Prodigal God – Week 5

OPENING 3 minute VIDEO

AUDIO (28 minutes)

Pastor Dan (transcript):
“I remember when I first came across this video.. it was a powerful and moving video to me to see these people in various different circumstances… many of them their life already ruined or on the verge of being ruined… and coming to the conclusion by the grace and mercy of God that they_need_You… “Lord I Need You”.

And I’ll be honest and transparent with you this morning that my hope and desire from our time together in the Scripture is that each of us when we leave this place will be able to come to a more convincing conclusion… to be convinced of, to be able to honestly say before God the expression: “Lord.  I need you.”

Now maybe you’re here this morning and you really not even sure what that expression means… what we mean by “Lord I need you”; who is Lord and what would it mean to NEED that Lord?

I hope our time together will clarify that for us.

You see, I believe that there’s no one who has to do anything to come to God except to acknowledge their need for Jesus Christ as their true Older Brother.  I believe that there is no one who has to do anything to come to God except to acknowledge their need for Jesus Christ as their true older brother.

And that’s a wonderful promise, but it’s also a reality that if that promise is true it speaks to the reality that not only do we not need to do anything but that means we utterly need our true Elder Brother, and that is Jesus Christ.

And so maybe you’re here this morning and you are trying to get closer to God, your relationship with God is something that you would like to see improve in your life… well then I want you to be able to leave here and say Lord I need you.

Or maybe you’re here this morning and that’s really not at the forefront of your mind or your heart.  Maybe what’s at the forefront of your mind and at your heart is finding inner peace… or peace in your home, or purpose in life, or whatever it might be… then I want to be clear that our hope and desire is that when you leave here this morning, you’re able to honestly say Lord.  I need you.  I need you.  I need you as my one and true Elder Brother.

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You know, when we were kids, the whole idea of needing someone else’s help came a little more naturally than it does now as adults didn’t it?  I mean if you ever raised kids… maybe you don’t remember what it was like as a child, but if you ever a raised kids or have watched someone else’s kids, you realize that one things kids are great at is asking you to do stuff for them.

They need help with just about everything.

We’ve got three kids and I mean they’re constantly asking us to do something… we’re tying shoes, we’re pouring glasses of lemonade… making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches… cleaning up lemonade that’s been spilled …you know constantly doing things for our kids, because they’re great at asking us for help and letting us know when it is that they need something.

But as we grow up we sort of lose that… right?  I mean once a kid realizes that they can pour their own lemonade, the last thing they want is someone else’s help.  Once they can make their own sandwich the last thing they want is someone else’s help doing it.

Once a kid grasps that they can go to the bus and get on the bus themselves and go to school, they don’t want mom or dad waiting for them. And once they figured out that they can drive the last thing they want is mom or dad in the front seat watching them learn how to drive and all those types of things.

It’s the reason as we get older and we get into the workplace.  The term micro-manage has such a negative connotation because we think of that word, we think, “Look leave me alone, I can handle this, I can do this on my own.”

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So when we’re young and children were naturally able to ask for help. It’s easier for us to admit that we have a need.  And as we grow older we lose that. It might be one of the reasons why Jesus said in Matthew Chapter eighteen and verse three some of you might remember this verse, it might be one of the reasons why Jesus said, Matthew 18:3,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Look at that expression… “unless you change“… it’s not like, “Oh by the way just be more like the kids.” It’s like Jesus realizes we become something different, we become more independent, and one of the necessities to coming into an honest relationship with God is to change and to become like_little_children… to be able to acknowledge, “Lord.  I need you… I can’t do this on my own …micro-manage my life… I_need_you !”

Lord I Need You

Here we are in a series here Kirkmont; we’re in week five of a six week series.  That is bad news to those of you have been enjoying the series; and it’s good news to those of you who haven’t really been enjoying the series. We’re almost done, just one more week after this, but here we are in week five, six weeks in a row talking about Luke Chapter fifteen, and one of Jesus’s most famous parables–the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

So here, it’s within that context that we come up with the idea of “Lord. I need you”.

We want to let you know where we’ve been in this parable thus far, and in what Jesus has established in this parable. And I’ve been trying to be sensitive to the fact that some of you have been here every week and hearing this long chapter week after week might become difficult for you; but I also want to be sensitive of the fact that some of you might be visiting with us for the very first time, or maybe have just missed a few of the Sundays and would appreciate some sense of a recap.

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And so let’s first look at this idea that Jesus is telling us a parable in Luke chapter fifteen… a story that’s meant to teach a point; and in verses one to three, we discover sort of what launched Jesus into teaching this parable.

There was a historical meal that was being had, a real life situation that opened up into this parable and that as the scripture says in Luke 15:1-3,

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

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What is the word muttered mean?

