Alêtheia Christian Fellowship (Sermon 53, 01-16-05)
LUKE 15:11, A man had two sons, the younger said, I can’t wait around here for you to die, give me my inheritance now, cause I’m outta here. The guy went to a far land and squandered everything in wild living which is another way to say open rebellion. He finally came to the end of his rope.
|17“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! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’|
As I said last week, I came to the end of my rope and so like the younger son I too thought of a deal. I’ll promise to serve God, not as a son and certainly not forgiven or loved, but I’ll serve if he will just let me live.
But, much to my surprise God not only miraculously delivered me, he also accepted me as His fully restored son.
|20So 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. 21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.|
How amazing! You have to be a parent to get a sense of this kind of love and that of course is only a taste. God’s love is unconditional, total and complete.
Nothing can separate you from that love as it states in Romans chapter 8, nothing in this world or the next can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The thing is though; God loves people so much He will endure the pain of allowing you to choose to reject Him.
Nothing can separate us except of course us. Did the father search out his lost son? What good would it have done? God lets us go our own way because the only way we can return in Spirit and Truth is if it is of our free will.
Here I was so angry and hurt, so full of fear because I had lost my trust in God. I was pounding nails into Jesus= hands and feet. With my sin I was thrusting thorns down on his head and even though I knew better, I was still stabbing him in the side. In my bitterness and rage I was expending all my energy to the point of complete exhaustion in driving those nails into his flesh over and over again. Then when I was totally used up and was about to fall down for the last time….
Without a hint of judgment, with no indication of disappointment he grabbed me and held me up. My strength was gone; used up killing him and it was him, with total love, compassion and mercy who reached out while the hammer and spear were still in my hands and carried me to a safe place….
But, I had to open the door, accept the gift; I had to make my way back home.
What I mean is this: I tell people that I became a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ because of a significant emotional event. That is a perspective changer extraordinaire. I came to look at everything from a new vantage point, but the significant emotional event wasn’t the months of incredible pain and anguish, uncertainty and fear.
The horrible time I spent working on a first class ulcer wasn’t it, and neither was the Sunday night that I didn’t sleep, tormented by all that I had done and the despair of my situation in this world and the next. That knowledge that led me to conclude that God could not accept me or forgive me in the next life so all I had was this one. Prolong my earthly life and I’ll work for you God, I’ll make the trouble worth your while.
The significant emotional event wasn’t when God miraculously delivered me either. I was literally blown away, you could have knocked me over with a spoon, but that didn’t change my life.
The significant emotional event that completely changed me in every way was my personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus in my office. I, like Paul had a Damascus road experience with agape. And like Paul, it was the events of my life that opened my mind to the possibility of a new life.
The father in the story could have refused to give the son his inheritance. (Do you think the father didn’t know what was going on?) He could have forbid him to leave, he could have gone after the son but he knew it would do no good because the son was not yet ready for love. Paul had to persecute the church of Christ to be in the right place for Jesus to meet him. (I’m not talking geography here.) I was the same….
The son wasn’t a new man because he hit bottom. Hitting bottom simply allowed him to take a chance. If the father had run him off? If the father had given him a job would he have been different? The change occurred when the father accepted him, when he had no right to be accepted; when he was, in fact, unacceptable.
I was unhappy with how my life was going, that was my perspective.
I say God was either absent, uncaring or incompetent, but that’s not really true. I knew God existed and I knew He was competent so I really felt God didn’t care about me and that was my perspective.
I wanted God to pay for His disregard for me. This is called open rebellion. What is the difference between the God I knew 30 years ago and the God I serve today? Absolutely nothing! The difference is in my view of God, my perspective.
The events of March 10, 1992 and the months following led me to only one possible conclusion. You may have come to a completely different conclusion, but I was driven by my perspective.
Because my mind, my perspective, had been shaped by these events I found my way to that exact same spot on the Damascus Road. I was ready to accept unconditionally the unconditional love of God through my Savior Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at another perspective….
|25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”|
Maybe you=re like the older brother in this story; someone who works diligently to abide in God=s law and you=re offended by God=s compassion and mercy extended to someone like me. I was someone who flaunted God=s law and lived an exciting life for myself and then I=m restored like nothing ever happened. I have two thoughts for you.
First and this is especially for you young folks, life outside of God=s will is not fun and exciting. It is full of fear and pain and the consequences are far-reaching touching not only you but also those around you. It is made up of memories that can never be erased and as you can see in the Apostle Paul that part is not pleasant.
Paul calls himself the worst of sinners and the least of Apostles, not because he doesn’t believe he’s forgiven and not because of guilt in the traditional sense, but because of his perspective.
Second, you need to recognize your sin and the measure of grace extended to you. We know the Bible says in Romans 3, Awe have all sinned and fall short@, but have you thought about that? The Bible also says anyone who=s broken the least law is guilty of breaking the whole law.
You see if you only had one impure thought in your entire life you are guilty. The punishment is eternal separation from God; the only way to salvation is through Jesus= death and resurrection. In order for you to go to heaven Jesus had to die, no more than I, but certainly no less, you killed Jesus. That’s perspective.
I say that I completely changed in every conceivable way at that moment. Did I immediately become a saint? Yes, in the sense that I was acceptable because of Jesus, but to anyone observing me they would see a lot of change, but also a lot of the same.
To this day and to my dying day, I will be imperfect in this world, but absolutely perfect in the next. The change that was instantaneous was in two parts.
The first is the metaphysical or supernatural, I’m already perfect there because of Jesus.
The second part is Spiritual; I was filled with the presence of God we call the Holy Spirit and because of that my physical life began to change. Why? Perspective!
The Holy Spirit is the rationality of God and He teaches our rationality Truth. It is this Truth that sets us free metaphysically, but it also begins to alter our behavior in this world. Because of my new perspective, I might still do things I shouldn’t, but I no longer want to! So in the physical world my perspective was altered 180 degrees. It was a total and complete change in both worlds.
In this world I still struggle to be the person I now want to be, why? Paul talks about this in Romans chapter 7. Paul says it is no longer me that sins, but sin living in me for I do the very things I don’t want to do. Paul has a new perspective and no longer wants to do evil, he no longer wants to rebel against God by living for his own self interest. Yet, he is encased in a self-seeking shell.
This is the war, battle, fight or race.
The whole problem is one of desire. That’s the heart and soul of us. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but that’s wrong. The way to everyone’s heart is through their Spirit, their thinking, their perspective. Give a guy good food and it makes a favorable impression on his perspective. That’s when his behavior changes.
Our perspective allows us to alter our desires. The only thing standing between you and God is your own perspective.
Upon Salvation we gain a new perspective, but it doesn’t end there, in fact it’s only the beginning. Now as Paul says in Romans 12, we must allow the Holy Spirit to renew our mind. You say this sounds like some sort of Gnosticism.
|2 Corinthians 4:16-18~ 16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.|
The difference lies in the realization that Christianity is God working through us and it is the process, from our perspective, for His Glory and from His, our maturity which is deeper relationship. We’re not talking about reaching nirvana because we have become enlightened. We’re talking about reaching nirvana because of love, and growing in relationship for the same reason, it’s just that deeper relationship is hindered by our desires.
You say you want more of God in your life? If it isn’t happening it’s because you desire something else more.
We can use all sorts of examples, like Jesus in Luke 18, saying for man this is impossible, but not for God. Jesus is talking about perspective, not physical limitation. In Acts 5:34 Gam-lee-ale גַּמְלִיאֵל, in Hebrew or Gamalih>l, pauls teacher gets up and voices a different opinion because he had a different perspective.