Closing Remarks

Scripture Text: 2 Corinthians 13:1-14

1. This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
2 I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone,
3 Since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in thefaith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?
6 But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.
7 Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what isright, even though we may appear unapproved.
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.
9For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the LORD gave me for building up and not for tearing down.
11 Finally, breathren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss {hug}.
13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the LORD Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

INTRODUCTION

In this final chapter of 2 Corinthians we are going to divide the material into four parts:

  1. Paul’s Warning
  2. Paul’s Advice
  3. Paul’s Prayer
  4. Paul’s Exhortation

I. FIRST, PAUL’S  WARNING [13:1–4]

  1. Paul reminds them this will be his third visit. The second was the painful visit; perhaps this is Paul’s way of saying, “You don’t want another like the last, do you?”
  2. Every fact will be confirmed by two witnesses. Paul is assuring the Corinthians that a confrontation lies a head. The hearsay and inuendo will not hold up in court. Paul is going to find the source of the criticism and it will be dealth with according to Mosaic law {Deut. 19:15}.
  3. Evidently one criticism has been that Paul does not speak for Christ but he assured them that he will give them proof. I am not sure what that proof was to be.
  4. Paul refers to Christ weakness on the cross which of course is explained by the fact that Christ made Himself weak. Jesus did not have to die on the cross. He choose to die on the cross. We are to follow His example: there are times when we are to make ourselves weak. Times when we refuse to defend ourselves but there are times when we are to arise, to stand, to exercise power as did Christ in cleansing the Temple and the resurrection. At times we are to be like a worm, at others like a lion. This was Paul’s way of saying, “The lion is coming.”

NOTE ONE: Some are for peace at all cost but not Paul. Peace is very important but truth is more important.There comes a time when man must stand for truth’s sake. Some physical problems can be dealth with by thearpy and medication but some require surgery. We can not bury our head in the sand and pretend things are fine when they are not.

NOTE TWO: Paul had something I don’t have, Apostlic Authority. He is not blowing smoke. He means to excommunicate some folks if they don’t get right. This concept of ecclestical authority is foreign to Baptist but it is practiced by other denominations. I have a friend who is an Assembly of God pastor. He has a regional supervisor who has real authority.

II. PAUL’S ADVICE {Verse 5}

Paul challenged the Corinthians to “Examine their faith.” Test yourselves to see if you are in thefaith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

There is nothing wrong with introspection and self-examination so long as you don’t spend all your time examining yourself. It can become an obsession and a sin. It is like doubt. Some doubt is healthy but if we give in to constant doubt, it becomeas a sin.

Litmus test:

  1. Do you recognize your sins?
  2. Do you live in a state of repentance?
  3. Do you have a desire to please Christ?
  4. Do you have a burden for those who do not know Christ?
  5. Do you rejoice when someone comes to know Christ?
  6. Deep down, do you really want God to get the glory?
  7. Do you love the word of God?
  8. Do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit?
  9. Do you love this world more than Christ?

III. PAUL’S HOPE AND PRAYER [2 Cor. 13:6-10]

  1. Verse 6–“I hope you will discover that I haven’t failed the test.”
  2. Verse 7–“I pray to God that you will make the right decision. I pray that you will understand that it’s you I am concerned with and not myself.”
  3. Verse 8–“I can’t do anything to stop the truth.” Truth is objective, it stands alone. It does not require man’s approval and it is absolute.
  4. Verse 9–“I pray that there will be no more problems among you.”
  5. Verse 10–Paul prays that he will not have to use his authority. His goal is to build the Corinthians up not tear them down.

IV. PAUL’S EXHORTATION {2 Cor. 13:11}

Five exhortations:

  1. Be Happy–chairō, rejoice or be glad
  2. Be Mature–katartizō, fit, sound or complete.
  3. Be Helpful–parakaleō, to call along side of, to console, comfort, encourage and strengthen
  4. Be Together–autos phroneō, one or the same mind
  5. Be Peaceful–eirēneuō, to make peace, to cultivate or keep peace, harmony; to be at peace, live in peace.

