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Finding the Heart of God

Finding the Heart of God through the Prodigal Son  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Prodigal Son

What you just watched, was a dramatic account of a story that Jesus used to illustrate a message. Jesus often taught using stories, one of these stories was called the parable of the prodigal son. Before we read the story, I want to set the scene. Here’s the passage in Luke which sets the scene in which Jesus decides to share this story. Let’s read it together:
Luke 15:1–2 NASB95
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus was an attractive, and charismatic teacher. He attracted people who wanted to hear truth, and people who wanted to pick apart and persecute His message. While I’m not in any way comparing myself to Jesus, I do know what it is like to have people come to listen to you, just to gather intel to feed to people who are enemies of God. Jesus had all kinds of people interested in listening to what He had to say.
So now that we understand the context of people who were in the crowd, let’s read the story Jesus decided to tell to illustrate the point He was making at that moment.
Luke 15:11–32 NASB95
And He said, “A man had two sons. “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” ’ “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. “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.’ “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’ ”
There is so much to dissect in this, let’s start with the description assigned in later years to describe this story. Prodigal. It means, Recklessly extravagant, or having spent everything. It’s an adjective. Jesus is telling a story of two sons, one who is reckless and extravagant, and another, who is moralistic and loyal. Today, and perhaps for the next week or so, I will show you how both are sinful.
For this series I’m going to rely heavily on the book, The prodigal God, by Timothy Keller. It is available in our bookstore, it is also available as an audio book. Check it out, Reverend Keller illustrates a new look on the parable not always recognized, but clearly what Jesus had in mind when He told this story. Here are some truths Reverend Keller relays:

Gospel over Religion

Religion operates on the principle that people should obey, and therefore become accepted by God. Conversely, the gospel of Jesus operates on the principle that we are accepted because of what Jesus has done for us, and therefore we obey in order to become more like Him.

Religion, is NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ

Because God never designed, nor did He want a system of bondage, but rather a system where people who lived in Him, would have hearts who didn’t sin to begin with...

Faith is not designed to be drudgery

Morality and religion…is just as much of a sin, as immorality and irreligion in this story. Jesus wants us to need Him.

Jesus is not our boss

In this story, the elder brother obeys simply to get the blessing. Elder brother types, who are captured by the moralistic and legalistic trappings of religion, are just as wrong as the people who are sinful and ignoring God’s will for our lives. People who do good things, for the wrong reasons…are just as wrong as people who ignore God and His ways. Jesus is not our boss, He is our savior.

Jesus is our Savior

Without Him, we are nothing. No amount of moralistic posturing, will atone for our shortcomings.

Both the Good & the Bad, are lost

All are equal… none of us are better than any other. Why is it that we think that drinking too much on occasion is somehow better than prostitution? Why is it that we think that

Don’t get captured by legalism

Let us not be captured by legalism. In this coming week, I encourage all of you to real Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32. Become familiar with the story Jesus told, as I’ll draw upon this illustration next week as well. There are illustrations to be drawn from the father, the elder son, and the younger son.
Look to Jesus, not religious leaders, to define your path.
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