Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Pastor Nelson Walker: Let's pray. Father, we ask that you would, this night, open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, our ears to behold the heighth and the depth and the breadth and the width of your love in Christ Jesus, for it is in his name we ask, amen.
As you're turning to Luke 15, I would like to give you some Will Rogers wisdom: "There are two theories to arguing with women, [laughter] neither works. [laughter] Never miss a good chance to shut up. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. There are three kinds of men: some who learn by reading, some who learn by doing, and others who just have to touch the electric fence to find out for themselves. [laughter] Good judgment comes from experience, but a lot of experience comes from bad judgment. Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than trying to put him back in." And this was the one that applies to tonight. He said, Will Rogers: "I've spent a lot of time hanging out with good religious people, so I think I understand why Jesus preferred tax collectors and sinners." [laughter]
It's funny but it's sad, isn't it? Tonight we are going to look at tax collectors, sinners, and good religious people. Three different possible relationships with God the Father all described in one parable by Jesus. There's the rebellious relationship, the repentant relationship, and the religious relationship. So I'm going to start with Luke chapter 15 verse 11 and we will look at the rebellious relationship. Here's the point: the rebellious relationship wants the things of the Father, but does not want the Father. "I want your blessing, but I don't want you in my life." So we start reading: "Then Jesus," speaking a parable, "said: 'A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me." So the father divided to them his livelihood.
"'And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, took off, and journeyed to a far country and there wasted all of his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into the field to feed swine [to feed pigs]. And the prodigal son would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that he fed to the swine, and no one gave him anything.' "Before talking too much about the prodigal, I want to talk about sin. What is sin? What's the nature of sin? Where did it come from? Did it come from humanity or did it come from the heavenlies? Because sin didn't start with man. The nature of sin is selfishness.
Let me put it this way: "It's all about me." We don't like people to tell us what to do. Have you ever seen a "wet paint" sign, "Wet Paint Don't Touch"? Uh-hum, how many of you touched? I gotcha. How about this one? Have you ever seen a sign that said "Speed Limit"? [laughter] "I'd like to---don't tell me what to do!" And it is all about me. Have you ever been in a group picture and somebody showed it to you? Who do you look for first? [laughter] Because, you know, everyone else can look good, but if I blinked, it is not a good picture. You know what I'm talking about because you do the same thing. I could look good, everybody else blinked---it's a good picture. [laughter] It's all about me. Where did this come from? Well, it started with Lucifer. So let's back up before we look at the prodigal.
When God created the heavens and the earth, it says in Job 38:7 that these sons of God, these angels shouted for joy. Lucifer was created before. The angels were created before. And God describes Lucifer in Ezekiel 28. He said, "You were the absolute seal of perfection, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty. You walked in Eden, the garden that God planted. And you were the anointed cherub who covers." That means that where God had his throne, he was the angel that hovered above the throne, the closest to God leading all the other angels in worship. "The most perfect, beautiful of all the angelic beings hovering above the throne of God; I established you. You were on the holy mountain of God hovering above God. You were perfect in all your ways. That's the way I have created you, until iniquity was found in you and you sinned."
What was the iniquity? Selfishness. Isaiah 14 says, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer. Son of the morning! For you said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will rule from the throne. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, and I will be like the Most High.' Therefore you've been cast down to hell." And Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." You see, basically what Satan said is, "It's all about me." John Milton wrote a series of books called Paradise Lost, and in volume one it says at this point that Satan is cast out of heaven. He's screaming back, "I would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven!" Have you ever raised a little boy? Grrrr! [laughter] That's right, I am looking at you. [laughter] My son's in the front row. I had to get that dig in.
