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Today we’re going to read, Luke 15. There’s a famous story in the book of Luke that for centuries has been known as the parable of the prodigal son. It’s a story about a son who takes his father’s inheritance and goes and wastes it and then returns to a forgiving father. But it’s actually a mistake for us to think that it’s actually the story of just one son. It’s actually the tale of two sons. A younger brother and an older brother and Jesus tells this story with both brothers in order that we might compare the two of them.

Prodigal God The Tale of Two Sons – Ps Dan Pappas

In fact, to go a step further, it's actually when we compare the older brother and the younger brother in the story that we actually are led to the radical message that Jesus is leading us to. This is what the Bible says in Luke chapter 15.

Luke 15:11-32 ESV 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Time and Cultural Differences

One of the challenges in reading the Bible is crossing the historical distance between the culture that we're familiar with our 21st century culture and and translating across that historical distance to those who are hearing this for the very first time so what I want to be able to do is to take us on that journey, to hear what they heard when Jesus told the story of these two lost sons.

The Son's Request

The the first thing you've gotta understand about this story is the shocking nature of the son's request. That the son says, give me my share of the estate. At the original hearers would have been amazed at the audacity of the son's claim. It it's almost a detail that's lost on us but it wouldn't have been lost in the first century. That there was nothing wrong with an expectation by this younger son to share in the wealth. There were two sons and therefore the eldest son would have received two thirds of the family estate and the younger brother would have received a third of the estate. But that division only occurred once the father died.

This son is making a request while the dad is still alive. As one historian put it, to ask for the inheritance while the father is still alive is the same as wishing him dead. He's saying, dad, I want your stuff but I don't really want you. To him his father has actually been a means to an end, so he asked while his dad's still alive. Give me what's mine. What's even more shocking than the audacity of the request is actually the response of the father.

The Fathers Response

You've got to remember that the first century is an intensely patriarchal society. As parts of the Middle East still are today. That respect for one's elders was of primary importance. And so the traditional response. Would have been for the father to discipline his son. So to maybe even drive him out of the family home with physical violence. But the father doesn't do in Jesus' story. Instead, the Bible says that he divided his property between them. The word in the Greek for property is the word bios. It means life. Biology is the study of life and so literally, what the scripture is saying is that the father divided his life between them. Wow.

So, why does the story say that? Because the father's estate was actually his land. His wealth was in his land. And so for the father to be able to give a third of his net worth to his son, he would have had to have sold some of his land holdings. Well, in the first century especially that in that day, people's very identity was bound in their land. That's why it was such a significant thing for Israel to be out of the promised land. That there has always been this journey back to the land because their identity is tied to it and so if you lost your land, you lost yourself. If you lost part of your land, then you lost part of your status in the community and so the younger brother is asking the father literally to tear his life apart, to tear his status, and standing in the community. What's amazing is that the father actually does it.

Jesus's listeners have never seen a Middle Eastern patriarch behave in this way. That the father would endure tremendous loss of honour and pain. But it doesn't diminish his love for his son. He maintains his affection and he bears the agony anyway.

The Younger Brother's Sin

So this is the younger brother's plan. But then he will take this inheritance and and he'll go away to a far country and and he'll use it. What actually happens is he squanders it. Eventually he finds himself living amongst pigs and feeding the pigs and he finds himself desiring what the pigs have. You see sin is always fun for a time. But eventually there comes this bony demonic finger that pokes you in the chest and says I know what you've done. And now it's time to pay and that's exactly what happened. There was a time where the way he was living seemed right to him. Where it seemed fun to him. But eventually sin serves the bill. It comes at a price that none of us can pay. He comes up with a plan. I'm going to go home to my dad. I'm going to apologize. I'm going to make this right.

Turning to Home

Notice firstly with his plan that that he decides he's going to go home. That home is actually not primarily a place. It's actually a relationship. Where you're accepted. Why is it that so many people who come to church describe it as coming home. There is nothing familiar necessarily about the building or even about the people or or especially about the songs. Especially if it's your first time in church in forever. But but but there is something familiar about it because home actually describes something for us as humans. It is about a relationship where you're accepted.

