This morning God has laid it on my heart to deliver a message from the gospel according to Luke. This is a parable that you have likely heard many times before, and surely will again.
It is a story of a son’s repentance and a father’s great love and forgiveness. I hope that in hearing this familiar scripture that your hearts will, once again, be filled with the type of joy and happiness that only God can provide.
It is familiar scripture and an often preached message, yet I wonder – Do we ever get tired of singing Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, or The Old Rugged Cross?
11. And He said, a certain man had two sons:
12. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
Now the Bible does not tell us why this young man chose to ask for his share, or portion, of the inheritance he would receive when his father died.
We do know that according to the customs of the time, the oldest child became the owner and the master of the father’s house and property upon the death of the father.
This was the younger son and, perhaps, he was jealous or envious of his older brother. Perhaps he thought it just wasn’t fair! And, perhaps, he wanted to journey to another land and earn his own fortune, have his own servants, and be master of his own home.
But for whatever reason he may have had, this young man requested his portion NOW, of whatever his inheritance would be upon his father’s death. He didn’t want to wait for it! He didn’t want to continue to live in the family home. He didn’t want to work in the family’s fields any longer. He had made up his mind that being surrounded by his family was no longer important to him. He had things to do, places to go, people to see.
In this day that you and I live in now, we are much the same in many respects. We often do not want to wait until the timing is right to obtain good things. It’s been given a name, Instant Gratification!
Sometimes, we see a friend driving around in a fancy new car, and we say to ourselves, my car sure is looking older these days, think I’ll pop on over to Honest John’s and see about buying me one of those fancy new cars they have there.
We go over there having decided that we can afford $300 a month for car payments. We tell ourselves that’s our high mark, the most we can afford to pay.
Honest John comes over chats with us awhile, and asks us what kind of payments that we’re looking for and we tell him. Then we find out that the $300 per month car doesn’t have Air Condition, power windows and doors, that neat Stereo we wanted so much, and what? No sunroof?
Honest John keeps on talking and the next thing we know we’re driving off the lot in that new car that has all the luxuries we wanted, but the car payment is $400 per month, not $300. Wooeeeee!! But I can’t wait to see the look on my neighbor’s face when I come driving up in my new car. He’ll have a heart attack right there in his driveway! So what if I really can’t afford this now!
In the days of old, certainly many years before I was born, ahem…people used to save their dollars up until they had enough to go and buy a new television, stove and refrigerator. Now it seems all we really worry about is how much available credit we have left on our Visa Card, because we want what we want NOW!! Such was the case with this younger son.
As a parent myself, I am very sure that this son’s request grieved his father very much. So many times as we watch our children grow, we see them making the same mistakes that we made as children ourselves. We KNOW that their decision is wrong! Our experiences in life have taught us that all that glitters is not gold. The grass is not always greener in the other fellow’s yard.
We hope and we pray with all our heart that our children will learn from our mistakes, that they will listen to our words of wisdom, gained thru our own personal experiences, and will accept our loving advice. But the reality is that most of the time; they have to learn for themselves.
If there’s anyone here this morning that has never been burnt by playing with matches or touching a hot pan or stove; or been burnt their tongue by drinking a beverage that is too hot, raise your hand now, I want to meet you! Anyone? Okay, so we’ve all been burnt, so answer me this. Is there anyone here this morning whose parents never told him or her “be careful? That ‘s hot! You’ll get burnt!” It seems that it’s the nature of man to have to learn the hard lessons of life by trial and error.
The good news is, parents, that as I shared with you two weeks ago, the Bible tells us in the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, verse 6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Notice, it does not say that this child will always go the way he should go or always do the things he should do. It says that what he is taught when he is young; he will not go away from when he is old.
We, as parents, are building the very foundation upon which our children will stand when they become adults. We have an awesome and overwhelming responsibility for how we raise our children. One day we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be held accountable to Him for how well we carried out that responsibility.
