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In some ways, we are all outsiders battling various lies. Maybe you’re like the younger prodigal son battling guilt and shame over past decisions, and thus you doubt your self-worth and whether you truly belong anywhere. Or maybe you’re the older son trying to turn life into a performance for God. Either way, the way to destroy lies is with the truth. Jeff looks at Luke 15 to help us gain a true understanding of God’s inheritance, sin, and God’s grace. And ultimately, we turn our attention to Jesus, the third Son in this story – the Son of God.
God Loves Outsiders
Our True Treasure
Why We're Reluctant to Rescue Outsiders
Forgiven Much, Loves Much
Wasn't that great? God brings outsiders in, and then he deploys them in ways that they never think they would ever be deployed in. That's what God does. My name is Jeff Parker, and I'm the pastoral care director here at the Plano Campus. One of the privileges of my job is that I get to work with Laura.
Just a couple of things you need to know about Laura that even a great video can't capture is just some of her enthusiasm and that it's contagious, and the way she has a zeal for the gospel and the way she shares the gospel is also motivating. Whether you have kids or not here at the Plano Campus, be encouraged that one of the people who is raising up the next generation of Christ followers here is that girl, Laura. I'm so excited and grateful for her life.
As you guys have heard, we're continuing our Outsiders series today. I thought what better place to start than a place where I'm an insider this year, and that's at Six Flags. My family and I have season passes, and we get to go whenever we want. It's like we own the place. After we've paid all the money up front, we get to go whenever we want. One of the things we like to do is go on a school day. We'll go and take advantage of the smaller lines, the low crowds.
It has been an amazing thing for the most part. I say "for the most part" because there was one day in early May that didn't quite go how we wanted it to. We arrived, and it was a school day, yet every kid in the Metroplex was there. It was a band competition or a choir competition. It was something, but they were all there.
So I was already kind of fighting a bad attitude, and then my wife Stacey and I were talking and going, "Hey, the win today is it's a family day. We're together. It's not about how many rides we can ride. Let's enjoy the day." So I was like, "All right. We'll enjoy the day." Well, we went to put sunscreen on, and I don't know what I did, but I shot sunscreen directly into my eye.
I don't mean the kind that kind of sneaks in the corner of your eye and you can flush it out with a little bit of water. It was a direct hit to my cornea. I'm dumping out our water backpack. I'm trying to flush it out. Water is engulfing me. Rule number one is "Don't mess with it." I messed with it. I'm clawing at my eye. It felt good for a second, and I'm clawing, and somehow it starts to sneak over into my other eye as well. I was a miserable, whiny mess.
My gracious wife was like, "Hey, why don't you go out to the car and sleep it off?" So I headed out to the car in the Six Flags parking lot. I take an hour and a half nap there. That's not the best place to take a nap. I did it. I woke up, and my eyes were still burning. I've never felt this before. In my mind I was like, "I want to be done with the day." It's like I could hear my sweet wife's voice in my ear going, "Hey, let's make a day out of it. Let's make the best of it."
So I went looking for something to protect my eyes. The only thing I could find in my car was a pair of my wife's old dollar-store sunglasses. The first thought was, "No way. I'm not putting those on today," but again, it was like, "Do it for the kids. Let's have a fun time about it." So I did it for the kids. I'll do it for you guys. I put them on and headed out. I'm leaving my car and walking to Six Flags going, "I don't think they're going to let me in. I might have a membership card that says I'm allowed in, but they're not going to let me in. They will refuse me."
I get inside, crazy enough, and I'm still looking for my family, and I feel like eyeballs are on me, just like now. Every now and then I'd catch a glimpse of myself in a window or a mirror, and it was like, "Who is…? Oh, that's me. Okay." That was an interesting day, to say the least. As I reflected on that day and as I reflected on this series, how I felt that day kind of paints a picture for how we can all feel at different times.
I'm convinced in some form or fashion we're all outsiders, whether we feel it or whether we actually are. I think there are three types of outsiders here this morning. The first group is the group that felt like I did walking in from my car. I have sunglasses on, and I'm just going, "They won't let me in here. That person is done. I won't be welcome in Six Flags." You feel like maybe you won't be welcome here.
