The Compassionate Shepherd

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLES lost sheepMy people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. Jeremiah 50:6

There were folks in the religious hierarchy that loved to confront Jesus. Their idea of the Word was corrupted by man-made traditions and practices that had manipulated God’s Word for their purposes and not God’s. Often, they confronted Jesus trying to get Him to slip up and say something that would condemn Him. No matter how they tried they were the ones getting the lesson and were confronted with their own mistakes and misgivings. They were the ones who were lost. Not just those in the hierarchy but all Israel was lost and Jesus even told them as, He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24). 

Bringing The Lost Sheep Home

His compassion was first for the chosen people of the Father to bring them home again. We know that this was going to be very hard especially since the people wanted earthly freedom from their oppressors and evidently were not really concerned with spiritual things. But God beats all odds and can get right to the heart.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7

Jesus, the Great Shepherd, gives this account of searching, saving, and rejoicing. Even more, we can clearly see a picture of salvation in these verses that we do not want to miss today. Even though this was meant for the People Israel, we can clearly see the redemption and salvation that God gives by His Grace and Mercy through putting everything else aside, sacrificing the safety of the rest just to find and rescue one. Jesus lifts us up so we do not have to tread in the waters or the thorns of the world alone. All heaven rejoices even when just one comes to know the Lord and returns home.

The Heart Condition

We are lost to God because of sin. He knows the lost condition of humanity and of our hearts which were given in to sin. But you see, God sent Jesus to rescue and redeem us, to discover and help us choose to repent and change the condition of our heart. All of God’s children are precious to Him, yes even the hardened sinner. We are loved so much. He professed His love in John 3:16, then Paul reminds us how He showed His Love in Romans 5:6-8.

We Are Valued

Like I said, we are precious to Him. Luke 19:10 states, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Brothers and Sisters, we are not something that is created and left to rot. We are created to love and care for one another just as He loves us. He loves us so much that He died as the final blood sacrifice. The innocent given to replace us for our sins. Our value is found in every drop of the Saviors blood which was shed so we could live.

At What Cost

The last line in the Parable speaks volumes on what is needed from us. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Yes we are saved by Grace but there is still certain obligations. These obligations have not changed since Abraham. Better yet, these obligations have not changed since Abel. We are obligated to Keep His Word on our hearts because our strength comes from His Word. We must repent and not return to our sinful, worldly ways. God continually waits for us in patient love but if we cannot give up the world then we are forever lost to Him. It is our choice though God will continually fight for us. Jesus gave us the examples of Kingdom living and He did it outside the world. He showed us what true love is. He showed us what true compassion is. He thoroughly explained what it is to live for the Father and this generation has thrown it away. We are not perfect so we must depend on His Grace and Mercy but not without making the commitment to giving up the things that keep us away from Him.

Are you willing to peek out so He can find you or will you stay hidden and lost?
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a tale of a lot more than just one lost person. It is the lost people Israel and the hope for redemption and salvation of all people.

Are You Tending the Garden For You or God

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLES wicked tenantsJesus was preparing the world for the next life through parables. His stories came directly from God since He is the Word of God. He continually spoke of life in the Kingdom verses living in darkness.

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:9-17

Not What Some May Think

The person that is trying to accomplish replacement theology will tell you that the tenants were the whole people Israel, it is not. Yes it explains their disobedience but it is specifically directed to those in religious leadership positions in the Sanhedrin.

The landowner is God and the vineyard is Israel. As I mentioned, the tenants are the religious leaders who are responsible for speaking the truths of God’s Word of which they perverted and polluted with laws of man. This poisoned Israel and caused many to perish without the full truth or a proper repentance.
So the landowner sends servants. These servants are the prophets. These were the obedient ones who were chosen to turn Israel back to God but were killed for speaking out against the status quo set up by man. The people were still not returning properly to God and though they thought they were conducting proper worship, they were not.
God, not happy with His chosen people and those appointed from the tribe of Levi takes the most loving of actions. He sends Jesus, the Word made flesh and the established religious rulers have Him killed.

