Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered 2/14/04 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Loving the Prodigal

The Faithful Father

Luke 15:11-24

Feeling Footloose, Fancy-Free and Frisky, a Feather Footed Fellow Forced his Fond Father to Fork over the Farthings. He Flew Far to Foreign Fields and Frittered his Fortune with Faithless Friends.

Fleeced by his Fellows and Facing Famine he Found himself in a Filthy Farm Field. He Filled his Famishing Frame with Fodder Fragments.

My Fathers Flunkies Fare Far Finer, the Fugitive Forlornly Fumbled, as he Frankly Faced the Facts. He Fled Forthwith to his Family and Falling at his Fathers Feet, said: Father, I've Fruitlessly Forfeited Family Fellowship Forever.

But the Faithful Father, Forestalling Further Finagling Frantically Flagged his Flunkies to set Forth the Finest Fatling. But the Fugitive's Fault-Finding brother Frowned. He had Faithfully Farmed his Father's Fields for Free and Frowned at his Father's Fickle Forgiveness.

The Faithful Father Figured that Filial Fidelity is Fine, but the Fugitive is Found! Unfurl the Flags with Fanfare. Let Fun Frolic and Frivolity Flow Freely. What Forbids Fervent Festivity? Fetch the Fat calf For a Feast. The Faithful Fathers Forgiveness Formed the Foundation For the Former Fugitives Future Faith. (An example of consonance writing)

I love this parable of Jesus. This classic story is only found in one place in the whole Bible.... Luke 15. It is the story of a faithful Father and His two sons. Together they ran a farming operation. One day the younger son became disgruntled. Life at home was fine but the world was passing him by. The bright lights of distant pagan lands that surrounded Palestine drew him like a moth to the bright flame.

Look at Luke 15. Jesus continued with His parables. He told one, of the lost sheep; one of the lost coin; and now He tells one of the lost son. John 15:11. 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." This lad, I don't know what his name was. We call him the Prodigal Son, don't we? He felt like "They're not giving me enough. "Give me..." Those were his words. Home life had hampered him. He wanted his freedom, and so his father granted him his request. Usually this would mean that fully one third would be given to the younger son and two thirds reserved for the firstborn because the firstborn always had twice as much.

Did the Father use good judgement in giving one third of his money to his son? Maybe he should have said: "Son I don't like your attitude. You may leave, but not with my money." In fact, some feel the father could not have done worse for this boy than to load up a reckless prodigal son with tens of thousands of dollars and send him off into heathen country filled with prostitutes and pagans.

Actually, nobody is chained to the cross. God is always ready to grant our freedom to sin or to go. It's our choice. WE always have that choice. The lad left home with a small fortune. He must have been the happiest he's ever been in his whole life. He didn't have to shovel manure any more. He was away from the dirty barnyard. Now he was free and able to do what he wanted to do. Quickly he found pagan friends. Parties and prostitutes dominated his days. He immersed himself in wild living, the Bible says. Money was the magnet drawing many to his side. This riotous lifestyle continued for perhaps several years. We don't know how long the money held out. Some people have guessed at three to five years.

One day he woke up only to find he had squandered his wealth. Luke 15:13. 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. He squandered his wealth. Its amazing how we can overspend for years and years, and not know that the day of reckoning is fast approaching. That happens to a lot of people. Soon they wake up, "I'm in debt! Where did all the money go? I'm out of money!" And they didn't have credit cards. One day he looked under the mattress to finance one more of these wild parties, and the money was gone. He had spent every bit of it. He had frittered away in a short time what had taken his dad most of a lifetime to earn by hard labor and effort, and he had a third of it. His wild festivities came to a sudden halt.

His 'friends' dried up like water on a hot Arizona highway. Gone in a flash! And to make matters worse, the Scriptures say, that weather cycle changed and a famine came to that land. That worsening his plight. I can imagine him, pawning his ring if he still had it with him. The money went for prostitutes and strong drink. Next he pawned all of his clothes except what he wore. And who know what that went for? Finally everything was hocked. He didn't have anything left. He was getting ragged looking. The heathens there were also suffering, weren't they? It was a bad famine and they were praying to their useless idols for rain that did not come, and would not come.

