Jump Start # 2542
Luke 15:20 “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.”
Our verse today comes from the wonderful story we know as The Prodigal Son. This story hits home and it ought to. It’s our story. It’s a story that is played out in most congregations and in many homes every year. Rebellious and arrogant that young prodigal left home with wild ideas dancing in his head. He needed the inheritance to fulfill his dreams. He demanded and it was given to him. Reckless, irresponsible and foolish, he lost all the inheritance. Hopeless and helpless, he fell so far that he was wanting to eat what dirty pigs were eating.
He came to his senses. He remembered. His father was good. His father was generous. His father may let him back if he were to be a servant. The demanding changed to begging. The hopelessness found hope. It was back home. What a mistake he had made. What a fool he had been. Broken and defeated, he went home.
And, from that, I want us to see a few lessons:
First, he got rid of his pride. As long as someone is thinking more of themselves than of God, they will stay out. Too embarrassed to return. Too afraid of what people may say. “I’m not going forward,” I’ve heard sinful people proclaim. The father didn’t run to the pig pen. The prodigal got up and CAME to his father. Many are too embarrassed to be baptized before others. Have they forgotten what the Lord did for them. His death wasn’t in a secret room. It was on a hilltop where all could see. He was beaten and nearly naked. Everyone could see. Maybe we need a bit more of “denying ourselves” and get over worrying about what others might say and do the right thing.
Second, he came home, but he came home differently. That’s the key. That’s the repentance. That’s the change. It isn’t a matter of simply coming home. Coming home the same doesn’t do anyone any good. One might as well stay out with the pigs if he isn’t changed. That demanding, self-centered prodigal was a different person. That’s missing in some today. Some will mumble some weak apology about possibly doing a little wrong but there’s no change in their hearts. There is no brokenness. There is no shame. There are no tears. A couple of weeks later, that person is right back at his old ways again. Repentance is more than saying “I’m sorry.” Some are sorry that they got caught. Some are sorry that things ruined their health or finances. But the sorrow ought to be directed towards Heaven. You broke God’s heart. You shamed the Lord who died for you. You trashed God’s holy commands. You blasphemed the name of God.
The prodigal declared, “I am no longer worthy…” He realized that he had shot his son-ship in the family. He deserved to be disowned and kicked out. He understood that. He realized that. He wasn’t walking home with a smile on his face. This wasn’t funny. I would love to hear a person admit before a congregation, “I am no longer worthy to be a member.” But that doesn’t happen. You have to take me back, is what they think. I demand that you take me back. You can’t keep me from being a member. Not too much brokenness in those words.
Third, once a person is changed, they show it. We are not given a picture of what the next day looked like, but you can just expect things were different. He was different. Different attitude. Different way of looking at the work that had to be done. Different work ethic. Different words towards his father. So, here comes a person walking down the isle of a church building on a Sunday morning. They tell the preacher that they haven’t been coming much and they want prayers. The good folks pray. They surround that person with hugs and love. Yet, that night, at the evening service, that person isn’t there. Next week, they aren’t there. Where’s the change? What’s different? Was it simply to put some distance from coming discipline? Was it just something someone told them to do and they had no idea why?
When a person repents, there ought to be some changes. When John was preaching repentance, the crowds wanted to know what to do. They asked, “Then what shall we do?” John said, if you have two tunics, share with one who has none. The tax collectors were told to collect no more than what was ordered. The soldiers were told to stop taking money from others and not to falsely accuse others. Changes. Changes that would stick. Changes that would be evident.
Fourth, an atmosphere welcoming one home needs to be created. Had the father acted like the older son, the prodigal would have never returned. He came because the father had an atmosphere of love and acceptance. Being a servant at home was much better than being free on the road. Love, grace and forgiveness needs to fill the air. None of us are perfect. Finger pointing, whispering, judgmental attitudes often prevent some from coming home. Having to answer a thousand questions. Having to be treated like a second rate citizen. Having people say, “I’m keeping an eye on you,” only kills the desire to come home.
I wonder how many want to come home, but they are afraid. They don’t sense what the prodigal did towards his father. They know that they have done is wrong, but now they fear being treated as if they had spiritual leprosy. So, they stay away. It’s not God, it’s His people that they fear. That should never be. The spirit of the elder brother is alive in far too many places these days. That spirit is no better than the spirit of rebellion that took the prodigal away. Both boys were lost. One was lost in a far country and the other was lost at home. One realized he was lost. The other never got it.
Coming home different…that’s the key.