The second group represented by this time at Six Flags was I had, in theory, the membership card to prove I belonged in Six Flags. I think for some of us we've belonged here. We've loved people here, we've been loved by people here, yet we're still prone to feel like outsiders at times. Aren't we still prone to feel like we're the ones who stick out, that everyone is looking at us, that they can see right through us? "If they only knew my past, if they only knew my struggles, I wouldn't be accepted here anymore." That's the second group.
I think there's a third group here. There are people who think they're on the inside and yet are metaphorically stuck in the parking lot and don't realize it. That's what we're going to talk to today. We're going to look at those three groups of people, and as we jump into Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son, as it's so often entitled, we're going to look at each of these groups in different ways.
It's interesting. Each of the groups has its own lie it believes, but the truth is the same for each of those groups. The goal for this morning is to gain a right understanding of three things. First, to gain a right understanding of God's inheritance; second, to gain a right understanding of sin; and third, to gain a right understanding of God's grace.
I know that as we dive into Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son… This is a parable some of us have read hundreds of times, and we've heard countless messages on this, but I want to invite you all to lean in a little bit this morning. Lean in. As Hebrews 2:1 says, we must pay much closer attention to what we've already heard, lest we drift away from it.
So this morning, no matter how many times you've read this parable, no matter how many times you've heard a message on this, lean in, because God has some good truths for us to battle whatever lie we are facing. Let's jump in. Luke 15. We'll spend most of our morning in verses 11 and beyond, but let me cut to verse 1 at the top of the chapter to figure out who's in the story.
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" There are three players in the story. You have the tax collectors and the sinners (that's the younger brother), you have the Pharisees and the scribes (that's the older brother), and then you have them all drawing near to hear him, and that's Jesus. He's the teller of the parable. Let's read verses 11-16.
"And he said, 'There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me." And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.'" The first truth we want to get a right understanding of is…
1._ A right understanding that God's inheritance is lasting. If you look back at verse 12, it says, "And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property…' And he divided his property between them." There's this little truth embedded in this parable. The father does have an inheritance. The father in _this story has an inheritance, and God has an inheritance for each one of us.
The younger son viewed this inheritance as some sort of treasure to be plundered, some sort of loot to get his hands on, and he missed what his true inheritance already was. As we come to understand that God's inheritance is lasting, we need to have a right definition of it. There are three things I think are good to define God's inheritance. It's not possessions. It's actually presence with the Father, a place in his home , and promises in his Word. The son had…
A. Presence with the father. He even calls him "father" in verse 12. He was close to his father in proximity. He could have enjoyed the presence of his father, yet he didn't recognize it as a piece of his inheritance.
B. A place in his home. Later in verse 12, he says, "Give me the share of property…" That word property in Greek is ousia, which literally means estate. It means place. It means home. The father would have had to sell off a piece of home in order to give the younger brother the treasure he wanted.
The father didn't have some vault he went into and just pulled out some jewelry and some money and said, "Here's your inheritance." No, his inheritance was presence with the father. It was a place. The son begins to cash out on these priceless gifts in order to get his hands on material possessions.
C. Promises of God's Word. In God's Word there are over 3,000 promises. First Kings 8:56 says not a single word of those promises will ever fail. That's a piece of your inheritance: all of those promises. Just like the father would go on to say to the older brother, which was also true for the younger brother. "Hey, you've always been with me. All that is mine is yours. All of this, all of these promises…it's all yours. Don't miss it. Don't miss out on those." All God's promises are yes and amen, and they are a piece of our inheritance.
It leaves us with this overall truth: If you don't value presence with the Father you'll leave his place. You'll leave his body (or may never join it to begin with) where he has designed you to be, and you'll never get to enjoy all of his promises. The inverse is also true. If you will have a deep, abiding relationship with the Father…
By the way, that's the only way you can ever love outsiders in the way they need to be loved: if you have a deep, abiding relationship with the Father. If you have that, you'll find a place in his home and will get to taste his promises. So, we have to have a right understanding of God's inheritance. It's so much better than some material or earthly possessions. It is lasting. The next thing we need to have is…
2._ A right understanding of sin. Sin promises freedom but always leads to slavery. There's a saying about sin that resonates with me, probably because I've tasted it. It says, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay,_ and cost you more than you want to pay." That truth is embedded in this parable.
