From the series The Prodigal and the Perfectionist
Sometimes the hardest people to find are those who don’t even know they’re lost. That's an intriguing statement – and begs an uncomfortable question. Join Chip as he challenges you to ponder that thought for yourself. It’ll be a powerful time together.
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About this series
The Prodigal and the Perfectionist
Why We All Need Grace
How often has something seemed confusing until you saw a picture of it and then you thought, "Oh, now I get it!"? Grace is like that -- confusing, until we get a picture of what it is. Scripture tells us that God's grace is available to all who will receive it. But how can we receive it, if we don't really know what it is, or even why we need it? In this series, Chip Ingram explains the meaning of grace that Jesus so clearly revealed, in the parable of Luke 15. Jesus' intention was to help people, then and now, understand God's generous heart and why He is so ready to pour out His abundant grace on all who will receive it.More from this series
I was teasing someone over in the coffee shop. I said, “I am going to do another really long series on grace soon because this one is helping me so much.”
And I don’t know about how you get your arms around this, what grace really is. I can define it as “God’s generosity in action to meet my deepest needs, totally apart from my performance.” But I jotted a few thoughts here that maybe will help you by way of, What is grace? Getting your arms and mind around it.
You desire great things for me, God, and from me. But Your expectations are reasonable. You are mindful that I am but dust. Magnificent dust made in Your image, but as a result, You are patient, You are understanding with me. You know about my struggles. When I purposefully rebel, and some of you think pastors live in a different world, believe me, we purposefully rebel, and reject Your love, Your plans, and Your will for my life, You graciously and lovingly provide pain, no peace in my heart, and ever increasing consequences to prompt me to come to my senses, to return to You.
And then when I do, You don’t keep Your anger or hide Your face from me, when I come with an honest and a humble heart, with a broken and contrite spirit. When I find myself far from You or the enemy bombarding me and the evil of this fallen world, and I feel in an absolutely impossible situation, Your ears strain to hear my cry for help, and Your feet run to meet me in my desperate situation, even when it is one of my own making. This is what grace is. It’s not a concept, it’s not energy, it’s not theory. It’s the generosity of God in action that seeks my highest good, meets my greatest needs, and delights in me.
It’s: He is for me, totally apart from anything I could do or anything I have ever done. Grace is free, undeserved, counterintuitive. It’s the disposition of the infinite Creator of the universe toward me, expressed most clearly and personally in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ. That’s grace.
I want to ask and answer the question why the good news isn’t good anymore. Euaggelion, that is the Bible word for “gospel.” It just means, “good news.” Literally it means, “happy news.” The early Church simply went around proclaiming, “Do you understand that the God who made all that there is, in the Second Person of the Trinity, came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived an absolutely perfect life, healed the sick, raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, healed the lame, died in your place for your sin, rose from the dead – you are forgiven!”
And they went and announced this happy news, “God loves you! That’s why He came!” But somewhere along the line, this happy news became religion and oughts and shoulds and hypocrisy.
For those who are twenty-nine years and under in America, when they hear, “Oh, you’re a Christian? An evangelical, one of those born-again types?” That’s the perception. How did the good news become that?
So are you ready? Are you ready to return to our story? The occasion? We begin in Luke chapter 15. Are you ready? Here is the story.
“Now the tax collectors and the sinners were all gathered around to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable,” one parable, three stories, “‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Then he calls his friends and his neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”’” Spiritual application. “I tell you, in the same way, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Story number two to make the same point, “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’” And that coin would be probably a part of her dowry. It would be a day’s wage.
Story number one, something is lost out in the wilderness, of value. Story number two, something is lost inside the house of much greater value. Story number three, something is lost inside the home of infinite value.
“Jesus continued, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the young son got together all that he had,’” literally, he cashed out, “and went to a distant country and squandered his wealth in wild living. After he’d spent everything there, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
Breaking point. “When he came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and I am here starving to death! I will go back to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and he went to his father.”
Intervention. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion, he ran to his son, he threw his arms around him, and he kissed him.” Literally, repeatedly.
“And the son said to the father, ‘I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the robe, the best one, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger; sandals on his feet; bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and a celebration. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and he is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. He came near the house, and he heard the music and the dancing.” We get our word for symphony from music. And it’s literally a picture of around a little village house and the entire village has showed up and there is dancing and there is music and there is food and there is excitement.
