes. You have a mix of everyone in this crowd - you have both brothers, you could say.
This younger brother wanted the goodness of God’s blessings but he didn’t want God himself. This is how many people are in our world - we have many younger brother types and Jesus is addressing the ones in the crowd. The people who wanted wealth and happiness but not the God who provides those things. Why do so many people desire the gift instead of the Giver?
We love more stuff
It’s easier to add things to your life than it is to have someone else rearrange your entire life
The younger brother thought that he knew best but then he fell flat on his face because he found himself eating pig food - he had gone from riches to rags, the opposite trajectory that people long for! He had fallen a long way, but thankfully the story doesn’t stop here!

From Rebellion to Repentance (17-19)

Verse 17 tells us that the prodigal son came to his senses. He recognized the insanity of his actions and he realized that the servants in his father’s house eat better than he is currently eating. Have you ever had a moment like this where you “Came to your senses?” What was that like?
God is good and faithful - realizing that my actions and works didn’t save myself was a tough pill to swallow because we want credit! But this was the moment when it clicked that Jesus saves me because of Who He is - not because of who I am.
Repentance can be difficult for a variety of reasons. Why do you think people fail to repent whenever they’ve done something wrong?
They don’t think they’ve done something wrong
Here we see that the prodigal disobeys and is making the decision to own his mistake in verse 18 and beg the father to simply make him a servant. This is his only hope! Whenever you and I are convicted of our sin and rebellion, what must our response be?
Repentance! This is what the prodigal does. He realized how far he had fallen and the depths of his sin and he made the decision to come home and pay off his debt. Tim Keller is super helpful here in his book Prodigal God as he shares that what the son did not only dishonored the Father but the whole community. Therefore he knew that in order to come back, he would have to pay off the debt he owed. He would work as a hired worker until that debt had been paid. What is remarkable about what follows is that the Father eats the debt Himself. Do you see the overtones here of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross? We owed a debt - we were dead - but now because of Jesus paying our debt, we are alive!

From Rejection to Reunion (20-24)

In the first 2 parables we see a pretty straightforward rundown of what happens. There’s a lost sheep and coin that is sought and then found and then there is celebration. There are 100 sheep that were cared for, 10 valuable coins, and 2 irreplaceable sons. We see the shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep and the woman goes looking for the lost coin… but no one goes looking for the lost son. Why? Whose responsibility was it to look for the lost son?
The older brother!
The more you read this parable, the more you begin to see Jesus’ purpose in sharing it wasn’t to make the tax collectors and sinners see their need for Salvation (although that’s part of it), but primarily to help the Pharisees and Scribes see that they are the older brothers who have dropped the ball and become set in their selfish ways.
Do you think the younger brother expected his father to run and greet him?
No! He was expecting discipline and a stern talking to. He was expecting a punishment. Yet, we see that the father rejoices, runs after his son, and throws a party. Running was seen as indecent for a man of this stature… but he ran. Throwing a party for a rebellious son would have been seen as foolish… but a party he threw. What is the point Jesus is making here with the Father’s joy over the lost son returning home?
See Luke 15:10
Luke 15:10 CSB
10 I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
Where was the joy from the older brother? Non-existent.
The father slaughtered the fattened calf - a once in a lifetime type celebration - but verse 24 answers why this was done. The son that was dead is now alive. The lost has been found.
The Gospel changes everything. There is never a down side to repentance!
Mike McKinley, “if we rejoice in the restoration of relatively unimportant things like sheep and coins, how much more does God rejoice when human beings that are made in his own image are returned to him through repentance?”


Who are the ones that God loves as Sons and Daughters?
Repentant Sinners
Who are you today? Maybe you identify as the younger brother with a past that is marked by disappointment and disobedience. Maybe you feel as though you have ran too far away for God’s grace to grab you. If that is you, understand that you are not that powerful! You can’t run that far! If you’re the younger brother, come home because your father’s arms are open.
Maybe, though, you don’t identify with the rebellious younger brother because you’re the rule-following older brother. Maybe you’ve never left home and you see other people coming in and you’re tempted to point your finger and call out their sin while failing to see your own long in your eye. If that is you, friend, run. Not from others or from Jesus, run from your sinful pride and run to the arms of your Father and ask Him to forgive you and change your heart.
Man centered theology kills people and man centered churches are a cancer. Legalism kills people and legalistic churches are a cancer and we’ll study more about that next Wednesday night.
Younger brothers say that older brothers are the problem and younger brothers are enlightened and the good guys
Older brothers say that younger brothers are the problem and older brothers are the good guys because they follow the rules
The Gospel tells us that we’re all the problem and if we’re the problem, we can’t be the solution. We all need a Savior. We all must change. And once you think that you have it all figured out or that you’re better off than the other guy, you demonstrate just how much more you have to change too!
Luke 18:14 CSB
14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Let us be a people this week who humble ourselves and ask God to shine bright in our lives!
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