1. Is it possible that you struggle with showing GRACE to other people around you? Is it possible that you struggle with the idea of treating people better than they deserve to be treated?
And if so, it’s probably because you and I are prone to relate to God in an ungracious way. We are prone to desire and think that God ought to treat us according to how we deserve to be treated. And then we act that way according to the world around us.
2. The “elder brothers” of the Bible, and of the world, and of the church today… are always keeping younger brothers –SINNERS, that is away from God. They think that, “Well being in the presence of God is something that you earn, and you deserve, and you merit, therefore these people have not earned it, they haven’t deserved it. And so they shouldn’t be in the presence of God.
3. Many of us more naturally relate to the “younger brother”; but all of us, in some way are supposed to identify with the older brother. Because there’s always someone lower than us on the totem pole. No matter how bad we’ve messed up there’s always someone who’s messed up more than us; and many of us are prone to think that God ought to just draw the line and to cut it off right below us… as long as we make the cut, but everyone else below us doesn’t make the cut.
4. “Maybe we’re not going around criticizing the younger brothers of the world and we’ve gotten that down OK. But maybe we’ve unintentionally, by failing to show others that we utterly need grace as well… maybe we have unintentionally communicated to the world around us that only people who have their life together get to come into the presence of God.
We have to begin to relate to the culture in the world around us with our brokenness as well, that they might identify with it, welcoming younger brothers to come home and find and discover the presence of God
“It’s OK to express yourself and to be known as a broken sinner”
5. The elder brother, he’s not only someone who can’t show grace… it effects his a relationship with other people, but he’s also someone who’s never received Grace… and it ultimately effects his relationship with God.
6. Ultimately you see the reason why the elder brother is not shown Grace… isn’t because God lacks grace… it’s not because God’s unwilling to show him Grace it’s because he doesn’t think that he needs Grace.
7. What is Grace?
If we build our life around the framework of the GRACE of JESUS CHRIST, while that Grace may free us to go sin and do whatever we want without losing our standing before God, it will ultimately restrain us, and produce far greater righteousness in our lives than if we just sought to be righteous on our own, apart from God’s grace.
Pastor Dan Transcription below:
Pastor Dan Transcription:
“Well thank you to all of you who’ve planned the service and have participated in it up to this point. I feel like you have just set the stage so well for our focus together this morning.
We here at Kirkmont if you don’t know, we’ve begun a series… we’re actually Week #4 into a six week series called The Prodigal God. And we’ve been looking at, in case you’re either new with us, or you just decided to show up to church real tired the last three weeks and don’t remember anything, but either way, we’ve been looking at together, Jesus’ most famous parable the Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Book of Luke Chapter 15.
We’ve looked at it from all kinds of different angles, we have a couple more weeks after this. But today we’re going to take the time to focus on the character referred to as the elder brother or the older brother in the parable.
Now that’s not to say that we haven’t mentioned the older brother at all in our time together, or we haven’t mentioned anything about him, but we certainly have done that, but today we’re going to focus on the older brother and hope to say some things to you about this elder brother that we haven’t already said, particularly as he relates to the topic of grace… the older brother and the topic of grace.`
You see I want to suggest you this morning from the outset that elder brothers are people who show no grace to others because they have received no grace from God… that elder brothers are people who show no grace to others because they have received_no_grace_from_God.
I want to invite you to our passage in the Book of Luke Chapter 15. We’ll go into this parable again; now maybe perhaps if you happen to be visiting with us this morning, you may be a little unclear as to who the elder brother is; or what do we mean by grace?
Grace is a term that’s often used in the church that I find that people who’ve gone to church for years don’t fully grasp and understand what we mean when we say the word grace. Those are things we’re going to we’re going to define here in just a moment as we walk through this passage together.
So let’s go back… we are going to read the whole thing and focus on a few verses, but let’s go then to Luke Chapter fifteen. Starting in verse eleven as we think about the elder brother as it pertains to the subject of grace.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them.