“So he called to one of the servants,” literally, one of the teenage boys, “and asked him, ‘What is going on?’ ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“And the older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I have been slaving for you, I have never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!’
“My son,” interesting word, it’s the most gentle word he could use for him, it’s tenderness, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”
As we look at this passage, we are going to discover how people miss the grace of God. The occasion, remember, by way of review is that Jesus is being criticized by the religious leaders, the Pharisees. They have large portions of the Old Testament completely memorized. They fast on Tuesdays and Fridays regularly. They tithe ten percent of all they have down to the herbs and spices of everything that they own. They are squeaky clean, morally.
They have long prayer shawls and they stand on corners and recite prayers out loud. They are the people who are intellectual, they have the power, and they have wealth. And Jesus comes, now claiming to be God, multitudes are thronging around Him, the common people hear Him gladly. And He is hanging out with notorious sinners – tax collectors, prostitutes, irreligious, immoral, far from God, unholy, contaminated people.
And the religious leaders are thinking He is shaming God. And so this story is to correct their thinking about God and how God feels about people.
So what did this story teach about God’s heart for lost people? The younger son receives, are you ready? Grace. Grace. It’s just an amazing picture. God loves us. He just loves us. The father wants relationship with the son.
The robe is his robe, the ring is the financial family signet ring, the sandals are, “You’re a son.” The fatted calf was a celebration! It’s not a celebration for the son. It’s the father’s celebration. It’s what he has back.
The son receives grace, but the father receives the son’s shame. He is viewed as someone, this would never happen, ever, in a Middle Eastern village. Today or then.
The father has embarrassed himself. He has run with his robe showing his legs. He has forgiven the young kid who ought to be beaten. The elders who would have come if the father wouldn’t have gotten there, could have had the ability to stone him. He has received all the shame on him, he has told the servants, “Put my robe on him.”
So the servants who would be ticked off, all they could say was, “If our master has received him, who are we?” And so that was the first part of the story of the younger brother. And, by the way, here is the deal. That’s how God feels about everybody.
I just want you to think of the people who, in your mind, maybe, I don’t know what the category is, I don’t know what they look like, I don’t know what your experience is, but I want you to think of people who you think, Ugh. They are so distasteful to you. You so would not want to be around these kind of people, whoever these kind of people are.
And I just want to remind you, God says, “I love them. I am passionate. I made them, I created them, I died for them.”
Now we move to Jesus’ message to the elder brothers, the Pharisees of that day. And as we do that, let me just give you a little bit of historical background. We read the passage.
It’s interesting, the narrative here, He makes it very clear that this transition is there is this party going on and as the party is going on and you can imagine the people, they are locked arms and they are dancing and there is a little musical band and there are cymbals and the fire is blazing. It would be interesting, the little servant boys, the teenagers and preteens would not be allowed to go in, they are not old enough yet unless they had been through their bar mitzvah and stuff, and so the adults are there and there is food.
And there would be a big head table. And at the head table is where the father would sit. And then all the dignitaries and the elders and people would be out here. The oldest son’s job at a celebration was to be the maîtres d. And he would stand, representing the family, so the father could be free to get up and interact with people. And that was the older son’s role and that will be very important later, because this older son will disrespect and diss his father equally like the younger son did. He’ll just do it in a different way.
And so we pick up the story and it says that in the meantime the older son comes. And in a village like this, if you heard dancing, you would be excited. It’s a celebration, something has happened.
And instead of moving right in, because this older son is revealing his attitude. He has a master/servant relationship with his dad. “I have slaved for you all these years.” So he hears about a big party and instead of excitement, he has suspicion. “Who could be having a party?”
Secondly, you need to remember, one third of the estate was given to the young son, and he has blown it. Two-thirds of the estate is the older son’s. But the father owns that and can spend it however. But every dollar that is spent before the father dies, is decreasing the estate.
So all he knows is, There is the big party and parties cost a lot of money and the fatted calf and we are blowing out the doors and all this means is I am going to get less and less and less after dad dies, if that tells you a little bit of his mindset.
So he calls one of the little teenage boys and says, “Hey, what’s going on in there?” And then he tells him the story. But he uses and interesting word. He says, “Your brother has come back safe and sound.” That’s actually one Greek word. And that Greek word, when it is translated in the Old Testament is translated, shalom, or, peace.
