Summary: This sermon leads you to examine four characteristics of our Heavenly Father as seen in the story of the Prodigal Son.

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Today is father’s day. There will be much said about fathers on this day. We will reflect on our fathers, what they did for us and what they mean to us. It is an important day that we should always remember. All of us have special memories that we turn to on this day. A few days ago I read about three boys who were comparing their fathers. One of them said: my father is a great professor. When he is talking about a subject he is so smart only 10 people in the world can understand him! The second boy said: my father is a great brain surgeon, when he is talking about his surgery only 5 people in the whole world can understand what he is saying. The third boy said: my father is a pastor, when he is preaching nobody can understand what he is saying. (Contributed to Sermon Central by Paul Fritz) All of us think there is no father like our father.

I want to lead you in examining a father who is like none other. Our text is Luke 15:11-24. This story is a parable. The parable represents God’s dealings with man. The prodigal represents man and how he responds to God. The father represents God and how he responds to man. The father in this passage is a father who is like none other. In examining this passage I want to celebrate our Heavenly Father and his response to us. In addition, I want to share some insights into how we can be better fathers. Finally, I want us to see how to relate to other people. From this passage we learn four characteristics of a father who is like none other.

1. A father like none other loves with a liberating love . Notice the text. The younger of two sons comes to his father. As he comes he asks his father for his share of the inheritance. This is the ultimate disrespect. Generally speaking, an inheritance is given out at the death of the father. It is as if this young prodigal is pronouncing a death verdict on his father. In this instance we see the first characteristic of a model father and his love.

A model father loves with a liberating love. Notice what the father does. "And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.” (vs. 12, NKJV) He releases his son. One of the points we learn from this parable is that God releases those who turn their backs on Him. It is somewhat frightening to comprehend that if you turn your back on God he will let you go. God could keep us close through other means but he does not. He releases us.

• God could force us into submission when we want to wander away.

Illustrations: This is what the Soviets tried to do with their citizens. They raised a barrier (which was both physical and psychological), called the iron curtain, that was intended to force their citizens into submission. They thought that by suppression they could control their people.

• God could manipulate us into submission when we want to wander away.

Illustration: I once shared a story about a five year old boy who was trying to convince his younger sister to give him a toy which he wanted. The younger sister was extremely possessive. In frustration, after coaxing and pleading to no avail, he screamed at his younger sister, “If you don’t let me play with it, Jesus won’t love you anymore.” That is manipulation.

Dear friend, it breaks the heart of God when one of his children wanders away from Him. However, he will not force, coerce or manipulate his love in order to appease you. He appeals to you in love. He is doing that today.

There may be someone here today who has wandered away from God. He yearns for you. He appeals to you. He loves you. He wants you to come home. Understand, he will not force you. His love releases you to make your own decision.

As parents, one of the hardest things we do is to love our children with a liberating love. It is hard to let them make decisions that may not be in their best interest. It is hard to let them learn by trial and error.

Illustration: When our boys were small they enrolled in the boy scouts for a year. They, like many young scouts, went through the soap box racer thing. The boy scouts and their dads are supposed to build a soap box racer. It ends up that the dads build the racer and give their son the credit. Problem is, when we build the car the boy does not learn anything.

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