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About this series
Easter - Risen: Reclaiming the Father Heart of God
Each of us has an impression, in our mind, of what God is like. But that impression may or may not be accurate. Through scripture, we can know exactly what God is really like. Chip reveals the heart of God the Father, with a look at three parables - the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Sons. In each one, something or someone is lost. And in each one, when that thing or person is found there is great celebration. Every single person is exceedingly precious to God the Father, who longs to celebrate over each one being found. He is ready with His salvation and His peace when we decide we need Him. Jesus, by His once-for-all sacrifice and resurrection, made the way to get there. He is the path for us to know the presence and the peace of our heavenly Father.More from this series
Now, Jesus has given us quite a commentary because we tend to think of, well, those are the people who really need God. They’re really far away from God and they’re sex addicts and drug addicts and they are atheists and they hate God and they blaspheme and such are some of us, or were.
But Jesus is going to teach us that the older son is actually as lost and as far away from God. The rebellion of the younger son keeps him away from God, but the self-sufficiency and the works-mentality…
See, the young son – what? “I want what my dad has, I just don’t want my dad’s authority.” Notice the older son. His response is anger. “I won’t go in.” His reason? Pride. “I have never disobeyed you.” His message? “You owe me. I have been slaving for you.” His attitude? Bitterness and resentful. His motives exposed.
He is just like the younger son. He wants what the father has but he doesn’t want the father. It’s interesting. No one went searching. These are people who are steeped in the Old Testament. The very early chapters of the Old Testament in Genesis are – what? Cain and Abel. “Aren’t you your brother’s keeper?”
The older son, the Pharisee, the religious person, the loving person, he should have been going out, “Hey, man! Hey, kid! You know what? Dad is waiting, man. We have a family. This is not going to work. Don’t go here. You’re wasting your life. I love you. Dad loves you. Come on back.”
But, see the Pharisees of the day, they didn’t do that. They repelled irreligious people. Remember? The reason He is telling this parable is because Jesus is hanging out with irreligious people. And He loves them. And they feel comfortable around Him.
What do we learn from the elder brother? That very good, moral, religious people can be as lost as the most immoral sinner. We learn that Jesus extends forgiveness to the older brother because the father goes out and he says, “You’ve got to come in!”
The Pharisees are plotting to kill Jesus and Jesus knows it. And He is saying, “It’s still not too late!” The Father is gracious with irreligious people and He is gracious with moral people who, out of your goodness and your morality, you keep God at bay.
And then there are some lessons about fatherhood that we learn from the entire story. And I have to tell you, I had to learn a lot about being a dad.
So what is a father to be? What is a father to do? And the long story of it was, I went through every passage in the Bible about a father or parenting and I looked at the first five books and the wisdom literature and the gospels and the prophets. And then I just asked two questions: What’s his role - what is he to be? And what is his responsibility - what is he to do?
And I got all that really clear. And the Bible was really clear. A father is to lead. He is to model the kind of life for his kids.
A father is to provide. You take care of people emotionally, spiritually, financially. And a father is to protect. And, boy, you protect your family. And then a father helps give purpose and alignment and you’re the biggest cheerleader of helping them become what they are designed to be. That’s what a dad does.
And because of my background in the social sciences, I thought, Well, I wonder, that’s what the Bible says. But I thought, That other thesis was all about values. And so I looked at all the social science literature and I wanted to find out, Is there a unique role of the father in a kid’s self-esteem or self-identity, his sexual development, and his moral development?
And there are certain things, as you study, this has been my whole world of educational psychology and how people grow and think and all that. And so there are certain things a woman does in the life of a child that a man doesn’t do that is very unique.
A man and a woman have equal impact in terms of a child’s self-esteem, how they feel about themselves, self-identity. But the father has a very much stronger influence on the sexual identity and the moral development of a child.
Little boys, for reasons I don’t understand, understand what it means to be a man, to be masculine, from their dad. And little girls understand what it means to be feminine by the way they are treated by their father and nurtured in a non-sexual way and esteemed.
And the moral development of what is right and what is wrong that goes from ideas to something within that they buy into, the father has this unique power in his life and nurture, to develop it. And it’s God’s plan.
Every single person in this room has been deeply, deeply impacted positively and probably negatively by your father or lack of father.
And I can tell you, you can know the “what” of Easter: God became a man, perfect life, died upon a cross, rose from the dead, paid for our sins; and never get the “why.” He wants to be your Father. He wants to guide your life. He wants to love you.