Okay, so the problem is that hell was created for the devil and his angels and it's a place of everlasting punishment, not a place of rulership. His arrogance---"I want to be number one." So sin starts in the heavenlies, then he goes, Lucifer, to the garden and Adam and Eve are there. And God had told Adam, "You can have anything. I made it, I give it to you. Just don't eat from that true." Adam's like, "What tree?" "That one." "This one? Don't eat from this tree? This one here?" Because they made their camp at that tree. Eve takes when Lucifer comes and says, "Oh, I know God said you're going to die if you eat from that, but you're not going to die, just go for it." Eve says, "Okay. Adam, here." Like men we just---"Okay." You don't want to make the wife upset, you know, because if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
So, Adam eats and they die instantly. So what is death? Death is separation. At the moment the relationship between God and humanity was cut so that all born from Adam after that are born out of relationship with God. We are self-centered, not God-centered. That was the death. One of the reasons Jesus was born of a virgin, by the way, was this way he did not descend directly from Adam. The relationship was not kept. We are all born separated from God. Separated from self---immediately Adam is ashamed, gets fig leaves, covers up. Separated from each other---immediately he's going, "It's the woman's fault!" Separated from nature---thorns and thistles. There are two more separations coming. "It is bourne unto man once to die, and then comes the judgment." Our inner being, soul, spirit, separates from our body.
And there's one possible separation for those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Savior, when they enter the judgment they are told, "Depart from me, you who are cursed and work iniquity, into the lake of fire that was not created for you but for the devil and his angels." Sin is about self. It's all about me. Death is separation. That's why God mercifully allows man to die, by the way. As soon as man died spiritually, God put an angel in the garden and said, "Don't let him eat of the tree of life, because if he does, he'll live forever in this state." Angels can't be saved; they made an eternal choice. We pass through death. God doesn't want any of us to perish. He put eternity in our hearts to call us home. He declares his righteousness in the heavens in Psalm 19.
He put his witness in the heart of every man, and if we don't know God, it's not because we don't know him, it's because we deny him and we suppress him in unrighteousness. Everybody knows God is there. Everybody has that call. Jesus said, "If I'm lifted up, I'm going to draw all men to me." Jesus said, "I'm going to send the Holy Spirit." "He will convict all men of sin, righteousness, and of judgment." It's not a lack of knowledge, it's because we're selfish and we don't want to serve God, and God will honor our choices. But for those who receive Jesus as their Savior there's a promise: "When this perishable dies and puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on the immortal," in First Corinthians 15, "then will come about the saying that says, 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'O Death, where is your sting?' O grave, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin."
But if I'm born again, I pass from this life into eternal joy. The sting of death is gone. Death is something to look forward to, not to try to bring about, but it's a release. So it's God's mercy. Everybody lives forever, but there are two destinations: one is heaven, one is hell. But everybody lives forever. So what is sin? It is putting self-first. Now we think about sin like doing all the bad stuff, you know, going out there and killing and maiming and burning and stealing. Sin is bad stuff, you know. That's really not the answer. Sin is putting anything in the place of God. I could take something good, like I want to work, take care of my family, provide things. And so I throw myself into my work and make a good living and I provide for my family and they have good stuff.
But I'm never home and my kids never knew they had a father, because I would never spend time. My wife never had a husband to hang out with, because I was so busy working. That's a good thing, but I made it the ultimate thing. It's not sin the way we see sin. Sin is replacing God. Let's go back to the first of Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord God who brought you out of Egypt. You will have no other gods before me." "Jesus, what's the greatest commandment?" "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself." The nature of sin is to replace God with something else. Now, we could wind up and go out and do a whole bunch of bad stuff, but you know, there are a lot of good people out there that are just as lost as the bad people.
That's why it says, "The wages of sin [singular] is death." We are separated. Am I a good person? I throw myself into education---that's great. But I spend no time training others---that's bad. I throw myself into making a living---great. But I spend no time with my family---bad. I throw myself into physical fitness---that's good. But I spend no time in fellowship with others---that's bad. I have replaced God with something else. Anytime I do that, I have failed the greatest commandment, to love God. So let's get back to this. You've got the rebel son, "'A certain man had two sons. And the younger said to his father, "Give me the portion of goods that fall to me." '" Let's back up. In this culture, farming, agrarian culture, number one, the dad is boss. You must respect your elders.
