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.
Well, good evening, Calvary. How are you tonight?
I'm glad that you're glad to be here. Let me just clarify a few things before we get started. First of all, I'm not Ryan Wylie.
I'm also not the guy from "Citizens & Saints."
And I'm really sorry to tell you this, I'm not David Crowder.
Although I do kind of do favor him, yeah. My name is Pastor Jason Mills, and I'm fortunate to be the campus pastor at our Nob Hill location for Calvary.
And Pastor Skip asked me to come and speak tonight, and so I'm thrilled to do that. I'm actually originally from South Carolina.
I know you can tell-- Yeah, that's right. He's like, in the house. Cackalackey. I'm originally from South Carolina. My family has actually lived there since the 1740s. Yeah, we're old school.
And the first Mills in the country was Ambrose Mills, and he had a land grant from good old King George in what is basically the county I grew up in. Now, we don't know what he had on King George to get that land grant, but we're glad that he had it. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he and his son, William actually fought for the British because we're great at choosing sides, and because he wanted to protect that land grant.
And so they actually fought in a couple of major battles in the south, one at the Battle of Cowpens, which was fought on a cow pasture-- we're good at naming things-- and at Kings Mountain. And at Kings Mountain, they were both caught, and they were scheduled to be killed by hanging the next day. And the son, William escaped in the night and ran away. And because he escaped, I get to be here, which is really kind of cool.
Now, I tell you that story not just to tell you where I'm from, but also because I want to tell you another story of a son who ran away. And we're going to look at Luke chapter 15 tonight. And in this chapter, Jesus tells three parables. Now, you guys know what parables are. Parables are a story that takes something you do understand to explain something you don't understand. And so Jesus is telling these three stories as a way of teaching the crowd gathered that day a little bit about God's heart for the lost and the lonely.
And he tells three stories. And they're all from Jewish life, so they're all going to be something that the Jewish populace of that day could understand.
The first one's about a shepherd who loses one of his 100 sheep, 1% of his sheep, and he finds it. And then the second story is about a woman who loses one of her 10 coins, 10% of her coins, and finds it. And the third story that we're going to focus on tonight is about a father who loses one of his two sons, 50% of his sons, and then finds him.
Now, I hate losing things. Maybe you're like me. I am always paranoid about losing my keys, in fact. And usually, I keep them on a little ring right here on a carabiner on my hip. And I'll just kind of periodically through the day just touch right there to make sure they're there. It's freaking me out that they're not here now, just full disclosure.
And I remember one time I put my hand down there and they were missing, and the anxiety is rising. And I'm like, man where are they? I had them in the house, then I closed the door. And then I realized I'm driving, and they're in the ignition. So just that joy of finding something that you thought was lost, for sure.
Well, let's do this. Before we jump into our text tonight, let's go ahead and pray. God, we thank you so much that you are the one who came to seek and to save that which is lost. Lord, we ask that you would save some who are lost tonight. Lord, help us to have ears to hear, minds to understand, hearts that are open to hear from your spirit. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
We're going to start in verse 11. "Then He 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 he divided to them his livelihood."
Now, this is uncommon, not usually done. Usually the inheritance is divvied up to the sons after the death of the father. And so for him to go to his dad early and say, hey, just go ahead and give it to me now, I'm tired of waiting around, it's insulting. It's like he slapped his dad in the face and said, hey, you're only worth to me what I'm going to get out of you, and I can't wait around any longer.
It would break the father's heart. He's basically saying, I wish you were dead. It really is. And it'd be crushing. And so what he's asking when he says, give me the portion of the goods that falls to me, is in those days, the firstborn son, he would get a double portion. So if you have two sons, you'll divide it into three portions, 2/3, 1/3. If you have four sons, you'll divide it into five portions, 2/5, 1/5, 1/5, 1/5. Math, who knew it would be useful? So this is what he's asking them to do.