Now The Rest of the Story

The religious leaders have been condemned through their actions. Some of God’s Chosen People have accepted Christ as the Son of God and continued the original mission set forth by the Father. The Twelve Apostles were sent out to the world (the new other tenants) to bring the rest of the Israelites and the world back to God. Yes our mission was initially to assist in bringing the Israelites back to God then to hand the main priestly job back to them. Jesus said to make disciples of all men, not leave out His Chosen People.
Now what about those religious leaders?
They were jealous. They were envious of Jesus’ popularity and an encroachment on their authority. Their pride was hurt and they were embarrassed. It actually caused them to fall right into God’s plan. The priests feared an uprising that would displace them and ruin the good relationship with the Roman authorities who controlled the land. The big problem is that they were consumed by fear of losing the joy they had from the earthly riches and did not want to ruin their chances of greater wealth and prestige.

We Have Failed

There are two types of religious leaders in the world, those who stay in the truth of the Word and those have denied the teachings of Christ to make everyone feel good about their life. Many who started out in the Word became consumed by fame and fortune. The Word has been changed to fit society because the ways of man have returned to the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah. The message is now a feel good about your own life rather than obedience and respect for others.

Thankfully the truth is still out there and there are those who make an impact. True Believers have begun to resurface fighting for the right truth of the Word and we are slowly getting back to the right way of living. Satan’s power is weakening but he is still holding on.

So Who Are You?

The Father sent His Son to redress the vines so the branches can grow and produce new fruit. Those who became too engrossed by power perverted the Word, poisoning the branches which produced a fruit that would never ripen.

Are you like one of the wicked tenants who wish to gain things for your own personal desires while telling God that He is no longer fully relevant? Or are you a new tenant who works the land for the owner and produces fruit by doing your very best to follow His Word and Plan for us.

Beloved Brother and Sisters we must continue to fight for the truth of the Word and reopen hearts to let Jesus back in. We need to replace the false man-made teachings of this age with the truth. Are you ready to suffer for righteousness? Time is running out on all sides and we cannot let the devil win. Keep the truth of the Word on your heart and share it daily. Love others with the grace and mercy that the Father has for us.

Blessings,
Rob

Have You Ignored the Invitation?

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLES Great Supper

God has sent out an open invitation through His Grace and Mercy but few want to attend. Why is this? We are God’s creation but we became separated due to sin. The Israelites discovered that since they continued to be disobedient, their invitations suddenly got lost in the mail as most were made spiritually blind. They did not see that Messiah was sitting with them. God has made us qualified through repenting, believing, following His rules and regulations, and finally through the blood of His Son. Still people refuse to accept the invitation through making excuses on why they do not need Him or they are not ready for Him. Jesus was still at the dinner from last week’s text when He spoke again.
The Parable of the Great Banquet
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14: 12-24

You Have Been Invited, What is Your Excuse
Will you be ready when the final invitation arrives? What do we hear from Jesus? Are we too busy with our mundane human existence that we would not see the Golden Invitation if it was put right in our close eyesight? When we became Believers we accepted the invitation but then most let the world get in the way. We try to mix our religious life with our external material needs, our desires, our worries, and not once did we give them over to God to handle. We are so busy that we will not see Jesus coming on the clouds.
This was directly related to the religious leaders and the blind Israelites of the time. Jesus used the cultural idea of the pre-invitation that was used as a notification of a future event. The excuses that Jesus spoke of were insincere in nature and poor excuses of laziness. They were so deeply engaged in the man-made traditions and life in general that they were not fully devoting themselves. Jesus was warning them and trying to get their attention to who was right in front of them. Basically, Jesus was telling them why He was spending time with the sinners, the poor, the weary, etc. The faithful had become the blind.

What Was The Invitation To?
God told His People to, “Be Holy because I am Holy”. Our problem however, is sin. We cannot be holy because of that. The Invitation was to see the Messiah and follow (not worship) His example on how to live for God. Jesus was sent to rectify the problem of man, as He is the solution. First, He came to show what it meant to live according to God’s Word (because He is the Word that is how He is). Second, He came to stop all the sacrifices because they became too ritualistic and lost the true reason. He did this with the sacrifice of His own Son who defeated death. Plus God had said that those sacrifices were actually meaningless without the true intention being followed through so He made the sacrifice no one else could.

This invitation is not to be for those who are our friends, neighbors and relatives from whom we expect to get something in return. We are not to ask for compensation or accolades but to do things for others freely without second thought. Rewards will come but not by our own hands.

