TEXT: Luke 15:11-24
TOPIC: How the Prodigal Came Home
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
August 27, 2006
(Sermon first preached May 9, 1979, one of the first sermons I preached following my calling. I’ve certainly revised it many times since its first debut.)
One of the great facts we know about Jesus Christ is that He was a great teacher. He often used what we call a parable today. Most often defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, the parable, put simply is an illustration. The word parable means to lay along side.
Jesus taught by many methods but He specialized in teachable moments. Recognizing the crowd of Jewish listeners who had gathered to hear Him in Luke 15, many of whom were the religious leaders of His day, the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus begins to tell a parable.
It is a parable that has three parts, but one important point. (Like a Baptist preacher with 3 points. Someone once asked the Preaching Professor, “How many points should a good sermon have?” “At least one.”)
Jesus’ parable tells of a lost sheep, a lost piece of silver, or coin, and a lost son, the prodigal son. Jesus’ point is that the nation of Israel was like a lost sheep, a lost piece of silver, or a lost son.
After two thousand years little has changed. Without Jesus Christ, we are still lost. Lost like a missing sheep. Lost like a misplaced coin. Lost like a wayward son.
Lost—what an awful word. Of all the words God uses in the Bible, none are as dreadful, as hopeless and awful sounding as the word lost.
I want to focus on just the last part of Jesus’ parable in Luke 15. Beginning in verse 11 Jesus tells one of His best known stories. We call the story the Prodigal Son. I am preaching today on the subject, How the Prodigal Came Home.
Luke 15:11-24, NKJV
11Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12“And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15“Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16“And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. 17“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19“and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
While it is true that men without Christ are lost, the good news is that God receives and restores those who are willing to return to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
I believe there are several steps involved in returning or in coming to God through faith in Christ. These same steps are evidenced in this very passage indicating how the prodigal came home.
If you’re lost without Christ, or if you are a wayward son, then you must be willing to take the following steps to come home to God.
I. THE FIRST STEP IS REFLECTION, v. 17
(Read v. 17, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!)
Reflection is the first step toward conversion. When the prodigal in this passage began to reflect over his condition, he came to two quick conclusions:
1. Preeminent Death, “I perish with hunger!” Sinners will never come to Christ until they realize they are lost without Christ. The Bible says, “All have sinned,” and that “the wages of our sin is death.” The reflection of this thought should drive us to Christ. (Peter cried for salvation when he realized he was perishing).
2. Plenty of Bread, “bread enough to spare” This poor Jewish boy was so hungry that verse 16 says, “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.” He was starving to death. But watch this. He was starving needlessly!
There was plenty of bread(food) in his father’s house.
When he thought on these things the Bible says next that he made a decision.
II. THE SECOND STEP IS RESOLUTION, vv. 18-19
(Read vv. 18-19, 18‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19“and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”)
He thought of a solution. “I will arise and go to my Father.” He resolved several things about himself.
1. He Resolved To Confess his Sins. “I have sinned,” v. 18
The confession of sin is required and insisted upon as a necessary condition of peace and pardon. He sinned against his natural father and his Heavenly Father, v. 18.
2. He Resolved his worth was no better than that of a slave, v. 19 Humility
3. He Resolved that his father was still his father and that he could go to him.
There’s another step he took,
III. THE THIRD STEP IS CALLED REPENTANCE, vv. 20-21
20“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
He not only resolved but three things happened when he did:
1. Repentance. “He arose and came to his father.”
He didn’t just think about it. He didn’t just talk about it. “He arose,” He got up, shook himself off and headed down the road back home to his father.
He didn’t wait for a more convenient season. He didn’t wait to see who else might be going. No, the Bible says, “he arose and came to his father.”
He didn’t take time to try to clean up his act. He just came like he was. Dirty, smelly, fifthy, but he came. Remember he’d been living in the pig pen. But he didn’t take time for a bath or even a quick shower. No, “he arose and came to the Father just as he was”
I like what Tony Evans says about those who think they have to do something before they can get saved. They have to straighten out a few things or clean up their act before they get saved……Tony Evans says “you don’t clean up before you take a bath.”
2. The second thing that happened is that he was received by the Father. What a reception!
“came to his father.” He was received graciously, immediately, lovingly.
“when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him” The eyes of mercy. This earthly father recognized his son and had mercy on him and received him. How much more will our Heavenly father receive those who repent and return.
3. Confession is made. v. 21. Father I have sinned. This young man was broken hearted over his transgression. He knew he had done wrong and was sorry for it.
2 Corinthians 7:10
10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (NIV)
I John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins…….
4. The Response of the Father. No rebuke. No chastising him. No “I told you so…”
God forgives the sins of those who truly repent. He forgives and He forgets. He remembers them no more.
IV. THE FOURTH STEP IS RESTORATION, v. 22
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
After his return to the father three wonderful, insightful things happen to him:
1. He is forgiven of all his sins.
2. He was made not a hireling, but an heir, not a servant but a son.
3. A robe of righteousness, a ring of relationship and shoes of restoration were given to him.
V. THE FIFTH STEP IS REJOICING, vv. 23-24
23‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
His tears of repentance soon turned to tears of rejoicing. He came home hungry, but he was soon filled with happiness.
1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (NIV)
Notice too that it is the father who begins the rejoicing saying, “this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.”
The Bible says that there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. (v.10). Nothing would make God any happier than for some of you today to return to the father. It only takes a few simple steps.
1. Recognize your lost and dead without Christ, or realize your sins and disobedience has taken you far from your Heavenly Father.
2. Repent of your sins today.
3. Return. Just come in faith and trusting in God’s mercy.
Heads are bowed and eyes are closed.
Is there some here this morning who would say I’m a lost prodigal today. I need to be saved. Would you raise your hand?
Pray with those who raise their hands and then ask them to look up. Get them down front.
Ask, are there Christians who would say I’m like a prodigal son too. I left my Heavenly Father for this world. I’ve forsaken God and I need to come home. Raise your hand.
Pray. Ask those who just prayed to get up out of their seat and come and stand at the front as an act of renewal.