Sermon August 11, 2007 : Come to the party and enjoy God’s love
- Presenter: Gregory Bishop
- Date: August 11, 2007
- Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA
We’ll be looking at Luke 15. The pastor spoke from this a few weeks ago and so we’ll be following up on where he started. Luke 15, if you’re not there, just listen closely, Luke 15, and I’m going to start by reading the first couple of verses, because they set the tone for the whole chapter, ok, Luke 15, verse 1 and 2, it says:
“…. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him, Jesus, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘this man welcomes sinners and meets with them?’ And then Jesus told them this parable……”.
And then he went on to tell them the parable of the shepherd who has 100 sheep and one of them wanders away and the shepherd left the 99 to find the one and he came back with joy and he called his friends over his house to celebrate with him. And then Jesus told another parable about a woman who had ten denary money, very valuable coins, lost one of them, spent all day sweeping around the house, digging out all her stuff, and looking under the bed. Finally she found it and was so happy that she called her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. And then Jesus tells this parable, it’s a very well known parable, so we’re going to pick up in verse 11 and just ask God to give new insight into this, because I feel like he has something new and fresh to tell us today. It says the parable, my title at least, in my NIV is the ‘Parable of the lost son’. Verse 11 in Luke 15, Jesus continued as he went with his series of parables that fit together:
“….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 with all he had and 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 the 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….”
Isn’t there anything more pathetic than that? He’s envying the pigs, but no one gave him anything. It’s supposed to be really pathetic, like… ah, I’ve been there.
“….When he came to his senses, - in Spanish it says, ‘volviendo en sí, I love that, he kind of woke up- ….. 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 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 men’. 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….. –the Greek word for that is splonctnos, it refers to your guts, your splonctnos. It’s like he had just emotion from his guts for his son, I just like that word, that… I don’t know what.. He had splonctnos for his son- “….. and 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.
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’.”
Father, in Jesus’ name I thank you that you’re the God who finds people. You’re the God who finds us. You found us and you continue to find us. I thank you God that when Adam and Eve where trembling in the bushes you didn’t leave him there, you went after him and found him and that you continue to do that in each one of our lives, Lord God. What a drama, what a beautiful, beautiful thing. And Lord I pray in Jesus name that you would speak to us tonight, that we would hear your word and that it would be you speaking to each one of us, starting with me. I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So the NIV titles this ‘The parable of the lost son’. I’ve a question for you: in this parable the way it ends, which son is lost? Which son is lost? At the end of the parable, the younger son or the older son? The younger son is home, he’s in the party, he’s not lost, he’s home. Now, he was, but then he was found again, but the older son is still outside.
So, we’re going to talk today about the lost son in this parable. Obviously it’s referring to the son who went out and blew everything, but really it’s important for us to see, this parable even more than about the son who went out and blew everything it’s about the good son, in quotes, who stayed home, but was lost even while he was in his father’s house.
Now, that’s a very confusing thing, because sometimes it’s easier when someone is out doing crazy stuff, when they’re really, really lost, obviously they’re in the streets, they’re living ‘la vida loca’. But it’s another thing when someone in the house, bien portado, behaving themselves, but in their heart they’re a thousand miles away. And that’s what this parable is about. The parable begins, the whole chapter begins saying, again, what’s the setting for this? Remember we read at the beginning, what’s going on?
Jesus is hanging out with whom? Who are people who are coming close to him? The tax collectors and the sinners. The tax collectors and the slimy, conniving, greedy, manipulative, abusive business people of the day. They’re not decent people that you hang around, also in quotation mark, sinners. You know, these are people who live in obviously immoral life. They’re coming near to Jesus to listen to him, and the Pharisees are scandalized by this.
Now, the Pharisees again, just as a little review, they were the religious people of the day. I mean, more than just religious these were people…. I mean, you know, about them, you’ve heard about it in Sunday school, they’re the one who fasted two days a week, those are the ones who memorized chapter after chapter of the Bible. And you know, a lot of us don’t know, but the Pharisees were the ones who stayed firm with the faith of the law of the Torah during times of incredible persecution. It was the Pharisees that preserved this book we read. They were good people, I mean, these were religious people. We often picture them as monsters, for good reasons, but really they were very religious people. They’re the people we would think Jesus would want to be with.
