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Sunday, September 19, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the Lost: Part Three"

“Jesus and the Lost (Part Three)” 
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
September 19, 2010
Luke 15:25-32

This is the third and last message in Luke 15 that we’re calling, “Jesus and the Lost.”

In Luke 15, Jesus tells 3 parables, 3 stories with a similar pattern:

Something valuable is lost.
Someone conducts a desperate search.
And when it’s found, there is a celebration.

Lost, Search, Found, Party.
Lost, Search, Found, Party.
Lost, Search, Found, Party.

In the first story, it was a sheep.
In the second story, it was a coin.

In the third story, which we started last week, it was a SON that was lost.

We call him, “the Prodigal son.”

You remember the story. 

A man had two sons.  The younger one was greedy and mean and spiteful and would rather his father was dead.

So, he asked his father to give him his part of his inheritance and took off and squandered it in a far country with wild living.

And then when the money was all gone, he hit the very bottom.  A Jew among pigs.

And he repented.  He came to his senses and went home to ask for forgiveness and to become a hired hand.

But his Father had been searching all along and RAN (ran!) to the son and embraced him and threw a great big party.  The son was lost but now was found.

And this story tells us about God’s amazing grace and the Father’s love for the lost.

But the story doesn’t end in verse 24.  We stopped there last week, but the story goes on.

There is not just 1 son, there is 2.  It was the younger son who went away.

The older son had remained. And it is to this Older Son that we now turn today.

Let’s begin reading at verse 25.

[scripture reading, prayer]
                   
Now before we get into the details of this story, we have to remember something important. What is it?

Verses 1 and 2.

We’ve been learning that verses 1 and 2 of chapter 15 tell us whom Jesus was telling these stories to. And they tell us why Jesus was telling these particular stories about lost things being found.

Whom was Jesus talking to?  Let’s go back up and read verses 1 and 2 again.

“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him. [Black hats, right?  These are the Trash, the Scum, the Despised. The Bad Guys.]  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law [Yeah, the White Hats!  The Good Guys, the Morally Upright, the Clean.] muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

Two groups.  The black hats and the white hats.

And this story was for both of them.

Because each was represented by a son.

What kind of hat did the younger son wear?  A black one, right?

He was the lost.  He was the sinner.  Despicable, reprehensible, ugly, mean, self-centered–bad.

The younger son was a bad guy.

What do you think that makes the other son?

He’s the good guy, right?  The white hat guy.

When the prodigal comes home, the older son is where?  V.25

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.”

He was working!  Of course he was.  This was the good son. This was the son that didn’t leave. This was the son that worked hard for the Father.

He comes in from working and hears the party getting started.  V.25 again.

“When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.”

“Hey you, what is going on here?  What’s all the commotion?  Why the party?  I wasn’t told about any party.”  V.27

“'Your brother has come,' [the servant] replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'”

“It’s the greatest thing!  Your Dad is having a party for your brother.  He’s back!”

...Now, how would you have felt if you were that older brother?

I guess it depends on how much you have the heart of your father...

This son gets angry.  V.28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.”

Isn’t that interesting?

He got angry and refused to join the party.

“No way. I’m not going to that party!”

And the son that had been an outsider is now an insider.

But the son that had supposedly been an insider is now outside.

Do you see that?

He’s angry.

And remember, he’s the white hat guy standing for the Pharisees and the Bible professors of verse 2.  They were angrily muttering, “This Jesus welcomes and sinners and eats with them.  Ugh.”

I’m sure that they could see themselves in Jesus’ story.  And they didn’t like what they were hearing.

Now, notice this.  The Father comes outside to talk with the son.  V.28 again.

“So his father went out and pleaded with him.”

I never noticed this before.  How many times have I read this stor, and I never noticed the Father taking the initiative to go out to the older brother.  There is another search going on here.  A search for the lost.

I’ve been amazed that the Father runs to the younger brother.  But I’ve never noticed that the Father loves the older brother, too, and goes out to him.

He has compassion on those who are OUTSIDE.  Because the Older Son is acting lost right now, too.

The Father comes out and pleads with the Older Son to come in.  “Join the party! Come on, Son. Join the party!”  V.29

“But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'”

What do you hear?

