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Risen - Reclaiming the Father Heart of God, Part 1

From the series Easter - Risen: Reclaiming the Father Heart of God

Each of us has an impression of what God is like. But that impression may or may not be accurate. In this message, 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 a great celebration.

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Message Transcript

We are going to go on a little bit different journey. As I prayed and thought about what God would want you to hear and what He would want me to say, I realized that each year we talk about what I call the “what” of Easter – the history, historical fact.

But at least in my experience, I didn’t grow up believing in Jesus as my Savior but I did go to church, in fact, I came more often on Easter. And I kind of heard the “what,” I heard the history, I heard the story. But I never made the connection. So, why?

And you don’t really get all the “why” from the Easter story. But if you could eavesdrop the very last night that Jesus was on the earth, He was praying. And as He was praying, it’s one of the longest recorded prayers of Jesus in all the New Testament.

And He goes into the garden and He asked some of His closest followers to hang with Him. He has already sung a hymn, He has washed their feet, they have celebrated the Passover.

He knows that within an hour or so He will be kissed by a close friend in betrayal. He will be taken away by a group and go through three unlawful trials throughout the night. And in a matter of hours, He will hang upon a cross and die. And this is His final conversation of length and depth with the Father.

It’s found in John 17, I put it on the front of your notes. And it reveals for us the “why” of Easter. “Jesus said this, He looked up toward heaven and He prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory that I had before the world began. I have revealed You to those whom You have given Me.’”

That prayer asks and answers three questions. And the first question is simply: What did He ask? And what He asked was, “Glorify the Son.” And that word “glory” can be one of those Bible words.

The word literally means, “weight.” It means: to enhance the reputation of, to make clear. He is saying, “Father, this last night - now what I want You to do is I want You to let people see who I really am and why I really came in order that they could see who You really are.”

The second question is: Why did He come? He came to give eternal life. In your notes, in dark there, could you just circle the word gave? “That He might give eternal life,” and don’t think of eternal life as something like after you life, eternal life begins. That’s not what the Bible teaches. If you never knew what eternal life is, He defines it.

Eternal life is when you have relationship with the Father. He says it is knowing the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. His purpose was to remove every barrier so that you would have relationship and connection with your heavenly Father.

And the moment you receive Christ, He comes into your life and eternal life begins at that moment and then goes on forever.

Third, the question: How did He do it? And the answer is: He revealed what God is like. Jesus came to reveal exactly what God is like. This may be one of the things that we don’t think about too much.

In Jesus’ day, almost everybody believed in God. There were thousands of gods. It was under Roman occupation, the Romans ruled, but it was a Greek culture. But it was a Greek culture that had conquered the world through Alexander.

And so there were Eastern gods and Western gods. It was much like, I was in India a number of years ago and in one town there were a thousand gods in one town. I thought that was a lot and I talked to some of the people and they said, “Oh, in India, there are over one million gods.”

And today there are all kinds of gods. If you asked people, “Do you believe in God?” most people will say, “Yes.” But they might refer to “The higher power.” They might say, “God is like the intelligent designer. I don’t know what He is like but some intelligent creature designed, some spirit being did this.”

For others, He is sort of like a self-help genie. And there are these principles, invisible principles, it’s kind of like Mother Nature and these created things and you just live your life the best that you can, and that’s God.

For others, He is someone who is very austere and angry and you need to pray five times a day and eat certain foods and do certain things and you get on His bad side, it’s not good. And for others, it’s like a principle of life like a water drop that multiplies and it’s God is in and on everything.

And so you go through various renditions of life and if you’re very fortunate you might go to a higher level someday. So people believe in God. There are a lot of different pictures of what God is. That was true in Jesus’ day. So Jesus came.

The Scripture says that no man has seen God at any time, but He, Jesus, has explained Him, or revealed Him. Jesus said, “If you want to know what the Father is like, if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”

So what I want you to know, the “why” behind Easter is Jesus wants to get clear for every single person, not some vague idea of a god or a belief in God, but a very specific picture of God, the God who is real.

Tozer, I put his quote in your notes, he is one of my favorite authors. He says, “What comes to your mind, what comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”

And I believe that’s true. What comes to your mind when you say, “Car,” if you’ve got nine kids and someone says, “Come with us; we have car,” and you get there with your nine kids and it’s a Lamborghini, you’ve got a problem!

