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Happy Father’s Day to every father out there this morning.  Never underestimate your influence in the lives of your children.  What you can do to point them to their Heavenly Father is something very special and powerful.  Take advantage of teachable moments and set an example of love and godliness for your children to follow.

Do we have any first-year fathers here this morning?  I heard a story about a first-time dad whose wife had to run out for a few hours just a few weeks after their baby was born.  The baby started crying, and the dad did everything he could to calm the baby down.  When the baby wouldn’t stop, the dad decided he better hit Urgent Care, so off they went.  The doctor asked what the dad had done to calm the baby and then examined the baby’s ears, throat, and listened to his heartbeat. That all looked fine, but when he opened the baby’s diaper, it indeed was very full.  “Here’s the problem,” the doctor explained. “He just needs to be changed.” The perplexed father remarked, “But the diaper package specifically says, it’s good for up to 10 pounds!”

I want to focus this morning on our Heavenly Father and His amazing love for us as we look at it through the lens of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.

Luke 15:11-24  11  Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13  “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17  “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20  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. 21  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Silent Prayer

It’s a love that desires to BLESS His children.  The son in the story was rude, ungrateful, spoiled, and selfish, but that didn’t keep the father in the story from giving him his half of the inheritance when he demanded it.  Now, we know God doesn’t exist to meet our demands, so I don’t want you to hear that this is a story about how God’s children call the shots or can demand whatever they want from God.  That’s not it at all.  God does what God does because God wants to do something.  Period.  But God is generous.  Blessing His children is a part of His heart just as blessing my children is a part of my heart.

I suppose one could argue that when the father in this story gave in to the demand of the naïve and rebellious son that he was enabling his son’s bad behavior.  Listen, no one knows a child better than their parent.  Perhaps the father in the story knew that it was going to take learning some lessons the hard way for the son to really appreciate what he had going on back home.  Maybe he knew the son would squander the money and go even deeper into sin, but perhaps he knew his son was going to have to go it alone and fail in order to see that he really did need his father.  He really did need what his father had supplied.  He really did need his father’s guidance and protection.  He couldn’t make it on his own.  Sometimes the best gift a parent can give a child is the opportunity to make mistakes and learn a few things the hard way.

I don’t know for sure what the father thought.  I can only imagine what would go through my mind.  If one of my children asked me for half of my possessions before I had left this world, my response would have probably begun with “Not in this lifetime!”  Why the father gave in, we will never know entirely, but parents, we can acknowledge that we want to be a blessing to our children.  We bless them not because we need them to like us or love us or take care of us when we get older, but because we love them.

There is no love like the love a parent has for his child.  It is the only love you don’t choose.  It is just instant.  You love that little baby when he or she is born not because they have made you proud or invested in your life in any way, but just because they are yours.  They came from you. They are part of you, and the love you feel isn’t optional.  It just is.  How much more does our Creator, Father God, love His children?  Ephesians 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we found out we were expecting Hannah we started buying stuff.  There was no baby in our arms.  There was no need for baby stuff for nine months, but we couldn’t wait to start blessing our baby.  We couldn’t wait to start providing for our baby.  We hadn’t even met her yet, but we went crazy getting things we anticipated she would need before she even needed them.  Before Hannah was ever born she had more clothes than I did!

Do you realize that before you were even born, everything you needed for life and godliness was taken care of by your Heavenly Father?  He blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ before you were even born.  The blueprint for your life, the gifts and talents you possess, the shed blood of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins . . . all of it was taken care of before you were even born.  And even though you were born in sin, you were born blessed because of what God had already done for you before you even took a breath!  Hallelujah!

God does want to provide for us (Matthew 6:33, Psalm 37:4, Phil. 4:19).  He does want to take care of our needs.  He does want us to prosper in the things of the Spirit.  And like the son in the story who deserved nothing for his attitude and disrespect, each one of us here today has been blessed by God beyond what we deserve.  Not one person in this room has to die and go to Hell even though our sin would demand we should. God doesn’t treat us, however, as we deserve to be treated because of our sin (Psalm 103:10) but He deals with us out of His love!  Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”

Listen, this morning you have the forgiveness of God, the compassion of God, the mercy of God, the strength of God, the love of God, the presence of God, the hope of eternal life, and more all available to you.  If you are a child of God, you are truly blessed!

It’s a love that SEEKS relationship with His children.  My heart breaks for those of you this morning that don’t have a good relationship with your children.  Some of you have kids you haven’t spoken to now in years.  Perhaps you haven’t met your grandchildren.  Maybe you don’t even know where your child is.  I can’t imagine that kind of heartbreak.  Without a relationship with the child who came from your own body I am sure it is as if you are missing a part of yourself.