Verse 13, "And not many days after, the younger son gathered it all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living." Let's take care of that word "prodigal" first. Now, I think most people aren't really familiar with the word "prodigal"-- it's a nice, old-timey Bible word-- unless they're familiar with it from this story, right? So prodigal basically just means wasteful. He wasted his life with wasteful living.
Now, we think this guy's pretty young, maybe 18 years old or so. And to get the understanding of what he does with his inheritance is imagine that you're 18. For some of you, this is easy. Imagine you're 18 and someone just hands you a credit card. Now, imagine everything you would do with that, or maybe you could remember what you did with that. And now you have a good idea of what he's wasting his life on, OK?
And so what he does is he gets all of the property. In those days, he's not going to cut the son a check. He's got sheep, and land those kinds of things. And so he's going to convert all of that into something fungible, something portable, and he's going to go off.
And again, that's unusual too, because most Jewish boys would stay with the family. It wouldn't be unusual at all for three or four generations to be living on the same plot of land all in one big, happy family.
In fact, my dad offered to do that for us. He offered to, I'll clear out some of the land over here. We'll put a trailer on there. We'll put your brother over there, your other brother over there. I'll make a little Mills lane here, and you all can live there. It'll be great. We politely declined.
But that would be usual. And so for him to leave is again, uncharacteristic of the people of that day. And honestly, he just wants to be out from under the authority of the father. He's looking for a little authority, a little say-so for himself.
Verse 14, "But when he had spent all, there rose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything."
So now that he's got all that he wanted, he finds himself in want. He's got no friends, no money. They all evaporated when the money evaporated. And he realizes, OK, I'm going to starve to death if I don't do something. And so he sells himself into slavery to a citizen of that country.
And yet, I imagine he's got to be pretty depressed. He thought he could do it on his own it's not working out, so he has to sell his self into slavery. And then on top of that, his new owner says, well, go and feed the pigs.
Now remember, this is a Jewish kid, right? So Jews don't keep pigs. They don't touch pigs. They don't eat pigs. Pigs and Jews, they don't mix. God was like, listen, I want you guys to be clean. I want you to be healthy. They've got parasites, and swine flu. And until you learn how to cook bacon right, just stay away, all right?
So he has to go and he has to take care of pigs. And the Jewish audience that Jesus is telling the story to is kind of, it stings a little. And he's so hungry, he's looking at what the pigs are eating and he's like, mmm, going to get me some of that.
OK, now imagine this. You come home from work or from school, and you're starving. You haven't had lunch. You haven't eaten since breakfast, and that was like a croissant and some coffee, and you're dying of hunger. You look in the fridge, and there's some old mustard packets. You go into the cupboard, there's nothing there.
You see a can in the back. Hallelujah, praise the Lord. You grab it, and it's Alpo dog food. And you're like, all right, and you go for it. You see how you feel right now? That's how they were feeling when they heard about the pigs.
And what they're eating actually is it says, "the pods that the swine were given to eat." These carob pods is what they're talking about. Now, carob pods are basically emergency food supplies for livestock. They have about all the taste and nutritional value of a pine cone. And we still have these carob pods today. It's what you make carob chocolate out of, that fake chocolate in case you have an allergy, or you're from Taos or something. So that's what those are.
And to add insult to injury, they wouldn't give him any. Denied once again. Now what's interesting is that there were other stories in Jesus' day that were similar to this, and this is where they stopped. So I think a lot of people thought Jesus was going to stop his story right there. A moral tale of the dangers of leaving the faith, and family and home. Someone goes out and strikes on their own into the dangerous and evil Gentile world, and they die. See, kids? Listen to your parents.
So that was what they probably thought the story's point was, and where it would stop. But that's not the purpose of Jesus' parable here. His purpose is to teach them, because they didn't get it. They didn't get it. They don't understand God's love and his desire to see lost sons come home. That was the whole point of this.
And so the story takes a little turn verse 17. "But then he came to himself and said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger? I will arise and go to my father. And I will say to him, father, I've sinned against heaven and before you, and I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'"
He came to himself. He suddenly has the epiphany of really of what the depths of his choices in life have brought him to. He's like, whoa, OK. I've got to do something different. This is not working. If I'm going to be a slave, I might as well be a slave back at dad's house. Because at dad's house, even the slaves are treated better than this.