Disrespected elders could even bring the death penalty if it was bad enough. You must respect your elders, that's one, or you're going to shame the family. The other is: their wealth wasn't so much because of money in the bank, but because of the amount land that they owned, the amount of crops they had, the amount of livestock. And a lot of their wealth was in their clothes. Most people didn't have more than one coat or one jacket or one cloak. Their wealth was with them. They might have had some coinage, but for the most part it was land, crops, livestock, clothing. So when he says, "Give me the portion," he's saying, publicly sell off the stuff that tells everybody you are the leader in the community that you are the man, publicly do so, convert it to cash.
"Father, give me that of your livelihood." "And not many days after, the younger son gathered it together," it's converted to cash, "journeyed to a far country, and wasted his possessions in prodigal living," basically, wine, women, and song, party down, live like there's no tomorrow. "When he had spent it all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want." The money didn't last forever. The stuff he chased was empty. The people who were his friends ran out when the money ran out. And now he's sitting there in want and he joins himself to a man who sends him to feed pigs. You know, pigs were the most unclean animal for the Jew. This is a man---as Jesus is telling the story to a Jewish audience---who shamed the family. It's so bad he should have been killed.
Ran out on the family, lived a bad life, which would have broken all the laws of Moses, and then lived with pigs in constant contact with the most unclean animal. For the Jewish people, they're looking at this guy---have you ever seen the old movies, you got the black hat and the white hat? Jesus hand painted, you know, the Darth Vader guy. He's all black. He is bad news and should be cast off. That's the picture Jesus painted. And no one gave him anything. You know, your party friends, when you run out, let's see who shows up. I used to visit some of the prisons, and one of the things we'd ask is, "How many of your gang friends come down here and say hi to you now that you're here?" Your party friends ran out. So the rebellious relationship wanted the things of the father, but not the father.
And he ran out and he wound up completely isolated from the father and destitute, which leads us to the repentant relationship. It begins in verse 20. "'But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!" '" Two types of servants: the household servants lived there, kind of in the bunkhouse, and the hired servants were seasonal. They came in when the crops needed to be planted or harvested. They didn't live there all year. He wasn't even think thinking close household servant; he was thinking the one you just hire at certain seasons when you need more people to pick crops or plant crops. "How many of them have food enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!"
I want you to notice this. He's not thinking, "My father's all good and I am all bad." He's not repenting. He basically says, "I'm hungry! Where's dad?" You know, sometimes God will let us fall down until we look up, you know. Anybody know what I'm talking about? Sometimes God will let us come to the end of our rope and cry for help. What kind of hunger do I have? Relationships that are broken? We're in an economic downturn, are you having financial problems? Are there health issues? "I'm hungry!" I found that I pray a lot when I am in need. Do you do that? And I'm real good---when things good wrong, my prayer life goes up. It shouldn't be that way, but I'm being honest. The worse life gets, the more time I pray. Would to God that I would pray more without life getting bad, but that's the way it is.
So he's hungry. " ' "I will arise," ' " he says, " ' "and go to my father, and will say to him" ' "---okay, he's got to practice this speech, you know, because I know that my father should kill me, but let's practice this speech. " '"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." '" "I don't even want to live in the house. I don't even want to live in the bunkhouse. I'll live out in the countryside and come in seasonally." "'And he arose and he came to his father. But when he was still a great way off' "---I want to pause there for a moment. God said, "All who seek me will find me." I want you to know that he didn't get cleaned up. His clothes probably looked pretty ragged. He probably didn't have a decent haircut and a decent shave.
I mean, the guy's coming from pigs, and pigs don't live in the cleanest environment. He's coming back looking pretty bad, but he's coming back. "'And his father sees him a long way off,' " which means the father was watching. It's not that he had to clean himself up to get home, he just had to say, "I want to come home." He didn't have to get everything all fixed, he just had to turn in the right direction. "'And the father saw him a long way off and,' " second, " 'and had compassion on him.' " For any of you who are parents, when that little one---or you work with children, when you see the little one fall down and they skin their knee and they're crying, your heart breaks with them, you know. The father saw him and just had compassion. It wasn't, "Look what he did!" It was like, "My son, he's hurt." It was a cry of love. "My son!"
