June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 15:11-32: LOST

My favourite TV show this year’s been LOST. You know the one – survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island.

But it’s not like any deserted island I’VE ever heard about. First, it turns out NOT to be deserted. There’s a polar bear. And weird black smoke. And hatches. And THE OTHERS.

Then things just start getting WEIRDER. There’s the strange coincidences. Everything’s inter-connected. The lucky lottery numbers that start turning up everywhere. There’s the scientific experiment going on. And the strange magnetic geological fluctuations.

I can’t work out WHAT’S going on! It’s SUPPOSED to be the SURVIVORS who are lost. But I reckon it’s really THE TV VIEWERS who are LOST. Like ME! Who can’t work out what’s happening.

I wonder whether you ever feel like YOUR LIFE’s a bit like the TV SHOW LOST.

One big mess. A confusing puzzle. You can’t work out what’s going on. It feels like there’s a big conspiracy working against you. Like you’re trapped. And you can’t get from WHERE YOU ARE. To where you WANT to be. Where you’re SUPPOSED to be.

Are you LOST?

Lost/ is the 20 yr old man. He’s in his final year of Uni. On a scholarship, graduation job assured. He’s passing with distinctions. He’s got his whole future mapped out. Just where his parents wanted him to be. But he S his life. He can’t see the point. There has to be something MORE to life than / finance or computers or dentistry or whatever it is. But he doesn’t know what it is.

He’s LOST. Not where he’s supposed to be.

Lost/ is the age who longs for her parent’s approval and love and acceptance. It’s not there. She thinks she finds what she’s looking for in the arms of an older boy at school. He SAYS he loves her. But he doesn’t, and neither do her parents. A year later, she’s on her own, pushing a pram down the street to her tiny Housing Commission flat.

She’s lost. Not where she’s supposed to be.

Lost is the 14 yr old boy. He’d been doing WELL at school. Until he fell in with the wrong crowd. He’d just wanted some respect. But one thing led to another. Graffiti had led to vandalism. Which had led to shoplifting. Which had led to break and enters. All just for a laugh. To keep up his reputation.

Until he got caught. And now, he’s before the judge, facing two years in detention. He’s lost.

I could paint a thousand pictures. In Sydney alone. Working class, middle class, upper class. Young and old. Male and female. Western suburbs or East.

The world is full of lost people. Perhaps that’s YOU, TONIGHT.

And, most of the time, no-one cares less about LOST PEOPLE. We’ve all got enough problems of our own. Just trying to keep OURSELVES from losing it.

And it was no different back in Jesus’ time. Lost people just like that/ were coming to Jesus. You can see them there at the start of Ch 15

(Luke 15:1 NIV)  Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.

The lost. The social rejects. The losers.

But they’re people who recognise they’re not where they want to be. And who want to do something about it. Who are DESPERATE.

And they’re LISTENING to Jesus. Longing for some answers. AN escape plan. Longing for some RELIEF. Because when you THAT LOST, you’re desperate. And you’ll do ANYTHING for some answers.

But, just like today. There are people who don’t want anything to DO with the lost. V2.

(Luke 15:2 NIV)  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

“People THAT lost need to be AVOIDED, not helped. They’re WORTHLESS. Steer clear of them. They’ll just DRAG you DOWN.”

And you can see the same sort of reaction as you walk past Blacktown Railway station. It’s an interesting mix, isn’t it, of respectable people – those who LOOK like they’ve got life together. Mixed with the down-and-outers. The welfare dependent. The unemployed. The dealers. The alcoholics.

And you can watch the RESPECTABLE people as they cross to the other side of the footpath. Or stop and stare, without looking too obvious.

“They’re just lost people. Who you don’t want to get too close to.”

But that’s not Jesus. A few chapters later, in Luke 19, he says that’s the whole reason HE CAME. He said he CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE the LOST.

And so he tells them a story. THREE stories actually. Each one, about God and his desire to find LOST PEOPLE. The first about a lost SHEEP. And the second about a lost COIN.

But it’s the THIRD story we’re going to think about tonight. The story of a lost SON. Or a PRODIGAL son as it’s better-known.

Most of us know the FIRST part of the story. A father has TWO SONS. And the younger son’s had enough of living under his father’s roof. He’s convinced he’s missing out on life. That he can make a better go of things on his own.

And so he persuades Dad to cash in his investment portfolio. And give him his share of the inheritance NOW.

It’s the ultimate insult. It’s wishing his father was .

And when he gets his money, he packs up all his stuff and disappears. Anywhere – but under his father’s roof. He’s not interested in being a son anymore.

And the Bible says that’s EXACTLY what we’ve ALL done towards our HEAVENLY FATHER – GOD.

