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TWO KINDS OF PRODIGAL (3): WHEN GOD LETS GO

(Luke 15:11-24)
Date: _________________
Read Lu 15:20-24 John Bunyan was a nonconformist in 17th century
England who was jailed for 12 years for preaching without a license. Other
nonconformists, like the Anabaptists, were also thrown into prison in those
days. So there they are in prison, not knowing whether they would live or die
the next day, so what do they do at night? Debate theology, of course! The
Anabaptists said to Bunyan, You keep assuring people of Gods love. If you
keep pressing Gods love, people will do whatever they want. Bunyans
famous reply was, No if you keep assuring Gods people of Gods love,
they will do whatever God wants. Well, Im with Bunyan, Beloved. Can
people take advantage of grace? Not if they really understand how holy God
is, how far we fall short of His glory and how far He has reached to save us.
That brings us in our study of the Prodigal sons to the 2nd major player the
Father. Weve seen the rebellion and repentance of the younger son. Now we
come to the father who represents, of course, God the Father. In this story,
Jesus breaks all bounds of human fatherhood and presents an image of a father
that goes beyond anything His culture or any culture expected of a human
father. His is a whole new paradigm of fatherhood. This fathers love dazzles!
Its like Hosea 11 where God describes Israel as a prodigal child, then says in
8b-9: My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
9)
I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for
I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in
wrath. What a picture of the heart of God. This is God as first responder.
Eventually, God must judge sin. His holiness requires it. But his first response
reflecting His heart is to urge people to repent, turn to Him. How we suffer
when we do not. Here we learn 8 things God does for us each showing a
different attribute of God. I hope by the time we finish this study our trust in
and love for God as Father will change our lives. Here is His patience urging
rebellious children to turn to the blessing of His arms. Hows He do it?
I.

The Father Lets Us Go (Patience)

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And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the share of
property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between them.
The phrase, And he divided his property between them, tells us a lot about
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God mostly that He gives people the right to choose against Him to go
their own way to choose sin over Him. That may sound like a great benefit,
but it should strike terror in our hearts. God gives us enough rope to hang
ourselves. The freedom to choose is both a blessing and a loaded gun. If we
think our ways are better than Gods commands; if we find His ways onerous
and take our pleasure where we find it if our theme song is I Did It My
Way then we need to consider three things this passage shows us about
Gods letting us go.
A. He Lets Us Go At His Expense
Look at the request: Father, give me the share of property that is coming to
me. Isnt that interesting? This rebellious young man couldnt even leave the
home without his fathers help. Hes asking Dad to finance his rebellion!
Jesus included this because He wants us to see a fascinating aspect of running
from God that people seldom consider. When we neglect or deny or run from
God were playing with house money. We cant rebel against God on our
own nickel. No one can. Everything we are or hope to be comes from Him.
How did you get life in the first place? You say, Mom and Dad. And its
true they were human instruments, but David saw beyond that to the ultimate
source in Psa 139:13, For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted
me together in my mothers womb. Jer 1: 5) Before I formed you in the
womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. Every
person who ever lived came into this world already in debt to God for life. We
are not some accident; we are the product of an infinitely creative and
loving \God. Gen 2:7: then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the
ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a
living creature. Lifes a gift from God; every move we make is at His
expense.
What about your job, your living? You say, Listen, I did that all on my own,
thank you very much! I got an education and worked hard to get what I
have. You cant drag God into that? Really! So who gave you the health to
succeed while someone else, thru no fault of their own, suffered a debilitating
illness? Who gave you the mind to get thru school? Who gave you the raw
ability that you have honed to create whatever success you have had? Who
placed you in America where the opportunity is unlimited instead of
Bangladesh where youd be lucky to be herding someone elses goats? Whose
money have you been playing with? Jas 1: 16 Do not be deceived, my
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beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights.
Its intriguing that those who devise sophisticated intellectual arguments
denying or betraying God do so with a mind He gave them. Naturalism cant
explain a self-conscious human mind. People regularly render moral
judgments regarding right and wrong without once acknowledging that this
insistent, internal sense of how things ought to be this sense of oughtness
is completely unexplainable by the naturalistic evolutionary processes they
claim resulted in man. They accuse God of evil while holding to a system in
which evil has no meaning. How can this be? Theyre playing with house
money rebelling against God based on intuitions He has placed in them,
but for which their naturalistic beliefs have no explanation. God explains
our sense of right and wrong easily in Rom 2:15, They show that the work of
the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness,
and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. Why do we know
right from wrong? Because God gave us a conscience! Ironic? You cant
leave God without Gods help any more than the prodigal could leave home
without Dads help. But well account for our choices. C. S. Lewis once said,
There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, Thy will
be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, Thy will be done. How
many people will use the freedom God gives to destroy themselves in the end?
B. He Lets Us Go To His Shame
That should give us pause. When we rebel against the Father, we shame him.
This young man certainly did. Note he insists: Father, give me the share of
property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between them.
By law in Deut 21:17 the eldest son would have received a double portion.
Thus, this boy was asking for 1/3 of his Fathers holdings. But the holdings
were in land! To provide inheritance early meant selling land and dividing the
proceeds. It was a shameful thing the prodigal was asking his father to do.
Everyone would know of the rebellion. The whole family would be disgraced.
The Father could rightly have disowned this son. But he would not go there.
He suffered the shame of meeting his sons outrageous request.
The fathers shame is amplified by Lukes choice of words. 13) Father, give
me the share of property ( a general term for property or
wealth) that is coming to me. And he divided his property ( life!)
between them. We get our word biology from . Luke is telling us
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Father and son see things completely differently. To the son, it was just cash
on the barrelhead things to be used. To the father, it was his life not in a
bad way, but in the sense that his mission was tied up in that. Kind of like the
R&H musical Oklahoma!: Oh, we know we belong to the land / And the
land we belong to is grand. Its not the land belongs to us, but we belong to
the land. This fathers identity was tied up in his land, and the son, without
thought or shame, asks for it to be torn away from his father, cashed out and
divvied up.
It all pictures a greater Father who has borne the shame for a wayward race of
people, doesnt it? Heb 12:2, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of
our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Imagine the
shame to both Father and Son as Jesus hung on that cross, naked, condemned,
bearing the sin of all who would ever believe. Yet Jesus went willingly
despising the shame. Despising means to disregard or consider of little
importance compared to something greater. Even the shame of our sin, Jesus
considered of little account so that He could forgive all who would ask.
But what of the prodigals who will not return? Heb 6:6 says of those who will
not repent, they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm
and holding him up to contempt. Those who will not repent, perhaps thinking
they do not need to repent, shame the Father continually. How? Their actions
say Jesus didnt need to go to the cross. Theyre saying the Father erred in
sending Him. God gave His own life through His Son and they say, But I
dont need you! Thus, they are crucifying Him again and again just as the
prodigal ripped the life out of his father by selling off the estate.
I like how D. A. Carson puts it. He says when a God who has not only made
us, but made us in His own image, and then died to save us from the rebellion
that we continually perpetrate when that God is faced with a creature who
says, No, I will declare my own good. What you declare to be evil, I will
declare to be good. What you say is good, I will declare evil it is a tragedy.
Carson says, What is so wretchedly tragic is Gods image-bearer standing
over against God. This is the de-god-ing of God so that I can be my own
god. The creature who was made to glorify its creator God is instead in active
or passive rebellion disgracing God. Glory has been traded for shame. So
why does God put up with this shame?
C. God Lets Us Go For His Purposes
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Why did the Father let the prodigal go? Because he hoped for his return. We
see that in v. 20 where we are told that when he actually did return, But while
he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran
and embraced him and kissed him. Dad let him go hoping for the
development of a relationship based in love. He seeks repentance.
And so our heavenly Father lets us go with an expectation as well. Rom 2:4,
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and
patience, not knowing that Gods kindness is meant to lead you to
repentance? Why is God patient? Why does He not wipe us out as we pile up
offense after offense against His holy character? Hes hoping His kindness
will lead to repentance. He intends His patience to bring us to the foot of the
cross to find forgiveness and peace. That is His holy purpose in letting us go
that we might turn to Him voluntarily from a heart of love and gratitude.
But letting go opens the possibility of rejection, right? There is only one way
to the Father. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father except thru me. One way to a relationship with our Creator. But
there are a million ways to go to run away, and when the Father lets us go, He
is simply giving us the right that we insist upon to go to hell in the manner
of our own choosing. Its a scary thing to be let go by God. His purposes are
always good; ours, not so good until we are ready to turn to Him.
II.