The Son's Apology

Notice the second part of his plan that he says I'll go to my father and I'll say I'm not worthy to be called your son. Please make me like one of your hired men. But notice he says hired men and not slave. There's a difference between the two. Servants worked on the estate but they also lived there and they didn't own anything. But hired men were like tradesmen who lived in the local villages and earned a wage on the property. Why does the son say make me like one of your hiredmen and not like a servant? Because he realizes that an apology will not be enough. He realizes he's going to need to earn something because he's got something to pay back here. So apology is not sufficient. He needs to make restitution. So he says make me an apprentice to one of your hired men so that I can begin to pay my debt back to you. What he's really saying is I know that saying sorry is not enough and so this was his plan.

Significance Of Running

He begins to rehearse his speech. He's got a long journey ahead of him. You can imagine him right? Walking along that road all the way back. Thinking to yourself I'm not worthy to be called your son. Please make me like one of your hired men. Dad, I've gotta pay this back and as he's rehearsing the speech, Jesus tells us in the story that while he's still a long way off, the father who's always been watching and always been waiting. Sees him coming from a long way away and he runs to meet his son. Again, this is one of those details that's kind of lost on us in in the 21st century but it's not lost on those that were hearing Jesus tell the story for the first time but because in Middle Eastern culture, men never ran.

Children would and youth would run and sometimes even women would run but it was seen as uncouth for a man to grab the hem of his garment lifted up, exposed his legs and run and so men by nature did not run in community. In fact, certainly not men of great stature or standing in the community, certainly not patriarchs of land owning. The son's totally taken by surprise. So he tries to to deliver his speech but his father ignores it. That the father goes and gets the best robe and puts it on him. This the unmistakable sign of restored standing in the family.

Restored Relationship

In other words, what the father is trying to communicate to the son is I'm not going to wait until you've paid off your debt. I'm not going to wait until you've begged and you've grovelled. I'm not going to wait until you've pleaded. No, no, no, you're not going to earn your way back into this family. I'm simply going to take you back. I'll cover your nakedness. Your poverty and your rags with the office of my honour. Not only does he give him a robe and sandals, but he also gives him a ring.

But which is also significant because in the first century, you didn't do business by signing documents with a lawyer but you did so by using the family crest, the ring to be able to seal those agreements and so really, what the ring represents is the father doesn't just accept him back but he actually gives him the full status of sonship. It's not simply that he forgives him. It's that he restores him back into complete and total right standing. He didn't earn it. He hasn't deserve it. It's an act of absolute grace.

God's Restoration

So the message that Jesus is leading us to is really quite remarkable isn't it? That God's love and God's forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin and wrongdoing. It doesn't matter who you are or where you've been or what you've done. If you would just turn and say yes to Jesus, you'll find a God who is able to forgive and to restore. Not simply to wipe away the past but restore all things. There's no evil that the father's house cannot pardon and cover. There's no sin that cant match the father's grace. It's the grace. It's the lavish prodigal God.

That word prodigal doesn't mean to be wayward. What it actually means is to be a spend thrift. It means to spend and spend and spend until you have nothing left and so in the story, it's not so much that the son was the prodigal but actually that the father was the prodigal because there was no expense that he would spare in order to make things right with his son.

Who Is The Father In The Parable?

Some people are like the younger son. They want the things that the father provides but they don't necessarily want the father. They want the thing that God can give them just so long as they don't have to deal with God himself. They want their independence. They want to be able to live their own way and they believe that doing so will actually bring them happiness. Some of them one day will decide to come home. Because the father in the parable represents God. We're being told no less than nothing can separate you from God. That no matter who you are or where you've been or what you've done, if you come, you'll find a God that loves you and cares for you and wants to forgive you.

