Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 8 months ago

The Gracious Father (Part 2)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

Half last week. Will cover the second half this evening, Lord Willing, but we'll go ahead and read the whole parable again so that it is fresh in our hearing. So, Luke Fifteen, beginning in verse eleven, this is the word of the Lord and he said there was a man who had two sons and the younger of them said to his father, father, give me the share of property that is coming to me, and he divided his property between them. Not many days later the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country and there he squandered his property and reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine a rose in that country and he began to be in need. So we went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed pigs, and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, how many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger? I will arise and go to my father and I will say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father, but while he was still a long way off, as father saw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him, and the son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes...

...on his feet, and bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found, and they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field and as he came and drew near to the House, he heard music in dancing, and he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant, and he said to him, your brother has come and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound. But he was angry and refused to go in his father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father. Look, these many years I have served you and I have never disobeyed your command. Yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him and he said to him, son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad for this. Your brother was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found. You may be seated. Is there any virtue in greed? Is there anything redeeming about an intense desire for something that you don't have, or an intense desire to work for something that you don't have enough of? Is there any virtue in that?...

Is there anything good about greed? Well, in one thousand nine hundred and eighty seven, Oliver Stone put out a film called Wall Street. I'm not sure if you are familiar, but if you are, you'll remember Michael Douglas played a role in that film, which won an academy award, and one of the reasons by a want an academy awards. Some say it's because of this famous speech in the movie titled Greed Is Good, and Michael Douglas, who plays Gordon Gecko, says this. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works, greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed and all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. Now, in a way, Gordon Gecko here, played by Michael Douglas, perhaps crassly so, paints a picture of the capitalistic, free market spirit that we have in our country, doesn't he again, maybe crassly so, but this is a picture of the American spirit, and I don't don't necessarily say this critically. There has been great social benefit from those who have longed for something that they don't have and have been willing to work hard to get it. We have seen great societal progress because of this idea. Whether you want to call it greed or not, this is kind of built into our system. Well, as lively as a...

...discussion as we could have this evening about economics in the civil sphere, that's not my aim. I want to consider economics in the Kingdom of God as we continue to move through the parables of Jesus, where he is speaking about the economics of the Kingdom of God and how one acquires position within God's kingdom. Then I want to consider these ideas as we look at the parable of the Prodigal son, specifically the second half and this other producal you could say, and the older brother will continue calling the parable of the prodigal son the parable of the gracious father. I do think that that might be a more fitting title for the parable and will do so this evening, thinking of it in two different categories. And again, I by no means mean to be provocative, but are two categories for this evening are free market legalism and divine welfare. Again, the ideas not to be overly provocative but to consider some things in terms that we are familiar with, and so bear with us this evening is as we consider the parable. I want to consider two other things as we walk through this text and I want to kind of give them to you up front so that you can be thinking about them specifically about what legalism brings. One it is it separates us from God, and I want to see that in the text. So they want. It separates us from God, but also it separates us from the family that God has called us to, and those are the two things that I want to consider as we walk through our text for this evening. So let's jump right in. Point one. Free Market legalism. Now, the older son was in the field,...

...our section begins with and right off the bat this is a fairly pregnant phrase. There's a lot of meaning here. This older son, though, seemingly closer to home than his brother, at least before he came walking down the driveway smelling of pigs. He seems to be close to home, doesn't he? But this says that he is in the field, not in his home, but hard at work. Interestingly, the younger brother had also found himself in a field. Out of desperation, he hired himself out to be the slave of a pig farmer. Well, now this older brother, certainly in a more dignified servitude, also finds himself and a field, this time placed there out of his own sense of duty, and he hears music and dancing, the last thing a good legalist wants to hear. Right, a party going on in the distance, and he certainly despises these things, being the legalist that he is. I saw a quote this week that was referring to certain folks within the reform community saying that they were marked by a grave concern that somebody somewhere was having a good time. And I hope that's not true about the reform community, but perhaps that's true about this older son. He is concerned about music and dancing. Well, if we think about it, this concern and the fact that he has heard this music and dancing from a distance in and of itself is a sign of his estrangement. No doubt the entire household is aware of this party, I mean the the father has hired a band or someone to create music. They they didn't have a Jewbox.