Why Wait for the Next Invitation?
The pre-invitation was sealed in the Blood of Jesus. Jesus said that no one, not even Him knows the hour of the return. What do we do while we wait for His expected return? We need to do our part in the mission given of spreading the Word to the world so that others may follow. It does not matter who we speak to so do not be afraid to talk. God already knows who will come to Him. We are the servant in the Parable who seek those who will accept Him. All are invited to come. What is your excuse, are you still too busy?

Where Do You Fit

 

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLES Wedding FeastJesus takes ordinary situations and makes extraordinary points that relate to the Kingdom. He would take the questions or situations where the Pharisees or others tried to make Him slip up and sternly teach them the error of their ways. This teaching has to do with humility and exaltation.

 

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

 

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11

 

What is Jesus telling us in this Parable? Do not be like the Pharisees who think themselves worthy when they are not. The truly penitent will pass by the Pharisee and be welcomed first. Those that go through their life thinking that they have done everything right forgetting their lack of having a repentant heart and should enter first into the Kingdom will be given the back seat to the truly repentant that did their very best but have one thing that the others do not, true faith and trust. For on this earth they were weary and heavy laden. God may have blessed them with things other than money because of their desire to stay out of the world.

 

Where Do You Sit in Church?

 

How many people do you know in church that intentionally sit in the back of the church? Are they hoping to be exalted? Or are they the first to make a quick exit to make it to lunch before the rush? In fact, if you look into just about any Baptist Church you will find that many of the front pews are empty while the back is completely full. When a guest comes in and sits where a member always sits and the said member sees it there are two common reactions. The humble member will find another spot while the zealous will demand they find another place to sit. What does that tell the pastor? There is a need for reminding all that your place in the church pew does not matter, it is a matter of the heart and Spiritual fitness.

 

Now the ones that sit near the front understand that they need to hear the message and are not afraid of being convicted and yet some are still afraid of approaching the altar. Remember, the Father knows our hearts and will guide us. It really does not matter where you sit in the place of worship as long as your heart is focused on God and not the self or things of the world.  Are you in the front and receiving the Word, or in the back waiting for lunch?            

 

The Invitation  

 

We have been given an open invitation by God’s Grace and Mercy to sit at the table. It is how we prepare ourselves on earth for the heavenly feast that will dictate our place. You have a better chance for entering if you have repented, accepted, and put your full faith and trust in Christ, and do your very best to follow His Commandments and His Way, remembering that we are not perfect and will make mistakes. It is better this than the alternative, saying that you have Jesus and that is enough and or forgetting that you are still a sinner and think you are better than everyone else. The latter will be waiting a while if they make it at all. We are to walk in humility, our pride is in the work that the Father does in our lives.

 

First or Last

 

Being first in line on this earth gets you the first helpings in the lunch line which some people desire. But what many forget is that sometimes the staff brings out the best food after the first things are gone. Those that wait are blessed with fresh, hot food while the first do not really know how long the food was sitting out.  There is an order which many circles follow in which the leader goes last even though many will push the leader forward. The humble servant leader will wait away from the line until all have been served and take what he/she needs of what is left.

 

What Are We To Do?

 

In all things be humble, do not try to push your way forward nor jump to get the first fruits. When sitting in the place of worship, place yourself where the Spirit leads your heart. There is no need for sitting in the same place every week even though that is what happens. If you are given a place of honor, accept it in humility and let others exalt you if they so choose. Take care not to exalt yourself in the hopes that others will give you praise for that is vanity but accept praise with a humble heart and give the glory to the Father.

 

Brothers and Sisters, serve others before the self and follow the Word keeping it on your heart always. Be blessed as we begin a new week. Share your faith in everything you do.

 

In Christ,

 

 Rob  

 

Repentance: Parable of the Fig Tree

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLES Fig TreeJesus loved using analogies for the Kingdom and what is required to enter. Right before sharing the Parable of the fig tree he was speaking first about how sin leads to death and repentance leads to life. What was He trying to tell them? Living a life in sin equals death but living in and for God equals life.