We're All A Little Like The Younger Brother

You know, this is for all of us. We're all like the younger brother in some respect. That all of us when we first come to God, say, God, I'm not worthy. I want to earn my way back into your good graces. I'm going to try really hard. I'm going to pull my socks up and God will have none of it. That he gives us the full rights as sons and daughters. That he confers sonship on us even though we've done nothing to deserve it.

Isn't that what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, he says, for he talking about God, made him talking about Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. That is the great exchange.

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

That at the point of the cross, that at the moment of salvation for you and I, that we get to exchange our shame for his righteousness. We get to exchange our brokenness for his power. That all the things that we can't be, Jesus became in order that we might be made right with God. So you don't earn God's righteousness simply receive it. That we're made right not because we are good but because Jesus has been good to us. The truth is, for those of us who've been around church, that's typically where we end the Bible lesson.

Introducing the Older Brother

We imagine that Jesus tells the story so that Evangelists will have something to use in their altar calls for the next 2000 years. But actually, it's at this moment that Jesus introduces a fourth lost thing. Jesus in Luke 15 is answering a question that's being posed by the Pharisees and he starts by telling the story of a lost sheep, then a lost coin, and then a lost son, and right here at the end of Luke 15, he introduces a fourth lost thing, a lost older brother and to understand why Jesus does that, you've got to understand who Jesus is telling the story to.

This is what the scripture says in Luke 15 verse one. Then, all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to him to hear him and the Pharisees and Scribes complained saying, this man receives sinners and eats with him. So, he spoke this parable to them saying, we think of this parable that Jesus tells in the most sentimental terms. We imagine that this is like one of those hallmark moments where everybody is reaching for the Kleenex because it's a beautiful story but actually for those who are hearing this story, they're not reaching for Kleenex, they're not being moved by the story, they're completely offended by what Jesus is saying because Jesus's purpose in telling this parable is not to just give us a moving story.

No, actually, what he's trying to tell us is that everything you've ever heard and everything you've ever thought about how to approach God is actually wrong. Jesus continues in Luke 15:25.

Luke 11:25-32 ESV

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Note how abrasive the older son is to the dad. Luke 15:29, Jesus says, so he answered and said to his father, look, these many years I've been serving you, I've never transgressed your commandments at any time and you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends but as soon as this son of yours came, you'd have, who's devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him. But notice how demeaning he is to his father. He doesn't say father. He doesn't say dad. He says, look here. Let me tell you some things.

Pointing Out Sins of Another

He doesn't even call him his brother. He says, this son of yours, he is trying to distance himself as much as possible and in distancing himself from his brother, he's actually alienating himself from his dad. So he refuses to even recognize his younger brother. In fact, he's the only person in the story who tells us how the younger brother lost his his wealth. He tells us that actually it's because he lived with prostitutes. Isn't it interesting how the older brother is the one who points out the sin the younger brother was in. No one else did. Wow. He was all too aware.

It's funny how we do that, don't we? Well, we compare ourselves among ourselves and we like to point out what's different about the other person. I found that that Elise loves vanilla slice. I don't really care for vanilla slice. I like sticky date pudding. It's funny though. If I'm eating vanilla slice or sticky date pudding, my body doesn't care if it's vanilla slice or sticky date pudding. It will count the calories and add the weight anyway.

Yet, I can sit back and say, I can't believe. I can't believe that she's eating vanilla slice. Well, I'm hoeing into sticky date pudding and yet, this is exactly what the older brother does. He looks down his nose at the younger brother and is all too happy to point out the kind of sin he's involved in. Meanwhile, there's some things that he's involved in but he's less able to point those out. Wow.

The Older Brothers Complaint

He's particularly angry about this whole situation because of what it costs. That's what he's really upset about. He's upset about the fattened calf which is again one of those things that it's like that doesn't make a lot of sense to us. Why is he upset that it's a barbecue? But actually if you were in the first century, you know exactly why he's upset and that's because most meals didn't include meat because meat was very expensive.