The fatted path has been killed, the barbecue is going, people are already dancing and the only person that doesn't seem to be aware of the celebration is his very brother, this older son, who is at work out in the field. He is certainly astranged from the family. I think these details are important. If we'll recall from the introduction to this parable as we talked about last week, the contexts is that that Jesus is talking to who? Pharisees and scribes, right, and they're they're angry that Jesus is hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. Well, those are the people in society that would seem close to God, right. And yet what we find is that they are actually far, far off from the father and they have no idea about God's program to come and to seek and to save those who are lost. It is those scribes and Pharisees who, those seem to be close to home, are themselves estranged from the celebration. They are far off from the family of God. I think this is a reminder for us to consider that there is no such thing as Loner Christians. It is impossible to be far off from the family of God and be close to God. To be called to Christ is to be called to a family, it's it's to be called to his church. And one of the issues that we find with legalism is as...

...certainly the legalism that we find in the Pharisees is not only does it provide them with an improper theology of how to be right with God, but it totally separates them from God's community, those who God is calling to be part of this divine salvation that he is bringing through his son. legalism is isolating, because when we have the idea that we are better at law keeping, which is precisely the idea that the Pharisees had, seems to be as well move on the idea that this older son has. We will always judge others, won't we? We distance ourselves from others in our very law keeping, or at least our perception of law keeping. And the case of this brother, though, again I'm not against law keeping, but again we're talking about the economy of the Kingdom and meriting something before God and oftentimes I think we can get in the rat race right in church about trying to position in ourselves to look like better lawkeepers in the next guy, and it's not a great way to build community, is it. It will always separate us, as it has with this older brother. So the father comes out, this loving father that we met last week, and he entreats his son, he compels his son to come to the party, he urges him. But what is the son's response? Look, he says not even calling his father father. He totally skips the title, unlike his younger brother. He says, these many years, I have served you and I never disobeyed your commands, yet...

...you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. First of all, does he really believe this that he has kept all of his father's commandments, as he really all that great? Well, what I think is going on here is precisely what we had just spoke of, that instead of looking at his father's commands and keeping his and considering his own law keeping in light of God's perfection and light of God's holiness, who does he compare himself to? Well, that brother who's horrible at lowkeypink. I mean that's exactly what goes on here. He says, I've never disobeyed your commands, while that son of yours devoured your property with prostitutes. Sure, compared to the lawlessness of the younger brother, he looks pretty good. Well, has brought brother Skip town with his dad's cash. This dutiful son has been working since his youth, laboring in the family fields, obeying the commands of his father. A dead giveaway of a legalistic spirit, as when we compare our behavior to the behavior of others. It's a dead giveaway, and it's what we do when we want to look good. We don't compare ourselves to God's perfect righteousness, as we should, as we are called to do. We compare ourselves to the really bad centers, or at least the ones who send differently than we do, the addicts, the murders, the adulterers. I mean, looking at a drunk makes us feel a lot better about our gluttoness tendencies, doesn't it? Considering a murderer takes the staying off of our...

...hatred for others. How we speak about others, how we speak to others. Putting the spotlight on adulters allows our own lust and covetousness to hide in the shadows. This is how a llegalistic spirit operates. It never compares itself to the holiness of God, but the law keeping, or lack thereof, of those around us. Well, I want to consider something else that's interesting here. What is it that this son wants out of his law keeping? Well, it seemed that he does not long to celebrate with his father and family, does it? If you want to do that, he could go to the party. Well, what it indicates here is that he wants to get a piece of his dad's wealth to celebrate with his friends again. He's not overly interested in being part of the family. It would seem here that this hard working legalist is really after the same thing his worthless little brother is. He's just chasing his father's wealth and a far more dignified way, and a lot of ways he's chasing it in the American way, something that we're steeped in, something that I think we have to be aware of when we're considering who we are before God, hard work, delayed gratification, meritocracy, the idea that we can merit our position in life by hard work and ingenuity. That's what this guy is living for right I mean in a lot of ways, depending on how we measure commendability, his behavior is commendable a hard...

