Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 3 months ago

The Gracious Father (Part 2)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

At last week and we'll cover the secondhalf this evening, Lord Willing, but we'll go ahead and read the wholeparable again, so that it is fresh in our hearing, so luke, fifteen beginning and verse.Eleven. This is the word of the Lord, and he said there was a man who had twosons and the younger of them said to hisfather. Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me and he divided his property betweenthem. Not many days later, the younger songathered all he had and took a journey into a far country and there hesquandered his property in reckless living and when he had spent everything asevere famine arose in that country and he began to be in need. So we went andhired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent himinto the fields to feed pigs, and he was longing to be fed with thepods that the pigs ate and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said howmany of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread. But I perishhere with hunger, I will arise and go to my father and Iwill say to him father. I have sinned against heaven and before you I am nolonger 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,his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed himand the Sun said to him father. I have sinned against heaven and before you Iam 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 andshoes on his feet and bring the fat in...

...calf and kill it, and let us eat andcelebrate for this. My son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and isfound 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 calledone of the servants and asked what these things meant and he said to him. Your brother hascome and your father has killed the fat and calf because he has received himback 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 Ihave never disobeyed your command. Yet you never gave me a young goat that Imight celebrate with my friends, but when this son of yours came who hasdevoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fat and calf for him and he said to him son. You are alwayswith me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be gladfor 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 anintense desire for something that you don't have or an intense desire to work forsomething that you don't have enough of?...

Is there any virtue in that? Is thereanything good about greed? We one thousand nine hundred and eightyseven, all of our stone put out a film called Wall Street. I'm not sure if youare familiar, but if you are you'll, remember Michael Douglas played a rolein that film, which one an academy awarded one of the reasons why it wonan academy award some say is because of this famous speech in the movie. TitledGreed is good and Michael Douglas, who plays GordonGecko, says this greed, for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed, worse greed,CLARIFIES cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit, greed and all of its forms. Greed forlife for money for love. Knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind now in a way Gordon Gecko here playedby Michael Douglas, perhaps crassly so paints a picture of the capitalisticfree market spirit that we have in our country doesn't need again. Maybecrassly so, but this is a picture of the American spirit and- and I don't necessarily say thiscritically- there has been great social benefit from those who have long forsomething that they don't have and have been willing to work hard to get it. Wehave seen great societal progress because of this idea, whether you wantto call it greed or not. This is kind of built into our system, well as lively as a discussion as wecould 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 movethrough the parables of Jesus, where he is speaking about the economics of theKingdom of God and how one acquires position within God's kingdom than I want to consider these ideas. Aswe look at the parable of the producable, specifically the secondhalf, and this other prodigal you could say, and theolder brother will continue, calling the parable ofthe prodigal son the parable of the gracious father. I do think that thatmight be a more fitting title for the parable and will do so this evening. Thinking of it in two differentcategories, and again, I by no means mean to be provocative, but our twocategories for this evening are free market legalism and divine welfare. Again, the idea is not to be overlyprovocative, but to consider some things in terms that we are familiarwith and so bear with us this evening is, aswe consider the parable. I want to consider two other things as we walkthrough this text, and I want to kind of give them to you up front so thatyou can be thinking about them specifically about what legalism brings one it is it separates us from God, and Iwant to see that in the text so it on it separates us from God, but also itseparates us from the family. The God has called us to, and those are the two things that Iwant to consider as we walk through our text for this evening. So let's jump right and point one freemarket legalism.

Now the older son was in the field, oursection 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 tohome than his brother, at least before he came walking down the drivewaysmelling of pigs. He seems to be close to home. Doesn't he? But this says thathe is in the field, not in his home but hard at work. Interestingly, the younger brother hadalso found himself in a field out of desperation. He hired himself out to bethe slave of a pig farmer. Well now, this older brother, certainlyin a more dignified servitude, also finds himself in a field. This time place there out of his ownsense of duty and he hears music and dancing the lastthing. A good legalist wants to hear right, a party going on in the distance, and he certainly despises these thingsbeing the legalist that he is. I saw a quote this week that was referring tocertain folks within the reform community, saying that they were markedby a grave concern that somebody somewhere was having a good time, and Ihope that's not true about the reform community, but perhaps that's trueabout this older son. He is concerned about music and dancing well, if we think about it. Thisconcern and the fact that he has heard this music in dancing from a distancein and of itself, is a sign of his estrangement. No doubt the entire household is awareof this party. I mean the father has hired a band or someone tocreate music, they didn't have a jute...

...box. The fatted path has been killed, thebarbecue is going, people are already dancing and the onlyperson that doesn't seem to be aware of the celebration as his very brother, this older son,who is at work out in the field he is certainly estranged from thefamily. I think these details are important. Iwill recall from the introduction to this parable as we talked about lastweek. The context is that Jesus is talking to WHO Pharisees and scribesright and there they're angry- that Jesus is hanging out with sinners andtax collectors. Well, those are the people in societythat would seem close to God right and yet what we find is that they areactually far far off from the father and they have no idea about God'sprogram to come and to seek and to save those who are lost. It is those subscribes and Phariseeswho, though, seem to be close to home, are themselves estranged from thecelebration 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 asLoner Christians. It is impossible to be far off from thefamily of God and be close to God to be called to. Christ is to be calledto a family. It's it's to be called to his church, and one of the issues that we find withlegalism is...

