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There's No Place Like Home

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THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Luke 15:11–24

By: Pastor Dave W. Poissant

The parable in this passage helps us to focus on the character and nature of the God of the Bible. It’s usually called the parable of the Prodigal Son but I prefer to call it the parable of A Loving Father. Jesus uses this story to teach us about the character and nature of His Father. It’s no good to believe in God if you believe in the wrong character of God. You can know what God is like by how He responds to a rebellious son in this parable.

Now I want to tell you some things that I know most of you teenagers will enjoy. It’s called “Seven Things You’ll never hear your father say”:

7. I notice all your friends have a hostile attitude–I like that!

6. Well now that you’re 13, Princess, I want you to start dating older guys.

5. No son of mine is going to live under this roof without an earring!

4. Why do you want to get a job? I’ve got plenty of money for you to spend!

3. Your mother and I are going away for the weekend–you might want to consider throwing a party.

2. Here’s my credit card and the keys to my car–now, GO CRAZY!

1. Well, looks like I’m lost–I guess I’ll have to stop and ask for directions!

One thing you’ll never hear your Heavenly Father say is “If you walk away from Me; you can never come back.” Instead, God is a loving Heavenly Father. He loves you so much, you are free to walk out of fellowship with Him–He won’t stop you. He will run to meet you more than halfway if you decide to return to Him. And He says when you repent; He will treat you as if you never left.

Today, we are going to look at the parable again–this time from the perspective of the rebellious son. I want us to read it from The Message paraphrase:

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.

What a great story! In just a few short words, Jesus shows us the selfishness and sinfulness of a rebellious son. Charles Dickens once wrote about this parable, “The Prodigal Son is the finest short story ever written.”

It’s more than just a splendid short story, however. It’s a story that touches all of us at different points. Some of you are the parents of Prodigals and you are feeling the pain of the father. Others of you are like the son who has wandered away from fellowship with the father. Still, others of you won’t like to admit it, but you are exactly like the older brother, but, we’ll discuss that another time.

In this message, we’ll examine the steps of the rebellious son. We can learn about the steps that took him and you away from God and the steps that will take you back to God.

I. STEPS YOU TAKE AWAY FROM GOD’S BLESSING

The younger son didn’t just wake up one morning in the pig pen. He ended up there by making a series of bad choices and taking a series of bad steps. Remember, he was always a child of his father, but he placed himself in a position where the benefits of his father’s resources didn’t help him anymore. Once you become a child of God, that relationship cannot be cancelled. However, you can disobey your Father and rebel against His will break fellowship with Him. When you do this, you put yourself in a place where the blessings and benefits of knowing God are no longer yours. If you can identify these bad steps it may help you determine if you need to come back to your Father.

1. THE FIRST STEP IS A RESTLESS ATTITUDE

You can summarized in the statement, “No fun!” The younger son experienced what all young people feel at one time or another:

-> He got bored, bored with his family and with life and he had the urge to experience the “real world.” He wasn’t having enough fun. This restless spirit caused the son to demand his inheritance and leave home once he got the money. He thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, so he had a desire to be “out on his own.” The grass is greener on the other side of the fence–but can you afford the water bill!

This restless attitude resides in each of us. It goes by different names. In marriage, it’s sometimes called “the seven-year itch” although it itches long before and long after the seven year mark. I’ve heard husbands and wives speak of feeling “trapped.” They want out because they are afraid they are going to miss out on some pleasure or experience by staying in their boring, old marriage. I don’t think any husband or wife just wakes up one morning and decides they are going to be unfaithful or they are going to leave their mate–it always begins with this uncomfortable feeling of restlessness.

Restlessness is the feeling we are missing out on the fun. You can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden and discover this human hunger is what got us in trouble in the first place. Satan told Eve there was a tree, a fruit, a taste she was missing out on. If God was so good, why was He making her miss that taste? It worked.

We all have this tendency. Over 200 years ago, the hymn writer, Robert Robinson spoke for all of us when he wrote: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” You need to recognize this dangerous feeling of a restless attitude and resist it like any other temptation. Think about the pain and suffering the younger son would have missed if he had seen this attitude as dangerous and resisted it before he left home. There would be a lot less grief and pain if you could recognize this restlessness and resist it. It’s like a monster in a cage–as long as you keep it in the cage, all it can do is roar at you. But if you let it out of the cage, you are headed for heartache.

2. THE NEXT DOWNWARD STEP IS RECKLESS LIVING

The younger son let the monster out of the cage, and he was off in a flash. He was tired of his dad’s old rules, so he decided to live by a new philosophy: NO RULES! The Bible simply says “he wasted all his money on wild living.” If he were living today he would probably bought a flashy new car, new clothes, and headed to the hot spots to party hard. He would turned the IPod up full blast singing, “I’m free! Free riding!” He had a pocketful of money, so now it was party time! Can’t you see the bright lights, the loud music and the late nights? He was going to have fun, fun, fun, ‘till his daddy took his T-bird away–and his daddy wasn’t anywhere around. He ate, he drank, and he laughed. In verse 30 the older brother accused him of spending all his money on prostitutes. As long as he was buying the booze, he had plenty of friends!

