Preaching the Gospel from Luke

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Luke

Text: Luke 15:11-32

Date: July 22, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and today I’m on the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32 (read), the story of the Prodigal Son. Why is this an example of the gospel? Because it contains all the basic and essential elements of conversion. First, it shows how sin and selfishness leads the son astray. It also illustrates how the son experienced a crisis in his life when his sin and selfishness led him to utter ruin. Second, it demonstrates how the son confessed his sins and repented of them. Third, it describes how he returned back to his father. And finally, fourth, is shows the father welcoming the son back and celebrating his return. That is the order or process that everyone, to some extent, must follow to receive salvation from God. Like the story, we have all sinned, acted selfishly, and rebelled against God the Father by breaking his laws and going our own independent way. Everyone does this to some extent, some less, some more. But everyone is guilty of spiritual rebellion against God. Not only do we inherit this spiritual independence from God through the original sin of Adam and Eve, we also choose to rebel against God of our own free will. Next, we all must come to a point in our lives where we regret our sin and rebellion against God. Sometimes it’s a crisis situation we experience in life because of sin, other times it’s just a spiritual emptiness we experience even when all seems to be going outwardly well. We are convicted of sin. Then, as a result, we confess our sins and repent of our rebellion against God. Repentance literally means to change, and that’s what happens in spiritual conversion, we change direction. We change from rebelling against God; we turn away from our sins and rebellion. Repentance leads to turning from sin and then turning to God; and so we return to God and His will. Finally, in conversion, God welcomes, receives, and celebrates our return. In every Christian conversion there is an element of returning back to God, even if the individual hasn’t ever known God before or is personally returning to the God he’s known before. Our original parents, Adam and Eve, knew God at the beginning and experienced close fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall into original sin. As we inherit their sinful nature, we also retain a kind of remembrance of original righteousness with God before the Fall. When we turn away from a life of selfishness and sin, when we turn to God in faith, we are returning to the God we know in some form through the memory of our original parents. We are spiritually “coming home.” So the story of the Prodigal Son is an outline for everyone who sins, repents, and returns to God in Christian conversion. But let’s learn about this more in detail.

First, like the rebellious son, we all act sinfully and selfishly. Luke 15:11-13, “Jesus continued, ‘There was a 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.’” Why did the son want his inheritance immediately? Because he was selfish and wanted to get on with sinning and rebelling. Rebellion is written all over this description. He went far, far away so that he wouldn’t be accountable to anyone, so that nobody would know him, so he could sin without a conscience. Now the truth is that we are all like this son because we are all naturally sinful and selfish. Our rebellion may take on another form, or sins might fall into a different category, but according to the Bible “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We’ve all rebelled against God the Father. Whenever we sin we rebel against God and God’s laws. Whenever we live independent of God we are rebelling against God by ignoring Him. The Bible says, “We all like sheep have gone astray.” Now I don’t know your life story, but if you are typical, there were times in your life when you went astray from God. There may even be times when you purposefully set out to distance yourself from God. Or maybe you simply, quietly ignored God, neglected to have anything to do with God in any form – neglected church, neglected the Bible, neglected prayer, and anything else that reminded you of God. Maybe you tried to live a free and independent life apart from God. Whatever you did, whatever I did, we were doing the same thing as this rebellious son. We were trying to live our lives apart from God. We were trying to take control, be in charge of our own lives without God. This son turned his back on his father who had given him only good in life, and we’ve done the same with God with our lives. God has given us life and the privilege of existing with freedom of choice. We can use our freedom for good or ill, but we’ve failed to acknowledge the greatness of God, we‘ve failed to properly praise and thank Him, we’ve taken God for granted. And on top of that, we are so ungrateful that we’ve even rebelled against His basic laws which He has given us for our own good in life. Yes, we are all very much like the rebellious son. But there are more similarities.