And by the way, it’s not you are precious to Him when you’re doing good. Or you are precious to Him if you come to Him. You are precious to Him. That’s the story!
The wayward younger son mattered to God. The religious, goody-two-shoes who were actually jerks, mattered to God. To both of them the Father said, “Come in! Come in!”
Second, our willful rebellion keeps us from experiencing the Father’s love and provision. And just a quick word, here. I don’t come from a Christian background. And there are some of you, that people have been talking to you about Jesus and down deep in your heart you just feel like, God just couldn’t, I would never want to come clean with where I have been. And there is stuff in your past and stuff in your history and you just feel like you don’t measure up. And God wants you to know you don’t have to measure up. It’s grace. It’s a gift. He wants to, it’s not: Do this, this, this, and this. Start coming to church, start reading the Bible, clean up your life, stop cussing, quit drinking quite so much. Get off your prescription drugs, quit logging on to the Internet, quit cheating on your taxes. The list goes on and on and on, right? And then God will love you.
That’s a picture, but that’s not the God of the Bible. His is, I love you. Just come home. And you know what? I am going to do something inside of you.
And, see, part of why we do really stupid stuff that, down deep, that violates our own conscience is that we are looking for significance and security and there’s a hole of not being deeply loved just for who we are.
And God says, “When I start filling that, your morality changes.” But it doesn’t change as some list of rules. It changes out of a relationship because you love someone.
The third observation is that the Father is daily waiting for you to come home. Would you just jot down these five words? God is not down on me. And if you’re counting, that’s six words. God is not down on me.
You don’t, maybe, verbalize that but unconsciously, you know why a lot of Christians don’t pray very much? Who wants to pray to someone who is down on you? You don’t measure up. You’re not doing what you should. You’re lusting privately. You’ve got a problem over here. You made some bad decisions here. You feel like a failure over here. Your family has rejected you over here.
And you just feel like, I don’t measure up. So who wants to go before a holy God and be reminded you don’t measure up? What did Jesus do and what was the response of the father to a young son who absolutely did not measure up? A robe, a ring, sandals, a celebration.
See, you know what Christianity has become? It has become so warped it’s nothing more than moralism. Be nice, be a good person, follow some rules, do good unto others. You can do all that and completely miss the point of why Jesus came and what He offers.
He came to give you eternal life. He came that you would be connected to the Father and He would fill the deepest needs of your heart and life! And that you would be loved and He would transform you and He would live inside of you and He would begin to live His life out through you and actually cause you to be an agent or a conduit of grace and love so you would care about other people!
Who knows how to help people who have been through a couple abortions except a woman who has been there? Who have been through a couple of marriages? Someone who has been there! Or someone who has a been a drug addict or a sex addict can say, “Look, I was lost but I am found. You know what? This is the Father!”
It’s the love of God that causes people to turn and change. And we have got a world, we’ve got all these religious people thinking that all the bad people are out there. That’s not the God of the Bible.
Fourth, our arrogant self-reliance keeps us from experiencing the Father’s love and provision. And this is the older son. And, by the way, here’s the danger, you have to be careful. The younger son knows he is lost. The older son has no clue.
The most dangerous place to be in the world is to be a religious Christian or just a religious person who you have come up with your own idea of what God is like and you have made your own little system and basically, you always find people who are doing a little bit less than you and you say, “I’m good. I don’t need God’s help. I will be my own savior.”
And for Christians, the characteristics of older sons are: Life is duty and obligation. You think God owes you a good life. You, down deep, feel guilty because you don’t measure up and you know, I ought to be doing this and I should be doing that. You feel pressured. Right living, you think God is going to make things right if you do right.
There is this quid pro quo: I do this, I do this, I do this, You have to give me a good family, a good marriage, and then you get really angry at God when life doesn’t go your way.
In relationship to others, older brothers feel superior, they are critical, they are prejudiced, they are judgmental, they are legalistic, they champion justice not mercy, and they repel irreligious people.
And, by the way, you can be religious in your own little religion. And most people, religiously, I ask them, I hang out with lots of different people. “Oh, yeah, I came from Iran or I came here, Saudi Arabia, here’s where I came from, here’s where I came from. Oh, I’m not…”
People, the great majority of all the Muslims are not radical at all. And they are no more Muslim than most Christians are Christian. Or Jews! Or Buddhists or Hindus. It’s cultural.
Here’s what you need to understand. You can be as lost as a religious, moral, good person and as far from God as people in the ditch in Vegas. Because you have created your own god. You have decided.
