Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered November 21, 2009 by Pastor Don 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.

The Faithful Father's Forgiveness

Luke 15:21-24

(RealAudio available)

I would like to speak with you this morning about the prodigal Son.  I think you’ve heard the story.  Many of you have read it.  We’ve even preached sermons about it.  But I would like to focus on the faithful father’s forgiveness, instead of the prodigal son.

Feeling Footloose and Frisky, a Feather Footed Fellow Forced his Fond Father to Fork over the Farthings.  In Foolishness and Folly he Fled Far to Foreign Fields Frittering his Fading Fortune with Faithless Fickle Friends.

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

My Fathers Flunkies Fare Far Finer the Fugitive Forlornly Fumbled as he Frankly Faced the Facts.  He Flew Forthwith to his Family Falling at his Father’s Feet.  “Father, I have Fruitlessly Forfeited Family Fellowship Forever.”

The Faithful  Father Forgave the Fugitive.  He said, “What Forbids Fervent Festivity?  Fetch the Fatted calf For a Feast.”  The Faithful Father’s Forgiveness Formed the Foundation For the Former Fugitive’s Future Faith.  The Fugitive’s Frank Fault-Finding brother Frowned.  It’s not Fair Father! 

I picture the prodigal son as being about 19 years old.  He just graduated from high school.  He had a faithful father but the youngster was sick of the farm and hungry for fun.  He hated boredom and he wanted his freedom.  Perhaps he was running from his father’s religion.  Running from God.  He craved the godless life.  He wanted to get drunk.  Wanted to get high on drugs.  Wanted to frequent the bars and night hot spots.  When he walked out of his father’s house he was the happiest boy alive, he thought.  The world was out there waiting for him.  They turned on the bright lights.  He wore his best clothes.  This sharply dressed youngster would be popular.  He did not even look back at the old way of life.  He was leaving forever the old fashioned geriatric life. 

We trick ourselves into thinking that if we just had a BMW and a house with 4 garages and an income of six figures a year, that would be a fair trade for giving up the values our parents raised us with.  True happiness doesn’t come from wealth.  True happiness comes from a relationship with our Father.

There is no record that the father argued with him.  Anyone who is tired of God can leave at any time.  Christians are not chained to the cross.  You can be saved this year but you can leave next year if you choose.   The prodigal thought;  “Life will be better on the other side of the fence.”  This teenager was deluded.  It is an age old scam, a fantasy, an arch deception of Satan.  The prodigal is repeating the same mistake that Adam and Eve made.  They were sick of the one restriction that God imposed on them.  Only one tree was prohibited and they had to taste that tree.  They had to hang around that tree.  They had the whole garden and here’s where they stood, is right there by the tree.  Adam was the first prodigal son of a Faithful Father.  The story of the prodigal son is the New Testament version of Genesis three. 

You need to be careful when you want more than what your heavenly Father provides for you.  Be careful, because you’re on the same ground that the prodigal son was.  When you want more than your heavenly Father provides, your thinking is becoming prodigal.  You see, sin is when you try to gain pleasure from something other than what God has provided for you.  Now you think about that.  God has provided a wife for you.  He gave you a spouse.  Don’t you go elsewhere and get your joy.  You farm your own field.  You drink from your own fountain. 

Look at Luke, chapter 15 and I want to begin with verse 12.  “The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’“  Do you know what that implies?  The boy wished his dad was dead.  What a slap in the face.  The rule for inheritance was for the first born to have twice as much.  He got two thirds.  With a full one third of his estate gone the father would have a harder challenge financially.  The lad did not care.   Luke says the boy “gathered all together”.  This may have taken significant time to convert land and crops into cash.  Finally he was loaded up and left with a lifetime supply of loot.  But he grossly underestimated a lifetime.  Money runs out so fast as he quickly found out.  The party life is expensive.  At first he had many “friends”.  Proverbs 14:20 says, “The rich has many friends, but the poor man is hated even by his own neighbor.” 