Now one of the things we said here at Kirkmont, was this parable is told within a context… and the context that just a few verses before this we learn that Jesus, real life here, not an historical moment, not the parable, was sitting down at a table with what the culture of that time called sinners–people who just had no regard for God and how they lived their lives.
And there were Pharisees who were there, who are religious people who were extremely religious always trying to obey God in every area of life; who thought it was improper that Jesus would be in such relationship with these sinners.
And now Jesus goes on and he tells this parable… and so far we’ve been introduced to three characters: a father and two sons. The father is to represent Jesus… or maybe more pointedly the character of our heavenly Father, God the Father in heaven; and the two sons represent the two people who are at the table of Jesus. The younger son – being the sinners. And the older son – being the Pharisees, the religious people.
Now we’re talking then about the older brother today. And so we’re talking about religious people. Verse 13,
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out 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; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
Now if you’re one of those people wondering, “What exactly is GRACE?” What do we mean in the church when we use the term GRACE? Here it is, a living LIVE example:
“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.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
You see friends, this is a definition, a living example of what GRACE is because “grace” is by definition UNMERITED FAVOR, or UN-EARNED FAVOR…. it’s finding yourself in the favor of someone else regardless of the fact that you don’t deserve to be in their favor.
‘Grace’ is being treated by someone more highly than you deserve to be treated… better than you have earned to be treated by them. That is what it would me to be shown grace.
To SHOW Grace of course would be to treat other people all around you better than they deserve and have earned to be treated.
And this is exactly what the father does… the son has taken his inheritance and squandered it, wishing his father to be dead. His father had every right if he was to treat him according to the way that he deserved, he would have just dismissed them and disowned him and left them on the outside; maybe accept him back of the hired man possibly.
But instead what he does is he comes and he takes his BEST ROBE… this incredible symbol of dignity and honor and he places it upon him. Then he puts the RING, the family ring, the family seal if you will, and he puts it back on his son saying, ‘you’re not going to come back as a hired worker… you get to come back and be a full fledged member of the family of God.’
And then he comes along and he puts sandals on its feet. What is putting sandals on his feet mean? How is that gracious? Well studying the culture tells us that back then the hired workers and the servants wouldn’t have worn shoes; so this is one other way he lets his son know that he’s coming back as a son.
And then he kills the fattened CALF and has a huge party for him. This is Grace.
This is the father treating his son better than he has earned or deserves to be treated.
And I want to ask you this morning… before we continue in this passage I just want to ask you … is it possible that you struggle with showing grace to other people around you?
Is it possible that you struggle with the idea of treating people better than they deserve to be treated?
And if so, it’s probably because you and I are prone to relate to God in an ungracious way. We are prone to desire and think that God ought to treat us according to how we deserve to be treated. And then we act that way according to the world around us.
This elder brother is someone who shows no grace, because he receives no grace. And when we don’t relate to God through the concept of grace, and by means of grace, we don’t relate to other people through the means of grace either.
And so now we get to the elder brother in the passage.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Well, as we look at this older brother the first thing we’re going to do is to look at this older brother who basically is someone who shows no grace. So this is affecting his relationship with other people.
The elder brother who shows no grace, we’re going to look at how that affects his relationship with other people. And then we’re going to look at the idea of this elder brother’s being someone who’s shown no grace and how that affects his relationship with God.
Well first look at this idea of this elder brother who shows no grace and how it affects his relationship with other people. You know, the older brother is so out of touch with the concept of grace, so out of touch with the formula of grace, that when his own brother comes back… his own brother.. his blood and family.. his younger brother whom he supposed to love and care about and should have been extremely worried and concerned about his state and well being while he was off and out of sight.
When his own brother comes back he’s unable to rejoice about his arrival and his return because he is so out of touch with grace, he is just so insistent that people be treated according to how they deserve to be treated. He cannot grasp the idea that someone would be treated and welcomed in a way that is better off than they actually have earned and deserve.
