As much as we like to believe that our God is a God of compassion, mercy, and grace, there are still some followers of Jesus who have difficulty accepting God’s complete forgiveness. There are those who look at their lives as being so stained with sin that they cannot believe that God can possibly forgive them. Then there are those who look at the people whose lives are so stained with sin, and they can’t believe that God can possibly forgive them, either.
The parable of the prodigal son addresses both groups as the simple truth is that the Bible teaches that God is a forgiving Father regardless of how many or how great our sins might be.
Isaiah 1:18- “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Micah 7:18-19- “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Hebrews 8:12- “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Most know the prodigal son scripture. Today we focus on the Father (God) and the prodigal son (the son who took his inheritance and laft) and I want you to see what kind of heavenly Father we have.
But when he (the son who took his inheritance) came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
1. We have a Father who forgives.
Once again remember the son is in the pig pen friendless, homeless, and starving. He realizes the misery his selfishness, arrogance and the ungodly life that it has caused. He remembers his loving and kind dad. Dad had rules and demands to live by, but now the boy understands they were commands for his welfare and growth and really were not at all unreasonable.
Time to go home, confess as to how he had sinned against his father and God. He is physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. He left in rebellion and returns home repentant. He is in rags, he’s is dirty and he stinks. Whhile he goes he must wonder and worry about how his Father and brother will react. What happened is truly unbelievable!
“while he was still far off, his father saw him ….”
I think there was a hill on his father’s place and father climbed it anxiously every day to look for his son. That father (God) knew deep down that his son was heading for ruin. Bad choice. The hard thing was to watch his son rebel and leave and it was very possible he would never return yet he knew at the time of his leaving there was no stopping the son. In our sin, we are often just like that son. But every day dad (God) looked for the son, every day hoping. Same with us!
Then one day far away is someone. Is that him? Could it be? Yahoo, my boy has come home!
“his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran…” In those days old men didn’t run but the father (God) breaks the rules! He runs and embraces the son! I love that. That son had left with the world for the taking, thinking he had the answers and he returns realizing the world had taken him and made him bleeding, sore, in rags and covered in pig stench. When will we learn that this is exactly what turning away from God the Father will do?
“he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”
HUGE point about God. I want you to understand that the Father ran to his son, embraced and kissed him before the son had a chance to say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” The son didn’t have to beg for forgiveness because all that mattered to the father is that his son had come home.
No interrogation before forgiveness. Now where you been? What have you exactly done? Dad (God) simply runs and opens his arms and kisses him. That son looks terrible, smells terrible, has done terrible things yet all the Father (God) cares about is that he once was dead and now is alive. Absorb that, understand that, grasp that, and absolutely believe that today, right now. Tell me that that fact does not take a load off your mind when you possibly consider some sin you deem to be too terrible for God to forgive.
Jesus wants to help us understand how forgiving our Father is. God is not a tyrant. He doesn’t delight in punishing. He delights in showing mercy. But this is critical: The rebellious will be punished if they remain in rebellion. If the son would have remained in the distant country, he would have remained dead and lost. It was only when he returned home to the Father that he became “alive and found” once again.
Bottom line? This parable teaches us that regardless of how we have turned away from God, now that may be in whole or just a part of our life, regardless of how bad, severe, and terrible we might think we have sinned at any time, we / you can always come home to a Father who is waiting and watching for His children to return! But praise the Lord, we have a Father who does not just stop there.
We have a Father who Restores us!
The son is still determined to confess as he knows he should. He begins to confess to his Father:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Have you really ever known you really need to confess? It can be difficult just as it probably was for that son. When you confess your pride is gone. The son’s pride was gone and he didn’t know how his father might react when the son specifically said “I am no longer worthy.”
He was right! He wasn’t worthy to be his son because his father had been good to him, then he insulted his father and left. He had given his son a home and love, yet the son defied his father and left. This is true, we give up our rights to son-ship when we leave God! Yet as difficult as it was at the time, he knew he had to do it no matter the consequences. Surely the son thought the best he might get is partial forgiveness and a CHANCE to prove his worthiness again. You know just let me be your hired hand, a bed with them and some food.
But we have a father (God) who does not do what we might expect at all. The Father completely restores the prodigal to the position of son: “’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.”
Don’t let me lose you but some of you are probably thinking: “We can accept the fact that God is a merciful God and that He can even forgive people who rebelliously sin against Him and come back, but we don’t think they should be restored to the position they had prior to leaving without proving themselves!” That’s where we and God are different. And that’s why I am glad that you are not my God, and you should be glad I’m not yours!
The way we view God is the way we view people. And if we believe our heavenly Father is a vindictive God who can’t wait to destroy people who sin against him, then that’s how you are going to deal with people around you. Many Christians just have not come to know the God that Jesus is describing. That’s why this story is so beautiful, because it lets us see God as he really is—not filtered by our preconceived concept of Him.
With God, understand this, with confession brings restoration, redemption, a return to being right with God. The robe, the ring, and sandals were symbolic of restored wealth, power, authority, and position.
The first thing the father got was the “best” robe. He put the best robe on this pig pen smelling, sweaty, filthy hog slopper. I love that. But shouldn’t you clean him up first? The Father wanted his son to know that regardless of how filthy and dirty he is or whatever he has done, he is still his son! And the Father wanted everybody to know that.
Here is what happens to many followers of Jesus and non-followers, they think they need to clean up first before God the Father will take them back or in. You know, “Once I clean up my life God will love me, take me back, I’ll go to church for the first time or again.” If you have to wait until you are perfect before coming to God, then why do you need God?
I don’t believe that anybody can “Straighten up their life” or “Overcome a weakness in the flesh or heart or mind” without God’s spirit working in their lives, and even then you’ll still struggle with sin. God is the one who does the cleaning up, not you or me. We must lay down our sin at the bloody cross and then turn our lives over to God, and then He does the rest.
Today we come to the communion table to partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ that was placed on a dirty, well used cross, kinda like this one. What sin haven’t you turned over and you hear the Holy Spirit saying now is the time and the Father is on that hill looking for you? What are you hiding from others yet you know God sees in you? Don’t you now understand that He waits for you and wants all of you to come home?
Right now understand God’s amazing grace and forgiveness is extended to all of us by God when in the world we would be judged, condemned and shunned by not just non-believers but yes also by many who call themselves followers of Jesus.
Well God gives you a second chance today when the world often does not. Nowadays it’s more like, ‘It’s now or never.’ ‘Around here we don’t tolerate incompetence.’ ‘Gotta get tough to get along.’ ‘Not much room at the top.” ‘Three strikes and your out.’” Well praise the Lord God gives us second chances, do overs. There aren’t many do overs in this world, but when it comes to our relationship with God our Heavenly Father, do overs are a reality as long as we come to Him with a sincere, confessing heart seeking His forgiveness. It might be time to take God’s do over….today, this morning, at the alter.