I hear harsh anger.
I hear green-eyed jealousy.
I hear a great sense of injustice.

“This isn’t fair!  I’ve been a white hat. And this is thanks I get?  Haven’t I earned a little more respect?  Where is the justice?  This isn’t fair!”

Notice that this man has disowned his brother.  He calls him, “This son of yours,” not “this brother of mine.”

He’s killed him off in his own mind. 

“Where has all the money gone, Dad?  We once had a great thing going here, and this son of yours took off with 1/3 of all of it. And it’s gone.  It’s gone!

He spent it on women and who knows what?

This isn’t fair!”

The father responds in verse 31.

“‘'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

The father is as gentle as the son was harsh.

And he doesn’t deny that’s unfair.  But it’s got to be. Because it’s grace. And because it’s love.

No, it’s not fair.  It’s grace.  And it’s love!

“‘'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to [had to!] celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

And that’s the heart of the Father.

Now, what happened next?

What happened next in the story?

What does verse 33 say?

Made you look!  There is no verse 33.  This story is a cliffhanger.

We don’t know what happened next.

Why is that?

In verse 7 and in verse 10, Jesus gave us the point.

But in verse 32, he just leaves the story hanging there.

It’s a cliff hanger ending, and it forces the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to make a choice.

Will they come in and share the Father’s joy?
Will they celebrate with the Father when the lost are found?
Will they join the party?

Or will they just continue to mutter in anger?

This story also forces us to respond ourselves.

Let me give you three points of application to consider today.

I think they are all part of what the Father is calling us to do as he pleads with us to come inside and join the party.

#1.  TURN AWAY FROM TRUSTING IN YOUR OWN GOODNESS.

I think that’s the heart of the older son’s problem. 
It’s the Pharisees’ problem.
It’s the scribes’ problem.

It’s the problem of the legalist.

The white hats had gotten prideful at being white hats.

They were putting their confidence in their good works, good deeds, and clean living.

The Older brother was dutifully working in the fields.
The Older brother had (in his mind) “slaved” for the Father and never disobeyed his orders.

And he had begun to feel that the Father owed him.

That his works had earned him some favor with the Father.

But that’s not how it works.

If you are going to work for a wage, that’s a different kind of relationship than Father/Son.

And that’s not how Christianity works either.

Christianity is not about following the rules and earning God’s favor.

Hear this.  Christianity (at its heart) is not about being good.

It’s about being loved.

It’s not about impressing God with your obedience.

It’s not about earning God’s respect and goodwill.

It’s not about keeping your nose clean and living right.

Not at its heart.

At the heart of Christianity is a love relationship.

A Father/Son relationship.

Where we don’t trust in our goodness.

We trust in His love for us expressed in the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We need to turn away from trusting in our own goodness and humble ourselves and turn to Jesus.

Humble yourself and turn to Jesus.

I think we all have this problem of trusting in our own goodness.

For some it issues into pride.

I would guess that a number of us here have that temptation.

Because we are pretty good people.  We come from good families.  We’re law abiding citizens.  We go to church regularly. [The older brother never missed church!] We don’t cheat on our taxes. We don’t go out and party.

We’re pretty good people.  Not like “those people.”  Not like the Muslims. Not like the illegal immigrants.  Not like the “druggies.”  Not like the Trash.

We’re pretty good people and God should be happy to have us on his team.

Now, we wouldn’t say that, but that’s what’s going on in our hearts when we get all huffy and judgmental and angry, isn’t it?

When we get to muttering.

Humble yourself and turn to Jesus.

Now, you might not be overly prideful and still have this temptation to trust in your own goodness.

I would imagine that a significant number of us are tempted to despair about this.

We’re tempted to think that God wants us to earn his favor by being good, and we’re failing at it.

That’s legalism, too.

A performance based relationship.

I came across this “Hymn of the Legalist” this week.

It’s called “Jesus Paid It Some.”

    I hear the Savior say,
    “You’re not doing enough;
    Work your fingers to the bone,
    I will save those who are tough.”
   
    Jesus paid it some
    I will do the rest
    Sin had left a crimson stain
    Now I will give my best
   
    For now indeed I’ll try
    To earn your love and grace
    I’ll add the works I have
    To complete the price you paid.
   
