June 17, 2018


"The Gracious Father" - Luke 15:11-24

 - last Sunday we talked about how important our concept of God is - about how the way we picture God affects how we view everything else, including ourselves; we looked at Isaiah's vision of God - reminding ourselves that God is King - high & lifted up & on the throne - & He's the Holy One

- Jesus gives us some pictures of God - not only thru us seeing what God is like by observing Jesus Himself & what He's like - but Jesus also gives us some pictures of God through His teachings, especially thru some of the parables; in some of those He pictures God similarly to Isaiah - as high & lifted up - a king - the owner of the vineyard - the judge; but He also shows us another important side of that same God - another vital characteristic that should shape our concept of God; Jesus lets us know that the same God Isaiah saw - the One high & lifted up - the One so holy that Isaiah had to cry out "Woe is me; I am undone" as he saw his own impurity - Jesus lets us know that this great & powerful & holy God is also a gracious Father; I'm thinking specifically of how God is pictured in what we've come to call the parable of the prodigal son; this parable gives us a wonderful & important picture of God; so instead of focusing on the wayward son in this parable, let's see what this parable shows us about the father - about God

- let's read part of this parable - Luke 15:11-24 (read); the graciousness of the father comes out throughout this parable; we first see it back in v.12; the younger of the father's two sons come to his dad & asks him to give him his portion of his inheritance; he wanted what he had coming to him right then; he wanted it while he was young & could enjoy it; he wanted instant gratification - the same attitudes we often see in younger people; & although he was under no obligation to do so, his father went ahead & gave it to him

- maybe he gave his son a "Father Knows Best" talking to before he did it; maybe he explained the pitfalls & risks to his son of following this course of action; maybe he made him make a list of pros & cons; maybe he tried to reason with him & help him see that this wasn't the best course of action for him to take at this point in his life; maybe he encouraged his son to wait & think it over & pray about it; whatever he did or didn't do (Jesus doesn't tell us), the bottom line is that when his son insisted that this is what he wanted, his father gave it to him

- I don't think this is telling us fathers that we should give our children whatever they want or ask for; there are times to say "no" for their own good; but what does this tell us about God? it shows us that He's a gracious Father; it shows us what someone put this way - that God is a gentlemen - He doesn't force Himself or His affections on us; & if we insist on doing things our way - going against His will - even leaving Him - He eventually gives us what we want; He allows us to go our own way

- freedom is wonderful, but with freedom comes responsibility; we're free to make our own choices, but we're also responsible for the choices we end up making; & with that freedom of choice comes the freedom to make bad choices - choices that can take us down a road toward wastefulness & spiritual poverty & grief & eventually destruction

- but the point here isn't so much about the son as the father; God is a gracious father who gives us such freedom; He isn't the King who forces His servants to serve - He's not the Master who has His slaves under forced bondage - He's not the cruel Father who keeps his children locked up in the house (like we've seen in some cases of abuse that have come to light in our day); God is a gracious Father - even when His children go against His will & wishes; He doesn't let us go easily - He disciplines, corrects, gives guidance, etc. - but He's a gentlemen who eventually lets us have our way, even to our own detriment

- so yes, you can resist God & His will for you to some extent; you can refuse to listen to Him; you can harden your heart against His love & His conviction of sin in your life; He gives you the freedom to do that; but going that way doesn't end well for us, any more than it did for the prodigal son; we eventually find out how much better we would've been if we had listened to the Father - & how much better life was in the presence of the Father

- so how else do we see the graciousness of the father in this parable? After the son wastes his inheritance & ends up feeding pigs & is so hungry he was ready to get right in there with those pigs & eat along side of them - after he came to the realization that he would be better off back home with his father, even if it meant being a servant at his father's house - he headed back home; & it says when he was still a great way off his father saw him

- that would seem to suggest that the father was keeping an eye out for his son's return - he was watching for him - waiting for him - hoping that he would come back; for the father to see his son way off in the distance & to recognize it was him, indicates that he probably kept his eyes on that horizon often; he had probably imagined this day when his son returned; he kept looking out there - hoping; & on this day, his hope was fulfilled

- if/when we turn away from our Heavenly Father to some extent - whether it's giving in to a temptation & turning away from what we know to be His will for us in that moment - or whether it's a more deliberate & ongoing choosing of our pathway for our lives over what He wants for us - whenever we choose to leave the presence & fellowship of our Heavenly Father, rest assured that Your gracious Father is wanting you to come back; He's watching for you; He's reaching out to you; He's sending you letters if you'll open them up & read them - little reminders through things you see & hear & encounter - reminders through the small voice of His Spirit speaking to your heart - reminders that your Father still loves you - reminders that there's a better way - reminders that you don't have to be living in the spiritual pigpen - reminders that you've strayed, but you can still come back home - & that there's a Father who wants you back