In fact, of all the delicacies. The fattened calf was amongst the most expensive. So if a fattened calf was killed it was generally reserved for a really special occasion. It would be for the kind of occasion that you invite the whole village to. It'd be for the kind of occasion like a wedding or something of the rarest of occasions. So why is he so upset? Well this is the greatest day in the father's life.

The eldest son can see that but he actually doesn't care. What does he care about? He cares about the father's things. But he doesn't care about the father. He cares about the estate. He he cares about the father's things but he doesn't really care about the father's heart. He he says to his father, you've never even given me a goat for a party and now you've gone and give the fattened calf to my brother.

The Fathers Response

When the father goes out and pleads with the other son, he says, son, you are always with me and all that I have is yours and that is literally true. That when the younger brother took his third and wasted it, that everything else that remains in the estate does actually and literally belong to the older brother and so why is he upset because he's doing the sums in his mind and he's realizing this is all coming out of my pocket and all he can see is his portion diminishing.

He's adding it all up and he's thinking I've worked hard and I've earned this but my brother he's done absolutely nothing to deserve this. Where's the justice in that? He says to his dad I've never disobeyed you. I deserve to be consulted about this. Will the father respond to the elder brother's open rebellion? Again, he might have disowned his son right there on the spot and yet instead he responds with tenderness.

Essentially, he says, my son, despite how you're treating me, I still want you at the feast. I'm not going to disown your younger brother and I'm not going to disown you either. Come on. Swallow your pride and come and join us. At this moment, Jesus's listeners are on the edge of their seat because how's the story going to be resolved? This is at the climax of the tension in the story. Will the family be restored? Will will the brothers be reconciled? Will the older brother go into the party because he's been softened by the father's offer and just right there, Jesus ends the story.

He doesn't tell us anything more. He ends the story with this dramatic inconclusion. What's Jesus trying to get across? He's trying to get across that there were two boys and one is bad and the other is good but both are alienated from the father. This is not the story of one lost son. It's the story of two lost sons.

Loving the Father

Both want the father's things but they just don't want the father. They're both using the father to get the things they really want which is the wealth and status. One's been doing it by being very very bad. The other's been doing it by being very very good. The two lifestyles are actually more alike than they appear.

Think about this. What did the youngest son want and how did he get it? Well he was trying to get control by leaving and disobeying. Think about this. What did eldest son want and how did he go about getting it? Again, he was trying to get control but by staying and obeying. They're actually their hearts were the same. That each wanted to be in a position where they could tell the father what to do. They just went about doing it by completely different means. That neither son loved the father for himself.

Defining Sin

They loved the father because of what he represented in being able to give them. Jesus is pointing out. You can rebel by breaking the rules. But you can equally rebel by keeping the rules as well. What made Jesus's parable astonishing is that what he was actually doing is he was redefining sin for them. That sin isn't simply failing to keep the rules. You can keep all the rules and still be wrong because you think you have rights. That God owes you because you've earned it because you deserve this.

So the elder brother feels that he has rights. Jesus is pointing out that actually beneath sharply different behavior is actually the exact same motivation. That Jesus shows that a man who's violated virtually nothing on the list can actually be just as lost as the guy who spent all that he had with harlots. Yes. Why? Because sin is not simply breaking the rules. Sin is more than that. Sin is making yourself the saviour.

Jesus doesn't divide the world into good and bad like we do. Jesus says, everyone's lost and everyone's loved and everyone's invited. By contrast, the older brother divides the world into two. The right and the wrong. GK Chesterton posed a question in a newspaper. GK Chesterton wrote to the editorial with the following response. The question was what's wrong with the world and GK Chesterton wrote "Dear Sir's I am" yours sincerely Chesterton. That's the attitude of somebody who's understood the message of Jesus. That there's two kinds of lostness.

"You can escape God as much through immorality and irreligion as you can through morality and religion."