Riotous living is what he did.  This prodigal son lived for sin.  He spent in reckless extravagance.  Hebrews 11:25 makes a statement about sin.  It says that sin is enjoyable.  Hebrews 11:25, “The pleasures of sin are short-lived.”   They don’t last long.  There is pleasure in sin.  The Bible does not deny that.  But it’s very short.  But the consequences of sin last a long time.  Soon, prostitutes devoured his monetary wealth and perhaps his physical wealth.   His fickle fair weather friends left.  Vultures stay until the carcass is picked clean.  To make matters worse a severe famine came to that particular land bringing in a major recession.  Banks closed.  You could not buy a job.  Have you ever tried to get a job when there are no jobs?  Finally he sold himself to a hog farmer. He hated farming.  Now He was back on the hated farm again.  How he suffered.  He ran away from the farm and now he WAS a hog farmer!  Hogs were forbidden by his God. The Jewish law clearly said this, cursed is he who feeds swine. But he had broken all the other rules, why not break that one too.

The famine parched the land and dried up the creeks. What little water could be found was used for the animals.  The farmer and his family took minimal baths but no water was available for the prodigal to bathe.  It did not take long before he began to smell like the pigs.   The farmer’s wife barred the smelly slave from the farmhouse so he moved into the swine house.  His stomach growled day and night and, along with the grunting of the hogs, it made a sorry duet.   Luke 15:16 makes a statement.  “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.”  When garbage looks good to you, you are near the bottom of the barrel.  When garbage smells good to you, you are there.  When you smell like garbage yourself,  you can’t go any lower.  He was a starving homeless vagabond with no freeway on ramp to stand by with his little cardboard sign: Hungry and Homeless, Help me! 

He did try begging.  But the Bible tersely says,  “No man gave unto him.”  The famine was so stringent that no one had a surplus to share.  After his money was gone,  he sold his fancy coat for food.  Then he took his shoes off and sold them.  Then he took off his shirt and sold it.  Then he took off his undershirt and sold that.  Then he came to himself, and when you come to yourself, there’s hope for you.  Jesus masterfully said  “He came to himself.“- Luke 15:17.   Parents never give up on your kids.  Eventually they will hit the bottom and God will be near to them.

At that critical moment, he understood why everything had happened to him.  Now he knew it was not his father’s fault.  It was not God’s fault.  It was not his older brother’s fault.  It was his fault.  All his suffering was the result of his own poor choices.  In my 40 years of pastoring I’ve counseled with many hurt people.  Many sit on the other side of my desk and blame their boss for their troubles.  Or they blame their wife or their husband for their woes.  The very first step in going forward in life is when you stop blaming others and you begin to look at yourself.

Not until they can assume personal responsibility for your own problems will you make progress toward a good solution to your crisis.  Until he came to himself, everything in his life was going wrong.  Up to this point in Jesus’ story, his life had been quickly whirlpooling down the drain.  Finally he saw his true self.  He saw that he had made a very bad choice.  At that moment he stood at a strategic fork in the road of his life.   

There are two roads in life.  One road leads to death.  The other road leads to life, and you need to choose the high road.  If the junction seems unclear, pray about which one to take.  It will take bravery to choose God’s way.  The way of pleasure does not require bravery.  The way of greed does not require bravery.  You don’t have to be brave to be selfish.  You must be brave to dare to be a Daniel.  The path to life requires backbone and courage. 

Well the second step in coming back to life is confession.  Now he rehearsed his speech.  He thought, “I will go in and I will say to my Father, ‘I’ve been bad.’”  You can read this here in Luke 15.  “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 death.  I will set out and go back to my father and I will say’”, and here’s the speech that he had memorized.  “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me as one of your hired men.”  It’s a short speech.  All that needed to be said.  “I want to come back, but I’ll come and live in your barn and I’ll be your hired servant.”  That was his speech.  That was his confession.  We have to confess. 

He rehearsed his speech.  He remembered that there was an abundance of bread in his Father’s house.  He must decide to leave the swine and come home.  When he reaches home he must confess his failures to his family.  It will be hard.  But he chose to be honest and humble.  His pride was finally gone.  The high life had turned out to be the low life.  He had gone from riches to rags.