You see, how you envision God to be is how you understand yourself, it’s how you interpret the world, it changes everything. It’s how you treat other people. If God is some sort of rendition of just invisible, lifeless, impersonal principles and people are getting what they deserve, you don’t help them. They are just getting what they got from a past life!

If God is really angry and mad at everyone, and He must be appeased and He is a wrathful God, then you need to extend His wrath and eliminate anything or anyone who disagrees. Your view of God changes everything.

So Jesus, the “why” of Easter is He wants you to get a clear, specific picture of what God is really like. Sometimes the most religious people in the world have the most warped view of God.

I’m going to ask you, if you will, to open to Luke chapter 15, it’s in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke. And Jesus is going to tell a story to make clear exactly who God is.

Now, as you get there, the reason He is going to tell this story is that the religious leaders, He is messing with their picture of God. They have a picture of God who has these scales and the people who live like them and are squeaky clean, God really cares about. And everybody else are losers.

And Jesus is messing with them because He hangs out with “sinners” and prostitutes and, in that day, tax collectors.

And they are comfortable around Him. But they know He doesn’t approve of their lifestyle, but He loves them and He accepts them and He doesn’t talk at them or about them, He actually goes to their house, goes to the coffee shop, hangs out with them. He cares about them.

And the religious leaders, called Pharisees, they are going, “No, no, this is not good. This doesn’t make sense.” And so Jesus wants to answer them, and in answering them He is going to give a crystal clear picture of what God is really like so that when we leave we will know, not just the “what” and the history of Easter, but the “why.”

And what you are going to learn is He is going to give a parable. It’s singular. But inside the parable will be three quick stories. And each story builds on the last one. The first one is about a lost sheep, the second one is about a lost coin, and the third one is about some lost sons.

So follow along, let me read the story and then we will discover what was really going on and then I want to help you understand, today, who God really is and how He feels about you.

We pick it up in verse 1. It says, “Now the tax collectors and the sinners were all gathering around to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and He even eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable, ‘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? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and he goes home. And then he calls his friends and his neighbors together and he says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”’ ‘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.’”

So notice in your notes, here’s the pattern. Something is lost, followed by an intensive search. Something is found and then there is a celebration or a party. And then there is a snapshot. And here there is a snapshot of heaven. There is a snapshot that, okay, what matters to a shepherd? Sheep. If you lose a sheep, you go find it. In that day, the boys and the men, their ears perked up when they heard this one because shepherding was a very common occupation.

Not only that, but if you were a shepherd, if you lost a sheep, you had to pay for it unless you could demonstrate wild animals killed it.

And so in the back of their minds, they know that God is a shepherd. Remember the 23rd Psalm? “The Lord is my shepherd.” So all of a sudden they are thinking, Whatever He is talking about, it’s a lot like how a shepherd feels about sheep. They matter. They will do whatever it takes.

Well, so the ladies don’t get left out, we have the second story and this is about a coin. “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.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Now, ladies, if you have your wedding band and a diamond ring, whether it is small or large, it matters, right? And if you happen to be doing the dishes and you take off your ring and your wedding band and you do the dishes and then this slides here and this slides here and maybe even goes down the disposal and then pretty soon you realize hours later it’s gone, man, you’d tear the kitchen apart, wouldn’t you?

Well, these ladies in this day, they would have ten coins in a band around their head, often it was their dowry. Each coin was called a drachma, and was worth about one day’s wage. And so if you lost one of those, it would be like losing your diamond ring or your wedding band, and so what matters to a woman when she thinks about her marriage, let alone the financial cost? She scours, this matters! And when she finds it, oh boy, she puts it back on.

He says, “With that kind of intensity, with that kind of passion, with that kind of desire, not just in heaven is there a party, but if you want to know what the angels are doing, here’s the snapshot.” The angels, these angelic eternal beings, they party! They celebrate, they sing when one person who was far away from God comes close to God and has eternal life.

Story number three, the parable of the lost son, or literally, it’s of the lost sons. “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 younger son got together all that he had and set off for a distant country and there he squandered his wealth in wild living.’” Basically, he took a Vegas trip. “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to the fields to feed his pigs.”

Now, if you’re a Jewish boy and your job is feeding pigs, this is not good. But it gets worse. “He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything to eat.”