The Older Brothers Heart

That's why Jesus puts the older brother in the parable. That you can escape God as much through immorality and irreligion as you can through morality and religion. There are a lot of Christians with an older brother type of heart. That if you and I as Christians in our hearts say, you know, well, I try very hard and I'm obedient to what God says in his word and you know, I go to church and I serve and I give and I do what I'm asked and therefore, God, you owe it to me. You owe it to me to answer my prayers and to give me a relatively good life and to take me to heaven when I die.

Then Jesus may be your model and he may be your example and he may even be your boss but I tell you what, he's not. He's not your savior because somehow we've tricked ourselves into thinking that if we do these things, then, God ought to save us. Elder brothers obey to get things from God and here's how you can tell when you've crossed that line. Older brothers obey to get things from God and when those things aren't forthcoming, they get very angry. They get very angry with God. Because this is not the way it's supposed to go because I don't deserve this.

While We Were Sinners

As if somehow we're able to save ourselves or earn our way into God's good graces. But the grace of God is such that there's nothing we could do to be able to make God love us more. There's nothing we could do make God love us less. Isn't that what the scripture says? Yes. In Romans 5:8, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that Jesus died for us not once we had gotten it right, not once we had printed ourselves up, not once we had started attending church, but Jesus died for us, while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That means there's nothing we could do to make God love us more. He died for us while we were sinners. But it also means equally there's nothing we could do to make God love us less. Christians who make Jesus their saviour. They obey simply to get God. Just to resemble him. Just to love him. Just to know him. Just to delight in him. It's subtle isn't it? It's subtle in our Christian walk. How easily it is to cross that line. How important it is that we remain listening to God. How important it is that we don't grow cold. We don't grow tired.

The Importance Of Knowing Jesus

Just even being in God's word and letting him shape us. I think one of the most harrowing things that Jesus said in the gospels is where he said, you know what, not everyone who calls me Lord Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. He said, on that day, people will say but we cast out demons in your name and we did this for you, Jesus and we did that and we built great churches and we preach really good sermons and people got saved under our ministries and Jesus will say, yeah. Yeah, but I never knew you.

Why? Because it's possible to go through the motions and be so in the motions, that nothing real is actually transpiring. Christians who make Jesus the Savior rather than trying to earn it themselves, they obey simply to get God just to resemble him, just to love him, just to know him, just to actually delight in him. Suddenly you realize who these two sons represent. They're both sons in the story are wrong. But the story doesn't end on the same note for both of them.

What Happens to the Older Brother?

Jesus is telling the stories to tax collectors and sinners, younger brother types, and to Pharisee and teachers of the law. Older other times. He's helping them to be able to see that actually you can both be wrong. Though you're both wrong, it doesn't end on the same note. That at the end of Jesus's story, he leaves the older brother outside the party. That the lover of prostitutes is saved, but the morally upright man is still lost. You can almost hear, can't you? In the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus tell the story, you can almost hear the religious people gasp. It gets more shocking.

Why does the older brother not go in? Why doesn't he celebrate with the father? He says, because I never disobeyed you. Think about this. The older brother is not losing the father's love in spite of his goodness. He's losing the father's love because of it. It's not his sins that are his problem. It's his moral pride. Why? Because both brothers are equally wrong but not both scenarios are equally dangerous. The younger brother knows that he's not right with God. He knows that he needs to return home. He knows that he's estranged and alienated from the father but the younger brother but the older brother is actually blind. His true condition.

The older brother's response is I do all these things. I do all these things for you. Jesus says it doesn't matter. What was radical about Jesus's message is no one had taught that before. We're talking about a culture where the Pharisees and teachers of the law were the ones to instruct people how they were to come to God. That they would put little boxes with the scriptures on their foreheads in order for it to seep in some way. That they were not only keeping the scriptures, they were over keeping the scriptures.