Second, like the son, we must acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins. Luke 15:14-19, “After he had spent everything, there was a 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.’” The son experienced a crisis in his life. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death,” and although that is describing ultimate punishment, sin also brings with it it’s own punishment in life. The Bible also says, “Whatsoever you sow, that will you also reap.” This son was sowing his wild oats and he was reaping the results. He ran out of all his money. His fair weather friends all left him. There was no more fast living, no more parties, drinking, immoralities, etc. The cold, hard reality of life hit this son hard. He was down and out. He had hit rock bottom. In Alcoholics Anonymous they say it takes a person hitting rock bottom to teach them wisdom enough to get help. Often alcoholics will keep covering up and rationalizing their drinking and the trouble it gets them into until the day comes when they can’t cover it up any more – then the whole thing falls apart. They may lose their job, the may lose their marriage. They may become destitute and in poverty. Then, maybe, the reality of their situation may cause them to admit to themselves first and then to others that they have a problem and they need help. But until an alcoholic admits they are in trouble and need help, they can’t get helped. Well, this son came to the point where he acknowledged and admitted to himself that he was wrong in his rebellion. We all need to reach that place with God at some point in our life. We must admit and confess that we are personally sinners, rebels against God and His laws, that we need God’s help to save us. We all need to come to the point of repentance. Have you confessed your sin and rebellion? Have you repented?

Third, like the son, we have to turn in faith to the Father. Luke 15: 20-21, “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 rain 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.’” In the heap of despair the son repented of his sins and turned back home to his father. Can you imagine the shame – all deserved — he must have felt? Can you imagine the great humiliation he must have experienced? If he had any pride, self-confidence or cockiness — his attitude when he left in the first place or during his spending spree in the far country — that was all gone now. In humility he returned. But he had faith though. Think about it. He must have known the good heart of his father or else he wouldn’t have ever even thought of returning. He must have felt that there was a chance that his father just might take him back, if only as a servant on the farm. That’s called faith. He had repented while in the pigpen, now he was exercising his faith in returning to the father. And his faith wasn’t disappointed because his father did take him back, not only that but welcomed him back, ran out to greet him, and was genuinely glad for his return. That’s how God will receive us if we humble ourselves in confession and repentance of sin, and turn to him in humble faith. Over and over again in the Bible God has said He will gladly welcome anyone who repents and believes. It’s really unbelievable that people would resist that kind of love and acceptance in order to be independent of God. Maybe they haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Maybe they haven’t reached the point of despair in their life, but for some reason, people who are in desperate need of God’s salvation, refuse it. Have you repented of your sins and turned to God the Father through Jesus the Son for salvation? Yes, it takes humility; you must admit that you are a sinner bound for judgment and hell. Yes, you must swallow your pride and humbly come to God and ask for salvation. But if you do the Father is already coming to welcome you into his everlasting kingdom. Like the father in the story, God the Father isn’t passively waiting, He’s actively waiting for your return to Him. Have you repented of your sin and selfishness towards God? Have you turned to God in humble trust for salvation? If not, the Father is waiting with open arms.

Fourth, like the son, we can experience the love and acceptance of the Father. Luke 15:22-24, “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.” What a great illustration of God’s love and acceptance of all repentant sinners who come to Him in humble faith. Now the son returned in humiliation and requested only that he be given the opportunity to be a farm hand, a servant, a wage worker. But the father rejected that offer and recognized him as his son, restored him to full status. That’s what the robe, the ring and the sandals signify. The father treats him better than he could or would have imagined. And it’s the same with us when we repent of our sinful life and trust Christ for salvation. When we do that the Father in heaven not only forgives us our sins, but he clothes us in Christ’s righteousness so that we are actually rewarded with eternal happiness in heaven. Not only do we escape judgment and punishment for our rebellion and sin against God, not only is our sin forgiven and our record cleared, in addition to that, we are rewarded for goodness we didn’t even earn! We are given a heavenly home and lavished upon us all blessings as well. Now we might imagine that after we confess our sins and repent of them by turning away from them, we might possibly be forgiven and pardoned, but then we might face a long, hard life, not of punishment, but certainly we deserve no rewards or blessings from God. But contrary to our own natural expectations, we are given the righteous rewards earned by Christ; we are rewarded for His righteous life, we are blessed on His behalf. Have you returned to the heavenly Father yet? If you haven’t, what’s keeping you from returning? Certainly you have nothing to fear from God if you humbly repent and turn away from your rebellion and turn to him in wholehearted trust. There really is nothing to fear because like the story illustrates, God is eager and expecting you to return. He’s watching for you to return; he wants you to repent and return in faith to him so that he can celebrate your return and reward you with eternal happiness. The Bible says that the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner converting to God. It’s not just a good story, it’s for real. If you haven’t repented and trusted Christ, there’s no reason to put it off any longer. The Father in heaven is waiting with open arms for your return. They are waiting in heaven to celebrate your return if you would only take the step of faith.

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