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

This man had a fig tree planted among vines. It was a lonely fig tree and was not bearing fruit because the grapes were taking most of the nutrients needed for the fig tree to flower and give fruit. Maybe the tree was not mature enough to do what it is supposed to do. Maybe it was seeking nutrients but could not find them.

The fig tree is representing a sinner who knows of God in a sea of sinners who refuse, due to their love of the world. The corruption of man and the perversion of the Word has people confused so they cannot truly bear fruit. The man sees the tree and wants it destroyed. The devil will take you down if you stay in your ways. Repenting and replenishing the nutrients with the truth will bring forth life which is what the vinedresser tells the man.

But the vinedresser cares for the tree, gives it the nourishment needed and it will bear fruit as it sees it is different what the fruit is picked it will share with others and possibly plant seeds as well. Jesus is sharing the Word (nourishment) so that our spirit is fed and we can bear the fruit (repent) and share our faith with others.

Jesus is telling those who were around Him that they must receive the Word as it is meant to be heard and repent of their sins so that they will not die the final death but have eternal life. Now He gave it a time period which is saying that the time we have on this earth is short and we need to stay in the Word to make it through and bear fruit for we will surely be cut down if we continue in our sinful ways.

Bottom line is this. Repent of our sins and trust in God that He will continue to nourish us through His Word. We must stay in His Word so that we can bear fruit through its sharing because if we do not, we will be cut down and suffer death never to see the light of God again.

The Foolishness of Hoarding Earthly Riches

The Rich Fool

Jesus spoke about many different aspects of worldly things and how those need to change in order to get back to God. In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus speaks of a materialist who hoarded things that made himself lazy, paying more attention to the world and less of God. He has no concern for the ramifications of his eternal soul.

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 (ESV)

A Prosperous Man

Jesus begins by introducing us to an unnamed materially rich person who had so much that he had nowhere to put his earthly belongings. Back then, wealth was measured by monetary means, crops, and livestock. Though money was still not a high priority it was there and was only for the super-rich and those in positions of power. We can think of this man in terms of a wealthy landowner with a very large plantation. While it is good to prosper and live comfortably it is bad to have too much and keep it all to oneself.

A Progressive Man

He has so much, but his barns are too small. What to do?? Build bigger so he can store more stuff. How much does one person need? Rich people build sky high structures so that their material storehouses are filled with all their personal amassed wealth and show their greatness. The wealth is not just material but how many people they have control over.    

A Self-Seeking Man

This man had the idea that if he stores everything and only gets things out as needed then he can live without worry. He has so much stuff and just the right amount of servants to appease his every need. This man never desires to lift a finger ever again and has become self-serving, lazy, a man of his own design.

A God-forgetting Man

This laziness causes the man to forget who provided for him the ability to gain such wealth. He turns to enjoy his sinful nature and is not worshiping nor praising God. He is not giving thanks to the Creator who gave him the knowledge to gain the provisions. This person becomes delusional because the temptations of the material world have taken him so far as to complete forgetfulness of God and his heart is filled with greed and selfishness, which clouds his mind to believe that he is his own success and denies God. 

Called by God a Fool

John explains the worldly fool in his first letter saying, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If someone loves the world, then love for the Father is not in him; because all the things of the world — the desires of the old nature, the desires of the eyes, and the pretensions of life — are not from the Father but from the world. And the world is passing away, along with its desires. But whoever does God’s will remains forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

In this parable, the worldliness of the man cost him his life because he no longer cared for matters of the spirit. He was concerned with his pitiful temporary existence on the sand, dirt, and water. His life was sinking in the sand because his spiritual foundation had left him. This man apparently had no heir so it was all meaningless and would end up going to support people he does not know until it runs out. That very night, the man died and he was not prepared.

Entered Eternity Unprepared

The man entered into the next life without the knowledge of God. His disobedience to the simplest of God’s Laws left him in a place that he was not prepared to go.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

His heart was in the wrong place and filled with torment that gave him false hope. No mortal man lives forever no matter who you think you may be. Yes we have ways now of prolonging life but God still has the final say. One can live a long happy life in Christ and reap the heavenly reward or live a long life with false hope using all the manmade medical advances, cheating death but those too will fail and lead to condemnation. It is better to live for God and die happily knowing that you will be in the loving embrace of God than to live a life for yourself and die without truly knowing God. 