In the situation of this younger son, the Bible tells us that his father granted his son’s request and gave him a portion of his estate, that which would have been his at upon his father’s death.
13. And not many days after the young son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Webster’s dictionary defines “riotous” as to waste or spend recklessly. Oh yes, this young man became very full of himself. He had money now. Surely he traveled into this far away land and made many friends. More than likely he help many parties and purchased the best of foods and wines, and showed off his wealth to these people.
Surely he chased after women and bought them expensive gifts of jewelry and fancy clothing. He didn’t work, didn’t need to! He was rich and he spent and spent and spent, until one day he awakened to realize that his inheritance was gone. He had squandered it all.
14. And when he had spent all; there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
What a terrible tumble this youngest son had taken. He was far away from the security of home. All of his inheritance was gone. He no longer had his father there to provide for his food, shelter and clothing.
Where were all his newfound friends? As long as he had money to spend on them they had been there, but now there was no one to help him in his time of need. In order to survive he had to find work of some kind – but there was a great famine in the land and work was very scarce. So finally, he went to work for a citizen of that far away country feeding the swine, the pigs, the hogs.
16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine would eat: and no man gave unto him.
His hunger was incredible! He was so hungry that he would fain, meaning to eat with pleasure, the husks of the corn that the pigs were eating. He had fallen so low that he had become like an animal. Even the husks seemed to him as acceptable food for him to eat.
It was then; out in the fields with the swine, that this young man began to once again think about home, and to think about all the things he used to take for granted in his father’s home.
17. And when he came to himself, he said, how many servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare. And I perish with hunger!
18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.
19. And am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.
Then and there, out in the fields with the swine, alone, sad, hungry and repentant, he made the decision to return to his father’s home. He recognized that he had made a terrible mistake. He recognized that he had sinned, not only against his father, but against Heaven as well. He was a repentant sinner in need of forgiveness. He felt he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son. He would not expect to be taken back as a son, but perhaps if he journeyed home his father would hire him as one of his servants, for even as a hired servant he would be so much better off than he was in this faraway land.
I would suppose that his clothes were tattered and torn as he began the walk up the path that would lead him to his father’s home. I would suppose also that he had lost a great deal of weight due to the famine in the land in which he had lived. Surely he looked so much worse than the day he had left his home.
I would suppose also that he now had a very different attitude. He realized what he had once had and now had lost. He realized that he had made a terrible mistake and he was repentant.
He had lived a riotous life, sinning against his father, against God, and against Heaven above. But now, wearied and worn, he was coming home.
20. And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
How many times in our lives have we sinned against God and felt the same way as this young man did?
Now can you just imagine how that father felt? His son had been gone for a very long time. He did not know if he was alive or dead. He did not know if the son had realized his dreams.
I imagine that each day the father would go out on his porch and sit in a chair, and look down that long path that led to his home. Each day looking, wondering, hoping, that one day he would see his lost son coming home.
And on this day as his father set on the porch looking down the long path, he saw the figure of a young man walking down that path. He strained his eyes, looking, wondering, and hoping. As the young man drew closer, this father recognized him – it was his son! And he ran towards him, filled with compassion and love, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
I imagine that as they walked together up the path to their home, the father had his arm around his son, and listened as his son asked his forgiveness. I imagine that the tears rolled freely down their cheeks as the young man asked his father’s forgiveness and asked to be allowed to come home again, not as his son, but as a servant.
The father listened and did not respond immediately to his son, but as they arrived together at the home, here is what the father said and did.
22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe. And put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
A lost soul had come home, and when a repentant sinner returns home, God rejoices, the angels rejoice, and so should we, for that which was dead to sin is alive again. That which was lost is found.
Now the oldest son was in the fields, probably doing his chores. He began to hear music coming from his home so he asked one of the servants what was going on. He was told that his brother had come home and that his father was so happy that he had had the fattest and best calf killed to celebrate.