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That’s an interesting expression… here they are, Jesus is with some people who are labeled as sinners at this time…  and there’s some religious people who come along and they “mutter it”, clearly with displeasure the idea that Jesus would take the time to eat with these people.

So now Jesus tells this parable.  Now why does he tell the parable?

Certainly, He could be speaking to the to the tax collectors and the sinners; he could be speaking to the Pharisees, or maybe he’s justifying to both groups why he’s doing what he’s doing; or maybe it’s really all three at the same time.

But either way he launches in, and we learn first about a young son… in versus eleven through twenty.  He’s just told us a two other short parables–a parable about a Lost Sheep, a parable about a Lost Coin, and now he tells us a parable about a Lost Son.

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.

“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.

“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.”

And so Jesus begins by telling us about a younger brother…

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…a younger brother who makes a decision to say “I don’t want anything to do with my father anymore.”  This is the SINNER saying at one point in time, “We want nothing to do with God in our life at all.”

They go out and they live life however it is that they would want to live; and in that we’ve said before in the last few weeks maybe some of you can really identify, relate to seasons of your life being just like that.

But eventually comes to the realization that he’s made a mistake, that he’s hit rock bottom, that he may be better off going back to this father, and he does that. Of course, sort of the cliffhanger of this whole thing is how is the father going to respond to him coming back? … And we discover that he responds with incredible COMPASSION.

But then there’s an older brother in this story as well.

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We’ll read just a couple verses about this older brother… in verses twenty eight through thirty … of course one might ask then, “Well how is the older brother going to feel about this?”  Certainly, we said last week, he should have been concerned about his brother… he should have cared about his brother… saying/thinking, “My brother’s been lost”… “my flesh and blood was out there and wandering and I was worried about his whereabouts and how well he was doing, and now he’s come home, and all that is that rest for me and at peace for me…”

But instead the Scripture says,

“The older brother, in verse 28,  became angry and refused to go in to this party, this celebration that the father was having for the son.  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!’

So we see what’s happening in this parable, that Jesus is telling a story to these tax collectors and these sinners and to the Pharisees about these two brothers and both groups are supposed to identify themselves with one of these brothers: the tax collectors and sinners with the YOUNGER brother; and the Pharisees, the religious people with the OLDER brother.

And there is Jesus  representing the Father with his actions and with his behavior and he’s telling the story and we’ve talked for the last four weeks about whether we personally identify with the younger brother or the older brother more or less.

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And yet we cannot miss one of the most beautiful and profound things that’s happening in this whole passage… is that while Jesus is telling this story about these brothers, we ought not to only think of ourselves and other people, we have to realize that Jesus, in the midst of telling the story is busy living out the very parable that he’s telling.

He’s busy living out the very story that he’s telling … He’s here telling them a story about how God cares for the lost people and wants to rescue them and restore a relationship to them.  And that is exactly the thing that he’s living out.  He’s sitting there.  Not only is he sitting there with the people who need that, having a meal with them.  But in the bigger picture of things, He was seated at the right hand of God the Father and he left all of that… he was born of the Virgin Mary as we confessed earlier; and not only was He fully divine, he also became fully human, and lived here on Earth and walked among us.

He was here to rescue us… he was in the middle of participating in this rescue mission that he is telling a parable about. Making possible the reality that people would be able to come home and experience compassion and grace and forgiveness… Jesus in the midst of making this parable a reality by being here on Earth and even telling the story itself.

Jesus is then set up as the true elder brother…  ultimately how we’re supposed to see this.

For those of you who are participating in our small groups and in our Bible studies who are doing this study together, that’s what our topic is for this week — the true Elder brother.  And Tim Keller, the author of our series, will be inviting us to see Jesus as the true, Elder Brother.

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We said we said a few weeks ago that the elder brother in this story, what was supposed to happen culturally back then, is instead of the younger brother coming all the way back home, and the father running off to him, what should have happened is the older brother should have gone to the father and said, “Father, as the older brother, I will go seek out in find your son, my younger brother… it might be at great cost to me; it might be risky to me…”... whatever it might be, the older brother was supposed to have gone to the Father and say, “Father, I will go find your child.”

You can just imagine this happening even in today’s culture:  if a parent was limited in their resources, maybe their health didn’t allow them to, and they had great concerns about one of their younger children, you would expect one of the older siblings to step up and play that role… to play the rescue role. Some of you maybe did that for your younger siblings; or maybe some of your older siblings had to do that for you.

But either way… here Jesus is now being cast and presented as our true, Elder Brother.  The one who came and rescued us.