Haughty or Humble Heart, the Choice is Yours

ADVENTURES IN THE PARABLESJesus has a way of really getting to the heart of things doesn’t He. In this week’s Adventure in the Parables we look at what Jesus tells us about the difference between the haughty and contrite heart.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

This Parable Lesson has a great deal of relevance today. We have individuals who brag about themselves caring little for those around them except when it suits their need for fulfilment. This is a false feeling because it is only temporary. In the Parable, Jesus teaches of one who claims He is right with God to God in prayer, while in a partially seclude area there is another who humbles himself to God in prayer. The first man is actually trying to convince himself that he is right with God through his actions and conducting himself according to the Law of Moses. The tax collector knows his heart is in the world but wants to change so he humbles himself asking for forgiveness and help to make himself right with God, not through actions but a change in heart.

It all boils down to a heart matter. Is your heart so full of yourself that you cannot see the onlookers who only see the braggart? Or is your heart hurting because you know that you are not right even when you try to do the right thing and you silently give yourself in humble adoration to God.

I discussed this partially in a previous post ( Sharing Faith) but it was not seen by many due to the timing of release. Sometimes we are chosen to do the corporate prayer in an open setting. That is not the time to put yourself on show so others see your faith. It is a time to share with the congregation the heart, value, and mission of the church. If you pray in haughtiness, your prayer is overrun by those whose hearts are humbled. If your prayer is humble, then it creates an atmosphere that the Body of Christ should have.
Now this Parable has more connotations than just prayer, it is our daily walk. God wants us to be a people who walk with Him daily but at the same time not to brag or accept accolades for things that we do for the Kingdom. Since everything is posted on social media we have more people who brag on themselves and look for the amount “likes” or other reactions that we feed our emotional responses to.

When we write or see something on social media that conduces a heart reaction that convicts, causes sadness, or does not suit our materialist heart hearth, it is either ignored or gives a temporary notion of “I hope someone is doing something about this” reaction. I tell you this, God created us to do something about the pain in the world so react with some kind of positive action do not just be dormant. But make sure it is something that is right with the teachings of God, not the manipulated teachings of man.

Be cautious what you do or say that it is not taken in such a way that you are like the Pharisee. Be like the tax collector because that is who we are; humble and contrite, doing things for God’s Kingdom giving all Glory and honor to Him.
But please note this: It is ok to say thank you and accept things but give the portion that is God’s to Him because He is the one who gave you the means to accomplish great things.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, have a blessed day wherever this finds you. Do something for others today (and every day) and in humility, give it to God. God will bless you in more ways than we can honestly fathom.

In God’s Love through His Grace and Mercy, Have a great and blessed day.

Prodigal Son P3: The Loving Father

The Prodigal Son p3

The Father pleas with the Eldest Son and exclaims:
 ‘Son, you are always with me,’ said the father, ‘and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead but has come back to life — he was lost but has been found.’” Luke 15:31-32
The steadfast and loyal son had his faith shaken because there has never been a celebration like this for him. But the father, full of grace, mercy, love, and full compassion helps him understand why the celebration is taking place. Jesus is now showing the attributes of God to both the lost and the believer.

So the father in this story represents God. You see, this father waited patiently for his son to return. In the same manner the father reacted, God waits for the repentant sinner. He has compassion for the one who comes on his own accord. The father had apparently heard about the state of affairs the son found himself in and waited expectantly for the son to return. This is revealing that God knows our hearts and grants us the opportunity to return to Him. The great celebration shows how God is a forgiving, compassionate God who will shower His love on us and restores to our place in the Father’s arms.

What a joy it will be but let’s look at the parable again for a second. When the father saw the boy from a distance, he lunged towards him not in a scornful manner, but loving. The father did not even let his son finish the practiced confession but unconditionally lavished mercy and grace upon him returning him to status of fellowship within the family. The father running to his son, greeting him with a kiss and ordering the celebration to begin is a picture of how our Heavenly Father feels towards sinners who repent.

God greatly loves us, patiently waits for us to repent so he can show us His great mercy, because he does not want any to perish nor escape as though by the fire. It is our understanding of God’s compassion for us that enables us to show concern for the lost and celebrate when they are found so He prepared a mediator for us. Just as the father is the mediator between the sons Jesus is the mediator who ultimately took our place to change our fate of being lost in the darkness without God.