God MADE us/ to live under HIS ROOF. To live by HIS rules. In a friendship with him. Protected, cared for, and provided for. With him as our heavenly Father.

But we all think we can do a better job on our OWN. That WE know best. That life will be more enjoyable if WE’RE making the decisions.

It’s that basic attitude of REBELLING against God. Of IGNORING him. That the Bible calls SIN. And it’s something WE’RE ALL guilty of.

We might make a COMPLETE MESS of life. Or sometimes, for a while, life even looks ALRIGHT.

We might ACTIVELY reject God. Or we might just IGNORE him. Pretend he doesn’t exist.

But, either way, we’re still REBELS.

But what about the son? How did things turn out for him? What about HIS rebellion? His new life STARTED out well. Women, booze, , night clubs, dance parties, and gambling. Plenty of friends to help him spend his money. He was having the time of his life!

But before long, it was all gone. Or, as v13 says, he squandered his wealth in wild living.”

And things go from bad to worse. There’s a famine. His fair-weather friends don’t want to know him. And he ends up feeding pigs, so hungry he even looks longingly at the PIG’S FOOD.

And he wonders how on earth he finished up in such a mess. He’s reached rock bottom! Things were NEVER that bad at Dad’s place!

Suddenly he has a brain wave! His father’s got servants! At least THEY get three square meals a day, and a roof over their heads.

So he decides to go home to dad, beg his forgiveness, and ask to be given a job as a servant! V17.

(Luke 15:17-19 NIV)  “”When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to ! {18} I’ll set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. {19} I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'”

It SEEMS like a good idea. But he’s really got NO idea. No idea about the privilege of being a SON. Of having a relationship with his father.

And he’s got NO IDEA about the depth of his Dad’s love. Assuming his Dad wouldn’t forgive and forget. Assuming there was a LIMIT to his father’s forgiveness.

But that’s his plan. And so, he heads home.

Meanwhile, Dad’s spent every day on his verandah. Waiting, and hoping.

And one day he spied in the distance/ a familiar, dejected figure trudging slowly along the dusty road. It’s his son! Look at v20.

(Luke 15:20 NIV)  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

What an incredible, undeserved, unexpected welcome.

But look happens next. Notice the son never goes through with his plan? He never asks his father for that job.

(Luke 15:21 NIV)  “”The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'”

He just recognises his sin. And the insult he’s caused his Dad. And that he deserves nothing. There’s no demands. No deals. Just repentance.

And that’s what WE ALL need to do. When we’ve wandered away from God. Lost in the pit of our own regrets and mistakes. To RETURN to our HEAVENLY Father. Recognise our sin. Recognise our unworthiness. And ask for forgiveness.

Which Jesus says we can do CONFIDENTLY because of the picture he goes on to paint about God’s forgiveness. Have a look at how the Father responds. No lectures, no frown, no big sigh or silent treatment. Just JOY. V22.

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

And that’s just what GOD does when one of US returns to HIM. Hard to believe – but TRUE! The God of the Universe REJOICING when one insignificant human being comes home.

Look back to the earlier stories Jesus told. V7.

7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Or the same thing in v10.

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

And I’m convinced/ because Jesus says it/ that if any of YOU make that decision TONIGHT. If you recognise that you’ve wandered away from God. That you’ve lived without considering God at all. And REPENT of that. And RETURN to God. To living under his roof.

Then God will throw a party in YOUR HONOUR TOO. He’s got the champagne on ice. The invitation’s have gone out. And now God’s waiting to see how you’ll respond. Waiting to begin the celebration. Of a lost son. Who’s been found.

Is that something YOU need to do? Why not do it TONIGHT? Talk to me after church. Or to one of your leaders.

But there’s ALSO the other son. Do you remember him? He’s the OLDER son. The stay-at-home son. And my guess is/ he’s the one MOST of us relate to.

Because, for MANY of us, there’s never been a time when we haven’t been in our Father’s house. Our parents were Christians,

and we were baptised into the visible church. We’ve grown up knowing that God is real, and that he deserves our love and respect. That was certainly MY experience.

The older son never insulted Dad by asking for his inheritance. He never wandered away from home, he never blew thousands of dollars. He stayed with Dad, and did as he was told.

Did that mean he was the perfect son? Not by a long shot! Have a look at his attitude when he realises Dad’s throwing the party for his long-lost brother. V28

{28} “The older brother became ANGRY and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. {29} But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been SLAVING for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. {30} But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with s comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'”

He was a son by NAME, but by attitude and action he was only a SERVANT. His concept of relationship was based on service and works. He expected his father to reward him for his actions. He wanted PAYMENT.

He didn’t recognise that sonship was not something to be earned, Sonship was actually a privilege bestowed as a gift by his father.

(Luke 15:31 NIV)  “”‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

What a comparison!