It’s not that your younger brother came back and now he is doing restitution and he has got a payment plan and he has been at least beaten or reproved. That’s what the older son would expect. He screwed up, he did this, he did this, he did this. Now he has got to pay it back.
The young one just comes and says, “He has shalomed with your father.” Well, that means reconciliation has happened. How could that have happened? And now there is a party and my estate is shrinking as dad uses my money to honor…
Do you see it? See, this is how the Pharisees see life. It’s how they see what is happening. And so, in these little villages, everyone is involved in what is going on and now the father does something completely unheard of and as the Pharisees are hearing this, they would know this would never happen.
When the father comes out, he doesn’t get even the title, “O father.” He doesn’t even say, it’s not his brother, it’s, “Your son.” The older brother had responsibility for reconciliation, he didn’t care about the younger son, and he didn’t care about the father.
And so he stays outside. And the word is the older brother is outside. Everyone knows he has so disrespected his father, and the father does the unthinkable. He goes outside. And in the Middle Eastern culture, as He is telling this story, that he is going to go outside, [they would expect] he is going to say, “Get in there and do your job. Enough.” Or, “Have him beaten, have him tied up, we will deal with him later.” That’s exactly what they would expect.
And instead, just as the father took on the shame of the younger son in order that relationship could happen, notice his words, teknon, “My son.” And literally he is pleading with him, “Come inside, take your role, be a part of the family. The younger son was lost in a distant land and he came home. You have been in the home, but there is no relationship. Come close. Be a part of the family. Accept my love. It’s not about your performance.”
“I have,” listen to his words, “I have never disobeyed you. You have never given me.” And the father goes, “I have never given you? All that I have is yours. It has been available.”
You see, elder sons are legalistic. Elder sons are performance driven. Elder sons have a transactional relationship with “their father” or God. It’s not personal. Older sons are demanding. And older sons don’t understand grace and so they see: That’s not fair.
This older son is as lost as the younger son. The younger son wanted, not his father, but what the father could give him. The older son didn’t want the father either, but just what the father could give him.
And the Pharisees are listening to this story and they are acutely aware that the younger son are the prostitutes and the tax collectors and the older sons are them.
He has completely revamped their view of God. He has completely changed what God the Father is like, what it means to be spiritual, what it means to walk with God, what it means to love people.
A couple of things we learn from this older son scenario is that very good, moral, religious people who believe the Bible can be as lost as the most immoral sinner. Let me say that again. Very good, sincere, religious people who believe, intellectually, the Bible can be as lost as the most immoral sinner.
Jesus extends forgiveness to the elder brothers. An elder brother life can be just as miserable as the pigpen of the younger brother. Because, see, elder brothers feel like they are in a slave relationship. Elder brothers have, I have to do all these things. I am responsible all the time. I don’t measure up unless I do all these things for God.
Elder brothers are often angry at God. Life isn’t working out! I did this, You’re supposed to do that! They are often very angry with themselves, because no one can keep the standard so they are down on themselves, privately. They live with a lot of condemnation.
I found, in the years that I have been a pastor, when I meet people with elder brother symptoms and, boy, do I get it. I have had an elder brother part of my journey that is so ugly when you see it.
But I find they’re often depressed because they are angry and they never measure up. And then I discover, too, that many older brothers, if you live in this transactional relationship with God and it’s all these things you have to do, since no one can do it, there is often a break that occurs.
This probably would be a good time to stop and say, I wonder how we could recognize older brother tendencies. Because I will tell you, here is my concern, I think this is one of the most serious passages, serious truths we will ever talk about.
When you are a younger brother and you are lost, you know what the good news is? You know you’re lost. I mean, you know you’re lost. The only reason that he came back was he hit rock bottom.
If you talk to people who have been in any kind of twelve-step program they will just tell you, “Until you get to where you really get, I can’t do this, you never get better.” But when you’re an older brother, you’re living under the delusion that everything is okay. In fact, God owes you. The Pharisees were the most religious people, and they were farther from God because they were unaware of their need.
