11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Many people will say that the most important question in life is “Do you believe in God?” But the greater question is “What kind of God do you believe in?” I fear that there is something far worse than being an atheist and that is believing in God, but having a misguided concept of Him. There are a multitude of religions in the world each presenting us with a different picture of God, many of which contain a grain of truth. After all a stopped clock is right twice a day, but a broken clock is actually worse than no clock because what it gives you is misleading information. You can believe in God, but if you have a false conception of God, what are you really believing in? When Jesus Christ came to earth he presented us with a pure picture of who God the Father really is. In Luke 15, He paints three pictures using parables giving us a portrait of the character and nature of God. It’s here that we see the story of lost sheep, the lost coin, and the story of the lost son. The last story is the one that is often referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son, yet the key figure in the parable is the faithful Father. You see what Jesus was teaching here has more to do with the Father and His forgiveness. It is really the parable of the forgiving Father, Jesus was revealing who His Father was. It’s not enough to believe in God you need to believe in the real God, the one that Jesus came and showed us. It is here in this parable that we see clearly the true character of God and where we learn several key truths about Him. First He
- Regrets your rebellion
In the parable the younger son demanded that his father give him an inheritance early. Basically this younger son came and said to his dad, “I know you’re going to die someday, and I can’t wait so give me what I want now.” You see the younger son chose riches over a relationship, he wanted the fathers fortune but not the father. I am sure the father was wounded by the words of his son, yet he granted his ungracious demand. I wonder what the Father went through and what assets he had to liquidate to be able to give his son the money? As soon as the son has what he wants he runs after what riches can buy, failing to see the richness he has in family. You see this son chose the far country over the father. He is the perfect example of a rebellious, disrespectful child, who behaving acted like a brat and broke the father’s heart. We see here that God is a loving Father who will let us walk away from fellowship with Him even though it breaks His heart. I believe that the prodigal son represents those who have a relationship with God and as such teaches us an incredibly powerful principle, while you can break fellowship with the Father you cannot sever your relationship with Him. You see the whole time that the prodigal was away he was still a son, even though he had left the favor of his father. When we are saved God establishes an eternal love relationship with us. He is your Father and nothing you do will ever change that. But if we chose to rebel and run the Father will let us. While He will never leave us if we chose to walk out of fellowship with Him He will let us go. God loves you so much that He will never force you to remain in fellowship. If you are determined to do something as foolish as walk out on the Father He won’t stop you, that is why many find themselves in a mess. We have a God He who doesn’t coerce obedience and loyalty from us because He wants us to love Him freely. God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from eating the fruit or King David from committing adultery with Bathsheba for the same reason that the Father didn’t fling himself across the door and tell the son he couldn’t leave, because it’s not the nature of God. He loves you so much that He allows you to make choices even though He knows the outcome and consequences of those choices. Some of you are parents of adult prodigals and you understand the pain that the Father feels when His children walk out on Him. But just like the father you don’t want their love to be forced you want it to flow freely. It’s here in the parable of the prodigal that we see the greatness of God’s grace. There is a story told about a conference on comparative religions, where experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating various possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus all about?” He asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s Grace.” The Buddhist eightfold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law, each of these offers a way to earn approval. It is only Christianity that dares to make God’s love unconditional. Jesus understood our human tendency to resistance the truth about God’s grace that is why He talked about it so often and so freely. You see we are accustomed to finding a catch in every promise, but here in Jesus story of extravagant grace there is no catch, there is no loophole that disqualifies us from God’s love. So let me ask you, “what kind of God do you believe in?”