I. Text: Luke 15:11-24
II. Major Objective: Discover God’s Process for a fulfilling life.
III. Central Idea of the Text: God has a process that leads to rejoicing.
IV. Subject: God’s Process to a fulfilling life.
V. Thesis and Goal
a. Proposition: God has a process that works.
b. Specific Objective: To encourage people to understand and use God’s process to a fulfilling life.
Here we are the last Sunday of 2008. By the time we arrive here next Sunday 2008 will be in the history books. Many people are already thinking about next year. Some people are thinking of New Year’s resolutions, some are thinking of goals for next year, and some are reflecting on what happened this year. Some resolutions may be to eat loose weight, read your Bible more, or maybe start that book you have always wanted to write. Reflecting on this year you might think about the move in April, the dedication in May, the first VBS in June, the Mission trip to Canada in July, or even the trip to Owyhee in August.
Tonite I would like us to reflect on this year and ask ourselves the question, “How can I prepare for next year?” Many of our men and women in this congregation have worked in industrial plants. Some in chemical plants, some in paper/pulp plants, and some in saw mills. In each of these plants there are processes that we must follow if we are to accomplish the desired results.
The same principle applies whether you are a doctor delivering a baby, an accountant trying to balance your accounts, or a welder building the next great skyscraper. Things all have a process and the correct way to operate that process.
Life is very similar. There are many ways we could choose to conduct our lives. There are processes in life that lead to a deep sense of fulfillment. There are also processes in life that can lead to a great sense of hurt, hollow existence, and hopelessness. It is ultimately up to each of us which way we choose. I like to think of it like this; God has placed a little part of His sovereignty on the shelf that each and every one of us might have the freedom of choice.
Just as everything has a process so also God has a process. This process can be readily seen in the story of the Prodigal Son as found in Luke 15:11-24. Tonight I want us to take a look at this parable Jesus told and see how God’s Process relates to us today.
Let us first open our time together in prayer. (Read the passage.)
VII. Repentance is the beginning of God’s process. (Luke15:17-19)
Repentance is the beginning of God’s process. Within the bounds of Christianity there are many words we as Christians use. Many times we will assume everyone understands the meaning of the words we are using. Repentance is one of those words. Just exactly what does the word “Repentance” mean? The most commonly used word in the New Testament for repentance is metanoia. This word is actually a compound of two words. Meta means to shift or alter a position. This could mean anything from an opinion to a physical position. Noia comes from the root noieo which means to think or use the mind for a particular function. Combining these two and we come up with the concept of changing our minds so as to go in a different direction. Repentance can thus be said to be the act of changing the direction we are going, away from God, to going toward God through a mental act.
Within our passage for the day we can see this taking place. In Verse 13 we see where the prodigal son gathered all he had and went to a foreign land. Literally, he turned his back on his father and went in a direction away from him. Verse 17 we see the beginning of his metanoia. The prodigal son first changes his mind. Next he turns toward the father and begins going home. This is the picture of repentance. We change our mind about what we are doing and turn toward the father.
Application: Many of us over the years have gone through the FAITH training for sharing our faith with others. If we will remember back the “T” stands for turn. We repent and in so turn from living for self and make the conscious decision to live for Jesus Christ. It is from the word metanois that we get this same concept of turning and going in a different direction. Now the question must be poised, “What is the product or result of repentance?”
VIII. Restoration is the result of God’s process. (Luke 15:22)
Restoration is the result of God’s process, i.e. repentance. The first step has been taken and we have turned from our life of self-centered focus to one of focusing on our father in heaven. He wishes to restore us to a position of closeness and intimacy. By looking at our passage we can see the three parts of God’s restoration, his attributes, his actions, and his accomplishments of restoration.
a. The attributes of God’s restoration
The first attribute is the father was waiting for his son. From the very moment the son turned his back on the father his father had been waiting for his son to return. Our father in heaven is waiting for us to return to him. He has been waiting all of our lives for us to return to him. There is nothing we can do that will change that. You may be guilty of any numerous sins but your father is still waiting for you. In a congregation this size there is probably at least one woman that has made the decision somewhere in your past to receive an abortion. Your father is still waiting for you. There are probably several men in this congregation that have viewed a pornographic website in the last seven days. The father is still waiting for you.
The next attribute, the father was intentionally looking for the son. Verse 20 states, “But while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion.” The father is not only waiting for us but he is also intently looking for us. The father has such an intense love for all humankind he is intently looking for our return. The father has done all he can to persuade us to repent and return to him. He has supplied his word to show us the way back to him. He has provided his son as the ultimate sacrifice that we will have the way paid for. Finally, he has provided his Holy Spirit to convict us of our wrong doing that we might return to him. Yet, the final choice is still up to us.