...worker. Before we continue, and when I want to jump over to the book of Romans for just a moment and and consider Romans chapter ten, because I think it does give us some help here in considering and theological terms what seems to be going on. The Romans tend beginning in and verse one, Paul is considering this idea about how how it is that the Jews have not reached righteousness before the God, before God, all while gentle gentiles who have squandered God's law are declared righteous. How can this be? Will in this section Paul is answering this question and he says in Verse One of Chapter Ten. They, the Jews, have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and what seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness, for Christ is the pull a nation or the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Paul, as we know from reading his letters, does not to cry hard work, does he? And then I'm not trying to decry hard work either. But when it comes to the Kingdom of God, Paul explains the Jews acted ignorantly by seeking to establish their own right standing before God. They missed the entire point of God's law, that it would point people to Jesus, that Jesus is the end of the law, that Jesus is the CULM nation of the law, and by faith, and faith alone, and him, righteousness is then given as a gift to...

...all who believe, to all who confess the name of Jesus, as Paul will go on to say. Well, considering the older brother. Look, these many years I have served you and I have never disobeyed your command, zealous for the law. Yet you know, you never so much as gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. The son is working his tail off for an inheritance that is already his. He himself is like his younger brother, squandering the good gifts of the father, not by spending them on prostitutes, but pretending like he must merit them instead of simply receiving them. See that the brothers aren't that far off, are they? In a lot of ways. In the case of the older brother, his greed looks like hard work, it looks like, as Gordon Gecko said, the evolutionary spirit, it looks like the upward serge of mankind, hard work, make yourself, pull your up, yourself up by your your bootstraps and do something working in order to make a name for yourself. And though these things certainly have merit, and this earthly kingdom, this type of free market legalism is we're calling has no benefit. And the Kingdom of God at least in trying to merit our position before God. In fact, as will find from the book of Romans, it turns out to be damning, and I think we need to be careful of this, because we're steeped in this spirit, aren't we? In some ways it's good, in some ways it's helpful,...

...but but if we import this into our theology of you, of right standing before God, it can be very, very dangerous. In the economy of the kingdom there is no free market legalism, there's only divine welfare, and that'll be what we consider in the second part of this parable divine and welfare verse. Thirty one. Let's look together and the father said to him son. This word used for son here is a pretty intimate word, even though this older brother would not even refer to his dad as father. The father comes to him and says child, my child, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. I mean, I think if I was writing this, a rebuke would be fitting here, right. I think if it was me I would say, you ungrateful Jerk, you act like a slave. When you'RE A son. You work your tail off to earn what's already yours. What's wrong with you. But this father is not like my father and it's not like how I do things. He calls him child and he comes to him with grace and kindness. He comes to us with grace and kindness. My children, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. You can't earn my affection or my wealth because you are already an heir all these things, all that I have is already...

...yours. What he says here is literally true. If we remember from last week, it says that he divided his wealth between the two sons. The younger son took what he what was coming to him, and now the whole estate already has the older son's name on it. When he says all that he has is yours, he means it. And yet this son is outworking in the field. All that I have is yours, not because the son deserves it, but purely based on the wealth and love of the father. And so with us, as heirs to the kingdom from a God who is pleased to give us the kingdom, not secured by our work, but purely based on our adoption as sons and daughters of the most high God, from eternity past far before we can merit or demerit anything. Right it is ours to receive. The whole estate is already the brothers. But he slaves in the field to try to merit ownership himself. He squanders the gift by not receiving it and he separates himself not only from his father but his entire family. He won't come to the feast. Stad says, come on in, it's a it's a great party, it is fitting to celebrate and be glad for this. Your brother was dead. Your your brother, your blood, was dead. He's now alive. He was lost and is found. And then the parable ends. We don't find out how the older brother response.