And I love how his hunger has suddenly changed his dad from this authoritarian dictator to a benevolent giver of bread. Hunger really gives you clarity sometimes. And so he says, OK, I'm going to go back. And he prepares this speech, and he says, I've sinned against heaven. That basically means I've sinned against God and his law, and I've sinned against you. And he makes his way back home, probably practicing this speech the entire time.
Verse 20, "And he arose and came to his father. And when he was still a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck." He must have tripped. "And kissed him. And his son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and I'm no longer worthy to be called your son."
It says here that the father saw his son a great way off. What must the father have been doing to see him a great way off? Yes, points, looking for him. Exactly. And I can only imagine the father sitting there, the long gray beard better than mine. He is looking out over the horizon, and the road that leads home and every dusty, weary traveler hoping that's his son. And finally, one day it is. And he gets up, and he runs to him and he embraces him.
Now, it's weird that he runs. Because in this culture, when you're an older person, when you're an elder you're respected and venerated. And if someone needed something from you, they would go to you to get advice alone, something like that. And when you talked to them, they sat down, and the person asking for the help, they would stand to show respect. Old people didn't run. They weren't summoned. You went to them.
I once asked my dad, I said, dad, why don't you ever run? I was maybe this big, and I just couldn't imagine my dad-- he's kind of a bigger guy-- ever running. And in classic South Carolina fashion, he says, well I guess I got no place I want to go in a hurry.
That makes sense. So it's weird that this father would run. And I think one of the reasons that he does is it is there's this law back in Deuteronomy 21 verse 18-- you can read it on your own time-- that basically says-- now, this is going to be the Jason Mills translation of the Bible, so don't hold it to heart-- "If you've got a child and he won't listen to the father or to the mother, what you do is you take him in front of the whole town, invite all your friends to grab rocks and stone him until he's dead."
Now, who would not have survived childhood if that law was yes? Praise Jesus, yes. All right. I'm so glad that was not in institute, not even in South Carolina, where you'd think that was still run.
So I think that the father's running because he wants the entire village, the entire neighborhood to know that they don't have to start picking up rocks, honestly. That he loves him, he's so glad to see him back. In fact, I mean I joked about it, but it says that he fell on his neck. And what he's doing, he's kissing him right here in this tender spot in the neck, right there by the shoulder.
Now I love to kiss my kids right there, because you know what they do when you kiss them there, right?
Right? They all freak out, and they get all squirmy and stuff. And my kids can kiss me there, my wife can kiss me there. No one else on pastoral staff can kiss me there. It's just weird.
It's a very intimate thing. And so you see the love that the father still has for the son despite everything that's happened because of this small thing.
And then he starts his speech. "Father, I have sinned against heaven, against you, and I'm no longer worthy to be called your son." But there's something suspiciously absent from his speech. Do you see what it is? That's right, the demotion. He doesn't get a chance to say, "Make me like one of your hired servants because the father cuts them off in verse 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. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it. And let us eat and be merry, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again." Amen. "And he was lost, and is found." And they began to be merry.
He interrupts his confession to reiterate that, hey, you are a son. And he does it three ways. He brings out shoes, puts sandals on his feet. Because in that day, if you were a slave, you went barefoot. Only free people wore shoes. So he's telling him, hey, you're my son, and you're free.
And he brings out a ring. Now, a lot of scholars think this is a signet ring. You've seen this an old shows, old movies, where they would pour the wax on the letter to seal it, and they'd press the symbol of the ring of the family on there so they'd know it came from the authority of that house. So he's giving him that signet ring saying, hey, listen. You're a son with authority to speak for the family.
And then he brings out a robe, the best robe. Now, I don't know how it is in your house, but the best stuff is dad's stuff. This is how it is. That's dad's chair. That's dad's paper. That's dad's sandals. He brings out the best robe and he puts it on to show that he's approved, that he's in a good relationship.
