Summary: Prodigals still exist. These individuals rebel, stepping away from God’s blessings, indulging in reckless living and ruining their lives. But God runs to meet those who are at the point of total desperation and who are willing to repent and return home.

How to Return to God

Luke 15:11–24

by David O. Dykes


The parable in this passage focuses on the character and nature of the God of the Bible. It’s usually called the parable of the Prodigal Son but I prefer to call it the parable of the Loving Father. Jesus uses this story to teach us about the character and nature of His Father It’s no good to believe in God if you believe in the wrong kind of God. You can know what God is like by how He responds to a rebellious son in this parable.

I came across something funny the other day I know most of you teenagers will enjoy. It’s called “Seven Things You’ll Never Hear Your Dad Say”:

7. I notice all your friends have a hostile attitude–I like that!

6. Well now that you’re 13, Princess, I want you to start dating older guys.

5. No son of mine is going to live under this roof without an earring!

4. Why do you want to get a job? I’ve got plenty of money for you to spend!

3. Your mother and I are going away for the weekend–you might want to consider throwing a party.

2. Here’s my credit card and the keys to my car–now, GO CRAZY!

1. Well, looks like I’m lost–I guess I’ll have to stop and ask for directions!

One thing you’ll never hear your Heavenly Father say is “If you walk away from Me; you can never come back.” Instead, God is a loving Heavenly Father. He loves you so much, you are free to walk out of fellowship with Him–He won’t stop you. He will run to meet you more than halfway if you decide to return to Him. And He says when you repent; He will treat you as if you never left.

Today, we are going to back up and look at the parable again–this time from the perspective of the rebellious son. Since we read it last week from the NIV, I want us to read it from The Message paraphrase:

There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.” So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. That brought him to his senses. He said, All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.” He got right up and went home to his father.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: “Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.” But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain–fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here–given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” And they began to have a wonderful time.

What a great story! In just a few short words, Jesus shows us the selfishness and sinfulness of a rebellious son. Charles Dickens once wrote about this parable, “The Prodigal Son is the finest short story ever written.”

It’s more than just a splendid short story, however. It’s a story that touches all of us at different points. Some of you are the parents of Prodigals and you are feeling the pain of the father. Others of you are like the son who has wandered away from fellowship with the father. Still, others of you won’t like to admit it, but you are exactly like the older brother we’ll discuss next week.

In this message, we’ll examine the steps of the rebellious son. We can learn about the steps away from God and the steps that will take you back to God.

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