After he says in verse 12, "Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me," then in verse 13 it says, "Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country…" The Pharisees would have translated this to a Gentile land. The son would have left entirely the area where the temple was. There would have been no connection geographically to God.
A. Sin will take you farther than you want to go. Sin will definitely take you farther than you want to go, but it's not just a geographical distance we have to be worried about. There's a spiritual distance between the Lord and us from time to time. We could be in this room and be as far away as we've ever been from the Lord. Unfortunately, the American church has made it a place where we can hide in here, and though we're close in theory to God we are far away from him. Sin will take you farther than you want to go.
B. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay. "…there [in the far-off country] he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything…" Sin makes you bankrupt. Sin will lead you to a place where you have spent all you had, including yourself. Even then…
C. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. There's a famine that hits the land. The younger brother doesn't use that as an opportunity to turn back home. Sin just keeps him longer.
He then goes off to sell himself into slavery. He goes and hires himself out to a citizen of the country, and that person sends him off to feed pigs. That would have been one of the most degrading jobs imaginable for a Pharisee. Sin does that. It promises freedom on the front end and leads to slavery. The right understanding we need to have of sin is that it's lethal. That's your word.
If it would be helpful to have a few more words, here are a few more truths about sin: it's adulterous, afflicting, agonizing, barbaric, brutal, calamitous, cancerous, contaminating, deadly, debilitating, deceiving, defiling, degenerating, desolating, destructive, devastating, disgraceful, disgusting, empty, enslaving, ensnaring, fatal, festering, fleeting, fruitless, guilting, grievous, hateful, humiliating, impure, isolating, lethal, luring.
Sin is merciless, murderous, obscene, overpowering, perverse, perverted, poisonous, rebellious, ruinous, senseless, shameful, shaming, stupid, tainting, tormenting, troublesome, ungodly, ungrateful, unproductive, unrighteous, vicious, vile, wicked, withering, worthless.
Sin is bone-wasting, eye-gouging, hand-chopping, heart-defiling, mind-decaying, life-stealing, soul-draining, spirit-troubling, guilt-inducing, idol-making, land-polluting, trouble-filling, grief-piercing, light-hating, misery-generating, wrath-storing, country-ravaging, relationship-killing, marriage-divorcing, eternal-punishing, Satan-controlling, hell-damning, fortune-costing, toil-producing, fool-creating, paradise-ending, God-separating, pig slop-eating.
That's what sin does to us, and that's what sin is doing to our friends, to our family, and to our colleagues, and we're watching them feast on it if we don't do anything for them. The only way we'll do anything for them is if we have…
3._ A right understanding of grace._ We don't need to meet them with judgment. We don't need to meet them with condemnation. We have to have a right understanding of grace. Let's read verses 17-24, and as we read it here's what I want. Just start logging in your mind all of the places, all of the ways God's grace shows up in lavishing fashion, because God's grace is lavishing.
Verse 17: "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you."'" He's practicing a speech here, basically. "'I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.' And he arose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate."
It's lavishing grace, and it's the way we're called to love other people. Who best to know just how devastatingly lethal sin is than us, those of us who have tasted God's grace? Don't we know we, too, were once foolish and disobedient, as Titus 3:3 says? We were led astray. We were enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. Like Laura, right? It ends in DUIs, yet the amazing thing…
I love verse 17. My version says, "When he came to himself…" Your version might say, "When he came to his senses…" If you read your Watermark News, AnnaChristen… It says, "God opened my eyes." That's what verse 4 of Titus 3 is. "But when the kindness of God appeared, he saved us, not by works of our own righteousness but by his own mercy."
The only reason the son ever came to his senses was because it was God's lavishing grace that allowed him to. A lot of us view God's grace in this moment as the father running out to the son, and that is most definitely a picture of God's grace, but it begins here when we come to our senses at the pig slop.