The man in this story knew what it was like to be estranged from a child he loved.  He had watched him grow.  He watched him leave.  He had no idea where he went.  He was just gone.  How he longed just to have someone bring him word that his boy was okay.  There was nothing he wouldn’t give to just have five minutes with his son just to tell him again that he loved him and could come home at any time.  His mind probably went to times when life was different, less complicated, and happier.  I’m sure he remembered the boy’s first steps.  I’m sure he recalled fun father-son moments.  I’m sure he thought of conversations when he not only shared his love with his son, but his love was reciprocated as his son sat on his lap and hugged his dad for being his protector and provider.

When the son had messed up to the point where he had no more resources left and couldn’t survive without his father’s help, he came home.  I think the most beautiful part of this story isn’t that the boy actually made it home without dying or that the father threw a party when he got there.  The most beautiful part is in verse 20 where we see the heart of the father so exposed.  “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.”

You know what this verse tells me?  It tells me the father never quit loving his son, and he never gave up on him.  Every day he looked for him.  Every day he prayed he would see him appear over the horizon.  Every day he rehearsed what the moment would look like when he could embrace his son again and rejoice that he was safe.  The man saw his son and took off running.  He wasn’t standoffish.  He wasn’t guarded.  He wasn’t angry.  He didn’t say, “Give me one good reason why I should let you come home.”  He didn’t need an explanation in order to be reunited with him.  He just embraced him.

You see, while the son may have disengaged from the relationship with his father, the father NEVER disengaged from the relationship with his son.  He loved that boy just as intently as he did before the boy asked for the money and left home.  Perhaps as earthly parents we may get to the point where after trying and waiting and longing and helping and praying and crying and seeking a relationship with our children only to be rejected time after time and hurt time after time and used time after time we may come to the conclusion that we are “done” with a wayward child. But before of God’s great and perfect love which exceeds our earthly capacity to love, He will NEVER come to that conclusion.  There is nothing you have done or could do that would cause God the Father to say He no longer wants a relationship with you.

Listen to Romans 8:37-39 from the Message translation. (MSG) 37  None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38  I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39  high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

God has embraced each of you through Christ’s death on the cross.  Whether you ever come home or ever embrace Him back, He is still loving you.  He still desires a relationship with you.  He wants that relationship so much that He has made a way for that relationship to last for eternity.

It’s a love that FORGIVES His children.

There is nothing more generous than the forgiveness of God.  When He forgives sin, He forgives it in a big way.  Psalm 103:12 tells us that God has forgiven our sins and removed them from us as far as the east is from the west.  I like how the Message translation puts it: “And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.”  He isn’t stingy with His forgiveness, and it is a permanent freedom from our sin that is ours when God forgives.  Because He loves big He forgives big.

I wonder how many times the selfish son weighed and debated his decision to go home. Surely he questioned how things would go when he saw his dad.  Would he be met with anger?  Would his father demand he pay him back for the part of the estate he had squandered?  Would he have to live the rest of his life “paying” for and feeling sorry for his sins? He had to wonder if his father would truly be happy to see him.  He had to wonder if his father could forgive him for all the son had put him through.

I want to show you something.  It wasn’t just that the son realized he was out of options and couldn’t care for himself any longer.  It wasn’t just that he realized he was in dire straits from an earthly perspective, but he he realized he had sinned.  Look at verse 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  That boy didn’t just come home sorry.  He came home changed.

It’s one thing to feel sorry.  It is another thing to realize you have sinned and to be sorry for that sin.  The son wasn’t just returning home.  He was returning home with a repentant heart.  The son was coming home with a desire to live differently.  He was making a change.  Yes, he was desperate, but his desperation helped him see his need to do life differently.

As he prepared for his return he rehearsed what he was going to say and verse 19 tells us he was going to tell his father he was willing to become one of his father’s servants.  He didn’t expect to have son status anymore.  Servants did what the master told them to do.  This young man was coming home to let his father call the shots from now on.  He was coming home repentant.  Remorseful people are sorry for the past, but they don’t necessarily want to change the future. They just feel badly about how things have turned out.  Repentant people, however, are not only sorry for the past, but they desire to do something to change in order for the future to never be a repeat performance of their past.  This boy wasn’t just coming home.  This boy was resigning from sin and living for himself.

What a humble way to approach his father.  He left his father’s house as someone who thought his father “owed” him something.  He returned to his father’s house in a humble, unworthy state.  He hadn’t just experienced a change in status, but he had experienced a change in understanding as he had come to realize the depths of what he had done in rejecting the father’s love.

Confession means admitting what you have done.  Repentance means desiring to live a different way, the way God wants you to live.  Confession is lip service.  Repentance is life service. 