I love to compare translations:

NIRV

  1. Rejoice
  2. Work to make things right with one another
  3. Help one another
  4. Aree with one another
  5. Live in peace with one another

Holman

  1. Rejoice
  2. Become Mature
  3. Be encouraged
  4. Be of the same mind
  5. Be at peace

 

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The Loving Father

Luke 15:11-32

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
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.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
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.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.
32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

INTRODUCTION

This is definitely the Parable of the Loving Father. Jesus mentions the Father 11 times, the prodigal 8 and the elder brother 3 times. I love this story and I love to tell it over and over. Each time I tell it I discover something wonderful that I had missed previously. Each time I study this passage, I discover new truths. I am amazed at the depth of this story. It cannot be exhausted in a life time.

A quick review: Jesus sets these stories up in verses 1-2

  • The Tax Collectors and Sinners are the Prodigal
  • The Elder Brother is the Pharisees and Jewish Religious Leaders
  • The Father is our Heavenly Father

There are some wonderful truths about the FATHER that I want to share with you: these things have come to me one at a time over the years and then 5-6 years ago, I put them into a message and I have been preaching since…

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FATHER NEVER CHANGES

It is a wonderful truth: in this story, the FATHER remains consistently the same, he never vacillates, he never changes. From beginning to end: He is the same, a loving Father. There is no question: Jesus is painting a beautiful portrait of our heavenly Father who is, immutable. He never changes. He does not need to change because He is perfect. To be perfect is to be beyond improvement: you cannot make something perfect better. I am a sinner, I am imperfect, I need to change but God is perfect and He needs no changes.


We Live In A Changing World


 We live in a changing world. Everything about us, around us is changing. Einstein said, “The only constant in the entire universe is the speed of light.”

Light travels at a constant, finite speed of 186,000 miles per second. A traveler, moving at the speed of light, would circum-navigate the equator approximately 7.5 times in one second. By comparison, a traveler in a jet aircraft, moving at a ground speed of 500 mph, would spend 50 hours in the air to circle the globe once.

Everything else is subject to the law of thermodynamics: it is in a state of constant change. The sun has less energy, the moon is inching toward the sun and away from the earth every day and it has nothing to do with global warming. Everything is changing. The United States is evolving into something a lot of us are uncomfortable with: we are certainly not like colonial America. The world is changing and everything in it. The Southern Baptist Convention is changing: the millennials are taking over and one out of five are into Reform Theology which is not good. What can we say, things are changing and they are changing fast. Yes, it can be a bit unnerving. We desperately need something to stay the same. We need a ROCK, something we can lean on, something stable and we have that in Jesus.


Hebrews 13:8 comes to mind….Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 


THE GREAT I AM

Our God, Yahweh is immutable; it is declared in His name YHWH, “I AM”. God choose a verb for His personal name. It is the Hebrew verb for being. God is not a being: He is being. He is self-existent and uncreated. His very name contains every tense in the Hebrew language. Not only can it be translated “I AM” but …

  • I AM WHAT I AM
  • I AM BECAUSE I AM
  • I AM SINCE I AM
  • I WAS WHAT I AM
  • I AM WHAT I WAS
  • I WILL ALWAYS BE WHAT I AM
  • I AM SINCE I WAS
  • I WAS BECAUSE I AM
  • I ALWAY WILL BE BECAUSE I AM
  • You can go on and on for pages. There seems to be an infinte number of ways to parse this fascinating verb. But I can sum it all up with the story of the Black Preacher doing the 23rd Psalm. He never made it past the first three words…THE LORD IS….HE ALWAYS HAS BEEN IS AND HE ALWAYS WILL BE IS. He is the eternal, self-existent, immutable God and He never changes.

Illustration:

I was in a lock down unit of a Nursing Home some years ago. There were 20-25 people in the room and all were making wierd sounds. It was chaos. I was trying to visit one widow from our church but the noise, the confusion was stifling. Some of the patients were even hollowing. A black attendant came up to me and said, “You are a preacher aren’t you?” I said “Yes mam, I am.” She said, “start preaching.” I looked at her in shock and said, “Are you kidding, in this racket, I can’t even carry on a conversation with my friend in this chaos.” She said, “You open a bible and go to preaching and they will get quiet.” I said, “I don’t have a bible with me.” She left the room and returned in a minute with a Gideon bible and said, “Here, preach.” I opened the bible to Psalm 46 and read it....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 seaI read the entire Psalm and they got quiet long before I finished. I was amazed. Astounded would be more like it.