    REFRAIN
   
    And when before the throne
    I’ll give my deeds to you,
    I’ll hope I’ve done enough
    To make you let me through.
   
    REFRAIN (3x just to be sure)

Is that the way it works?

That’s how we are tempted to think.

But that’s not Christianity.

That’s legalism. That’s Pharisee-ism.  That’s not the gospel.

Humble yourself, turn from trusting in your own goodness and turn to Jesus and put your trust in Him.

That’s Christianity.

It will turn your life upside down.  It will make you want to be good!

It will turn your black hat white.  But you won’t be trusting in it.

You’ll be trusting that “Jesus Paid It All.”

“Sin had left a crimson stain, HE washed it white as snow.”

And that will humble us and change how we think about others.

We’ll realize what kind of grace we have been shown, and we’ll want to pass it on others.

And it will change our relationship with the Father so that we have great joy.

That’s point #2. 

#2.  REJOICE THAT YOU BELONG TO THE FATHER.


Notice in verse 31 how the Father pleads with the Older son.

He says, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

And he thinks that that should convince the older son to join the party.

“You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

That is, if you are really my son.

This older son was beginning to look like outsider.  And was, perhaps, going to prove himself never to really have been a son.

Certainly most of the Pharisees were not really sons of God the Father, not in the ultimate sense.

But to those who are, this is everything.  Everything.

Remember: “Everything I have is yours!”

This is the Father speaking: “Everything I have is yours!”

For those who are sons and daughters of God, we have everything.

The Apostle Paul says it this way in Ephesians 1: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

“Everything I have is yours!”

And that changes everything.

When we realize that we don’t have to impress the Father with our hard work, we just have to trust in His and rest in His love, then we can rejoice and live new kinds of lives.

Grace brings joy.

I remember one time when I “got this” like had never gotten it before.

I was having a prayer time in my room at Moody Bible Institute, and the Holy Spirit gave me through prayer and time in the Word a real sense of His magnitude and His love.

And I was overwhelmed with this truth, and it emblazoned on my mind:

“God is real and big, and He loves me.”

“Everything I have is yours.”

That’s why this Older Son should join the party.

“C’mon in.  Everything I have is yours.  This party is yours, too.”

And even this other son of mine is yours.

Did you see that in verse 32?  The Father won’t let the older son disown his younger brother, “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

That’s point #3.

#3.  GET THE FATHER’S HEART FOR THE LOST.

Coming back into the party means sharing the heart of the Father for repentant sinners.

For returning sons.

Get the Father’s heart for the lost.

And that means, practically speaking, two things:

Search and Celebrate.

That’s what Jesus has been driving at with all 3 of these stories.

The joy of the Father is in the finding of the lost.

He “has” to celebrate.  That’s His very nature.

He is a searching Father.

He is a celebrating Father.

And if we want to be a part of what God is doing, we will search and celebrate, too.

Are you a part of the search party?

Who are you searching for?

Who are you praying for?

Who are you talking to about Jesus?

We can’t just stand on the sidelines and mutter.  We have to go after them.

Yesterday, a bunch of guys met at the Pumpkin House to plan men’s activities for the Fall.

Do you know why we do that?  Not because we just like to get guys together.

It’s because we are on a hunt for the Lost.

Our Father searches for the Lost and so do we.

Are you a part of the search party?

Are you a part of the celebration party?

Are you celebrating those who have been returned to the Father?

Are you joining with Jesus in the joy of the lost being found?

Or would you rather that some people just not get found, thank you very much?

Have you ever thought, “Boy, it would be really hard for that person to become a Christian.”

Harder than for you?

Because you’re a better person?

No, it was amazing that you and I were found.  Even if we didn’t seem like we had gone very far.  Even if we were the Older Brother.

God came out to us in Jesus and found us, and brought us in.

We need to join the party and do the same for others.

Search and Celebrate.
Search and Celebrate.
Search and Celebrate.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate with 10 baptisms in the next few months
 just because we’ve been faithful to search and then get to celebrate?

May we gain the Father’s heart for the Lost.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom

Jesus and the Lost: Part Two

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