But these are the people who were scandalized when they see the people that Jesus was hanging around with. And then Jesus tells 3 parables, it’s really the same message in 3 different parables. The first one, remember it’s about the shepherd who has 100 sheep, one of them wanders off and he leaves the 99 to go after the one. Isn’t that a great image! Ah! He’s just running out in the field till he gets this little sheep and sticks it on his shoulder, specifically, it says “… when he finds the sheep it says, that this shepherd calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I’ve found my lost sheep’. Ok, it’s an invitation. He’s inviting his friends to come and have a big sheep homecoming party. Ok? I hope they’re not going to eat….. it’s a terrible joke. I was going to say that I hope they don’t eat that….. No veal, no veal. Whatever, so they get the sheep back. Ok.
Now the next story, the woman who loses a denary, a coin. I don’t know how much that is worth. I probably should know, a drachma, a day wages, so think of how much you earn in a day, that’s what she lost. And she spends all day looking, looking, if you’ve lost your keys. You know, I lost this week a little memory stick, a little, I think I have it, I found it. Any of you have these? You know, with very important information on it, that you really should back up but you don’t. I had this and it was missing, and I had been in the airport and I had gone through security and I was sure I left it in that little box and that it was gone. And I came home, and I’m looking everywhere and digging out, underwear out of the drawer, I’m looking under the bed, and I called the office, thank God Stephen was using the office and I said, ‘Stephen do you see a little red memory stick?’ and he says, ‘Does it say Atachet? And I was like, ‘Oh, Stephen I love you, man and I’m so glad that I didn’t lose that memory stick because it was valuable to me’.
Now, when the woman finds the drachma she has that reaction. It says that she called her friends and neighbors together and says ‘rejoice with me, I’ve found my lost coin’. It’s the exact same words that are used in the first parable. The point of the parable, the finding a lost thing is an important part of the parable but every bit is important. It’s the celebration after finding the lost thing or the lost sheep, or the lost coin, or the lost memory stick, or the lost son. And the words of the person that calls his friends and neighbors and says, ‘come and rejoice with me’.
There’s a Greek word that puts that all in one word, ‘let’s rejoice together’ ‘let’s be happy with me about this. Let’s have some sort of a celebration. And then, there is an invitation in this parable of the lost son, and remember again, the lost son is really not the youngest, but the oldest one, there’s another invitation. It’s all about an invitation to joy, but not just an invitation to just, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ although, that’s a wonderful thing too, but it’s an invitation to share in a special, mystical, invisible celebration that is going on all around us all the time, and that most of us miss. We really do.
And the Pharisees where certainly missing, because Jesus was hanging around with all these lost people who were getting found and the Pharisees were missing the party and Jesus tells these parables to them saying ‘I’m inviting you, don’t miss it.’ The older son.
So let’s talk about what happens with the older son here. It’s interesting that Dave talked about the best kept secret in town. You know, I don’t know how many people have come to New Year’s eve service here at Lion of Judah? But I remember one of my first ones, you know, we’re here and man, we could leave any bar in the dust. I mean, people go nuts. There was one day we had all the wheat, remember all these trigos, these, like stocks of wheat that we brought up, …. And everyone was waving them around and at midnight, it was wild. I mean, people were jumping around, there was wheat flying everywhere, there’re balloons, people were spinning their ties…. I mean, and praying and worshiping, the bands going nuts, you know, and I’m looking around thinking ‘I bet you most of the gringos I grew up in my little town are not doing this tonight’. It’s like, it’s the best party in town and it’s like that. The partying in God’s presence it’s a party like any other.
We’re going to talk about that a little bit. So ok, so we know the story. The son demands, he asks for his inheritance. He wanders off. We know the story. He loses everything, ends up feeding pigs, comes to his senses. Look, the servants in dad’s house have more than I do. I’ll go home and I’ll offer to be one of his servants or slaves, an indentured service, someone between slavery and a hired person. And he says, I’m going to go home and he has all this whole speech memorized. Father, he practiced it, Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, I’m no longer worthy to be called your son, but I ask that you would take me in as one of your hired me’.