He was weak, famished and broke.  To make matters worse, he was in a FAR country. Home was a long way off.  Sometimes you may say, “I have drifted so far away from God, it’s going to take so much to come back.  I don’t know if I can do it.”  Yes you can.  But with bare feet and ribs sticking out, he headed off.  The closer he got to home, the more the devil whispered in his ear.  “You really can’t do it.  When you get there, they’re all going to be mad at you.  What’s dad going to say?  How can you face your older brother?”  He probably thought, “The way I look, no one will even let me in the door. I smell worse than a skunk.”  He ate humble pie, and it’s hard to eat humble pie.

And the third step in the path of life is repentance.  He repented.  He turned around.  He was going that way and now he began to go up.  He began to head toward real life.  Look at verse 20.  “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was filled with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”  What a blessed experience.  In the East, kissing is a sign of forgiveness.  Complete forgiveness.  You don’t kiss anybody unless you have totally forgiven them.  That’s what the father did.  Then in verse 21 the son started his speech.  “He said unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.’”  And then in verse 22 the father interrupted.  “The father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:   For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

His old Father still loved him.  And you can be sure if you come back to church, God will be there.  There will be people there that will love you.  His old father has been praying every day for his boy to come home.  He wants to forgive him and bestow grace upon his runaway boy. When we mess up and sin, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done,  God is waiting with open arms to receive us.  It doesn’t matter how far we’ve run away, when we come back to God we will always fall into the embrace of His grace.  God will receive you. 

The son had to forsake sin.  Did the father go out to the far country to fetch the son?  He did not.  The son had to come back.  You have to repent, and repent means you turn around.  You stop going that direction and you start going this direction.  You start going toward home.  The Bible says in Isaiah 56 verse 7,  “Let the wicked forsake his way.”  The burden is on the wicked.  The wicked must forsake his way and then the Bible says, .”God will abundantly pardon.”.

Imagine putting a pure, spotless robe over the smelly pig farmer who was dressed in filthy rags.  But God does that.  The prodigal  could come as he was.  He didn’t have to clean up to come to God.  All he had to do was come.  At that moment he went from rags to the riches of his father’s kingdom  The father placed the ring of authority on his finger.  The prodigal would again share in the control his father’s possessions.  He put sandals on his feet because he had none.  Servants never wore shoes.  This elevated the boy to the status of son.

Verse 25.  There’s problem though, in the back 40.  “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 fatted 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 fatted calf for him!’”

Guess who got jealous?  We could call this the story of the prodigal SONS, because they’re both prodigals.  The oldest was also fed up with the farm in his heart.  The younger brother was smelly on the outside but the older brother was smelly on the inside.  He was selfish with a bad attitude.  This workaholic had labored to prove he was better.  With his younger brother gone the entire remaining estate would have soon been his.  He wouldn’t have to share any of it.  You’ve met stay-at-home prodigals like the elder brother.  Some first borns have that mentality.  So you can imagine his dismay when the kid showed up. 

If you come to God and ask Jesus to come into your heart God will start giving you access to all of His possessions.  If you are living in disobedience to God and you have strayed from Him then you are seen as a slave to Satan. But if you come to the Lord and ask Jesus into your heart you will become a son or a daughter of God. 

We see in verse 23 that the father killed the fatted calf and threw a party for the son. The fatted calf was the very best one in the herd. Does this verse tell us that when we become a son or daughter of God that we will be eating high on the hog the rest of our lives? Not exactly, but it shows the magnitude of the celebration when we all get to heaven.  What a party out of this world awaits us. 

Maybe you have gone to a far country.  You’ve drifted far from God.  You have lived a wild sinful life.  But you are never too far and it is never too late to come back. You feel the need to return to God.  His love is drawing you.   You know you should get back into church.  It will be hard.  The Devil will make sure an older brother will be waiting for you. But just focus on your Heavenly Father. He will be there with open arms.  He loves you.  He will accept you into His home.

 Hymn of Praise: #557, Come, Ye Thankful People
Scripture: Luke 15:21-24
Hymn of Response: #296, Lord, I'm Coming Home

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 12/15/09