The second part is the journey home. I ask the question as I read this, "How did the son make it home?" He was so malnourished he was willing to eat pig's food, and yet you're telling me he had enough energy to make it home? No one would even give him pig's food, so he had to make that journey home. Can't you just see him practicing that speech as he's going home? "Father, I've sinned before you and heaven." Just kind of hesitating, turning around, malnourished.
God's grace brought him home. If you want to claim a promise that is true for you, if you want it, it's that he who began a good work in you, he who brought you to your senses, is faithful to complete the work in you until the day of Christ Jesus. He will bring you home every step of the way. It's Christ's grace that brought him home.
Then the lavishing just keeps going. If you go back and look, all the younger son wanted was a servant's job and a few warm meals. It's all he wanted. That's what he thought grace was. That day at Six Flags, all I wanted was to get through the day. In fact, my goal was to spend an hour or two with my family and try to convince them it was time to go. That was my goal for the rest of the day.
We get inside. I finally track down my wife, and somehow she has acquired a Flash Pass. I don't know if you know what a Flash Pass is at Six Flags, but this is like red-carpet treatment at Six Flags. She had met a friend, engaged them, and they gave us their Flash Pass for the day. So I'm trouncing around in women's sunglasses with three of my oldest kids in tow, and we go live it up at the park.
Just ride after ride, whatever we wanted to, skipping past hour- or hour-and-a-half-long rides, ushered right up to the front. Sometimes you have to wait for the front car or the back car. They just said, "Hey, which car do you want to ride in right here, right now?" Just ride after ride after ride. I was hoping to get through the day, and it ended up being the best day we've ever had at Six Flags together. It's a picture of Christ's grace, the lavishing grace he keeps pouring on us.
It gets even sweeter as you read this story. Verse 20: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." Grace upon grace upon grace. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'" The father interrupts the speech. "Shh. No."
If you feel like the Prodigal in the room, you feel like the person who's hopelessly on the outside, I just want to tell you this truth: It is not about your contrite words. It's not about any deed you can do to clean yourself up. Come home. Psalm 51:17, one of the sweetest promises in God's Word: "A broken and contrite spirit the Lord cannot deny." It's against his nature to deny repentant prodigals, and he won't start with you and he won't start today. Come as you are.
He interrupts the speech, and it just keeps getting better. "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.'" Just grace, more grace, grace upon grace upon grace. All of these things are symbolic of something. I don't have time to unpack all of them, but the one I do want to click on is the robe. The best robe in the house would have been the father's robe.
God does not want us dressed in our prodigal clothing. He does not want us dressed in our pig slop-eating clothing. He wants us to take those off, and he offers us Christ's righteousness when we come home. We are robed in that. That's the best robe the Father has to offer, and it's waiting for you. Take him up on that one.
Verse 23: "And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate." More grace upon grace upon grace. Why? "'For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate." God celebrates repentance. That's what he does. If we take a step back from this parable, there's a truth that's also in here, and I think the truth that's in here is that we're between two meals.
For those of us who have met Christ, we no longer eat from pig slop. God has brought us to our senses, but we're not yet to the feast he promises us. We're between these two meals. I know I was. I feasted from pig slop for most of my life, for about 35 years, a life of gambling, lying, stealing, and deceiving those closest to me. God, in his mercy, brought me to my senses, redirected my path.
As my life got put back together, I was convinced, "I will beeline for this day. I will beeline with my eyes fixed on Christ, and I will be ready for that day. I won't hesitate ever again." Yet I've hit this year, and I just want to tell you it has been a year where I've hesitated. It has been a year where I've struggled, I've questioned. I never thought I'd question again, yet as I've continued the journey I've wrestled with feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, feeling like I don't have anything to offer.
I could slowly feel my heart redirecting in the wrong direction. I felt like an outsider. Does that resonate? Is that something we feel? Some of us have been around here for a while, yet we still are convinced we stick out like a sore thumb, that people are watching us, that if they only knew our struggles… "Maybe I've done something this year or last year that if people even knew about that, I'd be out of here." I want to remind you Christ's grace, God's grace is so lavishing.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine flew down from Philadelphia. I say he's a friend, but I've only met him one other time. We've exchanged emails and texts a few other times, but I don't know him that well. He was flying through Philadelphia to try to get to Los Angeles, but he had a layover in Dallas and wanted to set up a meeting with me. I'm just sitting with him. I hadn't told him anything I just shared with you. We're just sitting. He makes eye contact with me.