Sabbath Rules

They'd come up and started inventing all these different rules to apply to the scriptures in order to be able to really keep them. So what the scripture says, maintain the Sabbath, the Pharisees would tell people in order to be able to maintain the Sabbath, here's a list of rules we're going to give you. So on the Sabbath a woman should not look into a mirror because if she looks into a mirror and she sees a grey hair, she maybe tempted to pluck it out and in plucking the hair out, she will have considered doing work and therefore, she will have broken the Sabbath. And on the Sabbath, you shouldn't spit on the ground because if you spit on the ground, it will raise the dust and the raising of the dust will be considered work. Therefore, don't spit on the Sabbath. And they come up with hundreds and hundreds of these rules.

And Jesus is helping them to realize that actually, you think you're making yourself right because you're not looking into mirrors to pluck grey hairs and spit in the ground to raise the dust? You think you're making yourself right with all of that? No. That actually these two brothers actually are representing the two groups of people who are there. What I find fascinating is why would a storyteller as amazing as Jesus finish the story without a conclusion?

Making Our Way Home

Maybe there's a reason for that. He doesn't just want us to compare the two brothers but he also wants us to see ourselves in the story. That we need something that's missing in our lives. That that ultimately Jesus leaves the story open ended because he wants us to see the the real story is how do we make our way home? Whether we're the older brother who's outside the party or whether we're the younger brother who's come to the realization that we're so far from our father's house. How do we make our way home?

Initiating Love

Well Jesus is showing us there's actually three things we need. Firstly we need the initiating love of God. Notice for both brothers. It's the father who goes out. The father runs to meet the son and upon hearing that the elder brother is outside the party, he leaves what he's doing and he goes out and pleads with him. It's the father who initiates. For both the older and the younger brother. Isn't that what the scripture says in 1 John 4:19 that we love God precisely because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Actually there was no way for us to be able to make ourselves right with God. God knowing that there was no way for us to make our way to Him, He made His way to us. How do we come home? Firstly, we need the initiating love of God. Secondly, we need to learn to repent from something besides just our sins. Timothy Keller put it like this, "Christians not only need to repent of their sins but they also need to repent for every reason they ever did anything right".

That's how you transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus as your savior. You know, as I was praying about what to preach, I would love to preach something on breakthrough. I would have loved to preach something on faith. I love preaching on those topics. The last time I was here, I preached on something like that. I found in my own life that often times the greatest turnarounds and breakthroughs don't happen there. They actually are precipitated by something happening here.

An Art Of Repentance

Actually there is an art to repentance that is almost being lost in the church. Because when you remove the idea of sin, you don't have any reason to repent. That almost for the modern church, we've completely lost that word. That we don't want to talk about sin because that's an uncomfortable thing. So, we don't use sin. We just say wrong doings or little mistakes. When you lose the word sin, you also lose the the need to be able to repent for sin at the exact same time.

In the loss of language at the same time we've become so very grace orientated and in the process, I feel that if we lose repentance, we actually end up becoming more gracious than God. I've been in meetings and led things where it's been like we just need to show grace. We just need to show grace. In doing so, we actually are becoming more gracious than God because God's mercy is for every single person. Make no mistake. But there is a big difference between mercy and grace.

The Difference Between Mercy And Grace

There's a massive difference between mercy and grace. Mercy is you not getting the thing you deserved. But grace is different to mercy. Because whilst mercy is you not getting what you deserve. Grace is you getting the very thing you never deserved.

What Is Mercy?

Think about it like this. If I was playing cricket in the backyard with my son and and he hit the ball over the fence and he broke the neighbor's window. It would be merciful of my neighbor when we go over and say, hey, look, we're really sorry we broke the window. We'll fix it. It's our fault. It's our mistake. It would be merciful if my neighbor to say, hey, do you know you've broken the window but that's okay. You don't need to pay for it. I will pay for it. That would be merciful. Because we deserve to pay for the window we've broken. But we're not getting the thing we deserve. Therefore, that's merciful.

What is Grace?