This made the oldest son very angry and he would not go into the house and participate in the merriment. The father, missing his older son, came out and asked him why he was so angry.
The son told the father that he had faithfully served him for many years while the youngest son had been gone. He told his father that he had never sinned against him of disobeyed any of his commands.
He told his father that despite this, his father had never had the best calf killed so that he could have a party with his friends, but that as soon as his long lost brother had come home, he had killed the fatted calf for him. And, his brother had not been faithful to his father these many years, but rather had wasted his inheritance on riotous living and harlots.
The father looked with love upon his oldest son and said “Son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. It was fitting that we should party and be glad, for your brother was dead, but now he is alive again – he was lost, but now he is found.
This father loved both his sons. He loved neither one more than the other. He loved them equally. He loved them the same way that God loves us. God doesn’t love Mrs. Toms more than he loves Roger, or Wanda more than he loves you or me.
Now – He may be more pleased with one person’s life than another, but He loves us all equally, regardless of whether we are young or old, skinny or heavy, short or tall, black or white, or male or female.
Let me quickly tell you one more story of another father, my father, before we close.
There has never been a person in this world that I have known, that I loved more than I loved my father. He was a wonderful man that everyone seemed to love. He had a great personality. He was humorous, loving, kind and gentle. He was a Pied Piper to all the children of my neighborhood.
He was a good husband to my mother, faithful always, and provided a good home for his family. He was the best of fathers. He spent countless hours playing ball with my brother and I. We fished, played games and did all the fun things that father and son can do together. He was my idol, my hero.
The one thing my father did not do was take us to church. And in the prime of his life, this strong, muscular, healthy man was stricken with terminal cancer. My father’s life ended a few short months later, the victim of cancer. I was 14 years old.
Among his many talents, my father was an excellent artist. There were many drawings and pictures around my house that my father had drawn. There was one picture in particular that he drew that now hangs on a wall in my brother’s home. It was a picture that my mother told me he drew after attending church one Sunday. I can remember him being in church only once or twice. It is a picture of a sunset evening, with three crosses gleaming through the partially cloudy sky.
I do not know what this picture meant to my dad. I do not know if my father ever accepted Jesus Christ in to his heart and life, as his personal Lord and Savior. What I do know is that it’s the only thread of hope that I have that my father was saved and that I will see him again one day, in a place called Heaven.
There is no harder reality in my life than not knowing whether or not my father was saved. It has been a very difficult thing for me to live with.
Today, we live in a day and age where it is extremely difficult to be a good father. It is out responsibility to lead, direct, and guide our children through their early years of life.
In today’s challenging world, the decisions we have to make are not always easy ones. The world has become more sinful and the forces of Satan are constantly and actively pursuing our children from every possible avenue.
Often our decisions are wrong ones and we fail our children. We make mistakes. But there’s one thing I know for sure, and that is that the most important thing a parent can ever do for a child is to lead them to Jesus Christ.
If we are successful at that we have been successful in life, and successful as a parent. This needs to be the most important thing we ever do. And if we are successful at that, we need to continue to lead them, by example, teaching them to love their neighbor’s as themselves, and to obey the commandments given to us by God.
This morning I have told the story of two fathers. Both were kind and loving, compassionate and caring, but the greatest Father of them all was not one of those I spoke about. The greatest Father of all was God Almighty, Father of Jesus Christ. His residence is in both in our hearts and in the Kingdom of Heaven. There He awaits those of His children that have been born again by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This Father loves us no matter what we’ve done, no matter what sins we have committed. Like the father of the prodigal son we spoke about today, God the Father will forgive us and joyfully accept us back into his fold.
No matter how far we’ve strayed from God’s master plan, we’ve never been farther than the reach of His hand.
If God has spoken to your heart today and there are things in your life that need changing, or if you feel you would like to become a member of this church, whatever your need, I ask you to come forward as we sing.