Is there anyone you don’t want to see in heaven? Adulterers -Terrorists -Child abusers or someone who has profoundly wronged you or someone you love. And does the idea of sharing heaven make you not want to be there? Or are you ok about them being in heaven but can’t rejoice at them being in heaven?
All of which exposes how our heart is not lined up with God's heart.
Jesus tells 3 stories about something or someone being lost and then found. A lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.
We learn 3 things about God’s heart.
We all know the pain of losing something and the relief and joy of finding it again. If you have ever lost a child in a crowd for 15 minutes you know that sinking feeling and then the relief when you find them, unless they were hiding.
There are 2 kinds of lost, the lost where no one knows you’re missing & the lost where someone is looking for you. Jesus is looking for you, why is Jesus telling the story?
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable ~Luke 15:1-3a (NIV)
Jesus was attracting the wrong crowd, He was welcoming the scrap heap into the kingdom and the religious leaders were not happy, they want to shut heaven’s door in people's faces. They were so different from God.
When the Shepherd in the first parable knows he has lost one
sheep, he doesn’t say 99 out of 100 is not bad. He seeks it out and then he calls his friends to rejoice with him. The point of the story is that
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. ~Luke 15:5-7 (NIV)
While Heaven rejoices the Pharisees resent, notice how the one lost soul matters to Jesus. As we seek to make 1000 new disciples, remember behind every number is a person and every person has a story. When the women loses an expensive coin she makes a careful search for it until she finds it and then she calls her friends together to rejoice with her.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~Luke 15:10 (NIV)
God is on about seeking, finding, saving and rejoicing. God is not all that interested in sheep and coins, He is interested in people like us who have wandered from God.
What makes big news in heaven is not a fantastic grand final win, its when a sinner repents, we must celebrate it because if we don't then who will? The world's response to you becoming a Christian can be patronizing “As long as it makes you happy” or it can be Pity “I guess you need a crutch”
But the Pharisees will not rejoice because like all religion it's built on merit and not the mercy of God. Do you share the heart of God for sinners?
So we turn to the most famous story Jesus ever told, the story of 2 lost sons. The younger son couldn't wait for his dad to die, as the younger son he technically was not entitled to the Inheritance, that was the privilege of the firstborn male and certainly not before Dad died. I joked about the inheritance to my Dad but he knew and I knew that it was a joke. To be serious is to wish your Father was as good as dead.
Then begins the downward slide of this son. His bags are packed, the tickets for New York are booked, he goes to a far country. He could have spent it in a nearby town, but he didn’t want his Mum to find a prostitute in his Porsche. So it's off to a far off country!!
The son eventually finds himself flat broke as a foreigner in a foreign land in the midst of a famine. As a Jew you know he has hit rock bottom, he finds himself envying the menu of a pig. All he has now are the memories of the good life. But memories cant fill your stomach when it cries out for food.
In his brokenness, he remembers, not what he had as a son but what his Dads workers had. He remembered that his Dad, even as a boss, was generous.
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and 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 called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ~Luke 15:17-19 (NIV)
You notice, the thought never crosses his mind that his father would take him back as a son, but maybe just maybe he would give him a job!! He obviously felt he had crossed over the line where forgiveness is not an option. He had exhausted the grace of a good father. I don't blame him. Had he gone too far?
When we look into our hearts and into our past there are things that are better left unsaid. Things done that reminds us that we to have gone to a far country away from our Father. An affair; an abortion; abuse or betrayal. And if we are honest, it's just the tip of an iceberg. We know we are lost, we too need Jesus who came to seek and save us.
Let me tell you the true story of Maria and Christine. Maria lived in a small village on the outskirts of a South American city. Her husband died soon after her daughter Christine was born. Maria worked long hours to provide for her daughter and her one fear was that her daughter would end up as a prostitute.
Eventually, Christine secretly left for the big city and Maria caught a bus to the city and she took countless photos of herself and wrote the same message on the back of each one. Maria planted the photos everywhere through the city, bars-hotels -night clubs. Maria eventually ran out of money and returned home to wait.
