On Nov 30, Pastor John preached from Luke 15:11-32, Joy Over the Lost Who are Found . The Pharisees were upset because Jesus ate with “ tax collectors and sinners.” He responds with 3 parables illustrating the joy when lost sinners are saved. Our text is the 3d parable in that set, the parable of the prodigal son(s). It highlights the depth of human depravity, and the depth of God’s tender mercy and compassion for the lost, and the joy there is when lost sinners are found—the spiritually dead are made alive by the power of God’s grace and made to partake of the feast of heaven forever. The key idea of the text: God has compassion for the lost and joyfully embraces the one who repents, and so must we. 4 points:
1. The rebellion of the lost
a. In vv. 11-12 the younger son (represents tax collectors/sinners) asked for his inheritance. Such a request was shameful as he basically wished his father dead. Violates 5th commandment. But the father divides inheritance: this son takes his portion; goes to a land steeped in sin, known because he feeds pigs (unclean). We see here the destitute spiritual condition of the son. The root of sin = rebellion. Dig deeper: Greg Gilbert: “Sin is the rejection of God Himself—a repudiation of God’s rule, God’s care, God’s authority, and God’s right to command those to whom He gave life… it is the rebellion of the creature against His Creator.”
b. He “squanders everything on reckless living.” We’re familiar with movie stars who squander riches and end up penniless. Sin says, “Come, go for the gusto, you only live once!” But the ends thereof are death (see Prov 9:13-18). Dig deeper: Are you listening to the voice of folly? Run away and turn to Christ who died on the cross for sins and rose from the dead to conquer sin and to give you true life, and that more abundantly.
c. He squanders everything, famine hits, so he “hires himself out to one of the citizens of that country.” He is disgraced—basically becomes the property of a pagan man in a pagan land (we are slaves to sin). Ends up feeding pigs—a picture of the covenant curses in Dt 27-28 falling upon him. Pigs are fed, he goes hungry: pigs more valuable than he was! Dig deeper: 1) Sin devalues human life. People want to save the whales, but support the slaughter of unborn babies. Such is the insanity of sin. 2) Sin starves us spiritually and leaves us in the pigpen of shame and guilt before God with no hope in and of ourselves.
2. The repentance of the lost
a. In vv. 17-19 he came to senses—sorrowful, crushed under the weight of his sin and shame and decides to confess his sins against God and his father. He leaves the pigpen and goes to his fathers house. Dig deeper: True repentance has 2 parts 1) True sorrow over sin; 2) Renounce/turn from sin to God. As a Christian, do you hate and war against your sin?
b. What caused him to come to his senses? For someone enslaved to sin, there’s no such thing as “rock bottom”—there’s just a bottomless pit of rebellion. Dig deeper: Only God provides the bottom to the pit and stops the fall. Rock bottom isn’t about the bad things happening outside of you. It’s about you being awakened to the bad things inside of you. He came to himself by God’s grace: God breathed life into his dead soul and awakened him to his condition, and at that moment the son says “I’m filthy! Father, I’m sorry! Save me! I’m getting out of here and running to you!”
3. The restoration of the lost
a. The father has compassion for the son and doesn’t wait for the son to wipe the filth—shame—from himself. The father embraces and kisses him and has him clothed in the royal robes of sonship. The shame (nakedness, disgrace, dishonor, and defilement) is in the past, and it is left there. He was lost, but is found, was dead, but is alive! Now there’s a feast!
b. Pictures Gospel: John 3:16 - God so loved those in the pigpen of rebellion covered in the stench of sin, that Jesus came to the far country of this sinful world to go to the cross, where He who knew no sin was smothered in the putrid slop of our sin so that whoever believes could have everlasting life! God clothes us in the royal robes of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and there is joy in heaven, and we are let into the feast of heaven forever!
4. The reaction to the lost
a. The older brother reacts in anger. The temptation is to think that the older son is not as rebellious as the younger son. But he was self righteous and condemns anyone who doesn’t measure up to it. His heart is just as foul, his sin just as odious before God—he was just as lost and dead in sin and an object of God’s wrath. But he was blind to his condition.
b. Dig deeper: We see good, law abiding citizens who love their kids, do good in the community, etc. But talk to them about Jesus, and they say “no thanks.” They compare themselves to others—drunkards, drug addicts, prostitutes and pimps—and think they’ll be fine when they stand before God. C.S. Lewis puts it well: “The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin…The ancient man approached God…as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.”
Conclusion: These sons are a picture of us all. On this 1st Sunday in Advent, may we give thanks to God who loves and takes joy in saving rebellious sinners like us, and may we have compassion for the lost! Let us each day remember we were once in the pigpen, covered in the filth of the shame and guilt of our sin, but God has poured out His mercy upon us in Christ so that we can enjoy the never ending feast that is God’s presence forever!