So let me give you a few characteristics of older brothers that I have observed from Scripture, and, unfortunately, from my own life and pastoring for about thirty years. Here is an older brother’s relationship to God and, by the way, if you have any older brother tendencies, this is a time not to take notes. In other words, see, part of our personality, Oh, gosh, I need to get this one. I’m going to list these. Why don’t you just put your pen down and lean back and say, Holy Spirit, if there is any of this in me, I would really like to hear it.
Because, see, what we older brothers do is we substitute intellectual knowledge and having things organized and getting everything straight for the actual relationship with God and heart change.
And so here are some characteristics of older brothers with regard to God. They often feel that the relationship with God is about duty and obligation. And especially in the areas of prayer, it’s dry. It’s a transaction. Praying is hard. Praying from the heart is hard.
They think God owes them a good life. They live with lots of guilt because they never really measure up. You pray for a half hour, what if you’re supposed to pray for thirty-three minutes? Then they read a book about someone who says you need to pray for an hour. Then they find that giving ten percent is a good start but you need to…
And it doesn’t matter. And praying and reading the Bible and being generous, all those things are good things, in and of themselves when they flow out of gratitude and a love relationship. But if it’s: This is how you measure up to God, the bar just keeps getting higher and higher and higher.
They only feel deeply loved when they are performing well. But when they are performing well, they become more and more arrogant, more critical of other people who, If everyone served like I serve in the church, if everyone gave like I gave, if everyone at work would show up the way I show up at work…
And there is just this attitude – convinced that this is the attitude and, I’m godly.
Right living is the means of getting what you really want from God. That is what the older son said. “Hey! I have never disobeyed! I did exactly what you said, therefore, I get the estate, I should have a party, my life should work out.”
Or, in the evangelical circles, Okay, I get it, I am going to come before God. I am meeting with God in the morning. I am reading my Bible. Okay, I finally got in one of those small groups that Ingram keeps ranting and raving about. I’m in a small group, I’m even trying to be a little bit more honest. Not only that, I went on a missions trip! I’m giving ten percent of my income and I’m going to add one percent each year until Jesus comes, because I heard someone did that! What else am I supposed to do? Oh, yeah, yeah, integrity at work…
And, by the way, okay, I did this, I did this, I did this! God? You owe me an amazing marriage. Upward mobility. Kids who all turn out right. And the esteem of others.
And when those things don’t happen, elder brothers get really mad at God, because they really weren’t in a relationship trusting God for God. Jesus had simply become like a cosmic vending machine. Hm, quiet time. B7. Prayer. A4. Missions trips. C99. Click, click, click, click. God owes me this. It completely misses the heart of a father and a child in a love relationship.
With regard to relationships, they feel superior, critical, prejudiced, and judgmental. They are legalistic. They focus on, You didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. They focus on the letter of the Law instead of the spirit of the Law. And, yet, the Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” There is freedom! There is joy!
Elder brothers are joyless people, often miserable people. They are critical of others, they are critical of themselves, they keep it all bottled up. The word grace is charis in Greek. The root of it is chairo for joy. Charismata is gift. Grace is about producing joy and it’s about generosity! It’s about giving, it’s about loving.
Elder brothers are the kind of people when they are going through a financial class, here is their question: “Are you supposed to tithe on the gross or the net?” You think I’m kidding? Well, why would you ask that question? How can I be right with God and give as little as possible? How can I be right with God and have people think I am as loving as possible? How can I have a private life where it is really about me and what I want and my agenda but appear, in my image management, as loving and caring and spiritual and committed as possible?
And we all have some of that older brother in us, don’t we? And so, in our relationships with others, we champion justice and rarely mercy. We repel irreligious people. And often, just doctrine and truth is important, but we can practice it in very unloving ways. That’s how you know if you’re an older brother. Any other older brothers in the room? I see those hands. Yes, I’ll pray for you too.
Well, what is Jesus saying to us elder brother types? Are you ready for this? What is He communicating to these Pharisees, then and now?
He is the Father pleading, “My son,” not just, “come home…” Come close! “I want your heart. Let’s talk. Get honest. Quit performing. It’s not about works-righteousness.” It’s about personal, deep relationship.