I preached the worse and shortest sermon of my life that day. It was horrible. I wish I could say the Spirit fell and I waxed eloquent but that is not what happened. I stumbled through the Psalm and then I talked about keeping the faith in the midst of a changing world. David said, “I will not fear even though the earth is changing.” How could David make such a statement? Because his faith was in an unchanging God who is always there in our time of trouble.

Our God is immutable: let’s praise Him!

II. THE FATHER IS WISE

Legally, the Father was not obligated to divide his estate. The sons actually had no claim until the Father’s death. But when the younger son rebelled, the Father did not try to force him to stay, nor did he refuse his request. He basically allowed the boy to have his own way. The Father had the upper hand, he could have used force but he wisely choose not to. Evenutally, he gets his son back safe and sound and this son is a new man. One who loves and appreciates his father. One who is ready to obey every command and do it for love’s sake.


As Paul reveals in I Corinthians 13, the highest motive of service is love. The elder brother had served for many years but not out of love. He served for duty sake. He served for the sake of his own reputation.

By allowing the younger son to exercise his free will, the Father gets a son in return who loves him.

God could have made us puppets on a string. He could have made us robots. He could have programmed us so that we would be perfect but He choose to make us in His own image and a part of that is the freedom to choose. You don’t have to trust Christ. You do not have to repent of your sins. It’s your choice. You cannot get into heaven without repentance but no one will force you to repent. If you choose to repent and return to the Father, you will love the fellowship and you will love the Father. When we labor for duty sake, it can be like slavery. When we labor out of love, it is a privilege.

Illustration:

I grew up on a small farm. We had cows, pigs, chickens and even goats when I was very young. There were plenty of chores to be done but like all boys, I preferred playing at the creek to doing chores. Daddy was not a slave driver but he did expect us to work. Mother was a slave driver. I preferred working for Daddy. I worked as a kid but in those days, practically all kids worked. I did not work because I wanted to and I did not work because I loved my father. I worked for one reason, they made me. If you didn’t work, you did not eat and I liked to eat.

{Fast forward 35 years} My father had a series of strokes before his departure. He got to a point where he was helpless and it bothered him. I stayed with him one day and one night a week and he was always telling me to go back home to my family. He didn’t want me to take care of him; he wanted me to take care of my children and grandchildren. I always assured him that they were fine. Finally, I had a talk with Daddy. I told him the truth: “Daddy this is not my duty, this is a privilege. I am honored to be able to take care of you. I could never be happy in this world if I did not.”

That’s all any father wants: to be loved, honored and respected by his children.

III. THE FATHER IS BENEVOLENT

The Father in this story was a giving man, a benevolent man. Every time he appears in the story he is giving something. He gives the younger son an early inheritance. Then he gives him a hug, a robe, a ring, and a party. He gave two thirds of his plantation to the older son, it was already in his name. He gave him godly advice. He told him, “Everything I have is yours.” Wow, what a generous man? He gave and gave and gave again.

Our heavenly Father is benevolent. He is good and gracious and He loves to give. You are not going to out give God. It is like trying to out give a rich man: your pockets aren’t deeper enough. June and I are trying to be a little more careful this Christmas because I am about to lose most of my income. We have talked about who we will give to this Christmas. We know that the more we give, the less we will have. Our giving diminishes us, that is because we are human beings but giving does not diminish God: the more God gives, the more He has to give. What I said doesn’t make sense, but it is true…God is not diminished in any way by giving. In a spiritual sense, it will work the same way for us. The more we give, the more we get. The way to increase your eternal stock is to give now. But we humans can give sacrificially. We can give until it hurts. It never hurts God to give, other than when He gave His son.

I love the poem by Anne Flint…

  1. He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

IV. THE FATHER IS GENTLE, PATIENT AND KIND

He never loses his cool. He never becomes impatient. It is absolutely amazing how kind he is to these boys. I am more amazed at his kindness to the older than I am the younger. The older son needed a good kick in the rear. He had a horrible attitude and was so disrespectful to his father. Yet his father gently begs him to join the party.