Christine ended up in prostitution and one day she walked down the stairs of a hotel and noticed a photo of her mum. She took it, turned it over and read these words "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn't matter, please come home"
God is saying to you "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become it doesn't matter please come home."
The younger son comes home to a father with open arms.
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. ~Luke 15:20 (NIV)
We are told that when the God-like father saw his son coming home, his first instinct was his heart was filled with compassion. He then does what a man in that culture never does, he runs (old Middle Eastern men don't run), he doesn't wait for the son to come to him, he strides with all his might to a son that wanted him dead then he holds him in his arms and kisses him. The father doesn't even wait for the boy to finish his confession, the father has treated the son as royalty with food, robes, rings.
There is a Buddhist version of the prodigal son: where the son comes back and has to work for every cent. We might have expected the father to say “...you’re telling me you’re not worthy, now cop this and get the hell out of here...” We might have even expected “...sorry are you? well you can come back but don't expect things to be same.”
And things were not the same they are better!!! Now is the time to party!!!! He was as good as dead and now he is alive. This is the heart of God that loves to welcome sinners. Whenever the lost are found, whenever a sinner repents there is rejoicing in heaven. But not everybody wants to rejoice.
Then enters the older son with the sweat running from his brow, he hears the sounds of a party taking place. He hears, the one who had cheated the family of half of the inheritance was back and his foolish gullible father has given him the party and he was angry.
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’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ~Luke 15:28-30 (NIV)
Now it was his turn to reject the father. He might have kept his father's commands but not the one to come inside and celebrate. He despised his Father generosity, in a way both sons had misunderstood what it meant to be a son. They both thought sonship was by merit.
The younger son thought you earned it and so assumed that he lost all chances of having it. The older son thought you earned the right to be a son and so he saw his whole work for his father as slavery. Look all these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.
For too many Christians, they only see their walk with God in terms of law not love, with God as their Judge not their Dad, with Jesus as their Lord not their Saviour.
Both sons have missed the point, you become a child of God by relying on the Love of the Father. God has run out to meet us in the words of John 3:16 God so loved you and this world/you that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes may not perish but have everlasting life.
Whoever believes, come turn and trust, confess and come back to the Father, whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter!!! Just come home
The older son does not want to celebrate his brother coming home. The older son was outside the door but he could have been in a far country, either way, he was not rejoicing with the father over a brother who was lost.
Hear the heart of Jesus who came to seek and save, not just rebels but the self-righteous who repent. Whether you have taken the high road of rebellion or the low road of rebellion, Come home!
The father is not angry with the older son he is pleading with the self-righteous brother.
“‘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 is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” ~Luke 15:31-32 (NIV)
For this younger brother was not just lost, he was dead and he was his brother. Sinners who don't repent are dead in their sins! Facing the second death. But we had to celebrate and be glad because he is alive and found.
Do you know what is worse than a Christian committing murder or adultery? It is that same Christian not repenting. And do you know what is just as bad as committing murder or adultery? It is withholding joy when they repent.
Yes, it feels like they have gotten away with it.
The point is clear. "we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Remember the Lord's prayer? "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Question: What are we to do on earth that is being done in heaven.
Answer: Rejoicing over sinners who turn back to God
Have you thought of having a born again party? My two children made decisions for Christ, on July 27th and each year we had a born again party, Pizza hut, Lone star, they can pick. We would go and celebrate because the day they became born again was the day heaven unleashed in a never-ending shout of joy.
Some people don’t celebrate because they are cynical that those who say yes to Jesus today will say no a month later. Jesus knows people fall away but it doesn’t stop him from wanting you to celebrate.
If you are still lost know this, the angels are waiting to celebrate and so are we, because whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter, please come home.
Of course it matters. It matters so much that God gave his one and only Son, who made full the payment for your sins. The price has been paid, the father's arms are open wide. So whatever you have done please come home.
I admit that I have run away from you and I am so sorry Father for breaking your heart. Thank you, Father, that you loved me so much that you gave your one and only Son that I may not perish but have eternal life.
I am home now and I want to follow you, Jesus, as my precious Lord and loving Saviour.
Please help to always to have the heart of God to seek out
others who are lost and rejoice when they are found in Jesus name.