"'Compassion, and he ran.' "Men don't run there. For the older man to run was a disgrace. You sit and let them come and bow before you. You're the patriarch. They need to give you honor and respect and bow down before you. Running? That's wrong. But, you see, if anyone else had seen the son, they had the right to go chase him off. They had to right to say, "Don't even come near here." The father intervened. "No one's going to stop him from coming to me." "'And he ran and he fell on his neck and he kissed him.' ""All who seek me will find me, if they seek me with their whole heart," says God. And the son started giving his practiced speech. "'"Father, I have sinned against you. I've done---father . . ." ' " His practiced speech, you know, because "I'm hungry. I'm just---I just want food. So I'm going to give my speech."
The father doesn't even let it happen. "'But the father said to his servants, "Bring the best robe." '" You know, when you come to Christ, it's not because your clothes are clean. But it says that "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we would be clothed in the righteousness of Christ," that we'd be the righteousness of Christ in him. "'"Put the best robe on him, put the ring on his finger." '" The ring was kind of the family emblem that you sign documents with. It's like, put him in charge, give him a place of honor. "'"Put sandals on his feet," ' " a little pause here. Whenever there's sin, someone has to pay the debt. "I don't know why God can't just forgive?" No. Someone has to pay the debt. This man had lost part of his farm, some of his animals, probably had to sell off some clothing.
His family name had been dishonored. He had been disrespected. He had been shamed in the community. There's a debt to pay. Now, either that young boy had to come back and pay it, or looks like the father paid the debt for him, doesn't it? That's why Jesus died. I can't pay my debt. But if I turn and I want to head back, he'll clothe me in Christ's righteousness, he'll give me the authority to be his son, because he paid the debt. "'"And bring the fatted calf," ' " not a fatted calf, "the fatted calf." I'm into barbecue. "'"Bring the fatted calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine who was dead," ' " separated, separated, " ' "is alive." '" We're back in union. Jesus, John 17, "Father, I would that these would have eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they would know you through your Son whom you have sent."
Death is separation; life is union. "My son was dead. He was separated. He is now united. Let's party down!" Actually it says, "'"Let's begin to be merry." '" But it's, party! What's the nature of repentance? Because that's what the son did. First is, I have to agree that God is right. He said, "I'm a sinner," and then, "I need salvation." I have to agree with that. "The Lord's hand is not short, that he cannot save; his ear is not deaf, that he cannot hear. But my sins have separated me from him." I have to agree with that. I'm a sinner. I can't save myself. Someone's got to pay the debt. So I agree. But, secondly, the nature of repentance is I have to accept that I'm a sinner and I need salvation---not man's a sinner---I'm a sinner, and I need salvation. It's gotta be personal.
But these two steps make me about as good as a demon, because it says, "The demons believe." You say you believe in God? That's good, the demons believe. They probably got better theology than I do. They probably know the Bible better than I do too, huh? They believe. They really believe. They knew who Jesus was: "We know who you are---O Son Of God! Don't cast us into the pit. Please! Not yet." They believe. I hear a lot of people say, "I believe." But there's a third part of repentance: I have to act on it. It's not so much that I feel sorry or that I apologize or that I shed tears or that I promise to do better, it's that I throw myself down on the mercy of God and say, "I will follow you." Real belief is what's called repentance. "Repentance" means to do an about-face and turn around.
The son was living with the pigs. He agreed that his father was better. He agreed with the---and it was better for him. His father had a better house and it would be a better house for him. But it wasn't until he came home that he got the benefits. So I need to check my belief. I can know all the stuff. Jesus said that there will be "many people who come to me in that day and say, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we do many mighty works in your name? In your name we healed the sick. We cast out demons. We raised the dead, Lord." And Jesus will say, "Depart from me, you who are cursed and work iniquity; I never knew you." This wasn't someone who lost their salvation, it's someone who was never saved. They believed, they did stuff, they taught the Word, they saw Jesus do great things, just like Judas Iscariot.