After a very intense 30 hours of travel, I returned home last night very thankful for God’s infinite goodness, grace, and mercy. The Bailey’s are blessed beyond belief and we do not deserve it. How can God be so good, so kind, so patient and so gentle? Every time I go off with my kids, they tell these far fetched stories that I don’t remember. I’ll tell you this: I enjoy being a granddad a lot more than I did being a dad?


Is this because my grand kids are better than their parents? No, it is because I have changed over the years. When I was younger, I put too much emphasis and sometimes too much pressure on my children–especially in the field of sports. Last December, our Son {Joe David} graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the same Seminary I attended 45 years ago. I am very proud of my son. Growing up, I wanted him to be a great athlete but now I want him to love Jesus and he does. I want the same thing for my girls and grands. I have almost made a 180 degree change in my attitude and it’s all due to God’s grace. I would like to take credit but the gentle Savior has nudged me along. He has patiently destroyed my idols one at a time. How could anyone be so patient.

V. THE FATHER MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE: HE LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN

I guess this is one reason I love the story. It contains the heart of the Gospel. The Pharisees were despicable people. They were rich, aristocratic, snobs who thought they were better than everyone else. I can see how God would love a sinner like a prostitute or a tax collector, {State trooper} but how could He love these despicable Pharisees who were plotting the death of His Son.

In this story, the Father loves both sons. Unfortunately, only one joins the celebration. The older son stood outside his Father’s generous grace and pouted. He was outside because he choose to be outside. The sheep got lost by wandering, the coin got lost by accident but this son is lost by choice. He chooses to be outside the sphere of his father’s grace. His father begs him to come in and he will not.

I Timothy 1:15–This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

CONCLUSION

The Pharisees couldn’t believe that God loved sinners. I sure that the sinners wondered how He could love the self-righteous and arrogant Pharisees but the truth is–He loved both. I am so thankful for the word ALL…

  • Romans 8:32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
  • Romans 10:11-13As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one {Christ} died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

The Pharisees believed that God loved some {some lives mattered}. Jesus taught us that all lives matter.

 

The Elder Brother

Scripture: Luke 15:25-30

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

INTRODUCTION

The key to understanding this story is found in Luke 15:1-2, Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

The Pharisees, who prided themselves in obeying the law, failed to keep the two most important commandments: [1] Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and [2] love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. They neither loved God nor man. As a matter of fact, they basically hated everyone who was not like them. They hated Gentiles, Samaritans and Sinners. They were filled with pride and self-righteousness. They refused to even acknowledge their sin, let alone repent of it. In this story the elder brother is a portrait of the Pharisees.

I’m sure you are wondering: if this is about the Pharisees, why preach it today, there are no Pharisees here. But there are, Self-righteousness is not dead, nor is pride, contempt for others and self-will. The Pharisees are very much alive and among us….As a matter of fact, I consider myself as a “Recovering Pharisee.”

  1. They are very religious, faithful to the church.
  2. Most of them do not miss a service.
  3. They tend to be morally impecable. [cover their flaws]
  4. They are critical and judgmental.
  5. They don’t seem to be happy.

Today, we are going to look at the characteristics of a Pharisee or Elder Brother.

I. THEY HAVE AN UNHAPPY DISPOSITION

{V. 25-26} When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on?


Elder brothers don’t like music and dancing. They don’t like celebration because they have no concept of grace. They are legalist and they hate grace. When the elder brother found out they were having a party, he went ballistic.


Elder brother are working on a holy look for appearance sake: it is somewhere between a migrane headache and acid indigestion. They look like they were born on the dark side of the moon and baptized in pickle juice. They are not a good advertisement for Christianity. They appear to be having as much fun as the Cruise Director on the Titanic. The bad thing is, they think they are holy. They have no clue what real holiness looks like. The elder brother was unhappy. 
  • He was unhappy with his brothers return
  • He was unhappy with his fathers response
  • Unhappy about his work (slaving)
  • He was unhappy that they began the party without him
  • He was unhappy with the party itself

Have you ever meet any unhappy Baptist?

