LIKE THE YOUNGER SON
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
The Bible is all about life with God. Think about that - the bible is all about life with God. Most people study the bible one of two different ways.
· information and knowledge about God
· to find some formula that will solve the pressing need of the moment.
While these are two valid ways of studying scripture, they often fall short of doing what God really wants to happen - for us to experience life with Him. You see, the bible is about how God has made this "life with Him" possible. In reflected meditation and study we discover the footprints of God in our daily existence.
Over the past month I have been reflecting on one of Jesus' most known parables, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The way I have done this is using a very long and time-honor way thoughtful people have approached scripture throughout the ►ages called lectio divina, which is the Latin for divine or spiritual reading.
It is basically a way of slowing down as we focus on a scripture passage to reflect and listen to what the Spirit reveals within us about our life with God in relation to the text. It involves
to the text,
allowing its message to flow into us rather than our just knowing and attempting to master it.
Have you ever considered yourself like the prodigal son. I don’t think I have ever really considered myself a prodigal son -- that is until this month -- as I spent devotional times several times a week breathing in this scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret this text with my life with God now. So, this over the next three weeks I want to invite into my journey as I share what is being revealed to me.
►First, let me give you a little background. The parable is really one of three found in succession in Luke, chapter 15. Turn there now in your Bibles.
We discover that Jesus was attracting a crowd of tax collectors and other sinners and that the Pharisees - consider the most religious and righteous people of that day - and teachers of the law were criticizing Jesus for welcoming and eating with sinners.
►Hold that in our mind - two groups of people around Jesus – those considered very religious and those considered very sinful people. You see, as we get into this story we see that Jesus addresses both group of people, "sinners" and "religious people," –
Jesus tells three different stories to this small gathering of people
The first two stories, the lost sheep and the lost coin, reveal something unique about God. Most people tend to think of religion as "humanity's search for God." We think of searching to find God. "I have really been seeking God and finally found him." Among other things, the first two stories reveal God is actually seeking us.
This is what makes Christianity different from all the other religions in the world. Every other religion says that we can search for and find God if we try hard enough. Only Christianity says, no, God has come down into the world to seek and save us.
Salvation does not come by our searching for God or our doing certain things, like earning extra points in class or doing a lot of good things to earn brownie points for heaven. NO.
Our salvation is an act of grace by God who left his heavenly throne to come searching for us.
We think we are searching for God, but in reality when we find Him, we discover that He has been available all along. It's like we turn around and there He is - and has been all along. He is reaching out to us, just waiting for us to open our eyes -to turn to Him - and when we discover him - it is not by our efforts -- it just we finally had eyes to see and a heart to respond to him. This thought helps me to understand what Jesus said in John 6:44 where Jesus says
►John 6:44 (NIV) - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
►Or in 1 John 4:10 (NIV) -10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
It's what John Newton expressed in his salvation experience when he wrote amazing grace.
►In the first verse we sing,
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.
This morning I want to invite you to watch and listen to how Jesus may have told this story. This clip comes from the movie, Jesus of Nazareth.
How many people are focused upon in the story of the prodigal in this parable - . This morning I will focus on the younger son. Next week I will focus on the older brother – and the following week, the father.
Now, I read this story many, many times, and 3 or 4 times a week before I feel asleep in the evening I would lie and meditate on this parable – I must have done this 20 or 25 times.
I began by thinking I had little if anything in common with the younger son… but the more I reflected – the more asked questions like, What do I have in common with the younger son – to my surprise I began finding some common themes in my life, similarities with the prodigal son in my life.
►What the younger son asked from his father is the same thing I desire from God.
What did the young son ask for? He asked for his inheritance, his portion of what his father was going to give him.
Do we not desire the same thing? I want my share of God’s inheritance. I want all that God will give me. Don’t you? Don’t you want God’s blessing.
I found it interesting that the father granted his younger son’s request.
· He did not lecture him.
· He did not try to constrain him.
· He didn’t try to persuade him not to leave home.
►This reminded me that God gives us freedom to make our own decision.
He does not have us on some puppet string. He gives us freedom to remain in his presence or to leave his presence, to live with him or walk away from him.
I never really took noticed that after the younger son received his inheritance, he didn’t leave home immediately. He stayed at home for a period of time – a few days.
And the thought came to me, when I receive a blessing from God, I remain with him, but it doesn’t take long for me want to do things my way.