But they never followed him. They never surrendered. H'm. So the rebellious relationship wants the things of the father, but not father. The repentant relationship driven by personal selfishness---because after all, it is about me---still wants the things of the father. "I want a good house, you know, and I want this and I want that. So I'm going to come home." But, you know, the Father gives me so much more. He saves me. But the real issue here is the religious relationship beginning in verse 25. Jump up to verse 1. "Then all the tax collectors," those are the bad people, "and the sinners," the bad people, "were"---notice this drawing, constant drawing, "drawing near to Jesus to hear him," crowds. You know, these are the scum of society. These are the outcasts. These are the ones you stay away from.
These are the ones when they're nearby, you make sure your car door is locked and run in the other direction. These are the bad people. These are the people you don't want in your neighbor. They were the ones that Jesus attracted, and they were coming to him. Okay, so, they're drawing near, "And the Pharisees and the scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he spoke a parable to"---who? What does it say?---"to them." This parable wasn't about the prodigal son, it was about the religious son. So let's take a look at the religious son. Verse 25, "'now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard the music and the dancing.' "Now they don't have iPods. They don't have all that stuff.
These guys, these guys brought musicians in. I mean, this is live band type stuff. There's a party going on. The cow is being cook. Yeah! The music is playing. Party time! "'He called to the servants and said, "What do these things mean?" And the servant said to him, "Your brother has come, and because he has been received safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf." But the older brother got angry and refused to go in.' "Wow, that's nice." 'Therefore the father came out and pleaded with him.' "O my goodness, this is the same type of shame. You come to the father, you bow before him, you reverence him. You want to talk to me, you come to me. What was the attitude? You don't disrespect your father publicly like that, make your father beg you.
That's just as disrespectful as the younger brother. He's angry. The father's pleading. "'And the older brother answered and said to his father, "These many years I have slaved for you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and you never gave me [the fatted calf] or the young goat that I might make have a party with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours" ' "---not saying "my brother," you know. I mean, my wife pulls this out on my sometimes: "Your son . . ." [laughter] Okay, okay. "'"As soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf." The father said, "Son, you are always with me, all that I have is yours. He was dead, he's alive." ' "
"We should party down!" And then Jesus didn't finish the story. He said, "The end." These religious leaders go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What happened? What's going on?" You see, this was a call to them. Have you ever not finished a story? I would wake up my daughter by not finishing stuff. I would open the door and say, "Hey, hey, hey, it's time to get up. [singing] O say can you---" You know, the brain can't handle that. [laughter] She's trying to go back to sleep, [singing] ". . . see, by the dawn's . . . Dad, I hate you!" No, it's---she doesn't---[laughter] He didn't finish the story because they had to think about it. What are you going to do? The religious relationship, they wanted the things of the father, but they didn't want the father either. It's just as selfish, but it's more blind.
So I asked myself a question: How do I know what I'm slipping into religion? Because, you know, that's easy for me. I've got five things. When am I becoming religious? Number one: anger toward God. You know, "God owes me. I've been good. I slave for him. I mean, I served him in Sunday school. I worked with the toddlers. I mean, come on, that counts for something. And he let this happen to me? How dare he!" And I get angry with God because I served him and he didn't do what I wanted him to do. Religion---"I slave for you"---anger toward God. Two: superiority toward others. You know, "He's just scum. He's not as holy as I am. I don't think he's reading his Bible as much or prays as much. How dare God bless him more than me. He got the promotion? She got the promotion? Who do they think they are?
"They shouldn't even be here with people like us. They smell bad. They look bad. They probably slept on the street. How dare they come in here and dirty up our nice, beautiful stuff." Anger toward God, superiority toward others. "This son of your came home, I'm not even going near him. He's not worth it. Prodigal, hung out with harlots." You hear it? I'm serving God more out of fear than love. There's this idea, you know, that I'm never good enough. God loves them, but he only tolerates me. It's kind of like---have you ever been working and the boss came in the room? You know, you start to work harder and you're kind of watching the boss out of the corner of your eye. And if the boss looked over and went like this, "Sigh," and walked off, how would you feel?
