Hello Project Ezra! This week we are back in the gospels, and I’ve decided to look at a very familiar parable, the prodigal son. Like me, you’ve probably heard the story dozens of times at the very least. But I recently got somewhat of a fresh perspective on the story while listening to some discernment training materials, and I think that perspective is very accurate, and will work very well as a springboard into sharing the gospel. I always thought of this story as a picture of the gospel, and the response of our loving Father to our repentance, and on one level it certainly is that. But rather than being just a picture of one rebellious sinner, it’s really the picture of two.
I believe there are a couple of primary ways people try to escape God’s authority, a couple directions for human rebellion. One is modeled by the younger son in this story, the son who took all the good gifts his father gave him, and went out and squandered them on foolish, sinful, wasteful living. There are many people who do that today, and I’m sure you know some of them. But I can guarantee you know the other type too. They are the legalists. They want to work their way into God’s favor, thinking that enough good works will put God in their debt, that He will have to give them mercy because they’ve done their part. This is the older son, who’s pride in his own obedience to the letter of the law led him to believe that he was superior to his brother. But the condition of his heart said otherwise. Both are rebels who want God’s authority for their own, and both show a clear ignorance of the true depth of their sin before God.
So this week, let’s address both in our sharing of the gospel. It may seem easier to preach to the pagan, and to the un-churched, and to identify the sins they need to repent of to get right with God. Often those sins are right on the surface. But the legalist is just as lost and in need of grace, whether he realizes it or not. And it is pride that is the foundation stone of both. So, by God’s grace, may the hammer of the law shatter that foundation stone, and expose hearts that will be tender to the gospel.
All for His glory,
The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
That’s true. Every one of us has sinned, and we cannot escape our sin
There are two primary means people use to try to escape the truth of their own sin, to convince themselves their sins are not an issue, and this parable in this passage shows both
I challenge you to stay for a few minutes, and see if one of them applies to you
READ LUKE 15
The attitudes of the two brothers in this story are a good picture of our attitudes toward God
And regardless of which perspective you start from, you are still in need of God’s grace
Some people try to run from God and from the truth of their sin. They deny sin exists, or they deny He exists.
They drown themselves in self-indulgence, hoping the pleasures of the flesh will soothe their conscience, because in their hearts they know the truth
But whether that self-indulgence is expressed through sex, drugs, alcohol, money, power, prestige or even knowledge and education, it is empty, and their conscience remains.
Others try to please God through self-righteousness and good works.
They are legalists, straining at the minutia of what they believe God’s word to be.
They are like the Pharisees of Jesus day, and are often the cause of people frustration when they talk
about “arrogant” religious people
In their hearts, they hope that by living as good a life as they can, they will put God into their debt.
They believe that their best is good enough, and He will be obligated to give them heaven based on that.
But anyone who thinks they can work their way into God’s favor does not understand the depth of their own sin.
If you look at yourself in light of God’s law, you will see yourself in truth.
We all know that God exists, and we all know that we are guilty before Him. And neither working nor running will help us escape that truth
Have you considered God’s law, His moral standards? If so, you see something much higher than any human expectations.
If you have acted contrary to God’s commandments, by lying, stealing, using His name lightly or disrespectfully, then you are deserving of judgment and hell.
His word says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire, no thief will inherit the kingdom of God, and He will not hold him guiltless who misuses His name.
But sin does not only include the work of our hands and the words we speak.
God judges the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
Jesus said if we look with lust we commit adultery in our hearts. His word also says that if we are angry without cause we are worthy of judgment, and that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.
Imagine for a moment that I could plug your brain into a computer, and record every thought you think for the next 24 hours
Then imagine I took that recording, invited all your close friends and family over, and showed them that recording. What would your reaction be?
I’m sure, like me, you would be so ashamed that you would hope to never see those people again.
Every one of us has thought things in the last 24 hours that are so wicked and so vile that we would not share them with our closest friends. And you know I’m right.
You, like I, are a guilty criminal, by thought, word, and deed.
Your sentence has already been passed, and you are simply waiting for the hammer of God’s justice to fall. And in your heart, you know that you deserve that justice
No matter how far you run, you can’t escape it
No matter how hard you work, you will never be worthy of anything else
We all stand at the brink of Hell, a place of fire and pain and darkness which will last forever, and it is only by God’s grace that every one of has not already been cast in.
But there is one who is worthy, who is good and right and pure, and that is the good news, because through His righteous, His right standing before God, you can be seen as righteous as well.
By His work you can be washed clean of your sin, because He has paid the penalty for your sin.
That person is Jesus Christ. But He was not just a person. He was, and is, God in human flesh.
2000 years ago Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came to earth and lived a perfect, sinless life.
Because He was God he could live that perfect life that we could not. He was perfect and pleasing to God in every way.
They roughly 33 years into His life, He willingly went to a Roman cross.
No one forced Him to go there. Many times before He had escaped death, simply because it was not yet His time.
Jesus was hung on the cross to die, though those who put Him there knew Him to be innocent.
There He became the perfect sacrifice for sin, and God’s anger, hatred and wrath toward sin was poured out on Him, so it did not have to be poured out on us.
Jesus’ sacrifice paid the full penalty for sin, so that those who turn from their sins and trust in Him alone can be saved.
Have you done that? Have you turned from your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone?
God’s word encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
I would plead with you to do so today, because none of us is promised tomorrow.
One day, I will be in heaven, though I don’t deserve it. I will be there by the grace and mercy of God, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When I get there, I hope to see you there too.
So please, repent and trust in Christ today, and you will be saved!!