Soon the son left the umbrella of his father’s home to strike out on his own. The prodigal wanted what his father would give him and then the freedom to live the way he wanted to live.
Now, isn’t that like us? We want our Heavenly Father’s blessings – but we choose to live life our way instead of His way? I want what God provides but I want to live the way I choose to live.
►Here a picture symbol that came to me in thinking about this. When the younger son was at home, he was under the umbrella of his father’s protection and love. When he was at home, wherever he went,
· He was under his father’s umbrella.
· He was in fellowship with his father.
· He was cared for by his father.
But when he chose to leave home, he was no longer under his father’s umbrella. He left all that behind. He was fully exposed to
· the world,
· the way of the world,
· the choices of the world.
I want God’s blessings – but like the prodigal – I have tendencies to walk out from under that umbrellas and lose fellowship with my father.
My being outside out of fellowship with my father may not be as abrupt as the prodigal, but the effects are the same.
This past week I realized that I was stepping out from under the umbrella of fellowship with God. I was slowly losing intimacy with God.
Wednesday night prayer time --- really helps to keep me focused with God and my intimacy with Him - but for 4 out of the last 5 Wednesday evenings we have had special programs and not our focused prayer times. The preparation and pray time has been part of my fellowship with God for the past 5 years. And since I was responsible for directing the evening, I spent my time with other things -- and I realized I was drifting away from intimacy with god, or drifting outside the reign of his umbrella.
Can you grasp what I am talking about.
As I was thinking about the prodigal, the I heard the spirit saying you are slipping gradually away from under my umbrella.
· My journey as a pastor has taught me that most people don’t abruptly leave fellowship with God. They just drift away…
· They begin making decisions without consulting him.
· They begin drifting away from Christian fellowship and worship.
The further they drift away from fellowship with God and placed where they are reminded of fellowship with him, like worship, the less they are able to hear the voice that calls them "beloved son or daughter."
And before they know it they began adopting the thinking of the world – why, because they are not under his umbrella. They have moved away from fellowship with Him. Since we are not keeping company with God, we become more like the people we are with. That's what happened to the prodigal son.
Fortunately the prodigal came to himself and realized that he had made some bad choices.
· When all the other support systems that had brought him pleasure had fallen way.
· When he was at wits end.
· When life caved in on him.
· When he was at his lowest point..
He realized no one in his circle of friendship really cared for him
He started thinking about his father.
Isn’t that like us? When life is good, we don’t think much about God. It’s easy to forget our spiritual home, our need for God. But when life caves in, we are forced to look up and we start longing for what we had with God.
Instead of walking with God every day, we drift. We don’t invite God to be part of everyday lives. We drift away
· from praying,
· from relaying on his help,
· from reading and hearing from his word
· – and before we know, we have drifted far away from God
►Usually it takes some kind of crisis or a difficult life event often forces us to look up, to remember what it was like to be close God.
Through the years I have encountered many people in the midst of conflict crisis, say, things were much better when we were really connected to God, to worship, to church. They knew they needed to change.
Like the prodigal, crisis or tragedy, often forces us to remember God, to want to be under his umbrella again.
For the prodigal, being in the pits caused him to evaluate life.
►Last week I shared about Jack Hines…
The prodigal came to himself – honest evaluation
He just didn’t make a mistake
He wasn’t just sorry
He didn’t just regret what he had done.
►He was very specific. I have sinned.
Such a realization is the necessary step of renewal.
I have missed the mark – life is much better, much safer, more joyful under my father’s umbrella than doing it my way. My choices have led me to this pig pen.
What happened when the son came to himself, made the necessary turn around and started home.
Ran to meet him
►Confession of sin leads us into a loving embrace and a restored fellowship with God.
As I reviewed this part of the parable I realized before the younger son left home,
· he may have been living with his father,
· he may have obeyed his father,
· but he didn’t really love his father.
►What he loved, ultimately, was his father’s things, not his father. His heart was set on what his father could give him, not upon the joy of just being with the father.
I wonder, how many here today are more in love with what you want Christ to do for you than you are in just loving Him?
Am I more focused on receiving God’s blessings than I am on enjoying fellowship with God?
That’s the question all of us have to answer.
If we really love God and fellowship with Him, then it seems to me, we would stay close to him, not walk out from his umbrella and just enjoy Him more for who is and the fellowship we share, than the blessings we desire to receive.
►You see, the ultimate aim of the Christian life is to enjoy fellowship with God, being in His presence forever.