By the way, the activities can look exactly the same. Remember Jesus’ story about the two houses? One built on the rock, one built on the sand. The one built on the rock is the person who takes in God’s Word and applies it, and is in relationship. And the one built on the sand is people who hear it all but when adversity comes…
I’m going to be honest with you. There are times in my life I was such an elder brother, Okay, five psalms, one Proverb, Old Testament, New Testament. Tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, tchoo, got it. Prayer? Thirty-two minutes. Here’s the list. Every name. Tchoo, tchoo. Man, I’ll tell you, I’m getting really tired. Bless Jane, bless so-and-so, bless so-and-so, help so-and-so, help so-and-so. Whew. I’ve got seven minutes left.
You think I’m kidding? I did this! I went for years, I never missed a day. I never missed a day. And I was arrogant about never missing a day. I would always ask people how many verses they were memorizing because I knew I had them beat. I’m serious. I memorized whole books of the Bible. Haven’t you?
And I became a loathsome jerk who had received God’s love freely, created a bar and standard, and it just swallowed up my joy. Literally, this is an interesting application for a Christian. One of my applications was to stop memorizing Scripture for a significant season because it was so locked into my performance. But I will tell you that if I am not in God’s Word I will never grow. My mind won’t be renewed.
But the difference between, I read my chapters, check! Versus, Father, I know You love me! And I know You love me when I’m good. I know You love me when I’m down. I know You love me every day. I really need to hear from You today. And I want to meet with You. And then when You speak to me, it’s going to be hard. You know I’m going to struggle. But I want to take whatever steps You show me.
And it’s a Father and a son or a Father and a daughter. That’s what Jesus was saying. He actually was offering to these Pharisees… and if you read the context, they have already decided how to kill Him. This is the grace of God! These are the people who, Okay, we are going to take Him out and this is how! And He is offering them forgiveness! “My sons, come in!”
Just, lest you think this is something that happens and then we all grow out of this, I had an interesting experience yesterday morning. And this message, some messages come together really pretty quickly and some just are like I don’t know anything about giving birth but if there is a breeched birth, caesarean section, however you women know about it, giving this message was like, “Oh, God!” You know, I can’t get it.
And so I went out to a little coffee shop different than I normally go to and found a little corner and I was just poring over, How do I do this? How do I do this? And I have studied all this stuff and a guy came in and two cute little girls maybe three and four.
And it was pretty obvious, within a few minutes that this is a single dad with a couple of kids, probably divorced. I noticed he didn’t have a ring. They were daddy hungry. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” you could tell they had missed him and he had his phone over here and trying to be a good dad and checking on the phone and, “Girls…”
And I sat there, I wasn’t eavesdropping, but they were one booth over. And I’m studying all this stuff about grace. And here are the thoughts that went through my mind, the initial thoughts, Phew, man, how come people can’t stay married anymore. I mean, what’s the deal? You’re a man. Step up. Work at it. What’s the problem. You know what? There are so many people getting divorced. It’s just so…
Literally. This is what is going on inside of me. And, man, Shove that phone and pay attention to your daughters! As I study about grace. I’m dead serious.
And then, literally, literally, I’ve got thirty seconds of my judgmental, critical, “Phariseeical,” get with the program. I don’t even know the guy. I’ve never seen him in my life. And I am making up stories about his life and judging the stories that I have made up. Is that sick or what?
But the only reason you’re laughing is what one reason? Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. You do it too. And I get about thirty seconds into it and the Spirit of God goes, Chip? What if his wife died of cancer and here he is a single dad loving these two little girls? And those phone calls are demands on his life of trying to figure out how to make his life work and love his kids?
Or how about this, Chip? How about it’s not what you think at all? What if his wife had an affair and left him and they have split custody and this is his only time with them?
Scenario number one? What is wrong with these people? Pharisee. Scenario number two? Everything in me, Hey, man, do you need some help? Can I buy the donuts for your girls? We have a group. I just wanted to help him. Do you see the difference?
One of the ways that you know you’re an older brother is when your mind and your words and your heart are critical of others and when you have no non-Christian friends.
When you see people the way Jesus sees people, you will have people in your life who you love who are far from God and they won’t be repelled by you because you won’t come off as religious!
People really, really matter to God. And it’s so easy to form these little clubs and cliques and, I come to church and I read my Bible and it’s us four and no more. And I want my life to work.
We are elder brothers. It’s like the quotes that I read. Do we want church to be like what a billboard does for Coca-Cola? Creates thirst but it doesn’t quench it? Thirst gets quenched when authentic reality and life and love of the living God flowing through your veins and your heart and mine out to people who are different than you and different than me, and they can understand why you would care. And the only reason you care is because God cares about you.