And so he is hitting rock bottom. So it says, “He came to his senses and he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving. I will set out and I will get back to my father, and this is what I will say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’”

And then here’s the part where the story changes. This is the part where the Pharisees are listening to the story and so far it is making sense. And this is the part where their sense of justice and their religiosity and their view of God gets absolutely turned around, because they would think the story is, Okay, son, finally back? You had enough? I told you not to go. You don’t measure up. Well, I’ll tell you what, here’s the way it works. You know, servants live in the house. Hired, like you’ve just apologized to me, the hired people live in the village. And you can live in the village and it’ll take you about fifteen or twenty years because I had to liquidate a lot of the property, you can pay me back and then we will talk about whether you can be my son again.

That would be the Pharisee’s version of what God is like. It’s not what Jesus said. Jesus changes their entire view of God. “But the father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet; bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead, he’s alive again; he was lost and he is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

Now, just before we talk about the younger son, let’s finish the story, because there is an unexpected ending. What we see is what we have seen, right? Someone is lost. But did you notice that no one goes searching? The father is waiting and looking, but no one goes and finds him.

He comes to his senses, he turned, repent means to turn around. He turns around and comes back and his father greets him and accepts him and we will talk about that. And then his older brother is out in the fields and with an unexpected ending because the older brother is the Pharisees and Jesus is going to say something very radical to them.

“Meanwhile, the older brother was in the field and when he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him,” kind of like, “‘What in the world is going on?’ ‘Well, your brother has come home,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fatted calf because he is home safe and sound.’”

Notice the response. “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 even gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours, who squandered your property with prostitutes, comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!’”

The father’s response, “My son,” the father said, “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 he is now alive. He was lost and now he is found.”

Let’s do just a little analysis and look at what is happening. First of all, to understand the story and know the young son, the young son’s request is basically, “I want mine now.” In Jewish culture, the oldest son got a double portion of the inheritance and then it was divided among the rest. So he is going to get a third of all the estate.

The implication, basically, is, “I wish you were dead, Dad.” This is rejection. “I wish you were dead. I don’t want you, I just want the stuff that comes to me.” Now, under Jewish law, the father would not have to do that and he could just kick him out of the family. But this father doesn’t do that.

The implications for the father are social and economic. Number one, he is embarrassed. Can you imagine if one of your kids says, “I don’t like you, I don’t love you, I don’t want any part of you; but I want a third of your house, a third of your 401k, and you know what? You got three cars; I’m taking one.”

So now he is selling property. He has got to liquidate to get a third of his resources to give to this kid. So the father is really looking bad.

Then the son hits rock bottom. And he gets to the point where he is hopeless. He is morally, spiritually, relationally, and financially bankrupt. He understands he is lost. He has done his Vegas trip, his life isn’t working out, he has tried it, he has done it, he has been there, and he realizes, Man, this is nuts. I got my way and my way didn’t work.

And so, it says, “He comes to his senses and he returns home.” But while he is on his way home, apparently the father every day was looking and looking. And then there are some things here that are very subtle for Jewish culture but they make a big difference to us.

Because Jesus is explaining God the Father. He is not distant. He is not austere. He is not angry. He is not wrathful. And so when he sees his son, remember what it says? He runs to meet him.

Now, they were long robes. The only way you could run would be to lift your robe and run. For a grown man, a patriarch, to show his legs would be embarrassing. Would never do that.

And then when he greets his son, what does he do? He interrupts his confession and he hugs him and embraces him and he says, “Get the best robe and put it on him.” Well, who has the best robe in the father’s house? It’s the father’s robe. And then he says, “Put a ring on his finger.” Well, the way they did business then, you would have a ring, a signet ring, a family ring, it would mean you’re a part of the family.

It would be like if you were part of a family company, they gave you the company credit card. The black American Express with your name on it. You’re part of the family again!

And if you were a slave, you went barefooted but it’s, “Give him sandals; he’s a son.” And then rarely would they have a big celebration, especially with meat. The fatted calf would be, we only do this for the fifty-year anniversary. And he just blows out the door and the whole town would be invited.

And the younger son expected to have to earn his way back to God, to live in the little village, to pay him back over time, to someday, someway earn God’s favor. And Jesus is saying, “That’s how people think about My Father and I came to explain, He is not like that at all. There is nothing anyone can ever do, at any time, to work their way back to God. It’s grace. I love you. In fact, the Father is waiting, He’s looking, He is searching.”

It was true then and it’s true now.