I. Text: Luke 15:11-24
II. Major Objective: Make Godly Oriented Choices in Life.
III. Central Idea of the Text: God offers alternatives to the world’s life style choices.
IV. Subject: God’s Process
V. Thesis and Goal
a. Proposition: God has an alternative path to decision making.
b. Specific Objective: For the Holy Spirit to convict the young people to follow God’s direction for their lives.
First, allow me to thank you for inviting me to this the 2009 Baccalaureate Services. This time next week many if not all of you will be receiving your High School diplomas. In order for this the 2009 graduating class to arrive at this moment many choices had to be made. First, you had to decide whether you would show up for class or not. Second, you had to decide whether to study or not. Third, you had to decide whether to do the minimum to pass or do the work to excel.
Life is full of choices. As you prepare to leave this phase of life behind and move forward your decisions will become more numerous and more difficult. Am I going to go to college or go into a career? What college am I going to go into? What is going to be the driving influence in my chosen life style? Will I choose to stay in the church or go my own way? Is it time for me to look to new friends and associates? What major area of study will I focus on in college? What career do I want to go into? What about my social life; what will it look like? These are just a small number of the choices that await you.
What will you base these decisions on? There was a young man in the New Testament, which was probably about your age, he made some choices and they were not the best. In fact, we don’t even know his name. Yet, we do have an account from Jesus on his choices, outcomes, and eventually, and lessons learned from his experiences. Found in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke we have an account of a young man that believed it was time for him to take what he believed was owed him and depart. This young man does not have a name but he does have a title, his title is the “Prodigal Son.” Many a pastor has focused on the return of the “Prodigal Son.” Tonight I would like to take a few moments and look at this young man’s decision making and apply it to us on this momentous occasion of the baccalaureate of the Class of 2009.
VII. Choices driven by things in your life
Turn with me to Luke 15:11-24. He also said: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
There are three basic sources that drive our decision making. They are (1) our personal abilities and desires, (2) the constraints and pressures of our society, and (3) and our faith.
a. Choices are driven by your personal abilities and desire
First, our choices can be driven by personal abilities and desires. We can see in verse 12 the younger son said to the father, “Father give me…I have coming to me.” The young man desired to receive his inheritance. The Bible doesn’t tell us why the younger son had come to this point in his life. Yet, it can be seen the younger son wanted to leave the family and start a life of his own. The reasoning for this move, sadly to say, was based on his personal desires and hopes to enjoy a life of personal gratification and ungodly living.
You may be asking yourself many of the questions I poised earlier. Some of these are the result of your personal desires. You may be thinking about law school, medical school, or even engineering school. Some of you may be thinking of Bible College while others may be thinking of going into the military, or even going into a craft of some type. Many times it is our personal desires driving these choices. Finally, you may already have some skill such as music, athletics, or even construction that you wish to enhance as part of your personal journey. Yet, there are other driving forces in the choices that lay before us.
b. Choices are driven by the society you live in
Some times our choices are driven by the society we live in. What was the society of the younger son like? Our story begins with the younger son who requests his inheritance. In reality the son was saying to the father, “Why don’t you just go and die?” According to the Torah the younger son receives one half of the older son, meaning one third of the total estate (Deut. 21:17). Second, considering certain maintenance expenses he probably got less than that. The father gave the younger son what he asked for. The younger son liquidated his assets and left for the big city. After the younger son had spent all his wealth on hedonistic living a famine occurred in the big city. The son hired out to a citizen and he was hired to feed the pigs. It is not beyond the idea that the citizen purposely assigned the younger son to feed the pigs hoping this might cause him to come to his senses.