In Colossians, chapter one, versus thirteen to fourteen.  The Scripture tells us this,

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

You see that expression, “He has rescued us”… now this is Speaking of God the Father, but the work of God the Father and Jesus are one in the same in this verse… because he’s rescued us from the dominion of darkness, you can just imagine the LOST SHEEP being in the dominion of darkness; or the LOST COIN being somewhere in the in the dark corner of the house, in the dominion of darkness; and this LOST SON who is squandering his wealth on prostitutes, and eventually hits rock bottom feeding pigs is sort of out in the dominion of darkness.

And you can imagine then as you read this verse, Jesus as the true elder brother… he’s rescued us from that reality.  He’s brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom who we have then redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  

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Now someone might say, “Well the Bible talks about Jesus as being the true elder brother, but did Jesus even realize that he was the true elder brother?  Was he there on purpose doing that?”

Well in John 6:38-40 the Scripture gives us the understanding that Jesus fully realized that he was the true elder brother.  Jesus says this,

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“…  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me (that I shall lose none of all that he has given me), but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

You see the rescue mission language of Jesus? … He came on purpose to rescue and to redeem those whom the Father sent him to rescue and redeem… that’s what he’s saying here in John chapter six. He is the true elder brother who goes out and seeks and saves all those whom the Father calls him to save.

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For those of you who are doing our study and in our small groups, you’ll come across this quote from Tim Keller on page fifty two of your study guide.  He tells us this about the true elder brother.  He says this.

It says, “For us there is a true elder brother… there is one who loved and obeyed the father completely.” Remember we said the older brother claims that, but it’s not true.  He’s a human being.  He’s fallen and broken.

But there is one who has loved and obeyed the Father completely.  One who earned everything.  He earned the ROBE.  He earned The RING.  He earned everything.  But at the end of His life, what do we see?  He  doesn’t get a royal robe.  He got stripped.  He doesn’t get the fattened calf he got vinegar.  And this true elder brother comes to us and says.  “I did it all for you“.

In other words, Salvation is absolutely free for us.  But it’s unbelievably costly for Him.  You see, we’re supposed to realize our need for Jesus.  I want you to be able to say, “Lord.  I need you this morning”… because you recognize that Jesus is our true Elder Brother… the One who lived the life that we were supposed to; who rescued us the way that the elder brother is supposed to in this passage.

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I want to talk to you for a minute about this true elder brother.  I want to tell you that there’s an exclusive side to the elder brother.  And I also want to tell you about the inclusive side of the elder brother.  The exclusive side of this elder brother; and the inclusive side of this elder brother.

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First the elder brother.  Jesus says is exclusive.  And the reality that there’s only one true Elder Brother.  There’s only one.  And by nature that makes it exclusive.

In John chapter three verse sixteen.  We come across this verse… it’s a famous verse for people who have been around the church at all, it says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his (WHAT?)… his one and his only son.”

Again there’s sort of this, like we experienced in the beginning of our service, there’s this almost unnecessary repetition but it’s emphatic… it’s not just as one son or his only son it’s his one and only son.

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So you see the Scripture’s saying that our elder brother it’s an exclusive component in the fact that there is only one true Elder Brother.  There’s only one person then who has the ability to make right our standing before God, to allow us to come home like the younger brother and to experience grace and mercy and forgiveness.  There’s only one son who is capable of doing that, one_ elder_brother.

In first Timothy chapter two verse five, it says I think even clearer here,  the Scripture says,

“For there is one God, and there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.

There’s only one mediator between us and God. There is only one way for you and I, the younger brother who’s out there lost, to come home into a relationship with the Father… and that is through the one mediator–Jesus Christ.  And that makes the elder brother by its very nature, EXCLUSIVE.

Friends, let’s not cheapen the destination that we get to go to by making that there are multiple ways to get there. 

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I realize that saying that there’s only one elder brother that there’s only one way to get right with God and that is Jesus is not a popular thing to say today.  But let’s not cheapen the whole idea by saying that there’re multiple ways to get there.

It is after all God that we’re talking about, heaven that we’re talking about.  Why do we have to insist that there are multiple ways to get there.  This isn’t Walmart.  Wal-Mart builds big stores and they have three or four entrances into the parking lots.  And then once you park you have three different doors you can go into depending on whether you want to go to the gardening area, or the home goods area, or the grocery area..  you know, that’s Wal-Mart, and it makes sense to have multiple ways to get in. But we’re talking about God and heaven.  A place that’s perfect.  A God who is holy and pure.

We do not need to insist that there are multiple ways to get there; lets not cheapen the destination by insisting that. There is an exclusive side to the elder brother.  He is the one and only son.  Forgiveness is our need to get there and forgiveness, it always comes at a cost… Jesus is the only one who’s paid that price.

Friends.  If you’re here this morning, and your career is your god… I mean being successful and climbing up the ladder… if that is, or was your god, you need to realize that your employer did not pay the price for you to come back to God.