I can see him going over and maybe writing it on a little 3 by 5 card, memorizing, you know, and the father comes running out. We know the story, I just love the image of an old, over weight, Hebrew patriarch with a big beard and some sort of a tune neck or something, running out there, you know, the beard flopping, hugging him, kissing him, throwing all dignity to the winds, and the son goes into his speech:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I’m no longer worthy to…. and then the father says, ‘quick, bring…. He interrupts, and he says, ‘yeah, yeah, go on with your stupid little speech…. Bring the best robe and the robe and the robe and the ring, it’s not just because he wanted him to be dressed better.
In Hebrew culture that robe represents your inheritance. That’s why the whole thing with Joseph in his multicolored robe, and then there’s other cases of it in Kings…. The point the father is making is: you’re back in. You’ve got the inheritance. The ring represents that you’re a son again. I’m not going to take you as a slave, I’m sorry, you’re my boy. You’re going to be my son, and you’re coming back home and you’re going to have a party because I’m just glad you came back and it’s good to have you home.
Now, we’ll talk about the lost son, the really lost son. So, where is he when all this is happening? Where is he? He’s out in the fields, he’s working, he’s working. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, he’s in the library studying, he’s working, he’s doing the right thing. He’s being dutiful, he’s being responsible, he’s being hard working and he comes in and he hears this whole party going on. Now how does he respond? We know, how does he respond? He gets angry. He gets angry.
Have you ever had, I mean, those of you who have more than one kid, where there seems to be something that seems unfair, does the kid let you get away with it? I don’t know, I don’t have more than one kid, but I am more than one kid, I have an older sister. And you’d better be sure, if you’re going to give candy to one it’d better be exactly the same amount to the other one, or they’re going to spot it. It’s not fair, and so that’s outrage justice. He becomes outraged, yeah, he’s righteous indignation. He’s resentful, he’s angry. It’s just not fair that I’m working so hard and then we’re going to go into his whole thing. And I get nothing and this kid goes out, blows everything and dad throws him a party. It’s just not fair.
Have you ever experienced anything in your life that just doesn’t seem fair? You know, I was thinking of one story that came to me, it’s not at all comparable but for some reason it came to me. Our little boy, 5 months old, just a couple of months ago, he started smiling, right? That’s a big deal, the smile thing. That’s a big deal. And it was the first week of him trying out his smiles, right? And one day, for some reason, I don’t know why, one particular day Candice had done all the work. She had been the one to get up in the middle of the night and feed him, the diapers, I don’t know, I must have been doing something else, but she did all the work one particular day. And in the morning I just came along and all day he had been pretty serious, but then he looked up at me and then just cut loose with this big smile. And Candice said, ‘That’s just wrong. That’s just wrong’.
She’s not here right now, so don’t tell her I told the story. I don’t think she’s here. She said, ‘That’s wrong’ and I knew that is just wrong. He smiles at her too, but at that particular moment it was not fair and that what it seems like to this son, ok?
So, he’s angry and so what does he do with his anger? Does he handle it maturely, constructively? No, what does he do with his anger? What does he do? He pouts, he sulks, he stays outside. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘being passive aggressive’. Do you have any passive aggressive people. I think we’re all passive aggressive, one way or another. Passive aggressive, that means, that instead of just coming out and just saying something you find ways to make the other person squirm, you make him feel somehow. I know, I’m fine, I know you’re angry, something’s wrong….. No, no, everything is ok, I’m fine, I’m just…. I’m just sitting here and I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me… Italian, I’m half Italian, Italians are really good at passive aggression. You know, we’re very good at it.
I think every culture is in it’s own way, ok. So, that’s what he did. He stays outside and of course he wanted dad to come out and his father does. The father, verse 28, let’s look at what the father does.
“….So the father goes out and pleaded with him….”
We’ll stop right there for a second. The father went out and pleaded with him. In the story we have two different images of the father lowering his dignity to reach out for us. In one case he goes running out to meet his son who’s coming home and in this case, he goes out and he pleads with his son to come in.
