Summary: Part 3 in series Return of the Prodigal, Dave continues looking at the younger son’s return to his father’s house, examining reasons why we settle for servanthood instead of sonship/daughtership.
The Younger Son Returns
The Return of the Prodigal, prt. 3
Wildwind Community Church
February 27, 2011
First I want to say Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife Christy. She believed in Wildwind Church, and dreamed of Wildwind Church, and saw me as the pastor of Wildwind Church, many, many years before I was able to believe in myself enough to step up and do it. She motivates me when I’m stuck, inspires me when I feel lifeless, and stays close enough to me that I get to feed continually off of her energy and enthusiasm. She has been instrumental in turning our three sweet little girls into brilliant, compassionate, and confident young women. She has stuck by me through my problems with MS, worked me through college and grad school, and stood behind me through a huge change when I decided to stop being a record store clerk and became a pastor. She put her own aspirations on hold to stay home with our children, and then still completed her bachelor’s degree and became a teacher after Anna went to school, and then got through graduate school too. As most of you know, she’s a gifted singer, but she also has wicked good decorating sense, is a great cook, is the manager and organizer behind our family, and is an amazing seamstress. Best of all, she loves the kids and me, and loves God, and she is constantly growing in grace, in mercy, and in faith.
You all know her because she’s always up front, but I don’t often take the opportunity to publicly thank her for all that she is and all that she means to me. Happy 23rd anniversary sweetie. Thanks for being my girl since we were 17 and here’s to many, many more years.
We’re looking in this series at the prodigal son and last week I talked to you about his return. This week I’m going to talk to you about – his return. After all, the series is called The Return of the Prodigal. The story matters not because he leaves, but because he comes back. I wrapped up last week saying that the moment that young man decided that he would be better off at home in his Father’s house, he returned. That’s where conversion happened. That was a huge change of mind – a shift in his consciousness which up until that moment had been directed against his Father.
But it’s important to be realistic here. He did not have faith in the Father’s love. He did not say, “My father waits at home, hurting every moment over my departure. He’ll be so happy to see me.” In fact he says just the opposite.
Luke 15:17-19 (NIV)
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, ’How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’
All he wants is some food and a roof over his head. We don’t have any indication in this text that his motive is anything other than self-preservation. Clearly this boy goes home because he has nowhere else to go. Sounds downright Biblical to me –
John 6:67-68 (NIV)
67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We’re so stuck on intentions in our culture. We say, “I don’t want to open up my life to God until I know I’m doing it for the right reasons.” And then we feel all ethical and upstanding having made that statement. But this statement is actually foolish. What if this young man had said it? “Well, I know I could go home, but it would only be to get some food and shelter and those aren’t very good reasons – it’s not like I want a relationship with my dad again. I’d better stay here.” Of course if he’d said that, he’d have been dead. Everyone needs food and shelter, and to not get it wherever you can find it is very foolish at best. So also, if it’s true that everyone needs God, then to not get yourself to God is very foolish at best . This thing about wanting to go to God for “the right reasons” is just a smokescreen. It keeps us from having to deal openly with the depth of our need, and from having to feel the sting of repentance. After all, how totally humbling to go to God simply because you know you’re just in it for you! You’d feel much better waiting to go to God until you have a better reason than that. But ultimately we need God for one reason and that’s because we are insufficient unto ourselves and we have made a mess of our lives in various ways, and we need help. It starts right there, with our need for self-preservation. You know why Jonah went to Ninevah? Because he didn’t want to live in a fish any longer. You see in the story it’s not like he cared about those people at all! Self-preservation. That was Jonah’s motive. That was the prodigal son’s motive. The lesson we learn here is to stop worrying about your reasons for going to God, and just go! Go by all means. Go for whatever reason, whether it seems pure or selfish. Part of being away from God is that we cannot clearly see, so our assessment of our own motives is likely not accurate in the first place.