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.

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 portrait of our heavenly Father who is, by the way, immutable. He never changes. He does not need to change because He is perfect. 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. 

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. It contains every tense in the Hebrew language. Not only can it be translated “I AM” but I WAS…I WILL BE…I AM BECAUSE I WAS…I AM SINCE I WAS…I WILL ALWAYS BE BECAUSE I AM. You can go on forever parsing this verb, the translations are almost infinite. 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, not 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 but the 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 Party and you will love the Father. When 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 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 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. Yesterday, 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 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 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 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 10:11-13–As 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.

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