Now, this story, remember, is directed, to whom? Who were the religious people I was talking about before? The Pharisees, the Pharisees, ok? Now, we know that in other parts of the Bible Jesus has some very harsh words for the Pharisees, more than for anyone else. He calls them, ‘you brood of vipers, you snakes, you wake wash tombs, you’….. he just came up with all these things. He’s, ‘how can you escape being condemned to hell? Jesus said that to them. He really cut loose on these Pharisees. He had no patience for religious hypocrisy. But in this story, look at the image. The image is the father going out and pleading with the older son. The older son are the Pharisees, they’re us in different times of our life. And he pleads with him. You see, God loved the Pharisees too. He loves them, they’re his kids too. They’re his sons, they’re his little boys we’re going to be talking about and the father goes out and pleads with him.
So, verse 28, let’s look at that again, it says, “…He went out and pleaded with him but he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years…”
Let’s stop right here. Look, now I don’t know of any culture where that’s acceptable. I know especially, I don’t know, in Latino culture if a kid says, ‘Mirá’, to his parents, is that ok? Do they do that? ‘Mirá, ¿para qué me hablas así?’ I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s going to happen. In most, here in the United States, we’re losing control in the cities, sometimes the kids… but in the old world, you don’t do that. And so this in the Hebrew cultures saying,
‘Look, all these years I’ve been slaving for you…..”
Look at what he says. The son says, verse 28, verse 29
“….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’…..”
This kid had attitude. He had some attitude. I’m sure there were some gestures that went along with this. He says, ‘Look, all these years I’ve slaved for you, I’ve never disobeyed your orders…. What do you think the expression on the father’s face was as the older son said these things? I’ve slaved for you all these years, I’ve never disobeyed your orders.
I could just see the father getting…. Just hurt perplexity. You know, there’s an irony that happens here. The younger son came home asking to be received as a slave, but instead he was treated as a son. The older son always had the privileges of being a son, but he viewed himself and he lived as a slave. All these years I’ve slaved for you, I’ve never disobeyed your orders.
What’s the vision of God that he has? What’s his perspective of God? How does he see God? I never disobeyed your orders, how does he see God? He sees him as a… if he sees himself as a slave, he sees God as a slave driver. He sees God as boss and not just any boss, but a nasty one, a demanding one, that I work, and I work, and it’s never good enough for you.
You know, the Pharisees viewed God that way. They viewed him as a divine slave driver and themselves as his slaves. And many of us have that perspective of God. We see him as someone who’s demanding, who’s demanding and it’s never good enough. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s never going to be good enough.
Now, sometimes that can be because of our religious background. Sometimes it can be because of our family background. Sometimes it can be just because…. We have that perspective, but in this case this son, viewed his father not as a father but a slave driver, as a boss, as an employer and he viewed himself as an employee and so he has this mistaken view of the world.
Now I want you to look at this a little bit. There’s a theological word for this, it’s called, legalism. It means viewing our relationship with God in terms of laws and rules and fulfilling expectations and failure. It’s called legalism, legalistic righteousness. And that was the way this young man viewed himself. And then look at what he says in verse 29. He says:
“…. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so that I could celebrate with my friends….”
He sees God as miserly, as stingy. He says, you don’t give me anything, I just work and I work, and I work and I get nothing and that’s the way he viewed God. He viewed the world as a world where there’s a limited supply of blessing and if you give blessing to this younger son, that’s less for me. It’s called, a great book, I love Stephen Covy’s stuff. He talks about having a scarcity mentality in life. That when we view life as a limited supply of blessing, that if somebody else gets blessed, that means I’m blessed less. It’s like there has to be some sort of an account.
It sort of like, kids, you know, you have your first child and when he’s or she’s 4 years old another child is born and how does that older kid feel usually? They’re jealous. They think, no, I’m the king of the house and suddenly they have to share, and they think, mom can’t love us both, because this other kids is in the way, they’re going to love me less. They’re going to love me less, assuming that mom has a limited supply of love or dad and they cannot share it. Well, that’s the way this kid viewed it, you’ve never given me anything so I could celebrate, with whom? Never even gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends.
