Summary: Lessons from the Parable of the Prodigal Son
John Newton was once known only for his occupation: captain of a slave-trading vessel. He made many trips between Africa and the U.S. with slaves in the belly (below deck) of the ship, which was bad enough, but when storms would arise or a government vessel could be seen approaching from a distance, in order to lessen the weight of the vessel or to avoid incrimating proof of slave trading, Newton would have the slaves thrown off the ship to drown in the water. But, after an especially bad storm got his attention to the point he barely escaped with his own life, he began considering getting right with his maker. Some years after that event he did indeed give his heart and life to Christ, and put his story into song lyrics. Today John Newton is known more for the song than his earlier profession...Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
In the early 70’s Charles Colson was known as the feared "hatchet man" for President Nixon. Colson even described himself as a man "incapable of a humanitarian thought," admitted to being guilty of numerous political "dirty tricks" and was "willing to do almost anything for his President and his party." In 1973 however, he had a personal encounter with God, and gave his heart and life over to Jesus. When news of his conversion leaked to the press, the Boston Globe reported, "If Mr. Colson cn repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody." After serving time in prison for his Watergate-related crimes, Chuck Colson established Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976, and that ministry has expanded even beyond the U.S. to minister to inmates around the world...to men and women who have committed notorious sins, but for whom God’s love is still reaching, and available.
John Newton & Chuck Colson represent multitudes around us who have discovered God’s amazing grace and forgiveness.
However, today our focus shifts to one of the best-known stories in all the Bible...a story about another sinner (like us all) and his experience with God’s grace.
I invite you to open a Bible and turn to Luke, chapter eleven.
As we’ve discussed earlier in this series of Pursuing Meaning, looking at the lessons to be applied from the Parables of Jesus, a parable is an earthly story with a spiritual meaning. It’s an illustration, a way of looking at a truth in a round-about manner.
There are 3 primary characters in this story: the young man who leaves, the father he leaves, and the older brother who stays home.
There are 3 chapters in the story: the son leaves, the son messes up, the son returns.
So, there are many ways to approach the subject of this parable, but I want to do so today by looking at...
LESSONS FROM THREE AREAS:
1) THE SCOPE OF SIN.
---ILL> Susana Wesley defined "sin" to her young son, John Wesley, by saying: "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things, that, to you, is sin."
---Sin in its simplest terms is disobeying God, doing that which displeases God.
---In the story before us today, there are some lessons we can learn about the overall scope of sin...
--a) SIN IS SELFISH IN ITS ESSENCE.
----*v.12 -- "The younger of them said to his father, ’Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’"
---There are a number of sins going on in this story: impatience, ingratitude, disrespect of elders, greed, gluttony, immorality, impurity, etc.
---However, every one of them has one common ingredient: selfishness.
---It can be a sin of commission, something we do: stealing, lying, sexual immorality, gluttony, boasting, cruelty, causing discord, or placing our priorities on something other than the Lord.
---Or it can be a sin of omission, not doing something we should do: not tithing, not witnessing, not honoring our parents, not being faithful in worship attendance or studying God’s Word, not using our spiritual gifts to serve Him, not taking care of our bodies, etc.
---In the end, all sin comes down to selfishness...where we’ve chosen to place self above God’s will for our lives.
---It would be nice if we would always heed the Bible’s warnings of the consequences to sin, but many times we don’t.
----ILL>I’m reminded of the "No Trespassing" sign in West Texas that a rancher had signed his name to in blood at the bottom of the sign. The message of the sign was a pretty clear warning: "STOP. I know you’re thinking about crossing this gate. What you should know is that if the coyotes, cactus, mesquite, dust, or rattlers don’t get you, I will."
--b) SIN IS PLEASURABLE FOR A SEASON.