Jesus in this parable tells us that we are forgiven but must take the first step by realizing and confessing our sins to the Father. He also says that God is waiting patiently for us to do just that. He is merciful and wants us to come home. We as Christians seek out others to bring home but I tell you this, “No one comes to the father but through Jesus Christ”. We are His vessels and our work is His. Those who seek forgiveness come to Father on their own accord but sometimes a seed must be planted. We are the sower of that seed as we are commissioned by Jesus to spread His Word.

The picture of the father receiving the son back into relationship is a picture of how we should respond to repentant sinners as well:
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Luke 17:3;

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2;

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20.

What is the core message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son that we have spent the last three Saturdays trying to get to? It boils down to this: It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, not by works that we may boast of some goodness that we perceive to be our own.

 

Prodigal Son P2: The Steadfast Son

 

The Prodigal Son p2

Jesus was about to expose the hearts of the Sanhedrin and others who cared more about their own spiritual well-being rather than others. Let us continue from where we left off from part one: After the younger son went inside with his father, the older son was coming in from his duties in the field.

The Hard Hearted Cannot Forgive

25 “Now his older son was in the field. As he came close to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ 27 The servant told him, ‘Your brother has come back, and your father has slaughtered the calf that was fattened up, because he has gotten him back safe and sound.’ 28 But the older son became angry and refused to go inside.

The brother who went off and tried life has come home which makes the father very happy. I am guessing it had been quite a while so the elder more obedient son was fully set in his ways and had taken on some of the younger son’s tasks. I would probably be happy to see him return so he can resume his duties but that is not the point here. The elder son is disappointed because there was never a celebration in his honor. But why would there be. He has done exactly as he should have, or so he thinks. His refusal to accept and be happy that the younger is similar to the distaste certain faithful people have when a person who was a known sinner returns in repentance. It is hard to accept someone back when your heart is hard and does not truly remember or understand God’s Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness.

“So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 ‘Look,’ the son answered, ‘I have worked for you all these years, and I have never disobeyed your orders. But you have never even given me a young goat, so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 Yet this son of yours comes, who squandered your property with prostitutes, and for him you slaughter the fattened calf!’ 31 ‘Son, you are always with me,’ said the father, ‘and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead but has come back to life — he was lost but has been found.’”

So, is the “obedient son” really obedient? He is the faithful son or so we are led to believe at first. This man stayed by his father’s side all those years working for the father in preparation for the day when he would receive the blessings that are rightly his. The eldest son represents the self-righteous who hear but do not really understand.

Anyone who claims to be in this light while hating his brother is still in the dark. The person who keeps loving his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him that could make him trip. But the person who hates his brother is in the dark — yes, he is walking in the dark, and he doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11

Forgiven?

The Pharisees of the day paid lip service to God and the people but secretly sinned and thought that their outward appearance and works guaranteed a spot at the heavenly banquet. These are the ones who let man’s law and traditions interfere with the truth even though they thought they were doing what God asked of them. Forward to modern times, he represents zealous believer who cannot accept the penitent sinner as brother in Christ. But God has compassion on them as the father showed compassion on his elder son. If we believe and are unable to love our neighbor as ourselves then we are being like the brother who did not accept the younger. In fact he saw the younger brother as a threat and would not forgive. He chose suffering and isolation over restoration and reconciliation.

For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours. Matthew 6:14-15

He allowed anger to take root in his heart to the point that he was unable to forgive or show compassion towards his brother, and for that matter the perceived sin of his father against him.

But for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:5-7

Let’s recap for a moment what we learned here:
1. In order to be accepted into the house, we must accept the poor sinner who desires His mercy.
2. Do not be hard hearted towards a new believer but welcoming. Do not shut a door
3. God’s Love is the same for all believers so when a new believer comes to the fold, rejoice do not be jealous of his/her acceptance no matter the past if the person is known to you.
4. Suffering and isolation keeps you away from the joys of heaven. Being in a relationship with other believers, sharing stories of God’s Grace, Love, and Mercy with believers and the lost, and welcoming those who come home is what God desires of us.