By the way, what a great way to love outsiders. Make eye contact with them. Remind them they're valuable. He makes eye contact with me and starts making a couple of statements. He goes, "I bet you don't ever doubt. I bet you don't have any questions. I bet you don't ever struggle with whether the road you're on is where Christ would have you. I bet you don't ever wonder if God is using you and if you're in the right place and that what you're offering to the body is valuable."
At this point, my eyes are basically betraying my real answer to that question. Again, just eye contact with me. He says, "I want you to know something, then." He said, "God has used you to impact someone's life in Philadelphia, and you need to know that. There are more people in Philadelphia, so to speak. Don't stop now letting God use you." Lavishing grace that began to redirect my heart. That's what grace is every step of the way. It's not us making those steps. It's Christ's grace propelling us forward. That's a gorgeous picture of what Christ does.
Maybe you don't have a friend from Philadelphia flying down today, but let me just look at you and tell you if you've hesitated this year, if you've struggled, if you've doubted, if you've had feelings of unworthiness, if you've felt like an outsider here, I want to remind you what God's Word says. My Bible says, "Though a righteous man fall seven times, he shall rise again." So get back up by the strength of God's grace and keep walking, and do so with other people who can help spur you on when your heart begins to fear.
That's the beauty of all that is packed in here in the parable of the prodigal son. Now we're about to see act two, a complete change in direction. For those rescued, we're in constant danger of forgetting what we have already learned. So we must pay much closer attention to what we've already heard, to what we've already experienced, lest we drift away from it.
At this point of the parable, Christ shifts his attention away from the younger brother to the older brother and says, "Hey, come on." Today it would be a message for regular churchgoers. It would be a message for Watermark 4B filler-outers. It's to outsiders who think they're on the inside yet are dangerously on the outside or it's to some of us who have older brother tendencies and don't even know it.
That's the scary thing about being the older brother. It's hard to see yourself as the self-righteous Pharisee. If you've been tracking with us in Luke, Luke 11 says, "Make sure the light that is in you is actually light and is not darkness." So let's pay much closer attention. Let's look for some of the warning signs we see in this older brother as we read verses 25-30.
"Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' But [the older brother] was angry and refused to go in.
His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!'"
How can we know if this is us? How can we know if we're the older brother? Let's play a little game. Do you guys remember Jeff Foxworthy? "You might be a redneck if…" Well, let's play a little game of "You might be the older brother if…" and see if we can't spot some of our own tendencies or maybe if we are in danger of being the older brother.
First, if on a good feast day, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, you've ever locked yourself in your room to avoid your family, if you've ever stayed away from the party, you might be the older brother. Have any of y'all done that, made Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner a nightmare for your family? If you consistently say, consider, or think, "If only I had a [blank]…" For the older brother, he was looking for something to help with the party celebration, a young goat, but for you, whatever it is, fill in that blank.
If it's for you a new job, more square footage, if it's a lake house, a new car, you might be the older brother. In fact, if that blank isn't filled with you only long to have a more fully devoted following of Christ than you currently have, then you might be the older brother. Verses 25-28. The older brother comes back. I think it's fair if you're the older brother here to be a little curious as to what the father is doing, what he's up to.
It can be a little puzzling to go, "What's going on? Why such the big party for my brother?" But he doesn't go in and entreat the father. He doesn't go in and enjoy the presence of the father. He stays outside of the place of the father, and he has conversations with other people who are not his father. If you like to avoid hard conversations or you have those hard conversations with other people instead of the ones who have hurt you, you might be the older brother.
Verse 29: "Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command…""That's what I've done." "But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes…""And now this is what you do for him?" If you love to compare your performance against another's, if you like to put your list of sins up against someone else's list of sins, you might be the older brother.