I find it interesting that everything he left looking for, he finds right back where he left it, back at home. Looking for freedom, for acceptance, for authority of his own, he found it right where he left it. Guys, when we leave God to find satisfaction, we find that we only have satisfaction with God. Isn't that true? Have you found that to be true in your life? When you leave God, looking for satisfaction, you only find it back with Him.
It's OK. You can clap. I'm cool with it. Now, let's pause right here and look at some deeper application. There's two things I can say right off the bat. Now, we know this is a parable. And so then we know that these characters are more than just vehicles for the story. They represent something larger. And so obviously the father is God the Father, and the son is someone who's walked far from God, and now is coming to repentance.
And it could be anyone, really-- anyone who follows this same example of the prodigal son. Someone who realizes their sin, confesses that sin-- "I've sinned against you and against heaven."-- turns from their sin. That's what the word "repentance" means, right? It means to do a 180. You were going this direction, and now you're going this direction. You repented. He turns from his sin and goes a brand new direction.
And I love too that the son takes the first couple of steps, and the father rushes in to take all the rest. It's so beautiful. We think we're so far from God. When we turn around, we realize he's right there waiting for us.
Now, most people would look at this and see this as a nonbeliever, a non-Christian, right? This is how this is typically taught. And I think it's appropriate because the model fits someone who's far from God who needs to realize their sin, confess it, turn from it and go in a new direction to the arms of a loving father.
I mean, the scripture's all over the place about this. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, forgive us all our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness." By the way, I love those two words. We read them quickly all the time. "He is faithful and just." it means that He is reliable and right to forgive us. Isn't that great? God is reliable and He's right, because someone else paid our debt, "to forgive us of all unrighteousness."
And John 1:12, "Yet all who received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." But there's another application here, too.
Let me ask you a question. Was he a son before he left home? Yes, points over there. Good. He was. And so if he was already a son, I wonder if we couldn't also see this as a person who is already a Christian who has walked far from God, realized their sin and has returned home.
The question begs though, then how does someone who has a relationship with God, someone who is a Christian, get estranged from God, go into that relationship and the non-speaking terms? And the simple answer is sin. That's what sin does. It separates. It causes schisms. And for a lot of people, it's these big choices. Well, let's say this. It's a small choice that has a big repercussion.
I remember in my life, I was saved when I was 12. And in high school, I came to a fork in the road where I realized that I could either continue with my friends who were making increasingly terrible, immoral and dangerous choices or I could take what I thought at the time was the high moral road and leave all of them to preserve my own, let's say, righteousness. And so I did that, and I found myself in a fate worse than death, no friends in high school. You could probably relate.
And what that led to was about a three or four-year stint where I was in a non-communicating relationship with God. I didn't pray, didn't read my Bible. I went to church and kept up appearances, but that was about it. And I got into college and ended up doing the very things that I was trying to avoid in high school, and got into the wrong crowd, and drugs, and drinking and all those other things that I really don't want to recount.
And I remember that it got so bad that it got to the point where I could never be alone. You ever have that? Where you know you're doing the wrong thing, and when you're alone, and it's quiet, and you turn off the radio, you're not watching the TV, you can feel it. And that's the Holy Spirit chasing you. He chased me.
I remember distinctly one time I came back from the cafeteria in college, back to my dorm room, flopped on the bed. No one's in there, and I'm there for about 30 seconds, and I'm all, oh, no. I got to find somebody. I got to get out of here. This is freaking me out.
And the way it came down is eventually, God orchestrated this weekend where all my friends, both good and bad, were off-campus for the weekend. I didn't have a car. And the college I went to, it was the only thing there. There was a post office, which was a really happening place, and us, and then that was it.
I mean, 25 minutes to the nearest Walmart or waffle house-- just nothing there. And so I've got the thing that I hate the most, quiet alone time, and I'm freaking out.