Who do you think is not included in my friends? The dad and the other family members. He didn’t view his father as part of his social circle. It was more of a functional, professional relationship. I work for him, dutifully and I get my inheritance. But when I want to have fun, I want to do that over here with my friends. His father isn’t part of that circle. And that really speaks to me because I read this great prayer, there’s this great little book called ‘The book of children’s prayers to God’, and one of them was a little kid, and it’s in kid’s handwriting too, so it’s a really fun book to read. And in it the kid writes: ‘Dear God, is pastor Bob, a personal friend of yours, or do you just know him from work? The son just knew his father from work. It wasn’t a personal connection, ok? So that’s very convictive for me.
This son of yours, who….. here how he refers to his brother? ‘This son of yours…’ He doesn’t see him like…. And then later his father says, ‘this brother of yours’, the father is trying to help him see this. It says, when this son of yours went off squandered everything with prostitutes you killed the fatten calf for him….”
There’s a lack of grace. This is just a general pattern, that I think we can observe in humanity. People who view God as a very tuff task master, generally have an inferior view of themselves, the feeling is ‘I’m not good enough’, but at the same time that same lack of grace applies to other people. And not only am I not good enough but he’s not good enough either, and she’s definitely not good enough. It’s a weird combination of personal insecurity with being critical of others, and that’s the way this older brother was. No grace, no mercy.
Law views thing in terms of justice. He blew it, he deserves to be punished. But the biblical concept of grace is exactly the opposite. What does grace mean? Anyone know a definition of grace? Oh, who said that? That was good. What is it again? Favor, and someone else, it was a voice from above, …. Where’s that coming from…. Unmerited divine favor.
The whole idea of grace is that we don’t deserve. That’s why it’s grace. If you deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace. The whole idea of being a Christian is that we don’t deserve it, that we blew it, that we’re weak. If you are a failure in some way, you qualify to be a Christian. That in fact is the qualification. If you don’t think you’ve ever failed, then Jesus didn’t come for the healthy, he came for the sick. But if you’ve made mistakes, if you’ve blown it and you know it, then that’s grace, you qualify.
The older son had no concept of grace, just law. I want to look at the father’s response, because I think we all fall into this mentality at some points. And it doesn’t mean that we’re bad people, it doesn’t mean that we’re being judgmental or critical, but we fall into viewing God less as our father and more as a slave driver. And I think we fall into that and yet it’s hard because this is a type of being lost that happens while you’re still in church doing all the right things and so coming home isn’t a physical thing, it’s something that happens in the heart and if we look at what the father says to the older son, he shows him how to come home. And so I want to look at that in verse 31, Ok? How does he start addressing his son who just mouthed off to him? What does he say? My son, my son.
In Greek there are two words for son, there is one word that’s the normal word for son, and there’s another word that refers to little kids, you know, a little kid, a little boy or a little girl and that’s the word that the father uses. He doesn’t just say, ‘my son’, he’s saying ‘mi hijo, mi hijito’. That’s what he’s saying, ‘my little boy’, ‘my little buddy’. He’s using a phrase that I don’t think it’s typically used with an adult son, I don’t know, but I don’t think it would be, because it usually refers to a younger kid. It’s a phrase that he would have used when he’s talking to his little boy, ‘mi princesa’, ‘la niña de mis ojos’, ‘the apple of my eye’, ‘my little guy’, ‘my little buddy’, ‘my little boy’, ‘mi hijito’. That’s what the father says. The first step in coming home when we’ve drifted, when we’re still in the house is simply being still and letting God say, my son, my daughter. There’s a reason why the Lord’s prayer, the Our Father starts with the words Aba, daddy. I think it’s just supposed to stop there for a minute. Every day coming before God and saying, instead of saying ‘Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name….’, which we just mumble it, we just mumble it if you’re from a certain liturgical background or something, instead of just saying ‘Father’. I’d encourage you, every day to take just a few seconds and let that word sink in, ‘Father’, and just come before him and let him say, ‘my son, my daughter, mi hijito, mi hijita.’ That’s the beginning, that’s the beginning of reconnecting with our God, of knowing you’re my Dad and you’re my son, and you love me and I love you and I’m just going to be with you.
Brothers and sisters, it is possible to function as a Christian and to never stop and really just let God give you a hug, let God look you in the eye, and say, my daughter, I’m here for you. So that’s the first step: mi hijito, mi hijo, you’re good, you’re my dad.
