Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to the Jewish Religious leaders who love money and despise people. Their attitude toward those who were not like them was horrible. We refer to this third story in Luke 15 as the STORY OF THE PRODIGAL SON but in reality, it is not about the prodigal or his sin. The good news is not our sin, the good news is that God loves sinners. The father is this story is a picture of our heavenly Father and no one could paint a better portrait of the Father than Jesus. Tonight we are going to focus on the Father. I am sure there is more here than I will share but I want to show you three theological truths about our Heavenly Father…
I. GOD IS IMMUTABLE [He never changes]
From beginning to end, the Father in the story does not change: location, tone of voice, demeanor, love, patience, mercy. The story begins and the story ends and the Father never changes one iota. In theology we call this immutability. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. He does not need to change. There is no rhyme or reason for Him to change because He is perfect and lacking in nothing. Malachi 3:6 reads…“For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” James 1:17 [ERV]… Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same. I love Hebrews 13:8 which says…Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. What would you want to change about Jesus…He is perfect. I didn’t come to talk about what’s wrong with me, I came to talk about what’s right with Jesus. When I get down its usually because I am looking at my sin or someone else’s: the way to get up is to celebrate Jesus. I can’t think on my feet and every time someone gives me a piece of their mind and tells me what all is wrong with me, I should say when they get through…What do you think about Jesus?
I love Psalm 46 which begins like this…God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. I have had the privilege of serving the same congregation for 34 years. The only down side is seeing two generations depart this world. We lost our entire Senior Adult mens class in less than 2 years. We saw three promoted in one month. Just a few more years back, I had a Senior Adult woman in a nursing home in Huntsville. She was in a lock down unit which happen to make me nervous. Once I got inside, she was sitting in a room with about 20 others and they were all making weird noises. I guess weird is the wrong word, but it was a cacophony of sounds. There was no harmony. Some were praying, some crying, some hollowing, some groaning, some babbling…I was totally overwhelmed. I was trying my best to communicate with Mrs. Emma, my friend but I could not hear my self think. There was one attendant in the room and she was a nice black lady. She came over to me and said, “I bet you are a preacher.” I said, “Yes mam, how could you tell?” She said, “I can tell.” Then she said, “Preach to them.” I said “Are you kidding?” She said, “No, I am not…preach to them and they will get quiet.” I said, “I don’t have a bible.” She said, “I have that covered and she reached over and got a Gideon bible that was laying on a table and she said, “Now preach.” I said, “Mam, you don’t understand, I have prepared a sermon. I can’t just open the bible and preach.” She said, “Well at least read something.” To which I agreed. The only thing I could think of was Psalm 46 and so I read Psalm 46. It was a miracle. When I started reading they were all making sounds but by the time I finished, they had all gotten quiet and were listening. I was amazed. The attendant was not shocked. Psalms 46 reminds us that everything around us in changing and some of those changes are hard to deal with. Who wants to be in a lock down unit for alzimers patients? Who wants to lose their independence. Einstein said, “Every thing is the universe is in a state of change except the speed of light.” I am here to tell you that everything else may be changing but God does not change.
II. GOD IS GOOD [He is benevolent]
The Father is Luke 15 is a good father and a giving Father. I do want to remind you that the very first thing that Satan put a question mark on was the goodness of God. We must believe that God is good or we will not trust Him. The devil knows that if he can undermine our confidence in the goodness of God, he can destroy our faith. Basically what he said to Eve was this…is there anything that God is withholding? It was a very subtle accusation questioning the goodness and benevolence of God. Note what happens in this story…
Look at verse 12….The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. The Father divides his wealth. You would assume that this means, he now has less wealth. Now look at verse 22…But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And then note the next verse…And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate! Look how lavish and generous the Father is….A robe, a ring, a new pair of shoes, a calf and a party. Do you know how much a party of this magnitude cost!
But this Father is not through…[v.31] His father said to him [elder brother], “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.” How could he give the elder brother everything and yet have plenty for everyone else?
The more I give, the less I have. Isn’t that the way it works for you? It does not work this way with God. The more God gives, the more He has to give. His giving never diminishes His wealth.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
III. GOD IS LOVE
[Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:8]
This is really why Jesus told the story. The Pharisees despised people whereas the heavenly Father loves people. He even loves sinners, who else among us is there to love? Folks, this is the good news. God loves people. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world.” This is a reference to people. God loves people and this story illustrates that truth. The tax collectors were like the prodigal, the Pharisees were like the elder brother but the Father loved both.
Do you know any Pharisees? They are proud, arrogant, self-righteous and they are convinced that God loves them more than He loves “Sinners” and of course they define who is and who is not a sinner. They never viewed themselves as sinners. The elder brother has Pharisee written all over him but the Father loved Him.
The Pharisees were judgmental and condescending; they did not believe that God loved everyone. The Pharisees loved money, praise and themselves but they despised many Jews and hated all Samaritans. Jesus spoke very directly to them, He even made fun of them at times but He did love them. For God to love a tax collector is one thing, but to love a hateful Pharisee, that is another. Yet Jesus prayed for them while on the cross, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” Truer words have never been uttered.
The Father in Luke 15 loved both sons. He shared his benevolent goodness with both sons. He offered mercy to both sons. It is also noteworthy that the FATHER never used force. He never tried to manipulate either son. He never rides rough shod over their will.
No one will be in heaven that doesn’t want to be there: God will not force anyone into submission, not in regards to salvation. Every knew will bow someday and every tongue confess but that will be in judgment. Today is the day of salvation and God wants you to choose to love Him. He loved you first and now He waits for you to love Him in return but He will not disregard your will. Your will is what makes you a person. If you didn’t have a will, you would be a puppet and you are no puppet.