Eventually, I go outside. It's about midnight. It's been raining. And I wanted to smoke a cigarette. And I went to a Christian college, which basically means you can't smoke on campus. And so I went out into the forest, and it's lightly raining. And I sit on this log and I look across the path to this other log, and I imagine that Jesus is sitting there.
And I tell Him, listen, I know you're chasing me, and I know that I'm screwing up here. I'm terrible at this life you've given me. And if you think you can do a better job at this than me, you're on.
Now, considering the challenge I gave him and the weather, I should have been struck by lightning.
But He is a gracious God, right? So I was like, all right. And I went back into my dorm, I went to sleep. And the next morning-- I swear this is true-- I felt different. And I looked down and realized I had been reading my Bible for the last five minutes. And I was like, where did I get this? How did that happen? It was the wildest thing.
And then it just so happened that my little brother, who is a strong believer still to this day, awesome guy, comes barging in the door because he had a marching band competition at our school. Marching band, yes, anyone? Right on. All right. This is good to know that I'm all alone on that. Good.
And he's like, hey, what are you doing? And I'm like, I'm reading the Bible. He's like, cool. And I'm like, say there was somebody who hadn't read their Bible in a long time. What would you have them read first? And he is not a dummy, and he's like, read the book of James. Now, if you've never read the book of James, the book of James is like someone grabbing you by the collar and slapping you repeatedly.
Read it, you'll see. And I'm reading it chapter by chapter, just like, oh, and that. Oh, and I'm doing, oh, oh. Ow. This the knife twisting. And I started to grow and I started to change all because I said, you know what, God? I'm out of here. I think I can do this better by myself. And it led to a three or four-year period of just that broken relationship with God. I was looking for freedom, looking for happiness. And instead, I found slavery.
Maybe for you, though, it's different. Maybe for you, it's not this big, deliberate life-changing choice, but rather something small. Maybe you road raged out on somebody in Paseo this morning. You've got the "Jesus loves people" sticker on the back of the car. Yeah, I saw you this morning.
You're like, oh man, ugh, I feel gross. It always happens. I don't watch my mouth, or I do the things I don't want to do. The struggle is real. And you're like, oh man, ugh. And you have a choice. You can either deal with the sin or let it linger.
And you always know that the better thing to do is to deal with your sin right away. Keep short accounts, right? What's better, pay your credit card bill every month or ignore it for six months? For some of you, you're like, really that's an option? No, it's not. You have to pay it every month. You keep the account short so that there's a good relationship with you and your lender.
Same kind of thing with our sin, we do the same thing. We go, OK, God, I messed up. I'm sorry. Forgive me. And you keep moving forward. You have to follow this prodigal son's example, whether it's big or small. To kind of come to yourself, realize, I've made a terrible choice. I have sinned against You I am sorry. Forgive me. Help me to change, and make those changes.
But oftentimes, I find as Christians, we fall into the same trap as the prodigal son, we settle. We settle. We come to God and we condemn ourselves. We're like, I did this thing. I messed up. I'm so sorry. And we begin to try to work for God's approval. We mess up and we go, OK. I'm going to be different this time. I'm going to read my Bible every day. I'm going to be on Instagram like, Thessalonica Thursday, click click. I'm only going to listen to Christian music, to Anberlin. It's going to be great.
And those things are fine in and of themselves. But if we try to do those things to get favor back with God or to earn his love, then we're missing the point. We're trying to be slaves instead of sons, just like that prodigal son. And the thing is is this, is a slave is only as valuable as the work that he can do, whereas a son is valuable because of the nature of the relationship.
We do that. I have a son, Jacob. He's 10 years old. The kid, he's noise and dirt with skin on. I mean, he's just a whirlwind. And he's a smart kid. He's the kid who would literally turn your vacuum cleaner into a hovercraft that works, and there's parts left over. And I know that he's going to do great things for the Kingdom of God. He's going to go on to do really amazing things.
