Come Home to God
Come Home for Christmas Part 2 of 3
December 17, 2006
What this tells us about God
- God is patient enough to ________________________
“…While he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him…” Luke 15: 20
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
- God is passionate enough to ________________________
“… he RAN to his son!” Luke 15:20
“…threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
“The Lord is loving toward all He has made.” Psalm 145:17 (NIV)
- God is forgiving enough to ________________________
“I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9:9 (NIV)
Part 3of 3 Dec 24, 2006 Make it personal
1. Come ________________________
“When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death…” Luke 15:17
“Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is time is running out. Wake up…” Romans 13:11 (NLT)
2. Come ________________________
“…and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned…’” Luke 15:18
“People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)
3. Come ________________________
“…I will set out and go back to my father…” Luke 15:18
“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence, assured of his glad welcome.” Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)
4. Come ________________________
"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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15: 22-24
“Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins – making us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 (TLB)
Come Home to God
Come home for Christmas Part 2 of 3
December 17, 2006
Last week: We looked at Three steps we can take this Christmas. We can stop. We can look. And we can listen.
Application: Ask God each day to open opportunities to make a difference for Him and for the courage to follow through, to gently encourage someone on their journey towards God.
This morning, we’re continuing on the theme: “Come Home for Christmas”. The word “home” is a very powerful word. Home for me represents incredible memories, but it also reminds me that a home is a temporary place. We do a lot to our homes to make them look nice and make them feel comfortable but a home is very temporary. Today as we talk about “Come Home for Christmas” we’re talking about something that is eternal. Come home for Christmas is about having a relational connection with the God who is eternal. It’s a picture of the closeness between you and God. That’s what coming home means. It means being close and connected to God. Maybe it’s for the first time for some of you; maybe for others it’s a reconnect.
You say, Why listen? Because life works best when you’re connected to God, when you’re close to God. So no matter what your temporary situation is in life or you feel like it is right now, today, you can come home.
The truth is, I think many of us who are here want to be close or closer to God. I really believe that.
The story I read earlier is probably the most famous story of all in the Bible. It’s a story that Jesus told and it’s about the greatest homecoming ever. We call it the Prodigal Son. As Jesus was telling this story He was talking to two types of people.
The first type were tax collectors and notorious sinners.
The other people that were listening were referred to as religious.
The story is about a father and his two sons. The younger son does something really wild and radical. The younger son says, “Dad, I want half of my inheritance now.” Which, in reality, is saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead!” If you have teenagers, you can relate to that. The dad does something even more radical. He gives it to him.
As Jesus is telling this story what He’s doing is trying to paint a picture of what God is like. So the father in the story represents God. And the boys in the story represent you and I. So the father gives him the money and the Bible says he goes away “to a distant land”. In that distant land he wastes all of his money on foolish living. It depends on what Bible translation you are reading. Foolish living… riotous living… unwise living… parties and prostitutes… however you translate it, it’s bad. He wastes the money.
At the time he runs out of money a famine hits. Isn’t that like life? When it rains, it pours. Some of it is because of our own doing – he wasted the money. And some of it we have no control over – the famine. He’s in such a bad situation. He doesn’t even contemplate going home because he knows he’s brought such shame against his family. So he tries to get a job. The only place he can get a job is feeding pigs.
As Jesus tells this story He understands His audience. He understands the Jewish people that He’s talking to. A pig is considered unclean. The fact that this boy would go get a job working with pigs, Jesus is saying the guy has hit rock bottom. Lower than low.
In the story Jesus says “When the boy finally came to his senses he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have enough food to spare and here I am dying of hunger. [In other translations it says “In great need”.] I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Please take me as a hired man.”’ So he returned home to his father.” How many of you have ever blown it so badly you’ve had to apologize in a big way? If you’ve ever had to do that you know what this boy was doing when he was walking home. Remember he was in a distant land – he had a long walk. What was he doing? Rehearsing! He was working it out.
Here’s the part that always gets me. “While he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion he ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” The father is representing God. He sees his son coming. Filled with love and compassion that his son is coming home he runs to him and embraces and kisses him. As he does that the son can’t even get out his apology: “Dad, I’m ….”
The father turns to the servants and says: “We’re throwing a party! Get me a robe for my son. Put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet. Kill the best calf we’ve got. We are going to party! My son is home!”
Wouldn’t that be great if the story ended there? But it doesn’t. The party is going on but there’s another son in the story. The other son is out working and he sees the commotion and hears the nose and begins to walk up to the house and says, “What’s going on inside?” One of the servants says, “There’s a big party. Your brother’s back. Your dad’s throwing a party. He killed the best calf. We’re eating big! Come on in?”
And you know what the response of the brother was? Anger. Jealousy. Can you relate to that? Somebody gets something that you don’t get. Somebody else is getting the blessing that you don’t get.
I’ve read this a thousand times. But as I studied the story this week, it hit me for the very first time. This father went outside to the other boy. He didn’t have to go very far. He just went outside. But he went to him! Here’s a picture of God the Father running to the lost son and going outside for the disconnected. In both cases the father went to them.
Listen what he says: “Dear son, you and I are very close. Everything I have is yours. [Can you even imagine God would say to us “Everything I have is yours. My power is available to you. My presence is available to you.”] We had to celebrate this happy day for your brother was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and now he is found.”