  • Unhappy with the music
  • Unhappy with the preacher [little ladies at Cash]
  • Unhappy with the deacons

Have you noticed: you can change music, preachers and deacons and they are still unhappy. The more you placate and pamper them the unhapppier they get because they do not understand GRACE and why we are celebrating. They believe that everything is merited. The elder brother was upset with the party because his brother did not deserve to be forgiven, let alone had a party thrown in his honor.

Folks, we cannot earn God’s favor. We are all sinners and we all deserve death and hell. There are no exceptions. Everything is grace, everything. Once you understand GRACE, you can party and party hardy. Pharisees have no concept of grace.

II. THEY HAVE AN UNFORGIVING ATTITUDE

Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

The Father ran to meet the prodigal. He was quick to forgive. He didn’t even allow the boy to finish his confession. The elder brother is a different story. He refuses to forgive his brother. He doesn’t even claim him as a brother...Yet when this son of yours comes back...the elder brother said. We can’t claim to love the FATHER when we don’t love our brother. We have to forgive. Not only did Jesus command it, relationships demand it. You will not stay married if you don’t learn to forgive. An unforgiving attitude is an indication that you are holding on to something and it could be an offense but that is not your call or mine: if the FATHER forgives, we are also to forgive. The offense is first and foremost against Him.

III.THEY HAVE AN UNREALISTIC VIEW OF THEIR OWN SIN

The Pharisee or Elder Brother types are good at posting and recording the sins of others but they do not see their own sins. The big difference between the brothers is that the baby finally acknowledged his sin, repented and confessed his sin to his father. The Elder brother is a sinner as well but he masked his rebellion. His sin is covert. He keeps it covered but after a time, sin decieves us and the elder brother does not see his own sin. 

He does however see his brothers sin…Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

  • How did the Elder know about the prostitutes?
  • Did he spy on his baby brother? {not likely}
  • Did he hire someone to spy on him? {possible but not likely}
  • How did he know he was spending money on prostitutes? {that is what he would have done if it were not for his polished exterior, for the fact that he was concerned about what other people thought of him}

NOTE: You and I have the same black heart as a prodigal. They go out and sin openly, we desire to do the same but are afraid of being found out.

I was in a mens SS class 40 years ago when a man spoke up in the middle of the lesson, he said, “It just dawned on my, my sin of judging others is worse than the sins I am judging them for.” Bingo, he understood grace. Prodigals don’t pretend. They make no attempt to hide their sin. Elder brothers are big pretenders. They cover their sin, they mask their lust. They would not be caught dead with a prostitute but they look at porn on the internet. They have the same black heart as a prodigal.

The Elder Brother, like the Pharisee did not see his sins but he had them, they are evident to us.

  • The Elder was jealous.
  • The Elder was angry with the Father
  • The Elder was disobedient to the Father {refused to go in to the party with his Father begging him}
  • They are judgmental
  • They are unsympathic and unyielding: hard on people

IV. THEY HAVE UNLOVING HEART

The bottom line is this story is: the Elder brother did not share his FATHERS heart. He did not love his brother. I am reading the bible again and this time I am making note of the passages that have to do with loving our brother. Jesus said there are two GREAT COMMANDMENTS: [1] Love God with all your heart [2] Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. These two commandments are preached throughout scripture, old and new Testaments.

Here is what I am saying, when you boil everything down, TWO THINGS MATTER [1] Loving Jesus [2] Loving your neighbor. If you get these two things down, you are in good shape. BUT you have to understand that they go together. If you don’t love God with all your heart, you will not love your neighbor as you do yourself. If you can’t stand your neighbor, you don’t love God.

The Elder pretended to love his father but did he? He certainly didn’t love his brother, did he? The truth is, he loved neither. When you love your FATHER with all your heart, you want to honor them, please them. What would it have taken for the Elder to please his FATHER? To forgive and love his brother.

CONCLUSION

This story is a Chiasm, a Middle Eastern literary structure with a mirrored pattern. If you have studies poetry, this is similar. The pattern in this story of parallels is ABCDDCBA [first stanza or half]. The second is ABCDDCB and the A is missing. Jesus did not end the story. We do not know if the Elder brother changed his mind and joined the celebration. In other words, Jesus was giving a personal invitation to the Pharisees. Please repent, come in and join the celebration.