Okay, that's I'm serving God out of fear. I'm serving God because I don't want to get in trouble. I'm serving God, not out of love. Well, that's what the older brother was doing. "If I don't serve you, you're not going to give me the fatted calf." Anger, superiority, slavish service. "And I don't really believe in the Father's love. Oh, yeah, I could talk about it, but my picture of the Father is that he's usually just waiting for me to mess up one more time so he could kick me to the curb, because I really am not good enough, and he's usually pretty fuming. He just doesn't blow up all the time, because he doesn't want to kick me to the curb while they're watching. I mean, I'm really not loved. Well, he has to love me because he said so, but he doesn't like me."
And I start to see this in my prayer life. The first indicator is when I pray, is it about adoring and worshiping, or is it about gimme, gimme? What's my prayer life? Now, we are to pray for all things. We are supposed to "ask for everything with prayer and thanksgiving." But we have this prayer request list and a very low praise list. I'm getting into religion when it's all about me getting my way and not about me worshiping him. I'm getting into religion when I'm angry because I didn't get what I thought I deserved. I'm getting into religion when I am superior to those other people, because, you know, they're not as good as me. You know what I'm saying? You know, those other denominations also, you might as well throw them under the bus. They're not good like me.
I'm getting into religion all kinds of stuff anger towards God, superiority toward others, slavish service, doubt the Father's love. You know, Paul struggled with that. Paul the apostle struggled with that. Paul said in Philippians, "If anyone thinks that they have confidence in the flesh," in the ability to be religious and earn God's favor, he says, "I more than you." It's like, "I'm more humble than you. I was circumcised the eighth day. I was a stock of Israel. I'm of the tribe of Benjamin. I'm a Hebrew of Hebrews. Concerning the law, I was a Pharisee." In other words, "I'm top dog." "Concerning zeal, I persecuted the church; concerning"---I love this part---"the righteousness which is in the law, I was blameless." It was like, "Dude, you're like---touch your robe, man. That is awesome!"
He said, "But all those things that I thought caused God to owe me," he said, "that I thought was gain, all those things that I thought made God owe me" he said, "they were nothing. It was nothing more than refuse. God owes me nothing." And so Paul would say, "Therefore, after I preached the gospel, I beat myself under subjection, lest I be cast away." Why, because you have a problem with the Ten Commandments? "No. I'm blameless. I'm religious. I'm used to saying they're second-class saints. I'm used to putting them down. I'm used to hanging out with my own." Paul struggled with that. One of the churches he planted struggled with it.
In Galatians, "O you foolish Galatians!" he writes, "Who has bewitched you? Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was crucified so evidently. This only will I ask you: Did you receive salvation by the hearing of faith, or by earning it through the works of the law? If you were saved by faith, why are you trying to perfect yourself through religious works?" Oh, what happened there? The solution to both the rebellious and the religious is repentance. Jesus told another story: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus within himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men---extortioners, unjust, adulterers, even like this tax collector over here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.'
"And the tax collector went a long way off, and hung his head to the ground and beat his breast and said, 'Father, be merciful to me a sinner!' "And Jesus said, "That man was justified." H'm, what's my prayer life? How am I doing? "For by grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves; it's a gift of God." Do I begin by faith and try to perfect myself through works? Am I angry with God? Superior toward others? Feel like God doesn't love me, doesn't really care? See, it's not the degree of sin, it's not that I---unlike the Pharisee---it's not like I'm a prodigal doing all the bad stuff. The Pharisees were living good lives. The problem isn't how bad my sin was, the problem is that God can't stand sin. How do I fix that? How do I fix religious tendencies?
By the way, is there anybody here ever struggle with those things? I just---because I'm preaching to myself here. I struggle with religion. Because I could look around here at some of you guys and go pfft! No, I'm just---[laughter] The early church struggled with this too. There was a letter written to the church of Ephesus and Jesus says, "I commend you, your works are great. You're always busy serving. Your doctrine is awesome. You even hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, I hate that too. You're just tireless in your service. I love that." He goes, "but you got a problem. You left your first love." Somewhere along the line you got so busy serving Jesus Christ that you forgot about worshiping Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the line you got so busy doing things for God that you forgot to sit at his feet.