What gives you the right? Where were you in all eternity? When did you create the galaxies? When did you say, “Oh, I like this, the meditation part of Buddhism is great and the golden rule from Christianity is good and I like the disciple of part of a little Islam here and Jewish Sabbath. Man, I think that fits! And, hey, I think I’ll be Baha’i because you can be anything!”
And you talk to people and here’s what you get: I don’t have any need. I’m self-sufficient. You know what self-sufficiency is? Arrogance.
And we deny all of time and history and don’t realize that Jesus came to say, “I’m not saying ‘car’ and you have thirty-five or fifty or a hundred different pictures come to your mind. I’m saying ‘God,’ and when I say, ‘God the Father’ I am offering eternal life and eternal life is to know – personally, relationally – the one true God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent.”
And who doesn’t need a Father? Would you let Me love you? You’re not signing up for a worldview, you’re not signing up for a set of principles, you’re not signing up for a formula. You’re coming home!
In fact, the very last observation from this passage is Jesus made a way for all who would come to Him to have God as their Father. But you have to come. He made a way. He died upon the cross and whether it’s blatant sins or arrogant sins or subtle sins, you have a heavenly Father who invites you and loves you.
When you think of this and think of what Jesus was talking about and the Pharisees are here and the young son is here and all the shepherds are going, Oh, I get it! And the women with the coin, they get it.
What could keep people, when they really understand that they are deeply loved, from embracing that love? For some of us in this room, for me, I still remember. What is it that could keep us from, I mean, this is like completely different than any worldview, any religion. This is grace, this is a gift, this is life. And it’s demonstrated and there is a resurrection and there is historical proof.
And what could keep us from coming home? And I read a story that reminded me of why.
A true story, it happened a number of years ago. A true story of two people. One is David Thomas and the other is Rachel. It’s in Wales. And David Thomas had a neighbor named Rachel and they were both thirty-two years old and at thirty-two, they were engaged and about to be married, and they had a lover’s quarrel. It must have been a very big lover’s quarrel.
And so they both went home that night and were alienated. And late into the night, David felt like, I really blew it. I’m going to own my part of it. And he went and he wrote a love letter to Rachel and said, “I’m really sorry. I want to ask you to forgive me for my part of the quarrel.”
He wrote it, put it in an envelope, and he went the next morning, and he stuck it under the door. For the next forty-two years, every single day, he wrote a different love note, put it, and stuck it under the door. Forty-two years.
I don’t know if he just got old thinking, I’m not sure this is working. It took him forty-two years to figure it out. Whether he got up the courage.
So two people are living side-by-side, they have loved each other deeply. They deeply, behind it, really want to be together. But for forty-two years, living side-by-side – note, note, note, note. After forty-two years, [knock, knock, knock, knock] he gets the courage, knocks on the door, Rachel opens the door.
Their eyes meet, he says, “Will you marry me?” And Rachel says, “Yes.” And it was in the paper. They were inviting people, at seventy-four years old, they are both being married for the first time.
And you know what that is a picture of? That is a picture of a lot of people where God is here and you are here and He has been slipping notes, slipping notes, slipping notes, slipping notes saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” And you’re saying, “Wait,” or me, “I don’t know.” And it’s pride.
What kept Rachel? It was, “Well, you know what? He owned his part but until he does this, until he does that.” And inside she knew.
You know what Jesus is doing today? “Behold!” [knocks] “I knock at the door of your heart. If any man or any woman would open the door, I will come in and live with you and you with Me. I will lead you. I will protect you. I will forgive you. I will be your God and you will be My son, you will be My daughter.”
And it’s not just a spiritual decision or a moment. In fact, look at your notes. This is what Jesus said when He was walking on the earth, “Come to Me all of you who are burdened or heavy laden,” stressed out, pressured, “and I will give you rest.”
Has anyone come to the conclusion that how you are doing life really isn’t working? And then He goes on to say, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.”
In other words, it’s a picture of two oxen and Jesus is here and He goes, “This isn’t about some little religious experience. Hook up with Me and let’s do life together. Learn from Me. I’ll teach you how to do relationships, I’ll teach you how to forgive, I’ll teach you how to handle your money, I’ll teach you how to have joy, I’ll teach you everything because I am all-knowing and I’m all-powerful and I’ll not just be with you, I’ll live in you. And I’ll give rest to your souls. And, by the way, you don’t have to get uptight. I am gentle, I am lowly, I am not an oppressive taskmaster. I am going to put my arm around you and we are going to go through this together.”
That’s the offer and the “why” of Easter.