So where are you in this story. I am the elder brother and I have repented, it took me a wild to adjust but I am loving the CELEBRATION. I want to please my FATHER. I want to honor HIM. I want to love people the way He loves people.

What about you? Do you want to acknowledge your sins today or you focused on the sins of others? Do you want to come inside and join the Party or had you rather stay outside and pout? I am begging you to come inside.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make One Right

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

11 You have made me act like a fool. You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all.
12 When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.
13 The only thing I failed to do, which I do in the other churches, was to become a financial burden to you. Please forgive me for this wrong!
14 Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children.
15 I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.
16 Some of you admit I was not a burden to you. But others still think I was sneaky and took advantage of you by trickery.
17 But how? Did any of the men I sent to you take advantage of you?
18 When I urged Titus to visit you and sent our other brother with him, did Titus take advantage of you? No! For we have the same spirit and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way.
19 Perhaps you think we’re saying these things just to defend ourselves. No, we tell you this as Christ’s servants, and with God as our witness. Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.
20 For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.
21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.

INTRODUCTION

I think Paul would agree with Robert Tasker, that all self-praise is folly. It is absolutely futile, foolish and fruitless to commend one’s self, as my mother would say, “to tute your own horn.” Yet Paul not only commends himself, again and again, he blames the Corinthians for his folly. In verse 11, he says, “You have made me act like a fool.” No, they did not make Paul do anything: it was his choice. I am not offended by Paul’s weakness. He was human. I am actually encouraged by the honestly of God’s word and the glaring weakness revealed in Paul’s life. Paul was not perfect. I have no doubt that Paul made more contributions to Christianity than anyone this side of the cross but he was not perfect. I admire him but I do not worship him.

With this thought in mind, let us proceed to the message at hand.

I. FIRST, I WANT TO ADDRESS PAUL’S WEAKNESS

  1. He commends himself which is not good. He did so because the Corinthians were not defending him when his name came under criticism by the “Super Apostles.” It is only natural that we want our friends to defend and commend us. It doesn’t happen much but from time to time, it feels good to have someone got to bat for you but it is rarely a good idea to go to bat for yourself.
  2. Paul reacts to criticism that I think should be ignored. I’m not saying it is wrong to react to any criticism but we can react to all. A preacher has to understand the nature of criticism. No one is above criticism. If they criticized Jesus, they will criticize us. You cannot prevent it from happening. You cannot live above it and it is not wise to respond to every criticism. You will spend your time dealing with criticism instead to doing what God has called you to do. We cannot prevent folks from questioning our motives or criticizing our methods.
  3. Paul became too concerned with public opinion. Say what you will, but when we do not care what others think, we do not respond to every criticism. When a man says that he does not care what others think but then responds to every criticism, there is a contradiction. I suppose we all care what people think and what they are saying but we must come to that place of spiritual maturity where it doesn’t matter. I cannot control what others think or say so it does not matter. I cannot afford to waste my time and energy on something that does not matter.

II. THERE IS THE MATTER OF PAUL’S INSECURITY

20 For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.
21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.

You see the phrase, “I am afraid,” three times in the NLT. The NIRV breaks it down into six:

  1. I’m afraid that when I come I won’t find you as I want you to be.
  2. I’m afraid that you won’t find me as you want me to be.
  3. I’m afraid there will be arguing, jealousy and fits of anger.
  4. I’m afraid you will separate into your own little groups. Then you will tell lies about each other. You will talk about each other.
  5. I’m afraid you will be proud and cause trouble.
  6. I’m afraid that when I come again my God will put me to shame in front of you.

Another approach is to study Paul’s list of words:

  1.  Quarreling (eris), strife, wrangling, contention, rivalry, competiton for place and prestige.
  2.  Jealousy (zelos), envy, the desire to have what does not belong to us, wanting what others have. [Barclay: envy is the characteristic of a mean and little mind]
  3.  Anger (thumoi), outburst of sudden anger, an explosion of passionate anger, uncontrolled anger.
  4.  Selfishness (eritheia), electioneering or intriguing for office, jocking for position.
  5.  Slander (katalalia), defamation of character, evil speaking, backbiting
  6.  Gossip (psithyrismos), whispering, secret slander, murmuring
  7.  Arrogance (physiōsis), puffed up, loftiness, pride, conceit
  8. Disorderly behavior (akatastasia), instability, a state of disorder, disturbance, confusion

Paul was afraid they might not have not given up your old sins.