We can see from the story that the younger son exercised his rights within the family and within the society in which he lived. Within our society there are also driving forces leading up to the choices we make. If you choose to go to a college you will encounter people with a different perspective than yours. College professors are known for being very liberal and persuasive. In addition, many of you will leave home to go off to college. You will be relying more on your own decisions than those of your parents. If you go into other fields such as military or skilled crafts you will also encounter people of dubious backgrounds. All these will be driving forces to effect your decisions. But there is one other driving force for your decision making and that is your faith.
c. Choices are driven by your faith
Our faith can be a great source in our decision making. Our faith gives us some absolutes that can be a firm foundation in guiding the decisions we make. The world around us believes there are no absolutes only relative choices. God has given us some absolutes. First Jesus, God’s son, told us that He is the only way to the Father and in turn eternal life (John 14:6). Second, Jesus stated in the Gospel of Matthew we are to love God, love people, and share our faith (Matt. 22:37). Finally, the Apostle Paul told us to consider others more important than ourselves (Rom. 12:3). These are important absolutes to guide our decision making.
An important aspect our faith can guide us in is the reality that this life is not all there is.
Application: If I took a one hundred pound bag of rice and pulled one kernel out and gave it to you that would represent your life here on earth. What is left in the bag represents eternity. The question I ask is, “Which do you think you should focus on?” Of course, the answer would be to focus on what is still in the bag. The same can be said for life’s decisions. Jesus told us to focus on those things that have eternal significance. He said put your mind on those things in heaven where rust cannot destroy them.
Yet, there are some temporary benefits of even bad decisions. They can produce temporary fulfillment.
VIII. Choices can produce temporary fulfillment
First and foremost going along with the general consensus of our society can bring popularity. As tolerant as our society professes to be, in general people don’t like others professing conflicting views. By this point in your life you have experienced what it’s like to be part of the crowd, being in with the majority. Decisions, even bad decisions can bring you popularity, at least until the group decides to change its views.
b. Financial rewards
Decisions can also produce temporary fulfillment through financial rewards. As you make decisions, good or bad, some will bring financial rewards. You may decide to go into a career rather than go to college. You may decide to go into engineering rather than go to Bible College. You may decide to stretch the description of a product in order to sell more. You may decide to stop or reduce your tithing to have more money in your pocket. All these decisions may bring you more income.
c. Personal sense of fulfillment
Another source for decision making is what makes you feel good. In a relativist society in which we live a lot of emphasis is placed on what makes us feel good. This is not a bad source of decision making but if not held in check can cause us to make decisions from a self-centered prospective. If we go back to the comments found in Matthew we are to love God, love people, and share our faith. Let us also remember that God has given each of us certain attributes that can guide us, including both natural and spiritual gifts. Are there alternative methods for making important decisions in our life?
IX. Choices directed by God’s Spirit can produce lasting peace
Let me poise this concept to you, God’s Holy Spirit wants to guide us in our decision making producing lasting peace.
a. He has plans for you to prosper
God has plans to prosper you. The prophet Jeremiah stated, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). God wants to provide you a wonderful life of growth, challenges, and reflection. In addition, Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
b. He has plans to take your burdens and give you peace
Jesus said to his disciples, “Come unto me you who are weary and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Jesus said he gives us peace, not the peace of this world but his peace and that we should not fear or be troubled (John 14:27). God has a plan for your life that is filled with peace and a source of rest in the midst of our trials.
c. He has plans to choose or reject
God has plans for your life if you will allow him to guide you. This is an important point. In our key passage today found in Luke 15 the father did not try and stop the younger son from turning his back on him and leaving. Your heavenly father will not stop you from leaving. Your heavenly father loves you and wants the best for you but it will be up to you to decide whether you will allow him to guide you. Our heavenly father has provided everything you need to be successful in this life but he will not force you to go his way.
Today on this grand occasion of the baccalaureate of the graduating class of 2009 I have taken a few moments out of your journey to admonish you to consider the decisions that are awaiting you. I pointed out the three areas that can drive our decision making. They are our personal desires, the society we live in, and our faith. In addition, I have pointed out the principal stated in the Bible of God’s desire to prosper us but only with our approval. There will be many options for you as you continue in this journey called life. My prayer is that you will allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide you in those decisions. Finally, I offer my heart felt congratulations to the graduates of the class of 2009.