Jesus tells this story and in doing so He’s trying to paint a picture of the caricature of God and there are three things about God’s character that I think it’s important for us to understand as we talk about coming home to God and as we ask: What kind of God will we be coming home to? Three things.
1. God is patient enough to not give up.
This story tells us that God is patient enough to not give up. It breaks my heart to hear people say, “I’m so messed up! God doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. You don’t know how many times I’ve walked away from God. So many times I can’t even count. God is done with me.”
The truth is that He’s not. He remains hopeful. Jesus was describing His Father and saying that the father has not given up on the son. He was waiting expectantly, watching the road for him to return. Verse 20 “While he [the son] was still a long way off his father saw him.” Imagine this: the beautiful image of God patiently waiting, watching, enthusiastically hopeful that you and I would return.
And to think that God could be patient with us and not give up on us, blows us away because we’re not like that. God doesn’t have a “How many times do I have to tell you?” attitude.
The Bible says this in 2 Peter 3 “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” “everyone”. He wants everyone to come to repentance. What does “repentance” mean? Repentance is kind of a churchy, theological word that simply means this: Turn around. Come home. He is patient. He wants everybody to come home.
Have any of you seen the movie Forest Gump? At the end of the movie Forest takes Forest Jr on the first day of school to the bus stop. He watches his son get on the bus. Then he says “I’ll be here when you get back.”
Some of us today need to see God in that light. You’re in a distant land or you’ve disconnected and you need to see God; that He’ll be there. He’s waiting patiently. Some of you aren’t runaways but you’ve jumped on a short bus ride called Disconnect. He’s not going to give up on you.
2. The other thing we learn about this story that Jesus told is that God is passionate enough to show extreme love.
A great verse in this story is verse 20 “The father saw him a long way away and he ran to his son.” Circle “he ran”. It’s the only time in the Bible where God is pictured as running. What makes this even more interesting is that in this culture, during this day, men wore robes. So running in a robe, like a long dress, is difficult… from what I’ve be en told. For him to pull that robe up and run with his bare legs showing in that culture was unheard of. It would be like a dad today running down the street in his underwear or something like that. It was just unheard of. But this was extreme love. This dad didn’t care.
Why did he run? Because he was passionate enough to go to extremes to say to his son he loved him regardless of his past. Then it says in verse 20 he threw his arms around him and he kissed him. This is extreme love. He just came out of a pigpen. He throws his arms around him and kisses him.
And notice there is no lecture. He doesn’t say anything about the boy’s past. And in the absence of words he says a lot. In the absence of words he says everything. God communicates in silence. Those of you waiting for God to talk to you before you change, note God speaks in silence. One of the things that I’ve learned is I never have to question whether God loves me or not. In not saying anything, He says everything.
Extreme love doesn’t always need words. You never have to worry whether God’s going to love you or not. Never.
Why that’s so difficult for us to understand is because in life we need reassurance and so we ask all the time “Do you love me?”
We might question whether other people love us or not but you never have to question God’s love. The Bible says in Psalm 145 “The Lord is loving toward all He has made.” He made you. He loves you. He shows it in extreme and passionate ways.
3. The third thing we can know about God based on this story is that God is forgiving enough to accept me.
A lot of people say, “before I come to God I’ve got to stop doing ‘this’ and start doing ‘this’. Basically I’ve got to clean my act up. I’ve got to get it all together.” That’s the same attitude the son had. Verse 21 “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy.” I’m no longer worthy to be your son.
If that describes you, if you’re sitting here today going, “I’m not worthy of that patience. I’m no worthy of that extreme love. I’m not worthy of that forgiveness.” You’re right. You’re not. And neither am I. That’s what blows me away about God’s love. He showers us with patience to change with an extreme love to experience a forgiveness that sets us on a new path.
The son came home and then the father got him cleaned up: let’s get him a robe, let’s get him some sandals, let’s get him a ring, let’s throw a party. God forgives you enough to accept you the way you are but He loves you too much to let you say that way. That’s where the change comes in. That’s the forgiveness that sets us on a new course. Again, this is tough to understand because we don’t forgive people like this. With his forgiveness we’re getting something better than we deserve.
You know what the boy deserved when he came home? He deserved to be an outcast. In Mosaic Law he would even deserve death because he ridiculed his family by what he had done. And what did he get? He got a party.
So we have learned this morning that God is patient with us and never gives up on us. We’ve learned that God is passionate and shows extreme love towards us and thirdly we learned that God is forgiving enough to accept us.
The question we now need to ask is, so what? “Maybe we understand God a little bit better but so what? What does this mean to me? How can I come home? How can I create that closeness with God?”
Since it was Jesus’ story about how to come home and how to get close, next week we’ll look at the second half of ‘Come Home to God’ and we’re going to follow the steps of the son and we’ll ask: What did the son do?
H/F as we approach the celebration of Christmas day when history was changed forever, when your Son and our Lord Jesus was born, we give thanks that he told us in ways and with words that we can understand and relate to, just how much you love us and the lengths to which you were prepared to go to demonstrate that love for us; we who do not deserve it, and Father we are beginning to understand the meaning of grace.