Finally, he was free! Back home, there had always been rules. His dad had told him some things were wrong and some things were right. Now, he decided “If it feels good–it’s right. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s wrong.” He had his own golden rule–he who has the gold makes his own rules! He was having the time of his life…that is until he ran out of money.

Some of you have walked away from your heavenly Father because you think you can have more fun following your rules than by following God’s rules. The Bible says there is “pleasure in sin for a season.” That means sin’s pleasure is only temporary–sometimes only momentary. Yeah, there’s the drunken party, but there’s always the hangover. Yeah, there’s the snort of cocaine, but there’s always the habit that grabs you. Sure, there’s the free sex, but there’s the unwanted pregnancy and the disease.

Sin is like a lure fishermen use to entice a big old bass. If you just throw a big, bare hook in the water, no bass is going to eat that. But if it looks pretty, shiny, and resembles something yummy to eat, that old fish will gobble it up. He opens his big mouth expecting a tasty meal, and instead gets the hook–what a surprise! Satan always baits his hooks with the most attractive, tempting bait. But whereas the big-mouthed bass finds the hook right away, Satan will play with you for a long time–weeks and months–before he sets the hook. Is that how you’re living your life or want to live? No rules?

3. THE THIRD STEP AWAY FROM GOD IS A RUINED LIFE

When his money ran out, all the friends all disappeared. He finds himself in the mud and the manure of a pig pen, starving to death. He had tried it all and now he was singing a new song, “I can’t get no satisfaction! And I tried and I tried and I tried”

That’s the problem with sin. It never truly satisfies. If you get one high, or one thrill, soon that’s not enough so you want something stronger and more thrilling. Sin never satisfies and it eventually leads to suffering. When Jesus added the detail of the son wallowing in the pig pen, we probably just thought “gross.” But remember, to the Jews, a pig was a ceremonially unclean animal. I can imagine there was an audible gasp from the crowd when Jesus mentioned the boy was living with pigs and wanting to eat their food. It didn’t get any worse than that! He had reached rock bottom. The pig pen represents the ugly, putrid, hideous nature of sin.

He set out to be free, but he soon became enslaved to his own sinful appetites. When you run away from God and live a life of sinful disobedience, you may think you’re free, but you are a slave to your own sin.

Not Even a Hint : Guarding Your Heart Against Lust
By Joshua Harris

I was reading a book by Joshua Harris' "not even a hint: guarding your heart against lust" and I just came across this little story I felt was so good I had to share it.
This is the true story of Raynald III, a duke who lived during the fourteenth century. "His sad life illustrates how giving into our lustful desires- the very thing we equate with freedom- actually robs us of freedom and true joy.
Raynald iii had lived a life of indulgence and was extremely overweight. In fact, he was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means 'fat'.
After a violent quarrel, Raynald's younger brother, Edward, led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead he built a room around him in the Niewkerk castle and promised him he could regain his freedom as soon as he was able to leave the room.
This wouldn't have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald's size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent him a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way to freedom, Raynald grew fatter. He stayed in the room for ten years, till his brother died in battle. But by then his health was so ruined that he died within a year- a prisoner of his own appetite.
Many men and women today are prisoners to their appetite for lust. Like Raynald, they look free, maybe even happy. They're doing what they want. They're doing what feels good. But the sad truth is that every bite of lust's delicacies they take only makes them more of a prisoner. When we indulge in a life of sin and do whatever feels good, we're not free. We're slaves to our sin."

That’s how sin ruins you–you become a slave to it. That which had pleasure at the first soon becomes a prison cell at last.

                                                                                                                 

There is an immutable law of God that says if you sow sin and disobedience you will reap a bumper crop of suffering. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he WILL harvest.”

Through the years, I’ve known hundreds of Prodigals. They are teenagers and adults who had a loving relationship with God, but they allowed restlessness, and reckless living to enter their lives. They walked away from God’s blessings and they end up a mess that they didn’t want to be in. Some of them are still there, and others have come back home to the Father. Now that’s the good news: you can come back home. You don’t have to wait until you are in the pig pen either. At any time, you can decide to return to the blessing and fellowship with your Heavenly Father. Here’s how.

II. STEPS TO RETURN HOME TO GOD

If you have wandered away from God and allowed sin to take control of your life, it’s not hopeless. The son took three specific steps to return to his father and these are the same three steps you need to take to return to your heavenly Father.

1. STEP ONE IS TO REALIZE!

In verse 17 Jesus said, “He came to his senses.” This is the turning point of the parable. Before you can return to God, you must first realize that you are in a mess without Him. Come on, let’s climb down in that pig pen with the son for a minute. Excuse me Porky, oh, hi, Babe–loved your movie. There’s our boy–covered with the slimy mud and mess of the pig pen. He is so hungry, he is tempted to eat the pig food, but he can’t even eat, because the owner of the pigs won’t allow it. He is being treated worse than the pigs. Finally, when he is about as low as you can get, a light comes on in his head. “Click!” Suddenly he looks around and sees himself for who he really is. He looks down and is repulsed by his own filth and dirt. Sin had blinded his eyes, but once the light of realization came on, he could see his life was a real mess. He reached the POINT OF TOTAL DESPERATION. He says, “I don’t belong here. I’m made for something better than this. I’m tired of sin, I’m tired of slop; I’m tired of these chains. I want to go home. I want to see my daddy. I miss my mamma’s food. I want to go home.”