But if he decides to spend the rest of his life working at Dion's-- now, listen. Free ranch? Amen. But am I going to be a little disappointed? Yeah, I am. But is he going to be less valuable to me? No, he's my son. I love him because he's my son. It's no more difficult than that. I want great things for him, but our relationship is as it is because he's my son.
Galatians 4:7 reminds us of this. "Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son. And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
Let me tell you guys this. If you don't hear anything else from what I say tonight, this I think is the most freeing thing I can tell you. It is impossible to be a son and not be accepted, just as it is impossible to be accepted and not be a son. Let me tell you again. It is impossible to be a son and not accepted, just as it's impossible to be accepted and not to be a son.
If you are in God's family, you are accepted, you are loved and He wants great things for you. Family, you are not valuable to God because of what you do, but because of the relationship that he's given you. It's as simple as that.
I kind of want to drop the mic right now. Man, all right.
Now, let me give us this quick caveat. Some of you are thinking, Jason, don't you mean sons or daughters? No, not really, and here's why. In that day and age, if you had a son, there was days of rejoicing and parties. And if you had a son, there was mourning, and crying, and ashes and sackcloth. I'm not condoning it. I'm just saying that's what it was.
When the Bible talks about us becoming in the family of God, it always talks about sonship. Even the girls, because God wants you to know that when we come into the family of God, we're all on equal footing. He died for the ladies, and the guys, and the Jews, and the Gentiles, and the rich, and the poor, and the bald-headed people, and the bearded people, everybody. And we all have the same inheritance. Romans even tells us that we are co-heirs with Christ. I'll take it.
So here's the thing. If God is willing to turn His back on the cross and His true born son so that we could be secure in that position as sons, then we're no longer slaves, but the very children of God.
Now again, this is another natural stopping point in the story. And as we'll see, there are some people who are going to wish it ended here. And also, it's a little weird because he continues on, because this breaks with the format that he set in the first two parables earlier in the chapter.
So let's go ahead and read that. Actually, it just occurs to me if you go and get a children's Bible, like in your kid's room or in parchments, and you look at this story, this is where it stops. So there may be some of you right now who have never read past this, and so this is all new information for you. So let's go ahead and dig in.
Verse 25, "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come home. And because he's received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.'"
Now, it's important to note who the older son represents. He represents, in this case, the Pharisees. If you look back at the beginning of chapter 15, verses one and two, it says, "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to him," Jesus, "to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" And so he spoke this parable to them, saying the story we're reading right now.
This is Jesus basically looking over the Pharisees in one corner and going, this is you. Pay attention. It is. Now, you guys know the Pharisees. But in case you don't, the Pharisees were this ultraconservative sect of Judaism that were very concerned with righteousness. Well, that's actually not true. They're concerned with outward righteousness, the appearance of righteousness, the letter of the law, and hardly ever the spirit of the law.
They were so concerned about their own reputation, and their own righteousness and self-righteousness that when they'd walk in the market, they'd pull their cloaks in tight so the edge of their garment wouldn't by accident touch a sinner, or even worse, a Gentile. Yeah, that's them. And so Jesus is telling this story to try to change how they think about righteousness, about God and about sin.
Verse 28, "But he was angry and he would not go in. Therefore, his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years'"-- By the way, I'm reading from a modern translation, pretty easy language. You're all familiar with it. As soon as this jerk starts talking, he sounds like he's Shakespeare. What is up with that? "Lo, these many years, I have served you." He's being melodramatic is the point. All right.
"Lo, these many years, I have been serving you and never transgressed your commandments at any time. And yet, you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you kill the fatted calf for him."
The older son is angry at two people. He's angry at the father and he's angry at the prodigal son. His accusationing at the father is, you never gave me anything, and yet you brought out the fatted calf who has one job, to get fat and be delicious, and you brought it out for this guy. And he's angry at the prodigal son. Do you notice that he says, "This son of yours," not, "My brother." "This son of yours." that's how angry he is.