And the elder brothers of the Bible, and of the world, and of the church today… are always keeping younger brothers –SINNERS, that is away from God. They think that, “Well being in the presence of God is something that you earn, and you deserve, and you merit, therefore these people have not earned it, they haven’t deserved it. And so they shouldn’t be in the presence of God.
And so elder brothers are always keeping younger brothers away from the presence of God.
Some of you remember the passage of Jesus in the children in Matthew 19:13-14. You can take a look at it and I’ll just sort of describe it for you.
“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Jesus is there, and people are trying to bring children to Jesus and His disciples. It’s almost like you can imagine they form like this wall around Jesus.
Lately my kids have been infatuated with watching the Nature Channel where basically violent animals, you know, predators are attacking each other. And it’s interesting how like the herd will protect the babies of the herd, if you will by forming a wall around them.
You can almost imagine this sort of the disciples are doing as people are trying to bring children to Jesus like, “No Jesus is too important for these kids… shoo, get away, get away.”
And you can just imagine that elder brothers are in a similar way… they sort of do that with God and Jesus and the church as well… they sort of form a barrier around Him, protecting, making sure that the sinners of the world don’t come into the presence of God like, “We are somehow hired by God to act as his Secret Service and protect him from the sinners of the world.”
We say things like, “OH… but don’t you realize that God is HOLY… God is JUST … God is RIGHTEOUS.. He’s PURE and GLORIOUS and you’re not any of those things. God is OMNIPOTENT, and OMNISCIENT, and OMNIPRESENT, and the other OMNI-s that you can think of… I mean He’s all these wonderful things”.
And don’t get me wrong it’s not wrong to think highly of God and His character UNTIL that leads you to think that sinners are no longer welcome in God’s presence because that’s not what the Bible tells us.
And ELDER brothers who cannot function according to Grace,are always trying to protect God from the SINNERS of the world; keep them out of the church; keep them out of God’s presence, because they haven’t earned and deserved and merited their way into his presence.
He says, “How would the attitude of the elder brother make it harder for the younger brother to come home.? How can you prevent this from happening in your own life and your church?”
I think that’s a key question when we start thinking about the subject of grace. How would the attitude of the older brother affect someone’s willingness to come home? Do you see how all of us, no matter who we more naturally relate to in this passage… maybe some of you you read this passage in your like, “I-AM… or was THE YOUNGER BROTHER.”.
But you see how all of us, in some way are supposed to identify with the older brother. Because there’s always someone lower than us on the totem pole. No matter how bad we’ve messed up there’s always someone who’s messed up more than us; and many of us are prone to think that God ought to just draw the line and to cut it off right below us… as long as we make the cut, but everyone else below us doesn’t make the cut.
And what we do then, when we have that attitude is we keep the younger brother away. Whenever we look down on someone else; whenever we judge them; whenever we fail to show them Grace, we make it harder for the “younger brother” to come home …for the sinners to come to God.
And this came up at our small group a couple weeks ago… this idea that, “You know maybe we’re not going around criticizing the younger brothers of the world and we’ve gotten that down OK. But maybe we’ve unintentionally as the church, by failing to show the world that we utterly need grace as well… maybe we have unintentionally communicated to the world around us that only people who have their life together get to come into the presence of God.
And we need to start relating as a church to the world not only through the areas of our life that we have put together; but through the areas of our life that are broken as well.
Now you and I will if you’ve been around the church you might grasp that and understand that, we might take for granted the fact that we gather today in the presence of God’s grace and mercy dependent upon Jesus and the Sacrifice on the Cross.
But I quite frankly don’t think that the culture around us has gotten that message from the church. I think they’re under the assumption that we honestly think that we’re better than they are and more righteous and more holy than they are.