Grace is more than mercy. Grace is you getting the thing you never deserved. If we hit the ball over the fence and it broke the window and went over and said, hey, we're really sorry, we broke the window and and the neighbor said, you know what? It's totally fine. You don't need to pay for it. I will pay for it. Hey, and by the way, I want to give you a new car. I'll be like, is there anything else you want me to break in your house? Is there anything else in here that you want broken?

Why? It's merciful for me not to get what I deserve but it's gracious for me to get the very thing I never deserved. God's mercy, make no mistake, is for every single person without exception. It's the mercy of God that affords us the time in order to be able to repent. Upon repentance, God gives us his grace which is the very thing we never deserved. It's the full transfer of sonship. It's that righteousness of Christ that we haven't earned or deserved. It's that empowerment to do what the truth of God's word demands of us to be able to do.

That's the grace of God but when we give grace without repentance, we become more gracious than God. If God gave grace without repentance and every person is saved and every person is going to heaven. While God's mercy is for every person, God's grace follows repentance.

How do we come home?

  1. We need the initiating love of God
  2. We need to learn to repent and not just to repent for the things that we've done wrong but to repent for all the things we've ever put ourself in the position of savior for
  3. We need to be grateful for what it cost to bring us home

That's what Jesus is pointing out here. In Luke 15, Jesus actually tells three stories in a row and he tells them because the Pharisees were saying, why does Jesus hang around with tax collectors and sinners? In response to their question, Jesus tells them, these three stories. He tells them the parable of the lost sheep. That the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of the one. He tells the parable of the lost coin where the woman turns her house upside down searching for the lost coin and then he tells the parable of the lost son and the shepherd goes after the sheep and the woman turns her house upside down to go after the coin but in the parable of the lost son, no one goes after the lost son. Why?

Who's Responsibility Is It?

Because Jesus is trying to get us to ask the question, who should have gone after the younger brother? Whose responsibility was it? Well, everybody who's listening to Jesus tell the story in the first century knows precisely whose responsibility it was. It was the older brother's responsibility.

Why was the older brother always given a double portion of the inheritance? Precisely so that he would have the means to be able to make the family a family. He was given the extra resource not because he was more favored but actually because it fell on the eldest son to have the responsibility of making the family a family. If something happened in the future if a brother or someone was to die. He would have to take responsibility for his brother's wife and children, he would have the means to be able to make that possible.

So those who are listening know exactly who's responsibility it was. It was the older brother's responsibility. A good older brother would have said to his father, my younger brother is lost. He's gone off and his life is in ruins. Please dad, let me go and search for him and bring him home. Even if it cost me great expense, let me do this to keep our family together.

We need a true older brother. Who though it cost him greatly would come and find us and take us home. There is a true and better older brother. His name is Jesus. Jesus puts a bad older brother in the story in order that we might long for a better one. There is an older brother who loved and obeyed the father completely. He was spotless and sinless in every way. There is an older brother who came from heaven to earth and loved God with all of his heart and with all of his soul and with all of his mind and with all of his strength and he loved his neighbor as himself.

He earned everything. He owned the robe and he owned the ring. At the cross Jesus gets stripped. He doesn't get a royal robe. He gets stripped. He doesn't the fat and calf, he gets vinegar, and he doesn't get a ring of honor. He gets a crown of thorns, and we are clothed with righteousness because he was stripped in shame and we received the ring and the robe because he gave those things up for us. Isn't that what Paul says? Philippians 2 that he didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped and yet he laid aside.

Philippians 2:6 ESV who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

In order that we might receive and so Jesus puts a bad older brother in the story to make us long for a good one. We don't just need an older brother who would go to the next town to bring us home. We need the kind of older brother who would cross heaven to earth to come and find us and restore us back in the right relationship. We don't need an older brother who'd be willing to use the expense account in his wallet. No, we need a kind of older brother who would spend no expense even his own life to make us right with the father.

