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This Christmas

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Looking at why we should choose grace for our lives

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This Christmas Choose Grace
Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here — given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast — barbecued beef! — because he has him home safe and sound.’ The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours — but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”
As we begin this new series – our theme is “This Christmas” –
In other words – let’s do something this holiday season that will make This Christmas different!In putting together our list This Christmas (checking it twice) let’s be INTENTIONAL IN OUR CHOOSING by asking for things that will impact our lives -- our families -- our city – like never before!
Our text today tells the story of a young man that opted to leave home and his Father, taking with him his
• In short order he wasted it and ended up empty handed
• While experiencing the consequences of the choices he made in a pig pen, he decided to change his mind and go back home
• Thinking he would be harshly received and incriminated because of his bad behavior, he decided he would only ask to be made a ‘slave’ on his father’s farm
Instead of being criticized and rejected, his father ran towards him, kissed him, gave him the family robes of honor, a signet ring, new shoes and announced they were having a party!
• When his older brother came home, he was not happy! The father had to explain – all that I have is yours -- you could have it at any time !!
This parable is often referred to as the “Prodigal Son”
• Prodigal = wasteful
o Picture of God’s heart towards us when we have wasted resources / potential / opportunities!
o Story was told in response to the Pharisees criticism of Jesus eating with sinners
As they watched him dine with people they did not think were WORTHY, their superior attitudes revealed their hearts and – they became offended at His generosity (goodness and grace) toward those deemed ‘LESS THAN’ !
This message is for every person that has been told – you are not worthy – or who has been made to feel less than … because you ____________ (wasted your opportunity, blew a marriage that you never took serious, lost a job, or wasted $1000’s unwisely … or you’ve simply been ‘wasted’)
In these next few minutes I want you to see God’s goodness towards, demonstrated in His amazing GRACE!
Instead of living under condemnation … pointing of the finger … and judgment – choose grace This Christmas!
This young man personified two areas of human failure that encompass all sin – independence and indulgence!
Independence – whether through ignorance or self will, it is the pursuit of a life without consideration of or consultation from God
The insistence of ‘doing it MY way’
Often demonstrated at greater levels the MORE SUCCESSFUL a person becomes!
The greatest test of character is SUCCESS
Indulgence – yielding to cravings just because you want to (want what I want when I want it) – it may be wrong and you know it, but your desire for it allows you to overlook the potential consequence
There are many ways to sell out – miss the mark – but most are subtle in their origin! Appears to be innocent!
C.S. Lewis – wrote the Screwtape Letters during WW2 and the world was being ravaged by the
consequences of evil indulgences – said,
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the one with a gentle downward slope, no sudden turnings, no milestones, without signpost [to know where you are]”!
o Most people don’t suddenly cross the boundary lines in their life (‘sudden turns’)
o Rather it is the first compromise that makes it easier for the second and then third!
taking a deduction you shouldn’t on your taxes … become a little too close to someone at work even though you are married -- Nothing ‘happened’ but yet deep in your heart & EMOTIONS you knew something did happen!!
Friends – we can overcome the tricks of the enemy -- Recognizing them is half the battle
Independent spirit – do it my way or elseIndulgences – satisfy my lust … desires at whatever cost (ie – ask for his inheritance)
The Awesome thing – the Father stands ready to FORGIVE our greatest failures!!
Can you imagine what was going on in the sons’ mind as he was heading home?
The ‘reasons’ he was going to give to his Father
The ‘begging’ he was prepared to do?
Here is an incredible picture:
THE Boy headed home -- anxious about what to say to explain how he wasted what he was given
Our tendency is to explain in order to negotiate for acceptance
God’s heart is – just RETURN TO ME!
ACT 3:19“Repent and return …”
JAMES 4:8“Draw near to Me …”
The Father is not ‘milking’ your return – making you squirm in guilt for as long as possible!
HE COMES ‘running toward you’ -- ‘arms open wide’
Should we not give the same GRACE to those who have offended us?
As the son starts his ‘speech’ – the father interrupts him with his own announcement:
BOY – “starting his speech said, ‘I’ve sinned … I’m not worthy, deserving to be your son”
“But the father was not listening. He was calling to the servants get new clothes, bring the family ring, put sandals on his feet and get the grain-fed heifer and roast it. We are going to feast”
This Christmas let’s not be a part of the religious world that answers God’s amazing grace with – “Yeah, but”
Yeah, but ____________
They will never be trusted again
They will never recover from this
Wonder how many are sitting here today saying – that’s me! I know I’m forgiven, but I have no expectation of recovering what I’ve lost!
I’m been diminished by my failure and reduced in my expectation!
CELEBRATING the righteousness, provision, identity and authority that has been PROVIDED
for us through Christ!!
This story began with Pharisees angry that Jesus ‘ate with sinners’ and now ends with ‘elder brother’ angry that a sinner came home!
If we look close we will find the reason –
V. 29“All these many years I have served you”
His anger was based in the reality of how he viewed his relationship with his father – performed a service
If you want to frustrate someone that believes they ‘EARN ’ God’s favor – show them His grace in action!
• There are people – MAYBE in this room – WHO refuse to celebrate other people’s victories – their breakthroughs – or their blessings because they believe it DIMINISHES THEIR PLACE!
It is right to celebrate -- We all need His grace …
Pride will keep you from believing that ‘you’ need anything
Failure will keep you from believing you can ‘be’ anything
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