We do find that most of the older brothers, in the gospel of Luke, referring to scribes and Pharisees, do not repent. In fact, they have the father arrested, beaten, tried, whipped, crucified for his lavish tendency towards runaway sons. But Luke leaves it open for us, doesn't he? He lets US consider. Without closing remark, we get the opportunity for a bit of self assessment. So let's consider. Are you a younger brother, a younger daughter, a prodigal who has spit in God's face and squandered his gifts by wasteful living? Are you an older brother, a legalist who has squandered God's gifts by not joyfully receiving them? Well, the sad truth is, we're both. When we think about it, it seems like we can bounce back and forth between the two fairly quickly. We have all sinned grossly against God, we have turned and we have rejected his good gifts, both by squandering them and not receiving them. I think it's why this parable is so relatable. We can relate to both brothers. What we can't relate to is a god, a father this gracious. He's a lot more difficult to figure out. And yet it seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Well, the truth is is that, if we consider this closely, there is a good brother in the parable, and it's the one who's not mentioned, the one who actually kept the father's command, the one who actually merited the...

...father's good gifts. And even though he merited those good gifts, he selflessly set aside all that was rightly his. He took on our lawless living. He took on our self righteousness and he bore them on a cross, bled and died that we might feast on something greater than a fattened calf, his very body and blood given for the full remission of our sins broken and poured out on our behalf. And this feast that we partake of, that we partook of this morning, is is one that looks forward to an even a greater feast, the feast that these chapters in Luke that we've been looking at for the last few weeks of all been pointing forward to. This marriage, feast of the lamb, a feast where God himself is the host and where you are at the top of the guest list, not because you were classy enough to make it in yourself, but because of the grace of the host. And won't that be an incredible celebration, a great and true family event where we all come on equal playing field, on equal standing before God and his presence, no more having to think about our standing, to worry about it, no longer having to think about our identity, no longer having to doubt whether we're worthy to get in, no longer having to beat ourselves up over not following God's law, no no longer having to compete with others around...

...us for position before others in the father will be in, and won't that be glorious? But beloved. As we look forward to that, don't forget that God has given us a foretaste. He has given us a foretaste of that day, a celebration with a group of people, yourself included, who no longer has to think about standing before God, at least on their own merits, who no longer has to make a name for them self, a group of people who no longer have to worry about whether we're going to get in or not, who no longer have to work to the bone for God's love. This is that group. This is that foretaste, this little church and this faraway town where God is present here, giving us a picture of that great feast, and it's a wonderful guest list. Look around, no really look around, but to the person next to you, the person behind you. This is the guest list, all people invited for the very same reason that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever, I believe in him, would not perish but have eternal life. What a party, but a celebration. Jesus came into the world to save lawless reprobates and legalistic tight wads, and that's good news for all of us.

Anyone who would turn to him and admit I am no longer worthy to be called your son, no longer worthy to be called a daughter, I have squandered your gifts through wasteful living and through worrisome labor. And he comes with divine welfare. And it is only an unders standing this that we are truly able to live this life as Christians, understanding that we're all here for the same reason, because God is gracious and he has shown us that grace through his son, Jesus Christ. Then that's where hospitality comes from. That's where all the one another's in the new testament come out of, not because we're trying to step on one another to earn our way in, but because we're already in, because the kingdom already has our name stamped on it, because our name is now united with Christ's, the King of this kingdom, and we are here on equal standing with sinners of all types, planted firmly in the merits of Christ himself, who has come to seek and to save that which is lost, for, as Paul will say, everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. And so we labor alongside each other, not as those estranged out in the field, but those laboring is part of a kingdom that is already ours, together alongside each other. And we do this because all he has is ours and because we are his his children, his beloved. Let's pray together.

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