...is certainly the legalism that we findin the Pharisee is not only does it provide them with an improper theologyof how to be right with God, but it totally separates them fromGod's community. Those who, God is calling to be part of this divinesalvation that he is bringing through his son legalism, is isolating because when we have the idea that weare better at law keeping, which is precisely the idea that the Phariseeshad seems to be as we'll move on the idea that this older son has, we will always judge others. Won't we we distance ourselves from others andour very law keeping or at least a perception of law, keeping and the caseof this brother, though again I'm not against lawkeeping, but again we're talking about the economy of the Kingdom and andmeriting something before God and often times. I think we can get inthe rat race right in church about trying to position ourselves to looklike better lawkeepers than the next guy, and it's not a great way to buildcommunity is it it will always separate us as it haswith this older brother. So the father comes out this lovingfather that we met last week and he entreats his son. He compels hisson to come to the party. He urges him, but what is the sun's response? Look, he says not even calling his father father, hetotally skips the title, unlike his younger brother, he says these many years. I have servedyou...

...and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me a young goat thatI might celebrate with my friends. First of all, does he really believethis that he has kept all of his father'scommandments as he really all that great? What I think is going on here isprecisely what we had just spoke of that, instead of looking at hisfather's commands and keeping his and considering his own law, keeping inlight of God's perfection. In light of God's holiness, who does he comparehimself to well that brother WHO's horrible atLawky? I mean that's exactly what goes on here. He says: I've, never disobeyed yourcommands, while that son of yours devoured, your property withprostitutes sure compared to the lawlessness of theyounger brother, he looks pretty good while has brought brother Skip townwith his dad's cash. This dutiful son has been working since his youth labouring in the family fields, obeyingthe commands of his father, a dead, give away of a legalistic spirit as when wecompare our behavior to the behavior of others. It's a dead give away, and it's what we do and we want to lookgood. We don't compare ourselves to God'sperfect righteousness as we should, as we are called to do. We compare ourselves to the really badcenters, or at least the ones who send differently than we do the addicts the murders, the adulterers I meanlooking at it drunk, makes us feel a lot better about our gluttonoustendencies. Doesn't it...

...considering a murderer takes thestaying off of our hatred for others, how we speak about others? How we speakto others, putting the spotlight on Adulterisallows our own lust and covetousness to hide in the shadows. This is how a legalistic spiritoperates. It never compares itself to the holiness of God, but the law keeping or lack thereof ofthose around us. Well, I want to consider something else.That's interesting here. What is it that this son wants out ofhis law keeping? Well, it seems that he does not long tocelebrate with his father and family. Does it if you wanted to do that, hecould go to the party. What it indicates here is that he wantsto get a piece of his dad's wealth to celebrate with his friends Ken he's not overly interested in beingpart of the family. It would seem here that this hard working legalist isreally after the same thing. His worthless little brother is he's just chasing his father's wealthin a far more dignified way and a lot of ways he's chasing it inthe American way, something that we're steeped in something that I think wehave to be aware of when we're considering who we are before God, hard work, delayed, gratification, meritocracy, the idea that we can meritour 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 measureCommendabilem is commendable...

...a hard worker before we continue, I want. I want tojump over to the book of Romans for just a moment and and consider Romanschapter ten, because I think it does give us some help here and consideringand theological terms what seems to be going on the Romans ten beginning and and verse.One Paul is considering this idea about how how itis that the Jews have not reached righteousness before the God before Godall, while Gentle Gentiles, who have squandered God's law, are declared righteous. How can this bewell in this section? Paul is answering this question and he says and Verse Oneof Chapter Ten. They the Jews, have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, for being ignorant of the righteousnessof God and what seeking to establish their own. They did not submit to God'srighteousness, for Christ is the culmination or theend of the law so that there may be righteousness for every one whobelieves Paul. As we know from reading hisletters does not decry hard work. Does he and then I'm not trying to decry hardwork either? But when it comes to the Kingdom of God, Paul explains the Jewsacted ignorantly by seeking to establish their own rightstanding before God, they missed the entire point of God'slaw that it would point people to Jesus that that Jesus is the end of the law,that Jesus is the culmination of the law and by faith and faith alone in him. Righteousness is then given as a giftto all, who believe to all who confess...

...the name of Jesus as Paul will go on tosay. Well, considering the older brotherlook these many years, I have served you and I have never disobeyed yourcommand zealous for the law. Yet you know younever 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 faroff. Are they in a lot of ways? In the case of the older brother, his greedlooks like hard work. It looks like, as Gordon Gecko said, the evolutionaryspirit it looks like the upward surge of mankind. Hard work, make yourselfpull your up yourself up by your boot straps and do something working in order to make a name foryourself and though these things certainly have merit, and this earthlykingdom, this type of free market legalism iswe're. Calling has no benefit, and the Kingdom of God, at least in trying to merit ourposition before God. In fact, as well fight from the book of Romans, it turnsout to be damning, and I think we need to be careful ofthis, because we're steeped in the spirit, aren't we in some ways it'sgood in some ways it's helpful, but but...