  1. Impurity (akatharsia) impurity in thought and deed, lustful, luxurious, profligate living
  2. Sexual Immorality (porneia), illicit sexual intercourse, perversion
  3. Lustful Pleasure (aselgeia), unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence [NIV-debauchery, Holman-promiscuity, NASB-sensuality]

Barclay says that Corinth was such a wicked city that adultery was not even considered a sin. The Corinthians believed it was natural for a man to pursue and satifify his lust.

III. MY FINAL POINT IS HAS TO DO WITH THE SHORT-SIGHTED THINKING OF THE CORINTHIANS: THEY BLEW AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A PARTNER IN PAUL’S MINISTRY

You may think that I am overly critical of Paul but that is not the case. The Corinthians Church, not Paul, was the loser. Robert Tasker believes the Corinthians had accused Paul and his associates of dipping into the funds collected for Jerusalem. I wonder if there was not some resentment about the offering in the first place. The bottom line, according to Paul own testimony, is that the Corinthians never supported Paul financially, a fact that Paul mentions more than once. The attitude of the Corinthains toward Paul in regards to money was very unwise. The church made a horrible mistake in not becoming a part of Paul’s ministry. They were selfish and shortsighted.

  • I may have influenced a hundred [MAYBE] or so to Christ…
  • Junior Hill, our friend, has influenced thousands…
  • The Grahams, Billy and Frankling, have influenced millions…
  • The Apostle Paul has influences billions…

We are partners with Junior and with the Grahams although we have not given a lot to either, we have given some but we cannot be partner’s with Paul, that time frame has passed but the Corinthians could have been and yet they choose not to be. It doesn’t make sense.

Someone tried to get my wife to donate above the price of the item we were purchasing and they said it goes to St. Jude’s. She said, “That’s OK, but I have already donated, I mailed them a check today.” She has done this for 30 years. It’s only $360 per year but after 30 years, that amounts to $10,800. She also supported a child or two through WORLD VISION INTERNATIONAL. That was $30 per month from birth to high school graduation. I can tell you right now that what she has donated is far more than she has in savings right now but that doesn’t matter, the long term dividends will far out weight the short term sacrifice.

Why do people horde when they could help? Short-sighted thinking. Some will accuse me of trying to slick folks out of their savings; hey, I’m not trying to slick talk you out of anything–I am trying to challenge your mind, your thinking. A small sacrifice today can produce a huge reward later.

The Father {Part One}

Scripture: Luke 15:20-24, NLT

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ 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. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

INTRODUCTION

Legalism hates grace. Jesus told this story for the benefit of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were self-righteous which is the most evil of all forms of righteousness. It was a righteousness generated by the flesh and it was devoid of spiritual power. The Pharisees were legalistic, harsh, unsympathetic, judgmental and despises of grace. What this FATHER does in this story is more shocking to them than the behavior of the Prodigal. The Pharisees had no concept of a LOVING FATHER who was patient, sympathetic, compassionate, forgiving and willing to share the shame of his wayward son. The Pharisees, as do all legalist, had a twisted and sorted image of God.

They could not comprehend a God who loved sinners.

  • Legalism says, I deserve to be a son…
  • Grace says, I have sinned, I don’t deserved to be a son…
  • Legalism says, love is conditional, you earn it…
  • Grace says, love is unconditional, cannot be earned…
  • Legalism says, Love is a reward…
  • Grace says, Love is a gift…
  • Legalism glorifies self…
  • Grace glorifies God…
  • Legalism keeps score…
  • Grace does not keep score…

It was the Father’s shameful behavior that upsets the Pharisees most. He not only allowed the boy to come home, he ran to meet him. Obviously this father loved his son very much and had been prayerfully awaiting his return, when he saw his son coming in the distance, he ran to meet him. Jewish noblemen never ran, it was a shame for a noble man to run, it was a sign of weakness. Men wore tunics in those days and to run, a man had to tuck the hem of the tunic under his belt and this exposed his legs. This was shameful to a Jew. Can you imagine how elated the Prodigal was just to know that his dad was willing to share his shame.