God meets people when they realize that they are at the P.O.T.D. Before he reached the P.O.T.D., he was proud. His attitude was: “I’ll never go crawling back to my dad and admit I was wrong. I’d sooner die in this pig pen than admit I was wrong.” When you get to the P.O.T.D., you stop denying your problem, and you get humble in a hurry.

The only way you can approach God is in humility. King David was a child of God, but he walked away from God’s rules and committed adultery and murder. He hid it for a long time, but finally came to his P.O.T.D., and he repented. He broke down and wept before God and asked Him to please forgive him of his wicked behavior. This once proud king was a broken, humble man. He makes a powerful observation in the middle of his own brokenness. In Psalm 51:17 he said, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Let me ask you: What is it going to take for the light bulb to come on in your mind? You may be thinking, “Oh, it’s not so bad for me right now. I’m not really a committed Christian, but I want to go to heaven when I die. But I’m a long way from the pig pen.” That may be true, but you don’t have to wait until you’re P.O.T.D. to turn to your Father. Be smart, and come to your senses today and run home to your Father.

2. THE SECOND STEP on the road back home is repent!

You see after he realized the shame of his situation, the next thing the prodigal son said was, “I have sinned.” In verse 18, he admitted his rebellion was a sin against God. That is what the Bible calls, confession. We find that confession and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Confession always comes before repentance. When you confess your sins you aren’t notifying God of what you have done–He already knows thet. Confession happens when you agree with God your behavior is sinful, and at the same time you show a measure of remorse and regret over your sin. That is what we hear in his statement, “I have sinned against heaven.”

The next thing, he is willing to go to his father he say he was wrong. All sin is against God but it must be confessed to God, and some sin is against another person and must be confessed to that person. The scope of confession should be as large as the scope of the sin–and no larger. You don’t have to go confess your sin to me unless you have sinned against me. This sin was against his father, so that’s why he was willing to include his father in the scope of his confession.

Do you see any change in son? At the beginning of this story, he was saying, “Give me, give me, give me. I want you to give me my inheritance, and give me my freedom.” After repenting he was saying, “Please make me, make me as one of your hired servants.”  That is what real repentance is.

But true repentance is not just admitting you are in the pig pen, it means that you leaving the pig pen. Repentance involves a lot more than just feeling regret or remorse over your sin, it means being willing to walk away from your sin and walk back toward God. Repentance means not only changing your mind about your behavior but also being willing to change your behavior.

Jesus doesn’t condemn sin, but He demands repentance. Do you remember the woman who was caught in the act of adultery who was brought before Jesus? They were all ready to stone her to death as the law commanded. But, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” It was a matter of minutes and they all dropped their rocks and left. Jesus was left alone with the woman. He forgave her and sent her on her way with this charge: “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Jesus is quick to forgive, but He requires a willingness to repent. I ask, are you willing to admit to God your life is a mess? Are you willing to walk away from your sin? Then you are ready to take the final step back to God.

3. RETURN!

After he came to his senses, and admitted his sin, he was ready for the final step. He said in verse 18, “I will go back.” Two of the most powerful words in the human language are, “I will.” It was by this act of his will that he decided to demand his inheritance to run away from home, and it was by an act of his will he decided to get out of pig pen and go back home. He didn’t say, “I’m going to send a text message to my dad to come get me.” NO, he knew, he and only he alone could walk out of the mess and back toward his home.

Can you just picture him? He was prancing and strutting when he left home, but now he was weak, thin, dirty, and humbled. I bet that trip home took a lot longer than the trip away from home. But I also bet that he had one thought on his mind–his home, his father. I can just imagine him limping along, down that dusty road singing, “I’ve wandered far away from God; now I’m coming home. The paths of sin, too long I’ve trod; now Lord, I’m coming home. I’ve wasted many precious years; now I’m coming home; I now repent with bitter tears; Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home; coming home; never more to roam; Open wide your arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.”

And that’s what he found when he got home. His dad came running down the road and he opened wide his arms of love and hugged and kissed him. He put a robe on his back, not just any rode but a robe of many colors, and a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. He had a fatted calf killed and they began to celebrate.

That’s how God will respond to you today if you’ll come home to Him. He is inviting you to return to Him. That’s really the theme of the entire Bible. God is saying to a lost and sinful humanity, “I love you I want you to return home.” Listen to His Word in Joel 2:13: “Rend your heart not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.”

What do you need today? Do you need to come home to God? Do you remember in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was right about one thing: “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.” Today you may be a child of God who has wandered for years or maybe just days. But–it’s time to return home. If you need a church home today, we are the Body of Christ, and we open wide our arms to you. Are you tired of wandering alone? Are you weary and tired of being weary and tired? Jesus said, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Will you come home today?

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