...if we import this into our theology ofright standing before God, it can be very, very dangerous and the economy of the Kingdom. Thereis no free market legalism, there is only divine welfare, and that will be what we consider inthe second part of this parable divine welfare, verse. Thirty one must looktogether and the father said to him son. This word used for son here is a prettyintimate word, even though this older brother wouldnot even refer to his dad's father. The father comes to him and says child my much child. You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. I mean I think. If I was writing this arebuke would be fitting here right. I think. If it was me, I would say youungrateful 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 fatherink. It's not like how I do things. He calls him child. 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 mywealth, because you are already an air all these things. All that I have isalready yours. What he says here is...

...literally true. If we remember fromlast week, it says that he divided his wealth between the two sons. Theyounger son took what he what was coming to him and now the whole estatealready has the older son's name on it when he says all that he has is yours,he means it, and yet the sun is out working in thefield. All that I have is yours not becausethe sun 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 usthe kingdom not secured by our work, but purelybased on our adoption of sons and daughters of the most high God frometernity passed Farbefore we could merit or demeritanything right. It is ours to receive. The whole estate is already thebrothers, but he slaves in the field to try to merit ownership himself. Hesquanders the gift by not receiving it and he separates himself not only fromhis father but his entire family. He won't come to the feast that sayscome on in it's a great party. That's fitting to celebrate and be glad for this. Your brother was dead. Youryour 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 olderbrothers in the gospel of Luke, referring to scribes and Pharisees, donot repent. In fact, they have. The father arrested, beaten, tried, whipped, crucified for hislavish tendency towards runaway sons, but luke leaves it open for us. Doesn'the he lets US consider without closingremark, we get the opportunity for a bit of self assessment, so, let's consider our you, a youngerbrother, a younger daughter, a prodigal who hasspitting God's face and squandered his gifts by wasteful living. Are you an older brother, a legalistwho 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 andforth 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 notreceiving them. I think it's why this parable is so relatable. We can relateto both brothers what we can't relate to as a god, afather. 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 weconsider this closely, there is a good brother in the parable and it's the oneis not mentioned the one who actually kept the father'scommand...

...the one who actually merited thefather's good gifts and even though he merited those goodgifts 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 somethinggreater than a fat in calf, his very body and blood, given for thefull remission of our sentence, broken and poured out on our behalf andthis feast that we partake of that we partook of this morning is one thatlooks forward to an even a greater face. The feast that these chapters in Lukethat we've been looking at for the last few weeks, have all been pointingforward to this marriage feast of the lamb, a feast where God himself is thehost and where you are at the top of the guest list, not because you were classy enough tomake it in yourself, but because of the grace of the host and won't that be an incrediblecelebration, a great and true family event, where we all come on equal playingfield on equal standing before God and his presence no more having to think about ourstanding to worry about it, no longer having to think about our identity, no longer having to doubt whether we'reworthy to get in no longer having to beat ourselves upover, not following God's law. No, I no...

...longer having to compete with othersaround us for position before others in the father we'll be in and won't that be glorious, but belove. It is. We look forward tothat. Don't forget that God has given us afore taste. He has given us a fore taste of thatday, a celebration with a group of people, yourself included, who no longer has to think aboutstanding before God, at least on their own merits, who no longer has to make a name forthemself. A group of people who know longer have to worry about whetherwe'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 fore,taste this little church and this fallawaytown, where God is present here, giving us apicture of that great feast and it's a wonderful guest list. Look around no really look around what to the person. Next to you, theperson behind you. This is the guest list. All people invited for the very samereason, the God soul of the world, that he gave his only sin that whoever might believe and himwould not erase but have eternal life. What a party but a celebration. Jesus came into the world to savelawless reprobates and legalistic Taiwan, and that's good news for all ofus.

Anyone who would turn to him and admitI am no longer worthy to be called your son no longer worthy to be called adaughter. I have squandered your gifts through wasteful living and throughworrisome Labor and he comes with divine welfare, and it is only an understanding thisthat we are truly able to live this life as Christians. Understanding that we're all here forthe same reason, because God is gracious- and he has shown us thatgrace through his son Jesus Christ- then that's where hospitality comesfrom. That's where all the one another's in the new testament come outof, not because we're trying to step on one another to earn our way in, butbecause we're already in because the kingdom already has our name stamped onit, because our name is now united with Christ. The King of this kingdom- and we are here on equal standing withcenters of all types planted firmly and the merits of Christhimself, who has come to seek and to save that which is lost for as Paul will say. Every one whobelieves 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 alongsideeach other, and we do this because all he has isours and because we are his his children, his beloved. Let's pray together.

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