If I told you in the past two weeks we've had at least six felons step foot onto this campus, either convicted, indicted, or soon-to-be indicted, what goes through your head? If the first thing that goes through your head is "I need to know what the felony was for," you might be the older brother. If the thing that goes through your head is, "Well, how long ago are we talking about? Is this days ago or is this years ago? I'll think about if it were years ago," I'm telling you, you might be the older brother.
If the first thing that goes through your head is not, "Praise God that he is bringing outsiders in to hear the good news of Jesus Christ," you might be the older brother. Look, there's wisdom in how we handle those situations. Absolutely. We process through that so kids are safe and adults are safe and everything is safe, but it's, "Praise God he's bringing people who need the gospel into our doors."
If you think re:gen is for those people (that's our recovery ministry), you might be the older brother. I've thought that before, and I'm the re:gen guy. If you can't remember the last time you asked for forgiveness, you might be the older brother. First John 1:8 says if we say we're without sin we deceive ourselves and make God out to be a liar. If we're like the older brother, just going, "I've never disobeyed your command; I've fulfilled your law," we've missed it.
The Pharisees had missed it. What's the law? Galatians 6. If your brother is caught in a trespass, if your brother has run off to go squander his inheritance on reckless living, what are you supposed to do? You restore them in a spirit of gentleness; thereby, you fulfill…what? The law of Christ. If we can't recognize when we aren't living out the true spirit of the law and we aren't seeking forgiveness for when we do that, we might be the older brother.
If those closest to you can't remember the last time you've even confessed a sin in your life, you might be the older brother. If that's not a routine element of your Community Group, your whole Community Group might be a group of older brothers. Let's not deceive ourselves and say we're without sin. The Pharisees in this story, based on Old Testament law, would have expected the older brother to go out.
The Jews who had been brought in were always expected to go out and take that news to the Gentiles, and that's what we are to do as well. We've been brought in by the lavishing grace of God, and we're supposed to go out, yet this older brother stays in. If you can't remember the last time you invited an outsider to church or engaged them with the gospel, make sure the light that's in you is actually light and not darkness.
If you've listened to this list and not one time worried about me maybe addressing you in this, if you don't think any of these apply to you, I'm not going to say you might be the older brother; I'm going to tell you, with as much grace as I can, you are the older brother. I look at this list and I know I'm wrestling and struggling with these. The truth is we're all in danger of being the younger or older brother.
Just to summarize, how the Prodigal views God's inheritance, sin, and grace, how the older brother viewed it… It's like a pendulum. We're all prone to either swing to the Prodigal side or the older brother, and we need to get re-centered and have a right view that God's inheritance is lasting, that sin is lethal, and that God's grace is lavishing.
If your pendulum swung a little bit, I want to remind you God is not mad at you. Whether you're the older brother or the younger brother, if you're not centered, verses 31-32 are for you as well. It says the father, who had already come out and entreated him, says to him, "Son, you are always with me…""My presence is right here, my place. You're here. It's right here." "…and all that is mine is yours." Just a good sweet promise.
"It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." God's grace is so lavishing it makes us what we're not. It makes us come to our senses when we're senseless. It makes us alive when we're dead. It makes us found when we're lost. It's lavishing grace. If it would help you to have a few more words about how God makes us with his grace, here are some.
He makes us abundant, adventurous, alive, blameless, blossoming, celebrated, cherished, chosen, defended, devoted, effective, enduring, eternal, faithful, favored, fearless, forgiven, free, fruitful, guiltless, heroic, holy. God's grace makes us honored, immortal, influential, innocent, justified, lasting, loving, marvelous, merciful, mighty, multiplying, new, overflowing, pleasant, prayerful, prosperous, pure, purposeful, reconciled, rich, royalty, sanctified, safe, satisfied, significant, steadfast, sweet, thriving, triumphant, trustworthy, unstained, unwavering, upright, useful, virtuous, wonder-filled.
