Summary: Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God regrets your rebellion but loves you so much he will let you walk out of fellowship with him. But He is also a God who runs to you when you return and restores you when you repent.
What is God Really Like?
by David O. Dykes
What is God really like? Some people think the most important question of life is “Do you believe in God?” But a more important question is “What kind of God do you believe in?” There is something worse than being an atheist - it is believing in God, but having an erroneous concept of God. There are many religions in the world that present many differing pictures of God and they all may contain a little truth. A stopped clock is right twice a day, but actually a broken clock is worse than no clock at all because it gives you misleading information. You can believe in God, but if you have a false conception of God, you are no better off than an atheist.
What is God really like? Is He the God of the Muslim terrorists? Is God really named Allah and does he reward murdering terrorists who highjack airplanes and kill innocent people? Does He want all the infidels killed, even if it means strapping a bomb to your body and killing yourself? Is God like the impersonal god of the Deists? Deism teaches God created the world like a watchmaker, and then he wound it up and started it. But now, he sits by uncaring or unable to get involved in what is happening in lives of individuals. Hinduism teaches there are a number of gods and goddesses, but the greatest god is Brahmin, the impersonal but all pervasive life force in every person. The New-Agers teach god is the life force in everything, that’s why they can worship trees, crystals, and even themselves. Is that what God is like? Is He Allah? Is He a watchmaker God? Is He Brahmin? Is the good side of the Force in the Star Wars movies?
Jesus Christ came to planet earth to show us exactly what God is like. In Luke 15, He shares three beautiful stories that paint a portrait of the character and nature of God. Last week we looked at the lost sheep and the lost coin. Today let’s look at the story of the lost son:
Jesus continued: “There was man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
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! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long 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.
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Although this is often called the parable of the Prodigal Son, the key figure in the parable is the Father. I prefer to call it the Parable of the Loving Father. Jesus is teaching us the God of the Universe is like the father in this story. It’s not enough to believe in God; you must understand the nature of the God Jesus came to introduce. The wonder and beauty of the character of God can been easily seen in this beautiful parable. We can learn three important things about God. We worship:
1. A GOD WHO REGRETS YOUR REBELLION
In the story, the younger son demanded to receive his inheritance although his father is still alive. According to Jewish law, a father who had two sons was to leave 2/3 of his estate to his older son and 1/3 to his younger son. This younger son came to his dad and said, “I know you’re gonna’ drop dead someday, but I don’t want to wait–give it to me now.” The Father was wounded by this harsh demand, but he granted it. He probably had to take some time to sell some of his land or livestock or liquidate other assets, but he eventually comes up with 1/3 of his net worth and hands it to his younger son.