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Summary: Grace is fair, but it’s not deserved.

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THE CHARACTERS

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

There are three main characters in the parable of the prodigal son: the younger brother, the older brother, and the father.

· The younger son pictures repentant SINNERS (like the tax collectors and “sinners”).

· The older son pictures SELF-RIGHTEOUS people (like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law).

· The father pictures GOD.

A PICTURE OF CONVERSION

In the story of the prodigal son we see a picture of spiritual conversion:

· The prodigal son turned from the DISTANT COUNTRY to his FATHER.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth with wild living” (v. 13).

“‘I will set out and go back to my father…’” (v. 18).

· Conversion is a turning from SIN to CHRIST.

(1) Turning from sin is REPENTANCE.

“Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 713)

ILLUSTRATION: Often a murderer does not show sorrow until after he is declared guilty. That’s not repentance.

(2) Turning to Christ is FAITH.

OBJECT LESSON: Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Heads = sin. Tails = Christ.

TWO KINDS OF SINNERS

The two sons represent two kinds of sinners:

· The younger son represents IMMORAL, BLATANT sinners.

· The older son represents MORAL, HYPOCRITICAL sinners.

“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (v. 29).

Both sons were rebels.

People like the older son don’t think they need to repent.

THAT’S NOT FAIR!

When the younger son returned home, the father and elder son responded in opposite ways:

· The father was filled with COMPASSION and JOY.

“But while he was still along way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20).

· The older son was filled with CONDEMNATION and ANGER.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him” (v. 28).

“‘But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (v. 30).

Celebrating the repentance of sinners—no matter what they’ve done—is not only appropriate, it’s necessary.

“‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’” (v. 32).

The story leaves us hanging. We aren’t told what the elder son does. What would you do if you were in the older brother’s shoes? Would you join the party or stay outside?

Don’t answer too quickly. The prodigal son is supposed to represent the worst of sinners. Think about someone like that. Do you think God should show compassion to that kind of person? Do you think God should rejoice when that kind of person repents?

Jeffrey Dahmer was America’s most notorious serial killer. Not only were his killings gruesome, but he was so morally twisted that he cooked and ate his victims’ body parts. On the day of his arrest, police made the horrible discovery of a human heart and several skulls in the refrigerator of his home.

Through his subsequent trial Dahmer remained impassive, never once showing any sign of remorse or regard for the deep pain he caused his victims’ families. He seemed to be a monster without a conscience. He was found guilty on all charges and the judge sentenced him to 16 consecutive life sentences for a total of 1,070 years in prison. Dahmer was hated by his fellow prisoners. They regarded him as being the lowest kind of human scum. Eventually two of the prisoners brutally killed him inside a prison washroom. But in the meantime Jeffrey claimed to have turned to Jesus. He was even baptized in a prison tub.

People were totally outraged by Jeffrey’s jailhouse conversion. Their attitude was typified in an article by a prominent journalist who expressed it in these words:

"Good riddance. Dahmer is dead… Did you heard he got religion? He made peace with his maker. Lucky for him we have different makers. I think mine requires a little more than a prison conversion and a dunk in the pool to make up for butchering a dozen and a half innocent people. Why is it these dogs never get religion before they slaughter people? Why does it always come too late to do anybody any good? Here’s the theological dilemma: If Dahmer murdered, raped and cannibalized an innocent boy who had not been "saved," and then Dahmer got "saved" himself, whose side would God be on? Who does he welcome with open arms on Judgment Day? Are we supposed to believe that God embraces the murderer and sends the victim to hell? Not in any heaven I want to be part of." (Bob Lonsberry, lonsberry.com)

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