If the way that you LOOK and the way that your present yourself to others is your god.. if you just want people to find you attractive and presentable, and think highly of you because of the CAR that you drive, you need to realize that no matter how much money you spend on your appearance, it will never be enough to pay the price to come back to God.

If your SPOUSE is your god… some of you might think that’s kind of a funny thought, but maybe there’s a few newlyweds in the service perhaps, but if your spouse was your god, or… how about, this might be more realistic: if your CHILDREN are your god, then you need to realize that no family member, no person whom you love and care about or who loves, who cares about you, has ever paid the price for you to come back to God the Father.

If your RELIGION is your god, you need to realize that Mohammad or all of the other religious leaders, or the person who invites you to drink the Kool-Aid has never paid the price for you to come back to God. In fact, they’re inviting you to pay the price yourself.

But that is not the message of Jesus Christ… that is not the message of the Bible.  The message of the Bible is that Jesus has paid the whole price.

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That’s why we call it “The Prodigal God”.

You remember the definition of the word PRODIGAL…  Recklessly extravagant… having spent everything.  And that’s why the series is called “The Prodigal God”… because it tells us that’s exactly what God did through His Son Jesus Christ.

He spent his one and only son on the cross, crucified for you and I…  He paid it all as we were saying earlier.  He gave up everything, as we sang about earlier.

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Well there’s also, quickly then, an inclusive side to the true elder brother. It’s not popular to talk about the exclusive side because we live in a pluralistic culture and society, but there is an exclusive side.  But I also have the privilege of being in the tell you about the inclusive side of the true elder brother.

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Go back to John three sixteen that verse that we looked at earlier.  We see that yes, He gave his one and only son, but then listen to the inclusive language well.

“That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Let’s go back then also to first Timothy Chapter 2:4-5.  And we saw earlier that there was an exclusive side to this verse for there was only one Mediator between God and man; but listen to the inclusive language as well,

(God), who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,”

So you see that alongside of the exclusive language there’s also the inclusive language.  And the reason why the Bible is able to offer us the inclusive language is because Jesus has paid the full price.  So there’s no prerequisite for you and I to have to come to God the Father.

There’s no criteria… it’s not just like some people can because some people are good enough, or have achieved certain things… because Jesus has done all the work, I have the privilege of being able to offer the opportunity to come to God to all people.

There’s no one who has to do anything to come to God, except to acknowledge their need for Jesus Christ, as their true elder brother.

That means friends… if you’re here this morning, you don’t need to kick that bad habit first.  People don’t need to get their sexuality straightened out, their gender identified, their net worth in the positive, their family all smiles, their clothes Church ready, their political worldviews figured out, their ethnicity a little more Caucasian, or be born in the great US of A to be eligible to come home to God.

You need only to acknowledge your need for Jesus Christ.  To recognize him as your TRUE Elder Brother — the one who rescued YOU, because he has paid the whole price… Him and Him alone.

Because he’s done it all, there’s a beautiful inclusive side to the elder brother.

I don’t want you to get me wrong.  Don’t judge me because I’m not judging others.  I’m not trying to suggest that the Bible doesn’t teach right and wrong about some of those subjects that we’ve listed off.  I’m just suggesting that we need to get the order right… That people don’t need to get those things in line before they come to God.

The younger brother was an incredibly broken.  You think his life was straightened out? His life was incredible mess … he had the stench of pigs on him… poor as could be; broken, dirty, homeless clothes and he walks up to the father and says, “I need you”, and the Father has compassion on him, and receives him.

And that’s all I’m saying the church’s attitude needs to be about the broken world.  And if you feel like you’re part of the broken world.  You need to hear that that is God’s attitude towards you.  There’s a beautiful inclusive side to the elder brother and that is you can come home right now, no matter what you’ve done or what you haven’t done, because he has done all the work. 

Every demand that we put on people to come home to God… we cheapen the work of Jesus Christ as the elder brother… we unintentionally communicate to each other and to the world: “You know, Jesus did quite a bit for you… and if you would only… then you could come back to God.” 

You know Jesus did quite a bit for you and if you would only do this… then you could come home to God.  So you need Jesus… quite a bit… and you need to do some things, quite a bit as well.

… but that’s not the message of the Bible.

The message of the Bible is, JESUS DID IT ALL FOR YOU… and so you need him and him alone for any hope of coming back to God the Father.

I pray that, whatever the circumstance might be in your life… and I cannot imagine that there’s a person here who in all honesty can say that all their circumstances are exactly how they would have them be this morning. That whatever that circumstance might be, that you would leave here with a heightened dependence upon Jesus Christ, and a heightened awareness of being able to say with full honesty and integrity.  “Lord. I need you.”

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Pastor Dan Borgelt
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church
Beavercreek, Ohio 45385
http://www.kirkmont.org/

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