And in that phrase he’s saying, you’re not my servant, you’re my son and I’m not your employer, I’m your father, and I’m not a slave driver and you’re good enough for me and you don’t have to earn it. Verse 31, what does he say after that, he says:
“…. My son, the father said,….. -and then what does he say? What was that again? -….. you are always with me….”
He says, you are always with me. Now, the son was close in terms of proximity physically but he was very distant emotionally and so he’s like, I want you to know that you’re with me. I find that usually the source of falling out of joy in my life, and falling into a complaining, negative attitude, it’s because I have lost that intimacy with the Father. I’ve lost that abiding. Jesus says, I’m the vine, you’re the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.
Again, trying to be a Christian without Christ is miserable. I don’t recommend it, and we’ve all tried it. You try it, whatever you do, you try it. And you’d say, oh, me never, I’m always depending 100% on the Lord. I know you don’t, there are times when you try to do that on your own, when you say, I’m just going to try to serve God and God is saying, ‘look, that’s a miserable way to live. Let me do it with you. Let me be close in this.’ And there’s joy, there’s joy in that. There’s joy in that intimacy.
My son, you’re always with me. Then he says:
“….all that I have is yours,…..”
At the beginning of this parable and I want you to look this in verse 12, when the younger son asked his father for his share of the estate, it says, that the father divided his property between them, in verse 12. It says:
“…. He divided the property between them…..”
Now, the younger son took his share and went but the older son had the rest of the property. When the father said, ‘all that I have is yours’, that was literal, legally this was his inheritance. Everything that the other son was going to inherit, he had blown, everything left belonged to the older son. And yet he says, ‘you never even gave me a calf so that I could have a party….’
Look, it’s all yours. You could have had anything, you still have anything, you can have 10 calves, you could have ten pigs, you could have all of it. It’s yours, but he lived not realizing that he had an amazing inheritance all around him, and so he lived a poverty stricken life when God wanted him to enjoy the abundance of the father’s household.
“….all that I have is yours…”, an abundance mentality, instead he was living a self imposed slavery and living a negative life. And then in verse 32 the father says,
“……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’.”
The older son was so wrapped up in his own story that he couldn’t get out of himself enough to enjoy what was happening with his other brother. I have found, in my own life, and it’s not always so easy, I don’t want to be… but a huge percentage of the time my bad attitude or misery is a result of self absorption, being self absorbed is hell. That’s hell, it’s been entirely absorbed in yourself. Heaven is losing yourself in God and a great medicine to snap out of the bad attitude is simply take 5 seconds to think about somebody else and to celebrate the good things that are going on.
He says, we have to celebrate, because this brother of yours was lost and is found again…” And he is inviting him to joy, he’s inviting him to come in again.
And I want to tell you one of the most beautiful things that I have experienced in this church, in Christianity in general, but especially in this church, is watching the amazing transformation in lives of people who come to Jesus, and by the way, part of the blessing of this ministry is that it’s an open door ministry, it’s an open door ministry. I mean, people come in, we all come in, with baggage, with issues, with stuff and people come in and find a place, I hope, of acceptance, a place that’s a refuge, a place where God can begin to rebuild your life. It’s an amazing thing. And I find it’s almost like … I don’t mean this in a… you have to take this the right way. It’s almost like a game, sometimes, someone come in and you think, guau! I wonder what this person is going to be like in a couple of years as God gets a hold of them. There’s this feeling of…. Guau, I just can’t wait to see what’s going to happen because good things happen and we’ll see this.
I’m going to share one testimony and this is a person who shared this testimony publicly on several occasions, even on TV so I feel free to share it. There was a person who came to the church who… we were preparing for baptism, and I heard about some issues going on in this person’s life and I asked Roberto, gosh, is she ready to get baptized? And he said, ok, who is it? And I said, ‘so and so’. And he said, ‘oh, yeah, baptize her right now, you should have seen her before’.