Maybe you're listening to or reading this message today and even as I'm preaching, you're hearing the story but you're sensing it's got more to do with you than with those who are hearing it 2000 years ago. Maybe you've never been to church before. And you think, you know what? I'm a lot like that younger brother. I've gone off and I've I've lived my own DIY style of life and and I've come to the realization that this doesn't actually work the way I thought it was going to. It was fun for a time but it comes with all these other things that I wasn't expecting and you've come to this point of saying, you know what, I don't even know if I'm worthy of God.

But I can tell you that if you're even in the in the slither of doubt that God loves you, that God cares for you, that God hasn't been watching on the horizon for the moment that you might just even turn, that there is, that you're only ever one prayer away from God.

You might feel like you've gone a million miles from him and yet you might close your eyes and pray and in one moment realize that though you have walked away from him, God has never walked away from you. That's important to understand because sometimes when we think of the holiness of God, we think that it means that God, because he is holy, will have nothing to do with us but that's not true.

It Wasn't God Who Turned His Back

What Isaiah says is that our sins have separated us from God, not that it separated God from us. In other words, when sin severed the relationship for humanity with God, it wasn't God who turned his back because he is holy. It is us who ran away because of our shame. That God always remained in the place of relationship. God always remain with arms out stretched.

Isn't that true for what happened to Adam and Eve? That when God came to walk with them in the cool of the evening, he wasn't trying to avoid them because he was holy. In fact, what he was trying to do is restore relationship with them. It was they who ran and hid. Not God who ran and hid.

That actually what Jesus shows us in the Old Testament, the Old Testament people believed that they couldn't touch anything that was unclean because the unclean thing was so powerful that he make the holy thing unclean. But Jesus shows us that that actually for the new covenant people for you and I, believers in Jesus, that it's not the unclean thing that has the power to change the clean thing. It's the clean thing that has the power to change the unclean thing. That actually, I'm completely broken but Jesus is able to touch me and change me. That it's not my sin that has an effect on him. It's his power that has an effect on me.

Or maybe you're sitting here and you're thinking, you know what? I don't know that I've ever really identified with that part of the story but even as you're speaking, I'm finding myself identifying with an older brother. There have been times in my life where well, to be honest, I've gotten really angry with God and and maybe it's precisely because I think he owes me something.

That somehow I've fallen into this trap of thinking that I can earn my way to him. That I deserve something from God. It is never been your goodness that's made you good enough for God. You're not saved because you're good. None of us can be that good. Even when we try and compare our goodness, right? Like when compare to other people.

As a kid growing up, I always thought I was better than my brother and I am better than my brother but that's a different thing, right? That when we put ourselves into that scale, we always tip the scales in our favor. I am basically a good person. I'm nothing like Hitler. Not so much like Mother Teresa but I do feel like I'm better than Hitler.

When we find ourselves starting to do that, we're actually trying to exchange seats with Jesus. We're trying to put ourselves in the position of savior, a position that we are not fit to be able to fulfill. Sometimes it evidences itself in us being cruel with other people who are not like us. Sometimes it evidences itself in being really angry with God because we don't we don't get from him what we think we deserve. But all of it points back to the same root cause. That actually we just need God because he's God and we're just made right not because we are particularly good but because he is and that doesn't mean that we think less of ourselves.

No, God thinks we're so worthwhile. He sent his son for us. We also don't esteem ourselves more than we should. Isn't that what Paul says? He says, if I was to boast in anything, I boast in Christ. He's a guy who's the greatest teacher. Writes two thirds of the New Testament, the guy who studied under the great Pharisees of his time that he could go into any Jewish room and have a conversation and be the smartest guy in the room. He can go into any Gentile room and start talking to people and was clearly the smartest guy there.

There was times where the Gentiles saw him speaking. They thought he was a god and he says, I'm the chief of all sinners. I don't get any of that stuff. If I'm to boast in anything it's God simply to get God. So, would you pray right now where you are reading or listening that this would actually reorientate us back to Jesus.

Guest Ps Dan Pappas

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