 

The Prodigal Son P1: The Wayward Son

The Prodigal Son Pt 1The Prodigal Son is one of the more popular of the Parables of Jesus because it is easily relatable. When Jesus spoke this one, He was surrounded by the lost and forgotten who sought a home, the upright righteous who were too zealous to see their own broken heart, and those who knew what being lost was like but were found and saw the Way to God through Jesus. All three of those types are represented in this Parable, The son, the son, and the first son again. What if I told you this is a story of the graciousness of the father overshadowing the sinfulness of the son, as it is the memory of the father’s goodness that brings the prodigal son to repentance? Let’s see the first part:

Again Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will be mine.’ So the father divided the property between them. As soon as he could convert his share into cash, the younger son left home and went off to a distant country, where he squandered his money in reckless living. But after he had spent it all, a severe famine arose throughout that country, and he began to feel the pinch. Luke 15:11-14

The younger son reminds us of the person who wants to live life at the expense of being disowned by the family. Do you remember when you said to your father or mother that you wanted to live your own life in your own way? Were you like the Prodigal Son spoken here who ignored the teachings of when you were young of the right way to life and explored all other possibilities?

This is a picture of someone choosing to go his own way and away from God. God gave the Hebrews a choice before Joshua took over for Moses saying, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

We all possess this foolish ambition to be independent, which is at the root of the sinner persisting in their sin, it is Human Nature. Due to this sin we suffer and live apart from God. Those who live without trusting God are in a state of discontent. Luke 12:15 says, “Be careful to guard against all forms of greed, because even if someone is rich, his life does not consist in what he owns.” This son learned the hard way that covetousness leads to a life of dissatisfaction and disappointment. He also learned that the most valuable things in life are the things you cannot buy, nor replace. The son left home and lived life the way he wanted to, buying wants and desires instead of means to survive. So what does this young man do?

“So he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him any. Luke 15:15-16

prodigal son with pigsIn his loss of funds, he also lost his will to survive so he takes the most detestable job of feeding pigs. We all know the saying, “Desperate times lead to desperate measures”, without God we lose so much direction that we will do anything to continue living. For the son, it caused further rejection because of his life choice. When people are no longer interested in being near you because your usefulness has ended, they throw you to the pigs and forget about you.

“At last he came to his senses and said, ‘Any number of my father’s hired workers have food to spare; and here I am, starving to death! I’m going to get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and started back to his father. Luke 15:17-20

The “ah ha” moment has arrived. In pain and darkness one remembers the ease of life when someone watched over you and you had everything you needed. You reflect on the past and seek relief. When you can recognize the condition of the heart and desire a return to peace and tranquility, it is possible. This is reflective of the sinner when he/she discovers the destitute condition of their life because of sin. It is a realization that apart from God there is no hope. This is when a repentant sinner “comes to his senses” and longs to return to the state of fellowship with God.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him warmly. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son — ’ but his father said to his slaves, ‘Quick, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet; and bring the calf that has been fattened up, and kill it. Let’s eat and have a celebration! For this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive again! He was lost, but now he has been found!’ And they began celebrating. Luke 15:20-24

There is hope in returning home. The son that was lost realized this and prepared his heart to repent. He shocked when his father welcomes him home as if he was a newborn child. God is like that with us. His desire is for an intimate connection with His creation. The son was returned to his rightful place in the family. God renews our spirit and clothes us in His light.

Closer examination of the text reveals an ancient tradition of servanthood in order to repay a debt. He was willing to give up his rights as his father’s son in order to be forgiven. He now understood humility and was truly repentant of his actions against his family. How so the same the repentant sinner who believes in Jesus? The son understood, he was no longer in the good graces of the father to receive the blessings possible and could offer nothing in return for his mercy but his repentant servanthood. He was ready to fall at his father’s feet begging for mercy and forgiveness. This is exactly what turning back to God is all about. We have given up this life of slavery to sin, slavery to the ways of man, and becoming a slave to righteousness. This slavery has no chains as it is freedom from death and damnation to live in the light of God.

This son was lost but returned after having been beaten by the world. At our lowest point, God is there to pick us back up. Jesus carries us through our tribulation and brings us home. All we have to do is repent, return to the arms of Jesus, and follow Him. Have you been lost and come back home? Scary times but the joy of the loving arms is sweet relief.