And this person shared the testimony and as it turns out, what happened is the pastor was invited to her house to pray for her because she was having some nightmares and she wasn’t a believer at that point, so the pastor went over the house and he was praying with her. And as he prayed with her, all kinds of …. Like horror movie things started happening. You know, you see the horror movies, which I hope you don’t watch them because they’re really demonic, but you know, when you didn’t know better and you saw those movies and you know, the Friday 13th kind of thing…. it was happening. The demons were like manifesting and then it occurred to him, poor Roberto, it happened to be Halloween, it was Halloween night. And there he was alone with this person with demons freaking out and…. Anyway, it was kind of, how do I get in these messes? So, he talked to the person, he calms the demons down. We believe here that sometimes demons can actually inhabit people and contaminate their lives, but that we have authority in the name of Jesus so Roberto used that authority to say ‘Demons, shut up, I want to talk to so and so again’, and so the demons quieted down. She comes out of it, he’s talking to her.
He says, what do you do in here and then he finds out that she was into, what we call in Spanish a lot of santería, which is where you mix Catholic saint worship with basically pagan witchcraft and you synchronize the two. It happens in every culture in different ways, and so she had all kinds of stuff, all kinds of santería objects around the house. And he says, ok, we’ve got to do some house cleaning before I’m going to kick any demons out, because the Bible says you expel the demons and if the person’s not filling themselves with something good, then the demon will go and get 7 uglier, nastier demons and come back, and the person is worse off than they were before.
So, he says, ok, we’re going to clean the house. Show me some of these witchcraft objects you have. So they go, find it, so they throw stuff away, they flush stuff down the toilets… ok, now, we’re going to pray. We’re going to renounce these things, you’re going to confess it and he shares with her the gospel, he says, as a Christian you need to confess sins and receive Jesus as your Lord and savior and so she did. She received Jesus for real and then he said, ok, now let’s kick out some demons. So, he started expelling the demons.
This person started coming to church and she would come forward during the services. You know, like sometimes we get prayer time, she would come forward every service and just cry and pray, and cry and pray and she started taking Sunday school classes and she got baptized and she hadn’t been to school much, but she started taking the classes and did pretty well and started feeling like, hey, I can do this.
She started taking the classes, and she was living with this guy and she says, look, I’m a Christian now, and they’ve been together for several years. She’s like, make a decision here and so they got married and he became a Christian and her sons started coming to her and they got mentors and next thing you know she figures, hey, I could go back to school. Who says I can’t go to school? I’ve been doing Sunday school ok, I can do discipulado. And so she goes to school, she gets her GED, she gets her degree. Then she got her master’s degree. They bought a house, they got out of debt. They started earning money. Her husband earned money, bought his own truck. She starts dressing good, she starts feeling good. I just like… praise God.
Jesus said, blessed are….. praise God, yeah. Jesus said, blessed are the eyes that see what you see. Blessed are the ears that hear what you hear. There’s people who throughout history have long to see these miracles in human lives and they didn’t see it, and you guys, are going to get a front row seat, you’re going to get to watch lives change right before your eyes. Your life will be changed. God’s going to use you to change other people’s lives. It’s amazing what God does. It’s amazing.
I mean, things that a psychologist can work out for decades and I love psychology, don’t get me wrong, but people would go and psychologist and this and this and the other for years, and then boooom, you know, they come to church and God knocks them over and things get better. They do. Now, don’t get me wrong.
We believe in process, these things don’t happen overnight. You’ve got to work at it, you’ve got to do your… but it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that changes people and it’s amazing to watch it.
I wonder why I shared a few weeks ago that I’m involved with a recovery group with men that pastor Sam leads it, I go to it, where come and they’re in recovery from drugs and alcohol and that’s probably the group where I’ve experienced the most sadness in a certain ways, because we’ve had deaths. We’ve had men who died of overdoses, 3 over the years, and those are the most gut wrenching moments, but I tell you, on a week to week basis, there is no happier time than that time with those men, because they’re like, oh, God is changing my life and you could open up the Bible at just about any text and within ten minutes, they’re saying ‘this is for me, wow’ and they’re into it. And you just share some love and they’re like, yeah…. I want Jesus, and they mean it.