He's just like, really? He ruined your life. He took all your money. What about punishment? What about retribution? I don't get it. See, his priorities and his perspective are all wrong. He's thinking about himself and he's thinking about the prodigal son devouring his dad's livelihood. He's saying, hey, he made you poor because of his actions.
And the Pharisees had the same problem. They're focused on their own righteous deeds, their own self-righteousness, and focused on the sins of others. Remember that story that Jesus told where the Pharisee prays in the temple, and sees the sinner behind him, and says, God, thank you I'm not that man. They're worried about themselves and the sins of others.
Verse 31, "And he said to him, 'Son, you were always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is now alive again. He was lost and is found.'" He addresses both complaints. "I never gave you anything. All that I have is yours. Just ask."
And I love this. He says, I wasn't made poor by your brother's return. I was made richer. I lost half my family that day, and now we're whole again. I'm the richest man on the planet. I've gained my son back.
You see, with the older son, and by extension, the Pharisees, couldn't see was at the father's forgiveness and compassion. And I think many times as Christians, we get off on this track a little bit. We can be obedient to God's commands, but yet our attitudes can be out of harmony with God's heart. You see, His heart is filled with compassion towards sinners and the lost, and rejoices when they finally come to themselves and come home.
Now, you may have noticed we have come to the end of our chapter. And I like to think at this point in the story, Jesus looked at the Pharisees and was like, do you get it? Do you hear me? Hoping for a response while they shuffled their feet and mumbled something about, I think I hear my mom calling me, and they leave.
And so they don't give a response. So now it falls to us, thousands of years later, reading this story. We get to have an answer, or response. And I want to ask you some good questions here, some good diagnostic questions. Because perhaps your heart's been pricked tonight as we read these, and you realize, oh, I know which one I am in this story.
And diagnostic questions are great because they're like the dashboard on the front of your car. If a light goes off on the dashboard, what does that mean? There's a problem, right. Now, you don't fix the problem by just covering the light. Maybe you do, I don't. That means there's a great indicator here that something else is wrong and I got to fix it. So I want to ask you some good diagnostic questions so you can maybe discover what's wrong, or what's going on what God is speaking to you right now.
Perhaps you resonate with the older son. Maybe you found that your spirit is being more and more judgmental, more and more concerned about your own reputation and your own righteousness than the people around you. You're more focused on that than the desperate spiritual need of others.
Do you find yourself encountering someone who is trapped in their sin, who's been ravaged by their sin, and all you can think is good, I'm glad I'm not them? Or is your heart like God's heart? How can I help? How can I share the gospel with this person? How can I step in and be an agent of grace in their lives? Well, the father today is inviting you to rejoice with Him when sinners repent.
Maybe you resonate more with the prodigal son. Maybe you're a Christian, but you've messed up. You've been wasting your life and the blessings that God gives you on selfish pursuits. You can come back tonight. You can do like the prodigal son did. Come to yourself. Turn away from your sin, from your folly, and find that the father is waiting, arms open wide, wanting to forgive all those who want to be forgiven.
Maybe you're trying to be a slave instead of a son. You're trying to work your way back into God's graces. You know you've been forgiven intellectually, but you still have that weight of condemnation on your shoulders. Let me ask you a question. If you've been forgiven, what right do you have to condemn yourself? Why carry that weight? God's already taken it away. No one condemns you but you. He loves you. You're accepted. You're forgiven. Your valuable to God, and He loves you.
Maybe you've never had a relationship with Christ. You've never had a relation with the father. You've never had this forgiveness that we've been talking about. And you long to be forgiven, to have a father that loves you. You can.
Now, you might be thinking, Jason, it can't be that easy. You don't know where I've been. You don't know what I've done. You don't know how long it's been that I've wished for someone to rescue me. You're right, I don't know. I know how bad I was. I know what I went through, and He forgave me.
A while back, we did a series here called "Jesus Loves People." And one of them was Jesus loves the murderers/ and we showed a film on the screen of a guy who spent all almost all of his 20s and all of his 30s in prison for murder.