The Father Longs for Our Return (Goodness)

V. 20: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt
compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. How did Dad know
he was coming a long way off? It can only be because he had been watching
intently the whole time. Every chance he had, he was watching. And then one
day he noticed a traveler. The father probably looked away at first, the man
looked so old, dirty, stooped and unkempt. But something about the way the
man walked drew his eye back. That gait was familiar and so he looked
intently as hope began to build in his heart. And soon he knew. There was little
to identify the boy, but there was no mistaking the way he walked. And so the
father began to run to him.
What does this tell us? It tells us the Father longs for lost sinners to turn to
Him. He longs for those who have messed up everything to turn to Him. He
longs for those who are doing quite well but still have a severe emptiness
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inside an emptiness that only He can fill to turn to Him. The day will come
when He must and will judge those who reject His love. But that is not where
His heart is. Ezekiel 18:32: For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,
declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. Turn, repent, live! This is His
heart this desire for the return of those He has created in His image, coming
to Him because they love Him and want Him. Peter reminds us in II Pet 3:9
that the Lord is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach
repentance. Thats His desire. That is His heart, and yet He will not force
Himself on anyone. We must come of our own volition and heartfelt desire for
home, just as the prodigal is coming.
Conc So our first two lessons about the Father. 1) He lets us go, in the
sense that He allows us the freedom to reject Him and choose our own way.
2) But He longs for our return and sometimes sends famines and hardships
intended to focus back on Him. More than that, at great pain and shame to
Himself He has paid the price for our return payment has been made for the
sins of all who will turn to Him. But we must choose.
On August 28, 1982, 20-year-old PFC Joseph White, stationed in Korea, ran
across the minefield of the DMZ, heading to North Korea as fellow soldiers
pleaded with him to turn back. An official investigation determined that he
defected for motives that are not known, tho soldiers who were stationed
there at the time reported that as a result of a dispute with his Sgt., his freedom
to visit his Korean girlfriend had been pulled. They believed he may have
gone AWOL to be with her.
When the Army released its official report confirming the defection, his
parents appeared at a press conference near their home in St. Louis. Wiping
tears his father said he accepted that his son was indeed a traitor but then said
this, He has lost his credibility in this country, even with me. But then his
fathers heart showed thru as he continued, But I still love my son, and I
want him back. I want him back.
Multiply that by a million times and you just begin to glimpse the heart of
God. He wants us back from the empire of darkness and sin and evil.
Everyone who rejects His Son has lost all credibility. They have shamed the
Father and the Son. And YET the Father still loves you and wants you back.
Rom 5:8, But God shows His love for us in while we were still sinners (in a
state of defection), Christ died for us. He paid for our return if we will only
accept it. Joe White never made it home. Reports indicate that he died within
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three years of his defection. Dont let that be you. Come home to the Father
while you can. Lets pray.