The younger son wanted to become a SERVANT, but was restored to SONSHIP. The older son was actually a SERVANT because he failed to recognise the basis for his SONSHIP!

The lost son is having his banquet, delighting in his restored sonship with his father. The found son is complaining about his lack of fringe benefits.

There’s a huge difference between being a son, and being a servant.

One of my friends, Ian, grew up with his father who ran a marina. He used to love spending his Saturdays helping dad potter around on boats.

He’d watch dad work, help out here and there, and go out on boats whenever a test drive was happening.

As he got older, it gradually dawned on him that other people got paid to work at the Marina. Aaaah! That sounded alright! So he asked his father if he could get paid as well. With a smile on his face, his dad agreed.

So the next Saturday morning he showed up bright and early ready for another fun day at work….

Ian says that he’d never had as big a shock as he got that day. He didn’t stop from dawn to dusk. If he wasn’t sweeping, he was washing, or making coffee, or cleaning up, or running errands. By the end of the day he was exhausted.

As his dad was paying him, he asked Ian if he still liked the idea of being a paid workman. It was then that Ian decided that he much preferred the PRIVILEGES OF SONSHIP to the EXPECTATIONS OF BEING AN EMPLOYEE.

It was a lesson the younger son had learned. But the older son preferred the legalism and rules and expectations of being a paid worker.

And the problem with THAT. Is that NO ONE can work off their debt with their heavenly father. No one can EARN their board and lodging in God’s house. No one’s good enough

And look at his ATTITUDE. Life following Dad’s rules were to be ENDURED, not enjoyed. There was a bitterness and resentment there. A jealousy and envy at the freedoms OTHERS had.

Are you ever like that with non-Christians? Wishing that you had a bit more of what THEY’VE got? Doubting whether obedience brings THE BEST of life?

There was no REJOICING in his relationship. “All these years …Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could CELEBRATE with my friends.

Scorning God as miserly and stingy. Not willing to give you good things. The son took all the good things he had for granted. Do you ever think of God like that? Continually asking. Never thanking. It would do you the world of good to set yourself the challenge of listing 100 things you can be thankful for. Grateful to God for.

But there’s a second mistake the older son made. He despised the younger son. He begrudged the forgiveness shown by his Father.

The older son expected his fathers approval on the basis of the things he did, so HE reckoned the YOUNGER SON should be judged the same way.

He was the respectable one, and he couldn’t understand what his father saw in the younger son.

And when we recognise THAT, we can see the sting in the tale as Jesus told the story. Because THE PHARISEES were ones who tried to earn their way into God’s house. The PHARISEES were the ones who looked down their noses at the tax-collectors and sinners.

Remember back to the start of the chapter? V1

(Luke 15:1-2 NIV)  “Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. {2} But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.””

And yet the Father’s joy is so infectious he wants his SON to share it too. To welcome his brother back from the .

(Luke 15:31-32 NIV)  “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. {32} But we had to CELEBRATE and be glad, because THIS BROTHER OF YOURS was and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

And that’s Jesus’ message to the Pharisees. If God has accepted these lost people, then YOU should too. You should receive them AS BROTHERS.

Do you ever presume to decide WHAT SORT OF PEOPLE are FIT to be part of God’s family? Do you JUDGE what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour?

Who made YOU the gate-keeper for God’s sheep-pen? If God’s rejoiced at the salvation of someone, who are YOU to disown them? To treat them as no part of your family?

Do you ever say?

·          Those oldies don’t have a heart for the gospel. Their too traditional to be full-on Christians

·         The youth have no respect for the church. They come in and put their feet on the pews, and make a mess of the hall.

·          Those oldies are stuck in the last century. Modern music is where we need to be. It’s about being relevant to the community – nobody listens to organ music anymore!

·         Why can’t the youth sit still, stop talking, and listen during the sermon. Perhaps they shouldn’t be here at all if they’re not prepared to behave appropriately!

Or do you REJOICE at the people God’s welcoming home. Even if they DON’T look like you. Or think like you. Or make life inconvenient for you.

Jesus says “God has chosen his church. Who are YOU to question his choice?”

(Slow down)

One final word of caution. Where does the older son finish up? Look at verse 28

(Luke 15:28 NIV)  “”The older brother became ANGRY and REFUSED TO GO IN. So his father went out and pleaded with him.”

And that’s the end of the story.

The younger son’s welcomed back. He repents, and his father forgives. No questions asked. No repayment necessary. 100% restoration. Enjoying the party that’s FAR RICHER than anything he’d blown his money on.

But the older son finishes outside the banquet! Separated from the Father! His arrogance results in missing out on the very thing he’s worked so hard for!

He thought he was IN HIS FATHER’S house. Found. But he ended up missing out. LOST.      Don’t let that be you!

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