Does that make sense? It’s the gospel! That’s why it was so contagious! And that’s why religion is so dangerous. And, see, it’s the grace of God. For some of you who get a little nervous, it’s the grace of God that teaches us to say no to all ungodliness and to live reverent lives that are generous.
Well, the question at the bottom then is: How did the elder brother respond to the father’s invitation to come home? Anybody have the answer to that one? How did he respond?
The answer is: We don’t know. This is very purposeful. This is a cliffhanger. This is like one of those great ones, you’re watching this, maybe it’s one of the serial television programs, [sings a theme song] “Agh!” To be continued. Right? And you go, “Yuck!”
That’s what Jesus does. Because He has given an invitation. We don’t know how those Pharisees will respond. We have a pretty good idea of what happened to one, Joseph of Arimathea. As you read through the gospels, he was a Pharisee who didn’t side with the council. He was afraid to go public for fear of what other people think.
But when it all cleared and the smoke cleared and what is life and what is reality? He went and got Jesus’ body and put it in a private tomb. And I think Nicodemus was yet another.
See, appearances and impressing people are like the number one thing with elder brother Pharisees. I wonder what would happen if we just quit trying to be so cool and people just knew you were a follower of Jesus and that you were generous. And let them think what they think. Because they think something now, anyway.
And we might ask ourselves, Why is it so important what anybody thinks, anyway?
Jesus would say, in the gospel of John, “It is impossible to believe when you seek the favor of man instead of the favor of God.” When our agenda is to please people, it makes it impossible to trust God. “That which is highly esteemed in the eyes of man is detestable in the sight of God.”
As you turn to the back page, what keeps younger and older brothers from responding to God’s grace? What keeps younger and older brothers from responding to God’s grace?
In a word, are you ready? It’s the root of every sin, according to C.S. Lewis, and I think he’s right. It’s pride. The younger brother is lost in his badness, and he’s, I am unworthy. I am unworthy. I can’t. I don’t deserve it. I, I, I, I, I. The focus is on whom? He is lost in his badness. His pride.
The Pharisees, I have never disobeyed you! I always do what is right! He is lost in his goodness and they were equally lost. Humility, for this one, is to go public and admit, “I was wrong.” Humility for this one is, “I know I’m wrong. I don’t deserve. I will receive.”
If you had to check a box, “Older brother or younger brother,” which are your tendencies? What are your tendencies? If you have been a Christian a really long time and you came from a younger brother past, been a Christian more than five or ten years, often you go from younger brother to really committed Christian to older brother.
What do you think God is saying to you? Are you experiencing His joy? Do you feel like you’re His child?
You know what God is saying to younger and older brothers? “I am not down on you. I love you. I want to help you.”
But grace flows downhill. God is opposed to the proud. If appearances matter, if what everybody thinks…
See, I’m always amazed. I had a conversation with a leader in our church earlier this week. And we got talking about something that sort of popped up and I really appreciated his honesty. He said, “You know,” I mean, he’s a leader, he has been around for a long time, been a Christian a long time.”
And he said, “You know, I was baptized when I was a baby, but I have never done adult baptism.” We got talking about it and he goes, “You know, what do you really think about all this?” And I said, “Well, when you were a baby, did you fully understand the gospel and agree with all that?” He looked at me, “Nah.”
I said, “Well, just read the New Testament. What do you think it says?” He goes, “I know what it says.” I said, “Could I take a stab here?” He said, “Sure.” I said, “It’s just downright embarrassing to be at your spiritual maturity and be as old as you are and go get in a tub of water because they are going to be thinking, Wow, I thought that guy really knew the Lord. How come he is just getting baptized now?”
And a big smile, he goes, “You got me.” What do you think we would call that? Pride. I have it, you have it. You know how you really experience God’s grace? What is the next step for you?
For some, you are a younger brother, older brother, you need to come to Christ today. You just need to ask God to forgive you of your sins and say, “Hey, I don’t have it together,” or, “I may be unworthy, but I will receive it.”
And for others, it’s saying, “You know what? I need to make my sonship, my daughtership, the focus of my life. I am going to let Him be sovereign, Him be Lord. And I am going to do it out of relationship.”