We have to begin to relate to the culture in the world around us with our brokenness as well, that they might identify with it, welcoming younger brothers to come home and find and discover the presence of God.
Romans 12:3 tells us this,
“For by the grace that was given me, I say to every one of you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. But rather think of yourself with sober judgment and accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you.”
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.
I’ve confessed things and revealed brokenness about myself that quite frankly I think has shocked the church that I was preaching at at times… shocked maybe my own wife at times. She grew up in the church and she grew up in a culture where had her father been that transparent the people would just eaten him alive.
And churches are so often an unsafe place to communicate our brokenness, but here Paul says “I’m the chief of sinners.”
Is there anything that I can say to acknowledge my brokenness that should really shock you?
Ya know the elder brother, he’s not only someone who can’t show grace… it effects his a relationship with other people, but he’s also someone who’s never received Grace… and it ultimately effects his relationship with God.
And verse 29, Scripture tells us this… this was a verse that we pulled out last week as well. It says
“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
So do you understand that one of the Christian principles is that as we receive and embrace the character of our God in our life, it’s supposed to overflow and we show it to others… as we’ve been shown it, we show it to others.
So, we’ve been showed God’s love, we show his love. This verse specifically speaks to the idea that we’ve been shown God’s forgiveness, we show God’s forgiveness. We ought to apply that to Grace is well… if we’ve been shown God’s grace – we show God’s grace.
That’s why people who don’t think that they actually need God’s grace don’t show God’s grace to other people because they’ve never themselves have actually received it.
The greatest danger of thinking too highly of ourselves then isn’t necessarily our relationship with other people. But the greatest danger is how it affects our relationship with God.
These elder brothers of the world they want God to treat people fairly, because they think, quite frankly, that they’ll fair quite well, if He does that.
In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus tells this parable, it’s a little bit of a long parable but here’s the parable that he tells; some of you know this one. Of all the parables that Jesus tells, this seems like the most unfair one. I mean if you are a fair person, this parable is likely to rock your world.
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
“For the kingdom of heaven (meaning, this is how God operates) is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages,
Now of course we’re expecting that the workers are all going to get paid different amounts based on how long they’ve been working in the field.
beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
Or are you envious because I_am_generous?
Do you see the parallels to the the story of the Prodigal Son? … this brother comes along and he just cannot understand how God would treat the younger son who has not done much for him at all. So highly favorably… and yet he’s done all this work for him and he just cannot imagine how the father would act that way towards these two different groups of people.
It’s like you can almost imagine this quote… at the end. “Or are you envious because I am generous?”
You can almost just imagine the sentence, “Or are you bothered because I am gracious?”
Or are you bothered because I am gracious… and quite frankly elder brothers are… they don’t like the idea that God is GRACIOUS because their identity is wrapped up in the fact that they are living a righteous life, that’s better than others, and they want God to honor that… to recognize it, and to be rewarded better than the people who don’t.
Elder brothers can’t stand Grace… they’re like to the people in this passage… they can’t stand God’s generosity, his generous Grace… because they think it’s a license to sin.
If God is so gracious, if he’s going to pay everybody the same amount regardless of what they’ve done, why not show up to work late? Why not go to the vineyard till the end of the day?
This is sort of symbolizing the idea of “Let’s not give your life to God until till you’re older in life”. Keep your life as your own; do whatever it is you want when you’re younger, wait to the end and God will reward you the same as those who’ve been working for him for their whole life.
Or maybe we could interpret this way. “Go ahead and show up to work early but just be lazy and don’t be that productive. You know don’t be a very good employee because you’re gonna get the same amount as everyone else.”
These people can’t stand Grace because they think the message of grace is giving people a license to sin and to do whatever it is they want… “WHY NOT JUST SIN and do whatever it is you want” these people ask in the face of grace.