He may have even sent word back home: "Dad, I need more money." There is not record the dad sent more money. If his father would have kept sending money the prodigal would have never left his sin and come home. You can't support your children's sinful lifestyle. Sometimes God has to let us come to the end of our rope. How often the harsh circumstances of life are permitted to help turn us around and get us going in the direction we ought to go.

Hunger can be a good thing, and hunger started to wake him up. Now we see the first good decision that the prodigal makes. He went out and got a job. That's a good decision, isn't it. Jobs were scarce. He went out looking for work. I hold out little hope for a lazy person. Have you ever noticed how many lazy people (if any) become really strong Christians? I don't know that I can count them on very many fingers. Lazy people usually make weak or bad Christians. But there is hope when a person is willing to work. Look at Luke 15:15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

Now, when you leave God there only direction you can go: downhill. As a Jewish boy he had really hit the bottom. The Bible says not to eat swine's flesh or even touch their carcass....Leviticus 11:7-8. No Seventh-day Adventist eats swine's flesh. We just don't do that. We're not to eat swine's flesh, furthermore, we are not even to touch the carcass of a dead hog. We're not to do that. And here the prodigal is operating a hog yard. That's what he is doing for a living. He's hit the bottom. And, to thicken this crisis, you read in Luke 15:22, he doesn't even have any shoes or sandals. Now, picture yourself on a hog yard with not shoes. You are sloshing through the hog yard stepping in their filth. Just imagine that a minute. That's where he is. He was stepping in their filth. This was utterly detestable. Sitting there watching these unclean pigs hogging down the husks, and he's thinking, "I have come a long way from home. Maybe it's time for me to leave this godless land and these stinking pigs."

The path from home had seemed so promising. He had headed of to make his fortune in life. How wonderful it was, He was going down to Egypt or wherever it was. He was really going to do it. That path had seemed so bright, but it had led him to poverty and destruction. He sat there. He was at the bottom of the barrel. His life was ruined and he sat there in his dirty rags, utterly hopeless and without friends. Everything had gone wrong. It would be hard to imagine anyone facing a worse predicament for a young man.

Actually the prodigal son was experiencing what the world eventually has to offer. All it can offer is the pigpen. Have you lost it all? Maybe you're sitting here and thinking, "I've lost everything. Everything has gone wrong. What might have been never happened. My family is gone. My job is in trouble. My marriage is in jeopardy. My sinful mistakes are destroying me." Do you feel that you've lost it all and there is no way to get back? You've messed up your life for good. If so you have the same feelings as the prodigal son had. That's how he felt.

But when you sink clear to the bottom you can't go down any further and there is hope. The only direction you can go is up. When you descend where you can't go any lower you will find that God's love is still seeking you. There is still hope, even if you're on the bottom. And let me tell you that if the fallen prodigal can find new life, you can find new life in Jesus Christ.

Let's see how he came back :

...He came to his senses. Luke 15:17. Sitting there in the hog yard he frankly saw that he was the root cause of all his troubles. He stopped blaming others and put the blame where it really belonged. Until you can stop saying, "This is my mother's fault. She raised me this way." Take the blame yourself. He realized he had made major mistakes in life.

Look at your own life. What have you spent your resources on? Where have your feet been? Have your lips been clean? Face yourself and admit whose fault your situation really is. The prodigal had hungered for the fast life of the world, and he got it. Now he realized how far he had backslidden from his Father. He came to his senses. He realized that all his efforts were in vain. Our striving always fail us. Our best efforts always fail us. Only God can make things right. Only Jesus can save you.

2. I will go back to my Father - Verse 18. Your only hope is to get right with God. Only your heavenly Father can save you. Only Jesus can save. The prodigal had to humble his proud heart to return to his dad, but he did. In returning to God he had to leave his sinful past. You have to leave the pig-stye. You've got to leave the sinful life, the harlots, the wild parties, the drinking and the drugs. You have to leave that. You have to make a clean break with the past. You have to return where once you had everything right, and get back to church and back to God. Back to your Father.