- & God's not just waiting for you - He's prepared the pathway for you to return home; He's made it possible; the greatest indication of our Father's grace is that, as the Bible says, when we were still sinners Christ died for us; when we were wayward sons, out in the world, rebelling against our Heavenly Father - what was He doing? He was sending His Son into this world to make a way for us to return to Him; Jesus came & died for us on the cross; Your Father has prepared the way for your return

- again, God doesn't send His private security force of angelic beings to come & arrest you & put you in handcuffs & bring you back home kicking & screaming; He doesn't force you to come back; but your gracious Father is waiting - He's watching - He's hoping - because He loves you & wants what's best for you; it breaks His heart to know you're out there eating with the pigs when your life could be so much better

- if you've strayed from your Father, come back to Him today; He's waiting on you

- the next indication we see here of the graciousness of the father is the welcome he gave his wayward son; he saw his son, but how did he react? Did he feel resentment? Did he feel anger? No - we're told that he felt compassion; & he demonstrated that compassion

- this father didn't keep working on doing whatever he was after he spotted his son; he didn't hold back & wait for the son to come to him; he went running out to meet him

- isn't that wonderful to think about? God's just waiting for us to make the first move; if we'll just reach out to Him, He'll meet us more than halfway; if we'll take a step back toward Him, He'll come running to us; He's not trying to make coming back to Him a hard thing - He wants to make it as easy as possible; if we'll just make that first move, He'll come meet us & help us get the rest of the way; what's the first step you need to take in getting back on track with your Heavenly Father? Maybe you can't see the full pathway back, but you can see the first step; make that first move & He'll meet you there & help you find your way back home

- notice here also that the father in the parable didn't greet his wayward son with an "I told you so" or a stern lecture or with a cold shoulder; he didn't give his son the "big freeze" as Barney Fife would call it; on the old Andy Griffith Show, one time the mayor called in a special investigator to help the sheriff's department solve a crime; Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife didn't like that & determined to give this guy the cold shoulder or big freeze as he called it when he got there; but when that investigator arrived, he complimented Barney in several ways, & before you knew it Barney was all warm & welcoming to this guy, forgetting all about his plan to act otherwise; this father in the parable might have been angry at his son over his decision - disappointed - hurt - & maybe had imagined all kinds of possible reactions if he ever showed up again; but when he saw his son, he felt compassion & everything else went out the window; he ran to him & fell on him & hugged him & kissed him & warmly welcomed him back home

- that's what we can expect from our gracious Heavenly Father - a warm welcome; he doesn't rub our noses in our past failures once we've repented of them & received forgiveness; He doesn't give us the big freeze when we turn back to Him; He doesn't just say, "I hope you learned a lesson, now go sit in the corner for a few months"; He shows His compassion & love for us

- don't be afraid of how your Heavenly Father is going to greet you when you turn back to Him; if you come back as this son did - humble, repentant, ready to submit yourself to your Father & His will for you - Your gracious Father will welcome you with open arms & big hugs & with warmth & love

- remember that the son came back with a speech all prepared; maybe he had been rehearsing it along the way as he traveled back home; it was the speech about no longer being worthy to be a son & asking his father to make him one of his servants; but you notice the father didn't let him get through that whole speech; he wouldn't hear of it; he wasn't welcoming his son back in some subordinate role; the father welcomed his son back as a son; he brought out a robe to put on him - a ring to put on his finger, a ring which probably had the family seal on it, signifying the son's acceptance back into the family; & the father had the fatted calf killed - that meal reserved for a very special occasion; & they celebrated; the father restored this wayward son to his position in the family

- a gracious Heavenly Father waits to welcome & restore us when we come back to Him; there may be consequences to our waywardness & rebellion & how we lived during that time; this son was restored to the family, but he no longer had his inheritance; it was gone; & our wayward actions & lives often carry consequences - broken relationships, health problems from living in such a way that we didn't take good care of ourselves or being involved in practices that hurt our health; financial issues where we got ourselves into debt or lost jobs or wasted our resources; there can be consequences we still have to live with after we return to our Father

- but our relationship with the father can be fully restored; He welcomes us back as a son or daughter; He gives us eternal life in Christ; He grants us forgiveness & peace & hope & all the blessings that accompany being part of His family; we may have extra baggage that we didn't have before - extra baggage that weighs us down & affects us in various ways - but He helps us carry that baggage & move forward from there

- & He celebrates our return; it brings pleasure & joy to the Father when one of His wayward children returns home; you can make God's day today; you can put a smile on His face; you can cause for there to be rejoicing in heaven; because they get in a party spirit & celebrate whenever a wandering child returns home to the Father

- let's be thankful today that we have a gracious Heavenly Father; & if in any way today you see yourself in the shoes of that prodigal son, know that you can go back home & that your Father is waiting, watching, preparing for your return, & when you arrive He will run to meet you with love & open arms & with a celebration

- maybe it's time for someone here to take that first step back toward the Father today; take that first step & He'll run out to meet you