The third attribute is God chooses how you will be restored. The instructions to the servants for the robe, the ring, the sandals, and the feast were all at the command of the father. It is our choice to come home but it is the father that will determine how he will restore us. Just what are the actions of the father to illustrate the son’s restoration?
b. The actions of God’s restoration
i. Ran to embrace his son
Luke states in Verse 20b, “He ran, threw his hands around his neck, and kissed him.” This would be a grand site if it took place in our time. The son is walking up the driveway and we see the father running down the driveway to meet the son. Yet this event took place in the first century not the twenty-first. In the first century the men wore a long gown known as a thobe. In order for the father to run he would have had to pull up his thobe tied it between his legs before running. Next considering the fact that the son was the one that left; the father did not have to run at all. In fact, had the father executed a death rite, he could have declared the son to be dead and not accept his return at all. All this would have been permissible under the law at the time. The father didn’t even hesitate, but rather pulled up his thobe and ran to embrace his son.
ii. Clothed him with Robe, Ring, and Sandals (Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke, Vol. 24, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992, , pg. 405)
Robert Stein states in his commentary on the gospel of Luke the significance of the robe, the ring, and the sandals the father used to restore the son to his former position. The Robe represents the significance of the son being elevated to the position of a special guest. It was common to provide a special guest with a robe or cloak to signify his position. Next the ring signifies authority. Many of the correspondences in those days were sealed with wax and then the imprint, using the family ring, signified the person as an authority figure. Finally, the sandals signified that the person was a member of the family. Slaves did not wear sandals in those days. Therefore the father has signified that the son was a special guest, an authority figure, and a member of the family.
The significance of these items points to the idea that when we turn to God in repentance and enjoy God’s restoration we are elevated to a position of someone very special, a person of authority, and a member of God’s family. God has made us joint heirs with Jesus Christ to serve him but positionally as his sons and daughters.
c. The accomplishment of God’s restoration
The accomplishments of God’s restoration are seen in not only the restoration of the son to his former position but also the order to the servants to prepare a feast and grand celebration. Verse 23 and 24 reveals the father’s commands to slaughter the fattened calf and prepare a great celebration. From the indications found in verse 25, there could be heard much music and dancing. Most likely the father also told the servants to invite friends and family to celebrate with them. The father’s son was lost and now is found. Today there are many sitting in our congregations across this nation who are living a life of hopelessness. God is waiting for you, intently watching for you and wants to celebrate your return. Maybe today you have tried everything the world has to offer and yet still your thirst has not been satisfied. The father is waiting and watching for you to come home.
IX. Rejoicing on earth and in heaven is the conclusion of God’s process. (Luke 15:24)
a. Rejoicing on earth that the prodigal son was dead but now is alive.
First, the rejoicing on earth can be seen from the degree of celebrating that was taking place at the father’s house. Earlier in this chapter it can be seen in verses 6 and 9 the rejoicing that took place over the lost sheep and the lost coin being found. Verse 6 states, “Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.” Later in the chapter in verse 9 it states, “Rejoice with me for I have found my lost coin.” Verse 24 states, “he was lost and now is found.” So also the father rejoiced over his lost son being found. The father’s rejoicing is not abated though it is two thousand years later.
b. Rejoicing in heaven that a sinner has repented. (Luke 15:10)
Yet, in spite of all the rejoicing as seen in our text and else where in this same chapter it cannot compare to the rejoicing by God and his holy angels when ever a sinner repents. Verse 7 states how God is rejoicing over a sinner that repents. Verse 10 states that even the angels rejoice over a sinner that repents. The final culmination of God’s process is a sinner forgiven, restored and God rejoicing.
God has allowed each and everyone of us to go our own way. When the prodigal son wanted his part of the inheritance the father made the necessary arrangements to meet the son’s request. Second, the father did not attempt to stop the son from leaving. Third, when the son chose to live a life of hedonistic pleasures no one sought to stop him from doing what he wanted. In the twenty-first century that free will still exists for each and every one of us today. If you want to live a similar life you can.
God has an alternative choice. His process that begins with repentance, leads to restoration and culminates in rejoicing is open to you. Just as the prodigal son saw, in the end, the hedonistic life leads to a pig sty; so also maybe you today find yourself in a similar position. You have tried all the world has to offer and you have only found hurt, hollow existence, and hopelessness. This morning let this be the beginning of God’s process to that fulfilling life you have so desperately sought. The first step is to turn from the direction you have been going and turn in repentance to God. If done in sincerity, God offers you restoration followed by rejoicing both on earth and in heaven by God and his holy angels.
Tonight as the instruments play and the congregation sings, ask you what do I need to do to prepare for 2009. We have looked at God’s process of Repentance, Restoration, and Rejoicing. As instruments play and we sing the altar is open, let the altar be where you leave your sins of 2008 and prepare for 2009. Kevin and I will be done here to pray with you.