3. Ask God to give you a new heart. His whole attitude had changed. How do we know that? Remember when he left home his words were "Give me." (Vs 12). Now in verse 19 he rehearses what to say, notice his words: Luke 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. Instead of 'give me', now it is "Make me."

See the change, the new attitude? Before it's "Give me," and now it's "Make me." That's a change from night to day. It's a new attitude here. No longer is he demanding his rights. Now he humbly rehearses his submission to his father. You've got to surrender your whole life to God. The prodigal needs to be made all over again. He knows he can't do it by himself, so his first words are going to be, "Make me." David said in Psalm 51:10, Create in me a pure heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me. He had to be remade. Make me what I am not.

If you totally, from the bottom of your heart ask for a new life, it will come. You're going to have a new heart. He will give it to you. You will have a new start in life.

Can you visualize the prodigal starting for home? He is dressed in shabby tattered rags. He is starved and lost a lot of weight. He's pennyless. He smells like the hog yard. He slowly trudges back up the same trail he had walked before. Back then the expectation was so high, the dreams so big. Now all his dreams were shattered. He may have thought: My mother is gone, Maybe my father is also dead, I don't know. I know my brother... he won't hire me. He will run me off. He's got mixed emotions as he walks back on that path.

Can you image his old father. Try to picture the father in your mind. He's looking down that trail in his direction. Every day his eyes focus on that road. He thinks that some day his boy is going to come back. Then one day the father sees a stranger coming up the road. A gaunt, haggard, thin stranger, his clothes are unrecognizable, but the father's heart instantly knows: here comes my boy! The father comes as fast as possible down the dusty road. He's an old man. Picture his silver hair flying in the breeze as he tries to get to his boy. See that happy gleam in his eye. Catch the smile on his face. As the approach each other, the prodigal tries to talk, but his words are drowned out by the tears of his loving father. What a day!

4. God will accept you. Luke 15:20, 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. If you come back to God that's the reception you're going to get. God will receive you. He will take you back. He'll take you back with love. The prodigal's father had been waiting for him to come back. Every day he'd been looking for his son. And if you return to God, God will accept you as His child.

Now, what was the prodigal hoping for? A job as a servant. What did he get? He didn't get servitude, he got son-ship! We go to our Father expecting as little as did the prodigal but God surprises us by exceeding our highest expectations. That's the kind of a God we serve. Ephesians 3:20, Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. That's what our God is like.

5. God will forgive your past. Luke 15:22. "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. The father removes the old smelly hog rags. Every trace of the sinful past is taken away from the prodigal. Ezekiel 18:22, None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. This is a symbol of salvation. Your old rags are now upon Jesus Who now covers Himself with your sins. Jesus bore our iniquities. My filthy rags are upon Him. Jesus bore our sins.

6. Then God will credit to your account His pure holy righteousness. That robe is the spotless virtue of Jesus . His purity is now upon you. You are clothed in a robe you could never earn. You don't deserve it. But Christ's righteousness is a free gift. Romans 5:17.

7. POWER will come into your life. Luke 15:22, Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Ring is the checkbook. It's the financial ability, financial power. Those who have the money usually have the power. His Father gave him power. And when you come to God, you're going to receive the power. And he received Sandals. What do sandals represent? If you're in bare feet, this empowers you to move about in comfort wherever you want to go. I imagine slaves were barefoot. Sons wore sandals. These were symbols of his status and power. If you want power in your life, come to your Heavenly Father as did the prodigal.

8. HAPPINESS will return to your life. Luke 15:23, Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. The loving father had been fattening that calf for a long time. He was ready for the arrival of his wayward son. God waits for you to come back to Him. Joy comes when the sinner repents. Luke 15:7.

When a long time backslider returns to the church and walks in the door what should be our attitude? Too many embarrass the person by saying "Well, where have you been! You finally came back". Rejoice and throw your arms about them and treat them like part of the family. Too many of us embarrass the person. Just rejoice and be friendly.

Luke 15:24. 'For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. Apart from God you're Dead. When you return, new life comes into your whole being. Do you want that new life? Do you want to yield to the love of your Father?

Hymn of Praise: #1,  Praise to the Lord
Scripture:  Luke 15:20-24
Hymn of Response: #367,  Rescue the Perishing

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