And you know, I thought, why do I like that so much? It’s because there’s such an awareness of being lost and being found. It’s the best celebration going in the universe. The Bible says, ‘angels long to look into these things. They don’t understand it. It’s mysterious, how the Holy Spirit can come into a person’s life and transform them. How the blood of Jesus can heal a guilty conscience. It’s an amazing thing and there’s a celebration going on and God in these parables is beckoning us to enter to his joy.
He says, it’s no joy like any you’ve ever seen before. He says, it’s joy in the presence of God and his holy angels. Believe me, there’s going to be baptisms in a few weeks, which by the way I don’t see any reason why some of our folks couldn’t go. They’re going to do baptisms outside on Saturday, August 25th and they’re going to do outdoor baptism and for those of you who go, you’re going to feel a joy that is not just a normal joy. I believe literally angelic presences rejoicing in the symbol of people having their lives changed. There’s angels rejoicing. It’s an amazing thing. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, no matter who they are.
Now, the older son was missing the party, he was missing the party. He was too wrapped up in doing the right thing and serving his father but as a slave, that he was missing the joy, he was missing the celebration and he was also missing the grace that God had for him. God says, ‘look, you’re working hard and that’s nice, I appreciate that. That’s good, work hard, but you’re my kid and I want you to experience my love. I want you to know that you’re perfect and I love you just the way you are in Jesus, so you just come to me, you come into the party, come in.
Now, this parable ends, it doesn’t end, it’s open ended. At the end of this parable the father is saying, we have to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. We had to rejoice, and the parable ends there. It’s open, it’s a blank space. The son is still there and he’s making a decision, and that is intentional because God is speaking to each one of us, will we enter into his joy but we have to make a decision, will we come in?
There’s two ways this parable could have ended. The young man, he could have said, no, it’s not fair and he could have turned his back and walked away, and it’s very likely. In fact, that’s what the Pharisees did. The Bible says they rejected the purpose that God had for their lives.
But there’s another possible ending. He could have taken a deep breath and said, this is crazy, but ok, I’m coming in. And the father said, come on and have something to eat. We’ve got food in here. Come on in. He says, ok, I’m coming in and then let himself come in, and let himself eat, let himself loosen up a little bit, let himself experience the fact that he’s a true son of God.
That’s the invitation to us today, it’s to come into the house and enjoy God’s love. So, let’s pray and I’d ask you to just take a minute. You don’t have to stand up, you can stay seated, but I would ask you to bow and… we’re going to take a minute and just pray about this and this word..
Father, in Jesus’ name we come before you right now, and God I thank you that you are loving Father and I thank you that there’s nothing we can do to earn that love. Father, I thank you that in Jesus we are acceptable before you. And Father, there’s many of us, I’d say all of us who struggle with this at different times. We’re missing the joy that you have for us, but God we’re outside the house for whatever reason, we haven’t really entered into your joy.
I thank you Father for the way you transform lives and I thank you that you can transform our lives and you can give us the ability to share your joy as you transform the lives of others, Lord God.
I pray in Jesus’ name Lord God that this service will be a place where angels celebrate. Father, that this ministry, that this ministry, Lord, would be a place where broken lives are transformed and where people, all of us together, share the joy of that transformation and salvation, that we would share the Father’s joy in the service, that we would share the angelic joy in this place and in our times together.
Father, I pray that that would be a reality here in these days of small beginnings and I pray, God, that it would also be a reality when things are bigger Father, that that joy would mark us, that people could come in broken and know that there’s a Father waiting to embrace them.
So, I invite you to stand up right now and be in God’s presence. I invite you to rise before the Lord and Father in Jesus’ name, I want to invite you, each of us again, Jesus says, ‘ I stand at the door and knock, everyone who hears my voice and opens the door, I’ll come in and eat with him and him with me’.
There’s invitations from God to us, an invitation to come in and I just invite you just in this final hymn we’re going to sing, simply say yes to the Lord, say yes God , I want to come. I want to come into your house. Some of us had drifted, we could drift from the Lord even while being in the house of God, even while doing the right things, we can drift. Just come to God, no guilt, this isn’t about guilt any more. This is isn’t about lie, it’s about grace, it’s about a Father who loves and who’s inviting you in.
|Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop taped August 11, 2007 at Congregation Lion of Judah||Listen|||||View (100K)|||||View (400K)|
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