It’s interesting to me that John the Baptist who was called the “forerunner of Jesus,” the one who would prepare the way for Jesus and His message, came baptizing people in what was called a baptism of repentance.  In Luke’s Gospel he said in chapter 3:3 that John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   Follow with me.  The one who was preparing the way for people to encounter Jesus said the way to encounter Him was through repentance.  John was teaching that repenting from sin would help people then follow after Jesus.  If you embrace that line of thinking, then in a very real sense repentance precedes relationship.

Sin isn’t the only thing, then, that stands in the way between God and people.  Unrepentant hearts also prove to be a barrier because without repentance there is no forgiveness!  There is a lot of talk about “cheap grace” across the church today.  It’s the idea that we can do whatever we want and then ask for forgiveness because God is merciful and full of grace.  It is true that God is full of grace, but if forgiveness isn’t granted without repentance and God knows everything, we better believe He knows who is just giving lip service and who intends to give life service.  And while He is wildly in love with us, His justice won’t allow Him to just freely dispense His grace where there is no true repentance.

There is a difference between feeling sorrow for getting caught and feeling convicted when you get caught.  As one little boy prayed, “Dear Jesus, I’m so sorry I made such a mess in my room today, but I sure had fun doing it!”  That is not repentance.  Some people enjoy making a mess of their lives, but eventually the consequences make life more miserable than fun.  Repentance means you are sorry enough to quit making the mess. (Kent Crockett’s Sermon Illustrations, www.kentcrockett.com)

It’s a love that RESTORES His children.

Revisit verse 22:  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

This son didn’t have to work his way back into his sonship.  It was automatic.  Joel 2:25 tells us God restores the wasted years to us.  No matter what you have squandered, no matter have selfishly you have lived, no matter who you have hurt, God can bring restoration into your life.

When you have been a prodigal, when you have wandered away from the Father, the first thing you need is to have your soul restored.  We need to be thankful this morning that we have a God who is willing to restore us!  We need to celebrate that we have a God who is willing to get us back on the path of righteousness and to restore our souls when we have gotten off track (Ps. 23).  How is it with your soul this morning?  Can God say “Amen” to the way you have been living your life?  You can’t live outside of His will and be right with Him, and He can’t restore you until you are willing to repent.  But what a sweet offer Christ makes.  You can be fully restored!  You won’t have to work your way back into relationship with God, and He will re-establish you in your life.

I don’t know how the Prodigal Son handled the hoopla.  I think it would feel very awkward to be celebrated when I knew I deserved to be punished.  There would be a price to pay as the relationship with the other son in the house was going to be negatively impacted.  Who knows how the mom responded about his homecoming.  There were some issues the family was going to have to work through, but the father in the story reassured the son that he was still included in the family.  He was still his son.  Do you have some relationships that need to be restored this morning?  Is there something you did to contribute to the brokenness you are experiencing with people, the distance that has been created?  How did you contribute to the lack of communication or the agitation and frustration that is being tossed back and forth between you and someone else?  Listen, the Prodigal Son took responsibility for his part in the mess that he made, but he did so because he knew he could trust the love of the father!  And when you trust God you always get more than you bargain for because he not only got to come home, but he got to come home as his son.

Perhaps that is why the Psalmist says not only does God restore my soul, but He also said in Psalm 51 that he needed the joy of his salvation restored.  When you walk away from God, when you live in sin, you will lose your joy.  Even when you come back to God, it may take a minute to get your joy back.  Those of you who have walked with the Lord for a while know how important that deep joy is!  It becomes your strength in times of trouble and questioning.  Without the joy of the Lord, it is easy to become combative with people.  It is easy to choose bitterness and battles rather than blessing.  Without the joy of the Lord it is tempting to fight back rather than pray and be still and know that He is God.

The father in this story threw a party for this boy.  He celebrated him.  The son that gave him no reason to celebrate got a party, but he got one anyway!  Maybe the dad was making up for every birthday that had been missed. I don’t know, but I do know what he was conveying to his son was his deep love for him and the incredible value and worth he placed on his life.

Oh the party was immediate.  The full restoration probably took time.  There were conversations to have and new ways of communicating and living that had to be established, but the agenda for the moment was to party.

Each one of us who has accepted Christ as Savior is in a restoration process.  God is in the process of restoring us to His original design for our lives before sin entered the world.  It’s a process, but He is faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6).

Do you need a blessing from God this morning?  Do you need reassured of His love and desire to be in relationship with you?  Do you need forgiveness?  Do you desire to repent?  Is there an area of your life that needs restored?  Then you need to talk to the Heavenly Father whose love is so deep it will cover each one of those needs and more.

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