He's a friend of mine and my wife's. And we were able to set the interview up for Calvary here before we even lived here, because that man tried to kill his parents and succeeded with one of them for the inheritance money. And went to prison, and in prison, found Christ, and came out of prison a completely different, changed man.
When he told me one day that was his story, I was like, no, come on. Pull the other one. Really? Like, there's no way. There's no way you would think that guy was a convicted murderer. He's so different. He's watched our kids before. You know what I'm saying? He is different. God can change anyone. God can forgive the worst sin. It doesn't matter what you've done. It's what he's done. He died for all sin so that you can be forgiven.
Romans 10:9, "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Let me take you back to 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, He is reliable and right to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Guys, let's pray. God, I pray for those who are here tonight. Lord, for some who maybe realized that they are like one of these sons. That they need their heart to be like Yours, or they need to turn and come to you, God. Or that they need to be forgiven, because they've never had that forgiveness. God, I pray that You would continue to prick those hearts, to reveal to them as You hoped to reveal to the people who heard this story originally what Your heart's like, Your desire to offer and extend forgiveness.
Lord, You said You came to seek and to save those who are lost. And God, there are some here there are lost today. Lord, You're seeking them. Lord, I remember when I was being pursued by You, by Your Holy Spirit. As one Scottish author said, "the hound of heaven," and boy, is that right. Chase tonight, God, chase.
While you're still praying. I want to ask just if this is you, if you find yourself resonating with one of those two sons, the judgemental older son that needs to change, have a change of heart, the younger prodigal son who needs to come to God, if that's you tonight, just raise your hand so I can know what you're going through. I can pray for you. Just lift it up so we can know. No one else is looking. Everyone else has got their eyes closed.
I see you there in the back by the sound booth. Anybody else? You're just lifting your hand and saying, God, I need it. Right here in the front, over there on the side, thank you. God bless you. God, I need to be changed. I need to come home. God, I need this burden off of my shoulders. I know You've forgive me. I need to feel free. I see you there in the back on the left-hand side in the family room, the balcony, God bless you.
God, I pray for these who have raised their hands, have acknowledged, hey, this is me. I need a change. I need to be forgiven. I need to return to you, God. God, give them strength. Give them courage. Give them an encounter with You tonight. Jesus' name we pray, amen.
I'm going to ask you guys to stand if you would, please. The band's back on stage and we're going to sing just a short chorus of a song to finish out. But for those who raised your hands, I'm going to ask you now while the band's playing to come on down here. Get out of your seat. Walk down here. You've already acknowledged to yourself and to God that you have a need that you want to be changed, you want to be forgiven. Now, do something about it. Don't just stand there.
You come down here. Say, God, help me. Let us pray for you. Let us help you. The band's going to play and you come.
[MUSIC - "NO LONGER SLAVES"]
(SINGING) I've been born again into Your family. Your blood flows through my veins. I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God. I'm no longer a slave to fear because I am a child of God. I'm no longer a slave to fear because I am a child of God.
No one's going to judge you. The Bible says that the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents. One sinner comes to him, we are as happy as that Father to see sons coming home. We're going to sing one more time. A little bit of time for you. You come on down here. Let us pray for you. Let us help you make this change.
(SINGING) I'm no longer a slave to fear because I am a child of God. I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.
Well, let's not waste any more time. I'm going to pray. I'm going to ask you guys to repeat after me. As you may know, there's nothing special about this prayer. It's not magic words. It's just guiding you through this process. Amen.
The most important thing here is that you are genuine about this, that you really mean what you're praying. You know that God is hearing you. This is the whole purpose that you came here tonight was for this moment right now. Pray after me.
God, forgive me.
God, forgive me.
I'm a sinner.
I'm a sinner.
I want to change.
I want to change.
Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin.
Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin.
That I could be forgiven and have new life.
That I could be forgiven and have new life.
Thank You for having me in Your family.
Thank You for having me in Your family.
In Jesus' name we pray.
In Jesus' name we pray.
Everybody said, amen. Awesome.
What binds us together is devotion to worshipping 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.