The Father had compassion on the Prodigal and hugged and kissed him. The boy starts his confession but he never gets to finish because the Father interrupts. He begins to bestow the gifts of grace upon his undeserving son. We cannot imagine how irritating this was to the Pharisees who believed that forgiveness has to be earned.


When God FORGIVES He GIVES and here we see the lavish gifts of Grace bestowed by the Father upon the Prodigal.


I. FIRST: THE ROBE FOR HIS BACK…“‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.”

The boy left in a fine suit of clothes but he came home broke and in rags. His clothes were stained from the filth of the pigs. A Jew was not supposed to touch a pig because they were unclean. The Prodigal’s clothes are stained with uncleanness. They are not acceptable for the son of a nobleman. The FATHER told his servants, “Quick! Bring me the finest robe in the house.” It was probably the Father’s robe. The Father was anxious to cover the boys nakedness, filth and shame.

The Pharisees would have taken this boy in his rags and paraded him down main street like they did the women caught in adultery. They would have demanded that he pay for his sins but the FATHER forgave and he covered the boys filth, shame, disgrace with a fine robe. Isaiah 61:10 reads, I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.

 

Psalms 32:1, How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!

From the sacrifice of Abel, then the Passover in Egypt, then the Tabernacle in the wilderness all the way to Revelation, the bible teaches that our sins are covered by the precious blood of Christ. The ancient high priest would take the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat then stood between God and the broken law inside the Ark of the Covenant. It is the blood that keeps God from seeing our sin.

II. THE RING FOR HIS FINGER…”Get a ring for his finger”

The signet ring in the ancient East was equivalent to the POWER OF ATTORNEY today. It was a symbol not only of sonship but of authority. This must have really raised some Pharisaic eyebrows. How could this FATHER trust such an unfaithful son? He knew he had repented. Just as this wise FATHER knew what was in his sons heart when he left, he understands what is in his heart now. He knows the boy is a changed man.

III. THE SANDALS …”Get sandals for his feet”

Sandals were a symbol for freedom. Very few slaves had shoes. When I was a child, we went without shoes in the summer. It was common in those days. We didn’t even wear shoes to church. The adults did but children went everywhere barefoot. This was also true of slaves in America. One of the old black spirituals is called, “All God’s Children Got Shoes.” Our black field hands taught us the song. I remember every word and could sing it for you but I will show mercy.

IV. THE FATTENED CALF… “kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast”

The fattened calf was for a VIP and a special occasion. When I was a boy, we did not have fried chicken every Sunday but we did if the preacher came to eat with us. We didn’t kill a calf for the preacher but we did kill a few chickens. The chicken thing was for a small scale party but to kill a fattened calf, you can feed 200. This gesture on the part of the FATHER was a message to his son: YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME…THIS IS A SPECIAL OCCASION.

CONCLUSION

The Prodigal did not expect a robe, a ring, a new pair of shoes much less a fattened calf and a party. He came home hoping for a job. He would have been pleased with just a job but his father wanted him to have more. His FATHER forgave him and lavished him with gift after gift. The boy has to be amazed at such wonderful grace.

We call this the parable of the prodigal son but we have it wrong, it is the parable of the LOVING FATHER. This story does not glorify sin or the sinner. The prodigal is not the star, nor is his older brother. They are members of the cast but it is not really about them. The focal point of this story is the LOVING FATHER. Every thing here depends of the FATHER. The Prodigal did not pick him self up from his boot straps. His FATHER has mercy on him. The boy didn’t deserve a thing but look at all the GRACE GIFTS he received, so many that it made his brother jealous. The Prodigal would never have returned had it not been for the goodness of his father. His was forgiven and restored because his FATHER was compassionate and gracious. The boy didn’t deserve it and he knew it.

Folks, we are the brothers, one or the other but none of us are represented by the FATHER. He is perfect, unchanging, has endless resources, kind, compassionate, patient, secure, etc. The Father in this story can be represented by God the Father or God the Son but he doesn’t represent humankind. The Father is holy and good.


So today your choice is which brother do I want to be? One repented the other did not.