Happy New Year everyone! We hope you've all had a blessed Christmastime with family and friends. If you missed it and still want to feel Christmassy, don't forget our Christmas Carol Service is available online for you to watch for free here: https://youtu.be/TnMnj_zUchs
This week we are continuing Pastor Richard's brilliant teaching series entitled Kingdom Life - Discovering the Kingdom of God through the Parables of Jesus.
Today, we are looking at The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But, we think this parable should’ve been called The Parable of the Two Brothers. Why? Because the lessons we can learn from the older brother are just as crucial to us as the lessons we learn from the younger. But anyway, let’s read it. You’ll find it in your Bible at Luke 15:11-32. It’s a long passage, so go read it and come back when you’re done!
In this story, the Father is God. The younger brother is the wayward sinner and the older brother is a religious sinner. Notice that they’re both sinners. One is wayward, he openly rebels and separates himself, whereas the older brother appears to be faithful but in his heart he is rebellious too.
So the younger son blows all of his father’s inheritance, all of the good that his Father had given him. It's easy to roll your eyes at him and say 'what a fool!'. But, let's be honest, this happens to us all the time. We think the world has the answer and get tempted to throw away the good that's been given to us. What was it, by the way, that drew you to the world? Maybe it’s still drawing you in with its temptations of various kinds. Whatever it is, whether it’s past or present, this is going to encourage you, so keeping reading!
The younger son declares he’s fed up and wants to leave. At least he’s honest, right?! But then he squanders it all. Again, it's easy to judge here, but we are all the same, or were at one point in our lives. But the younger brother, it says, begins to be in want. Sin has a vacuous nature to it and will eventually empty out our tank and leave us dry. And what do we do when we get there? If we don’t turn back to God, we look to worldly idols and we become slaves to lusts and temptations.
In verse 17 we read that the younger brother 'came to himself'. We won’t come to ourselves until our love for those lies that bind us finally run out. When that process finally reaches rock bottom and the light comes on, we realise that God is the only way. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says; Satan is the god of this world. Christians can often look at people in the world and generate a ‘them and us’ mentality. We separate ourselves from them. But we need to constantly remind ourselves that but for the grace of God, we would’ve been in the same place.
In verse 18 we see humility finally enter the son’s heart. Pride is a huge issue, isn't it? So long as you think you don’t need God, the gospel will fall on deaf ears.
Look at the son’s thought process. In verse 19, notice that the son says he is no more worthy. That suggests he thought he used to be worthy! He figures that when he was doing what his dad told him to do, it made him worthy. He thought his place in his father house was determined by his actions and conduct. That works-based mentality toward God is very damaging. But he sheepishly returns to his father's house expecting to become a servant at best. But his father, who sees him from 'a great way off', runs, falls on his neck and kisses him. What a picture!
If religion has taught you that God is not happy with you, that you have to beg and plead and earn his approval, if you think God is in a bad mood, you’ve gotten the wrong impression of your heavenly Father. Jesus paints this story for us deliberately. The Father runs to his son. What does religion tell you how the father would react? Angry, self-righteous and condescending. But our God is not like that folks! Whatever you’ve done, it won’t change how God feels about you.
The father then puts a ring on his finger, a robe on his back and slippers on his feet. Each of these are significant.
The ring shows that the son is the father’s son and all the authority that comes with that. When we are restored to the Father, we are immediately restored to our position as a child of God and all that that means.
The robe represents belonging, honour and sonship. It's the family mantle! When we come back to God and put our faith in Christ, we are immediately restored into the fellowship and sonship that we enjoy with Almighty God, just as if we were Jesus Himself.
The slippers represent mission, calling and destiny. Coming back to Christ restores all that. Romans 11:29 says that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. When we come home, you are immediately back on track headed toward your calling again.
Kill the fatted calf! When we come home to Christ, God’s blessing; His riches and provision, are immediately ours again. Wow! Talk about grace right?! Romans 5:8: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And Romans 8:14-17; For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
But now we come to the older brother. He resents the favour that’s been shown to the younger brother. Why? Because he believes in his own good performance. He too, like the younger brother, has a wrong view of God. The younger brother needed to go through a whole process to realise that he wasn't worthy because of what he does, but because of His father’s love. But the older brother hasn’t realised that yet and is still focused on his own works and worthiness. The older brother was working when he heard the party kicking off! And then listen to what he says in verse 29; Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment.
Well that’s just not true is it? We are all sinners. It doesn’t matter how holy you think you’ve been, in your pre-born again state and even after, in your soul and body, you’re a sinner! This guy was so focused on his own performance and sense of self-worth that he couldn’t rejoice that his younger brother had been restored to the family. The core of religion makes people ungrateful. Why? Because it teaches that the good things that have come into their lives are a result of their own good works and not purely because of the grace of God.
Is the older brother focused on his blessings? No! He’s focused on the lack of a party thrown for himself. This is what religion does for us. If we want to be judged by our works, we’re going to be judged according to God’s standard! And there’s not a living soul that has ever met that standard except for Jesus himself. But that’s what religion does. A religious person would never compare themselves to God, so they compare themselves to others around them saying things like; “Well I’m not as bad as that guy!” No wonder there’s bitterness in the reaction.
So, both sons had the wrong view of God. In verse 31, the Father tells the older brother; Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
John 8:35; And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
For some reason the older brother had a performance-based religious mindset. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have a gift of righteousness and restored to sonship and heirship. It’s a position we cannot lose unless we reject it. All the mistakes in the world cannot cost us that position. You are safe, secure, a child of God by His grace! You don’t need to earn it, you can’t! So quit trying and allow the fellowship with your Father produce fruit naturally. If you’ve run away, start this year by coming home. Your heavenly Father wants to throw a ring on your finger, a robe on your back and slippers on your feet! And your position as a child of God can never be shaken.
We hope this has been a blessing. Do share this with a friend whom you think might be blessed by it.
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God bless and see you next time,
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PASTOR RICHARD'S TEACHING SNIPPET