Somewhere along the line you thought God owed you for everything you did rather than just sitting down saying, "God, thank you, because Jesus died for me while I was still a sinner. It's not because I did anything. I brought dirty clothes home, he gave me other clothes. He didn't dip them in mud, he gave me the good stuff." So, how did Jesus say to fix religion? He said, "Remember, repent, and redo." I was saved many years ago when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. [laughter] And I was in the military. And though I had grown up and been exposed to different good things, I had also been exposed to a lot of bad things. And having been in the military, I was exposed to some bad things many people aren't exposed to. And let's just say I crossed some lines. You know what I'm talking, crossing lines?
You can be a good person and cross lines. You don't have to cross the same physical line, but you know you crossed a line. You disappointed God. You didn't live for God. You were raised in a Christian home, and you looked good outwardly, but you still crossed lines, you know it. I crossed some lines and somewhere in there God saved me. I didn't deserve it. I knew who I was. I was ashamed of who I was. But, you know, you put on the front, you know, "I'm all good." I wasn't. I was hurting inside. I was lost. I knew it. But God saved me. And I can remember, I called this the honeymoon. For the next few weeks every night lying on my rack, because they don't have beds in the military. They're racks, like torture things. Lying on my rack I would just stare up at night and say, "You saved me, me. I know who I am. You love me. Jesus died for me. Wow!"
It was the honeymoon phase. And I would just sit and adore him. And then I started learning the Bible. And then I started serving in church. And then I got so busy serving I forgot worship. And Jesus said, "Remember the honeymoon." Here's another story: Jesus in Bethany, home. Lazarus, Mary, Martha, they're all there. Jesus sitting and he's talking. The disciples are sitting around. Lazarus was there. Mary's sitting there. Martha is the person saying "Oh no! We have guests. Oh, oh!" And she's cleaning the house. Do you ever have guests drop in? What if Skip came to your house? "Hey, I'm here." So she's running around, she's cleaning the house, and she's banging the pots and pans. Finally, she goes, "Jesus!" Can you imagine that?
"Jesus, Jesus, will you just hush a moment? Now listen, I'm doing all this work"---good, religious girl here. "I'm doing all this work---" it's not bad work. We need to cook dinner. We need to clean the house. "I'm doing this work, Mary is just sitting there! Tell her to come help me." "Oh, Martha, Martha, you're so weighted down, so worried about all these trivial things. For the moment, Mary chose the best part." Religion or relationship? Now I still have to clean the house; it just wasn't time. I still have to make dinner; it just wasn't time. It was time to hang with Jesus. So, that's the honeymoon phase. So I'm going to give you a homework assignment. Are you ready for it? If you're rebellious, you're going to go burn in hell forever. [laughter] I say that, but it's true.
Your job tonight is to turn around and say, "My clothes are dirty and I'm hungry and I want to come home." If you're a good religious person who doesn't know the Lord, your job is to turn around and come home. But if you're like me, you love the Lord, but your biggest problem is yourself---my biggest problem is me. I always get caught up in all stuff. I'm a Martha, you know, pots and pans and banging stuff. "Jesus, tell them to come help me! They're not working as hard as I am. They're not doing the stuff I do. Look at them!" Angry. Superior. If you're like me, we're going to do the same thing that Jesus told that church in Ephesus, "You're doing all the good stuff, but you forgot, you forgot to love me. I love you so much. You just forgot to love me." He says, "Remember the honeymoon?"
So here's a question. Let's stop for a moment. This is part of the homework. Do you remember the honeymoon? Huh? You remember it? You remember the honeymoon? Some of you could have been Christians all your life in a Christian home, but there was a honeymoon where you just said, "Oh my goodness. God showed up." You know what I'm talking about? Do you remember the honeymoon? Remember that? You'd just sit in awe. Remember. Repent. "I'm too busy." You know, lots of marriages fall apart because we get into life and then we don't hang out anymore. Cars fall apart because we don't change the oil. Marriages fall apart because we don't spend time investing in them. Religion creeps in when I forget the honeymoon. Remember. Repent.