God's grace makes us bone-resurrecting, eye-enlightening, hand-using, heart-strengthening, mind-building, life-giving, soul-reviving, spirit-regenerating, sorrow-using, idol-surrendering, land-rescuing, trouble-overcoming. It makes us grief-defeating, darkness-hating, joy-generating, wrath-delivering, country-rebuilding, relationship-thriving, marriage-saving, eternal-rewarded, Satan-containing, hell-defeating, fortune-abounding, work-enabling, saint-making, paradise-restoring, God-uniting, feast-eating saints.
That's what Christ does. That's what his grace makes us. We need to pay much closer attention, lest we drift away from it. The story typically is considered two sons, a younger son and an older son. There's actually a third son in this story, and it's the son who has been telling the story, the Son of God. Just as I had told you that the Pharisees would have expected the older brother to go out, see if you can't recognize this.
They would have expected this son to intervene as a mediator to defend the honor of the father and go and pursue his brother and bring him home. Sound familiar? He would have seen the pain his brother was enduring, and he would have run to go rescue him. Isn't that what the Son of God did? Jesus, the firstborn of creation? Tim Keller calls Jesus the true elder brother.
Sin will take you farther than you want to go, but Christ left his Father's estate, if you will, to come get you. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, but Christ will outlast your disobedience, because he doesn't want anyone to perish. He's a patient, loving, kind God. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay, because Christ paid your debts at an even greater cost than you. He paid with his very life.
It's funny. I've always thought the word prodigal meant runaway. I always thought the word prodigal meant someone who ran off to live a life of debauchery. The word prodigal, if you look at the definition, actually just means reckless or spendthrift. It kind of makes me wonder who that describes. It makes me think of Christ, who recklessly left the riches of heaven to become poor on our behalf so we might one day taste the riches of heaven.
He spent everything he had, his life, in order for us to know eternal life. I love this. Even while he was going to rescue us with his death on the cross, as he came back to life, Scripture says, he went on ahead to prepare our inheritance. As a part of that inheritance, he sent back the Holy Spirit as a down payment. We have presence with the Father, with the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit is a down payment, proof that all of the other promises are going to one day come true, that we'll get to taste all of them. Some we get to taste now. Some we'll taste later.
Then it says Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare a place for us. Can I tell you about that place? It's a place where one day there are going to be no more tears, no more crying, no more death, no more mourning, no more sorrow, no more illness, no more disease, no more divorce. God is going to make all things new. He's going to give us new bodies, ones that don't struggle and question, ones that don't have any more feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy.
Awards are going to be given. Prizes are going to be won. Words are going to be spoken, like, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and we're going to get to work without toil. In fact, the curse of this earth is going to be lifted in ways we can't even imagine right now. We're going to have relationships without drama, we're going to have creativity without exhaustion, and we're going to get to dwell in the presence of the Father.
There are going to be people from all sorts of tribes, nations, and tongues…all outsiders…brought in. The wonder of wonders for me is there's going to be a feast, and we're going to take a seat at that feast. I think we're going to marvel at all of the ways Christ has gotten us from that meal, that pig slop, that thing that was ruining our lives, to this moment. All of the people from Philadelphia he used to stir our hearts and other people will be seated around the table. Outsiders, now the most precious of insiders.
The thing that is the wonder of wonders to me is that even while we feast on the inheritance that is truly Christ's inheritance, why he's sharing it with us, he's going to be doing what he has always done, back from there all the way to here. He will be serving us. That is prodigal love. That is reckless, extravagant, exuberant love, and that's how we've been loved. Don't we want others who are near us, other outsiders at the table with us that day? That's the call. That's how we're supposed to love: with that type of reckless love. Let's pray.
Father, thank you for all of the ways you've rescued us. For those of us who are still at a place where we haven't acknowledged you and are still tasting the devastation of sin, will you help us come to our senses? For those of us who feel our hearts kind of tilting the wrong way, will you in your grace nudge it back the right direction? Lord, we love you and we need you.
Lord, it's because of your Son's death on the cross that one day there will be a feast. So, Lord, help us to live in such a manner worthy of it. Help us to live in a place where we don't have to shrink back from this moment but we can be ready for it. Lord, we love you and we praise you. We say all this in Jesus' name, amen.
Have you ever felt like an outsider? Like everyone else around you knew someone else and you were all alone? Take heart, Christ came to earth for the outsiders!