Romans 5:20-21 the Scripture says this,
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
I want to know before we read this next verse, what Paul has done in his letter to the church in Rome, in the first five chapters… he has written such a convincing and profound MESSAGE OF GRACE that he anticipated this very objection that the people who are reading this letter would say, “If that’s how God relates to us. Why wouldn’t we just keep sinning?”
So he has to open up the sixth chapter with this question.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”
He’s asking the same thing that the elder brother’s asking, “I don’t get it?”.
There are “elder brothers” apparently in the church in Rome who Paul knew would be asking the same question that the elder brother was… “WHY WOULD GOD TREAT PEOPLE THAT WAY if grace was so profound? It that’s how God relates to the world, “Why wouldn’t we just keep sinning?”
Maybe some of you have wondered that yourself. And Paul says the answer to that is, “BY_NO_MEANS”… “WE HAVE DIED TO SIN in our relationship with Christ”… “we become a new creation”; and I’m inserting that from a letter to the Corinthians.
How can we live in it any longer?
You see, if you’re here today and you aspire to be righteous, and to live righteous in your life and to follow and obey all of God’s laws and commands. I commend you for that. But I want you to become convinced of this, this morning before you leave this place: that if you build your life upon the Grace of Jesus Christ, it will produce far greater righteousness in your life than you’ll ever be able to manufacture on your own.
If you build your life around the framework of the GRACE of JESUS CHRIST, while that Grace may free you to go sin and do whatever you want without losing your standing before God, it will ultimately restrain you and produce far greater righteousness in your life than if you just seek to be righteous on your own, apart from God’s grace.
So the path to being righteous and pleasing God with your obedience, is to build your life upon the Grace that he offers you in Jesus Christ.
We have the privilege of coming to the Table this morning. When I think of this table and I think of the subject of grace I can’t help but think of my college years. Yes I need grace for my college years… but that’s another sermon.
I think of when I was in college I worked at a church… a Presbyterian Church. I got a job as a Youth Director and often our church would have, like good Presbyterian Churches they’s have a lot of meals… POTLUCK meals… then we called them POT-BLESSED meals because we didn’t believe in luck. So we had “Potblessed Meals”.
And there I was in college I had no money, no kitchen, and so I really had a hard time bringing anything to the Potblessed meal. The truth of the matter is if I had a kitchen and I had money I would have had no idea how to make anything to bring to the Pot-blessed meal.
So after a couple of feeble tries I finally just sort of gave up and just realized you know what, “I’m just going to learn to be content showing up empty handed.”
And so I would come. I would come to the table, and I would put absolutely nothing on the table at all, and I would pick up a plate, and I would walk through the line, and I would leave with a plate full in abundance of food.
I think in many ways that symbolizes how we need to come to this table. And how we need to come to our relationship with God. If we come to this table we come into our relationship with God holding on to the things that we have done well and right and trying to bring those to God, then we’re not going to walk away in our hands with what he has to offer us.
And so the key to a right relationship with God, the key to coming to this table in the right disposition is to let go of any of the things that you think you’ve MERITED, and to stop relating to God that way, and to embrace the grace that He offers you; to be OK with the idea that you come empty handed, and to allow Him to just fill your plate.
To put his robe upon you to put his ring on your finger. And to put sandals on your feet, and to hear him say “You are my child, by my Grace, through my sacrifice on the Cross”.
That’s how he invites us to come to the table this morning.
I want to invite those who are helping me to serve communion to come forward at this time. And as we’re making sort of our final preparations I want to let you know this table is not my table. It’s not Kirkmont’s table… Jesus Christ is the host of this table. And all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and then the appropriate response is to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are welcome to come to the Table and experience the grace that is found in this table as a visible reminder of what Jesus has done for us two thousand years ago.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed he made arrangements to have a meal with his best friends, his disciples. Having given thanks for the bread, He then broke it.
Can you imagine what went on in their minds and in their hearts when he said to them. “This represents my body. Which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.”
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Pastor Dan Borgelt
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church
Beavercreek, Ohio 45385