Now, we're going to sing a worship song here in few minutes, and let's just redo that. Remember how worship was so sweet? Now, I can sing the songs and be thinking about football scores, whether or not my team drafted the people I wanted. But I can remember just---just I'd get lost. I would encounter God every time I came to church and say, "Oh, wow!" Now, I can go through the motions and look good. Remember, remember the honeymoon. Repent. Refocus. Redo the honeymoon. Can you do that? So you're going to do that tonight. We're going to close in worship in a few minutes, but when you go home tonight, I want you to take your prayer list---it's probably got all kinds of good stuff on it like: "Please save this person, and help this person . . ." And it's probably a good prayer list.
And we are to pray, the Bible says "in everything by prayer." But, you know, I want you to take that prayer list and I want you to [tosses list aside]. I am just going to sit here and worship you. You saved me, and I know who I am, but you saved me." That'll still be there tomorrow. So your homework---you got it?---you're homework: we're going to worship the Lord, and you're going to go home and you're going to set your prayer list down, and you're going to worship God tonight. Can you do that? Because I gotta break out of this religion stuff, man, it's ugly. I hate it when I'm angry all the time. I hate it when I'm always feeling superior to others. I'm walking around thinking like the other shoe is going to drop because everyone's going to find out the truth and God's really mad.
He just hasn't opened it up for other people to see yet. I just need to go back and say, "You saved me?" Because the Scripture said, "If Christ died for us while we were sinners, how much more now that we are his children will he not freely bless us with more." Yeah, yeah. Father, thank you for loving us. Thank you for your Son who died for us while we were sinners. Forgive us, Lord, because we default to being religious. We are descendants of the religious, because we're so self-centered. And, yet, Lord, you have numbered the hairs of our head. Every thought toward us is only good continuously. If we could number the sands of the sea, they're not as great as your thoughts towards us. Your loving-kindness is new every morning. God, what is not to praise?
Lord, I want to be Mary tonight, I want to sit at your feet and worship you, and I want to put down the pots and the pans. They'll be there tomorrow. Help me tonight, Lord, to remember my honeymoon and go back there and just hang out with you and adore you. And if you're here tonight and you're rebellious, today is the day of salvation. Today if you hear his voice, don't harden your heart. I'm going to ask---is there anyone here that's been running and you're ready to surrender? Because God loves you. If so, while we're praying, heads are bowed, would you raise your hands or hand? Just say, "Oh, yeah, I am ready to come home. I'm done running." God bless you and you. God bless you, yes. "I'm done running. I'm tired of the pigs stuff. I am ready to surrender."
Okay. As we sing this final song I'm going to ask you who said, "Yes, Lord," just like the prodigal walked home, would you walk up here to the front to say, "Father, I surrender." We will pray together. So, in Jesus' name, amen. Let us stand. While this song is playing, those who raised their hands, please, just walk to the Father, he loves you. He loves you so much. [applause] [worship music plays] Come, come, come. Thank you, thank you. God isn't angry with you. God loves you. He sent his Son to die for you. He wants to call you home. He wants to put the new robe on you. [applause] Come to the Father's love. We're going to pray. Now prayer is just talking to God. It's nothing special or magical. I want to say some words just like a pastor would if they were doing a marriage ceremony and the couple repeats them.
But you're not praying to me, you're saying, "God, I'm tired, I just want to come home. Okay, Father, I've run away, I've rebelled, I'm a sinner." And if you'd just repeat those words to him: Father, I'm tired. I've run away. I've rebelled. I've sinned. And, yet, you love me and you're watching for me to come home. Thank you for sending Jesus to create that way for me to come. He paid my price, he died for me, and you're going to give me his goodness. I surrender. Save me, run to me, embrace me, have compassion on me, and kiss me, in Jesus' name, amen. [cheers and applause] For those who have come forward, Jarrett is going to give you a Bible. He just wants to bring you over here, give you a few items.
And for those who are here, may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. And unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, to him be glory, honor, dominion, and power, now and forever, amen. Begin the honeymoon. [applause]
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.