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Evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman recounted a testimony given by a man in one of his meetings. The man said, “I got off at the train depot one day as a tramp. For a year I had begged on the streets. Badly in need of food, I touched a man on the shoulder and said, ‘Mister, please give me a dime.’ As soon as I saw his face, I recognized my aging father.
“Don’t you know me?’ I asked.
Throwing his arms around me, he cried, ‘Oh, my son, I have found you at last! All I have is yours!’
Think of it—I was a tramp who begged for 10 cents from a man I didn’t know was my father, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all he possessed!”
Our Daily Bread, November 12, 1992
There are many people in this world who have turned their back on God and lived a life of sin and even though they feel bad and want to come to the Lord and start fresh, they think God will not forgive them and instead of confessing their sin, they continue in it.
This parable teaches the true meaning of repentance, which is the first evidence of new birth. As I mentioned to you last week, the Lord Jesus began by preaching the gospel of the kingdom saying, "Repent." The first word in the gospel is repent. The first sign, or the first evidence, of true spiritual life is repentance.
Let's look and see how the Lord Jesus, in the parable of the prodigal son, illustrates what true repentance is.
First, there is a change of attitude, there's a change of values, there is a thirst.
"If any man thirst, let him come." How many people in this
day have their affections set on the entertainment and the things of this life? They have no affection for the house of God.
And therefore they are out doing what pleases the flesh. They are willingly walking in the way that leads to eternal destruction.
This word come expresses action! There is no such thing as sit here and wait until it is granted. It expresses action. The prodigal son not only came to himself, he put together a well-planned repentance, and he arose and did it. That is what our Saviour is telling us, "I want to see action. I want you to put your mind and heart to work, get your attitude cleaned up, and I want to create in you a new heart, a new spirit, and a new attitude." It expresses action and implies that the will is put into operation.
The Lord Jesus tells us we must repent, and do you
know what it means to repent? It means that we come to ourselves, in other words, as with the prodigal son. He came to himself, and what did that mean? He got his head pulled together. He pulled his act together.
He started to analyze what a fool he had been. He left his father's house, where there was bread to spare, and here he was feeding upon the husks that the swine were leaving. He came to himself.
Then what happened? A carefully planned repentance was put into action.
“And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
What was the bottom line? A new desire to come back into
service of his father was seen as far better than the life he had.
Now, what stands between you and the Lord? If you are outside, only one thing, and that is a desire to come back into His service, and a well-planned repentance whereby we can come back into the service of God.
Did you know that grace grows? Did you know that our life is like the life of a tree? You can cut a tree down, and count the rings and tell how many years old it is. Do you know why? It grows as long as it's alive.
Our faith, growing in grace, our spiritual life, continues to grow as long as we're alive. So it begins with faith. It begins by being persuaded, like the prodigal son who "came to himself." He said,
"I will arise, I'll go to my father;" he put his faith into action: he arose, and he went to his father. This is where it begins, but watch how it has to grow.
As this spiritual life grows, we grow in harmony,
and we come more and more in harmony with the will of God. Have you ever thought that a person playing the piano for the very first time is able to join the Boston symphony Orchestra?
No, you do some practicing first. You grow in knowledge and in skills, and as you grow in skills, you become more
qualified. As you become qualified through actions, through putting your training into action, you get to where you can play in the symphony. As we grow into maturity, it leads to heavenly harmony.
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a Child of God, the Beloved of God? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me – my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts – and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God.
It's almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God's love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical "No" to God's love. . . . Like Adam's original rebellion . . . it is the rebellion that places me outside the Garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate myself in a "distant country."
from The Return of the Prodigal Son
I want to share with you this morning the Seven R’s Summarizing the Parable of the Prodigal taken from
“Living Dangerously, S. Briscoe, Zondervan, 1968, pp. 59ff”
The most important lesson from the parable comes not from what is been said but rather from what isn't said. In welcoming his wayward son home and restoring his privileges, the father didn't say, "My son who was bad has become good" but rather "My son who was lost is found."
Even in the midst of our very worst rebellion, we can't stop being our Father's children. Like the Prodigal son, we may yield up our privileges for a time but we can never lose our position in the family of God.
The story that was used as an illustration for the Sermon:
There was once a dad who had a three-year-old son named Brandon.
One day, Brandon sees his dad eating chocolate chip cookies in the living room and says to himself, 'Daddy loves chocolate chip cookies with milk. So I'm going to give Daddy a glass of milk.' With that thought Brandon goes into the dining room and drags a chair from the dining room into the kitchen, leaving a trail of scratch marks on the floor.
Brandon climbs up on the chair and hitches himself onto the counter to pull at the cabinet door. Wham! It smashes against the adjacent cabinet door, leaving a gash where the handle hit it. Brandon reaches for a glass, accidentally knocking two others off the shelf. Crash! Tinkle, tinkle! But Brandon doesn't care. He's thinking, 'I'm going to get Daddy some milk!'
Meanwhile, Brandon's dad is watching all this, wondering if he should step in and save the rest of his kitchen. He decides, for the moment, to watch a little more as Brandon scrambles off the chair, dodging the pieces of broken glass, and heads for the refrigerator.
Pulling violently on the refrigerator door, Brandon flings it wide open - and it stays open, of course. Brandon puts the glass on the floor - out of harm's way, supposedly - and grabs, not the little half gallon of milk, but the big gallon container that is full of milk. He rips open the top, pours it in the vicinity of the glass, and even manages to get some milk in the glass. The rest goes all over the floor.
Finally done, Brandon puts the milk carton on the floor and picks up the glass yelling, "Daddy, I got something for you!" He runs into the living room, trips, and spills milk all over the place - the floor, the sofa, his dad.
Brandon stands up and looks around. He sees broken glass, milk everywhere, cabinets open, his dad with milk from his eyebrows to his toes, and starts to cry. Through his tears, he looks up at his dad with that pained expression that says, "What are you going to do to me?"
His dad only smiles. He doesn't see a kid that just destroyed his house. Instead he sees a beautiful little boy whom he loves very much. It doesn't matter what he's done. Brandon's dad stretches his arms out to hold his little boy tight and says, "This is my son!"
When we talk about God as our Father, the kind of father we're talking about is Brandon's father. God is a father who loves us unconditionally, even though we make a real mess of things. Jesus told a similar story about another son who messed up. We call the story "The Prodigal Son." It also could be called "The Parable of the Loving Father" because, just like Brandon's dad, the father in the story threw his arms around his son and said, "This is my son!"
Edited from Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice.