Speaker: John Love
Date: 2024-03-10
Sermon# 12680
Time: Sun 11:00 am

P. Love –

Praise God! Great song, wasn’t that? Amen. (Prayer). Pastor, if you just give me the other set of glasses so I can
see. Thank you. Open your Bible if you would this morning to Luke 15. I think for all of us – I
know it is the case with me – sometimes we could ask ourselves am I living the life that God
intended for me to live? Is this where I’m supposed to be at in my life? Where we’re at
sometimes we come to this conclusion, I’m not where I’m supposed to be living right now.
And where does the world – think about it. We have such understanding as believers.

God’s given us his Word, the revelation of Scriptures. But where does the world or a culture turn
when they don’t believe God? When they don’t acknowledge his existence? When they reject
him and reject what he offers them? What’s left for them to do? Most people you know what
they do? They turn to self, right? Where else are you going to go? Turn to self.

There was a newspaper article in a New York magazine, and it reported that self-help
movement had mushroomed into an 11 billion dollar industry telling us what? How to improve
ourselves. In most of your bigger bookstores, you will find over 45,000 self-help books. Imagine
that. That’s how many there are in print. Probably even more now.

And think about it. Even if you read every single one of those books, you would still have to
admit after reading all of them, I still need help! I think the best thing we could do for ourselves
on this journey of life is to reject your self’s offer to help.

Why? Because it’s real simple. Self cannot help self. Think about it. Self cannot help self. In Luke
15, we’ve got this beautiful story that Jesus told. I think that many of us are familiar with it. If
you’re not familiar with it, read it. Look at it. Think about it.

Charles Dickens once called this parable – and that’s what it is. It is a parable – he called it the
greatest short story ever told. You can understand why. While it is a parable and not a real life
story, think about it. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a story full of life. How many times have we
seen ourselves in the story of the parable of the prodigal son. How many times? Whether we
are like the prodigal son or the father or the older brother, there’s just so much contained in
that parable that Jesus told.

Let’s take a quick look at it. Luke 15:11-12. It’s fascinating to me that there’s no discussion
about that. The young man wanted his inheritance, and he wanted it obviously before his
father even died. And there’s no discussion that you’ll have to wait for that. There’s a time that
you’ll receive that inheritance but it’s not now. No discussion like that. The father seems to be
totally, completely cooperating.

Vs. 12-14. This was after he had spent everything that was given to him. Vs. 15-16. Then, of
course we know what happened. He came to himself. Vs. 17-19. Where did he go? He went to a distant country. A far country the Bible says. Now, that’s the location he found himself in once
he left the presence of his father.

To travel to a distance country especially as Jesus was addressing a Jewish audience and as they
listened to this parable, do you know what they understood? That this son of this father, he
was going to be going into Gentile land which meant he was not only leaving and turning his
back on his father, but he was turning his back on his faith. So, they understood that. The
listeners that Jesus told this parable to, they understood that. They got that message. This was
just a little bit more serious than a family breakup. This was far more serious. This was I’m
leaving my father’s home but I’m leaving my father’s faith as well.

And I think it’s safe to say that we could do this ourselves. Now, let me make it clear. This was a
son and he had a father. God is our Father if you know Christ as your Savior. But it is possible
for a son of the father to get lost, not in the sense that he needs to be saved. Because as this
story continues, you realize like the sheep which was separated from the rest of the fold, and
the coin which was lost in the house, so the son was lost within the context of the family.
And when he came back, and when he returned – and he did – the father did not say this my
son was lost but now he’s saved. No, he was always the son. He was only lost in the sense that
he needed to be found. That’s why we can identify with this parable that Jesus taught. Because
we can do the same thing. We can in some areas of our lives, we could walk away from God for
lots of different reasons, some of which we will look at this morning.

But one thing is certain. Whenever you walk away from God, the vehicle that takes you to the
far country is always the same. It’s called sin. That’s the vehicle we take. Some sin. Some secret
sin. Some area of our lives that we just have not yielded to God and not given God access to.
That potentially can create a traveling to a far country, a distant land.

He left his father. What does it mean? How does it happen? I think there’s several reasons.
We’ll take a look at them this morning. But I think the biggest reason is that clearly there is a
great misunderstanding of who the father is.

Now, you think about that. Imagine if we had the wrong understanding of God. P. Bob in the
earlier message, the 9:00 service this morning said that God’s thoughts are far different than
our thoughts. And all I can say is thank you Lord that they are. Isaiah 55, the prophet Isaiah said
God said that his thoughts are higher than the heavens. Our thoughts are lowly thoughts down
here on the earth. And I like what P. Bob said, too. He said God didn’t say your thoughts,
they’re just a little bit different from my thoughts. They need to be tweaked from time to time.
No, God says your thoughts, they’re nothing like my thoughts.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so are my thoughts and my ways higher than yours. Not even close. And when you don’t have a proper understanding of who God is and you don’t know what his character and nature is like – and by the way. The only way you can discover that is through his Word. There’s
no other way.

You hear people say all the time: Oh, I’ve really gotten to know God in this very mystical way.
Yes, I ate some strange mushrooms and God revealed himself to me. Okay. Great. That is so
weird and so subjective. Give me a break.

When we say we know what God is like, we base it upon what he has told us about himself in
his objective truth. We’ve got the Bible, amen. And we have an understanding of what the
character and nature of God is like.

But you don’t. And I think that was the problem perhaps with this son and perhaps with some
of us from time to time. We have a misunderstanding of the character and nature of God and it
might sound something like this, because I think some people believe that God is an
unreasonable father.

What do we mean by that? Some believe that staying with the Father if you did, if you walked
with God, if you stayed home like this son potentially could have; if he stayed in the presence of
his father, what is he thinking? If I stay here, I’m missing out. You know how many times we
share the Gospel with people and we tell them about Christ and what he’s done for them and
how he’s paid for their sins and wants a relationship with them, I’ve had so many people
respond to me and say, yeah but. This is what they say initially. Yeah, but I can’t party anymore.
I can’t have fun anymore. I can’t drink anymore. I can’t do the things that I love anymore, right?
Usually I say, we’re not talking about any of those things. We’re talking about the salvation of
your soul.

But in most people’s minds, they think, no. If I follow God, if he becomes my Father, I will be
missing out. He is too unreasonable. He’s got that long list of rules and his – I think God’s whole
plan – this is the way they think – is to take all the fun out of my life.

Someone has described God as the great cosmic killjoy. He only exists to make me unhappy. So,
what do they do? They pack their bags. They head out to the distant country. They convince
themselves that God is too restrictive. His path is too narrow. I couldn’t even follow it if I
wanted to. They see God’s boundaries as a fence that imprisons them rather than a guardrail
that protects them. That’s the way they think. So, they think he’s too unreasonable.
Secondly, some believe that God is unpleasable. They think that because God’s standards are so
high – after all, he is a holy God. What does he ask of us? To live holy lives. He is a good God.
What does he ask of us? We have to live good lives. They just make this conclusion his
standards are too high. I’ll never be able to be good enough for him so why even stick around
and try? I’ll pack my bags and go to a distant land.

I think for some whenever they heard about God, maybe in their churches growing up, they
always got this idea that God was frustrated with them, right? Everything they ever heard about
him made them believe that whenever he looked at you, he would shake his head in
disappointment and say you didn’t do what I asked you to do. You haven’t lived that real life of
faith and he’s not pleased with you.

I remember going to high school with a young man and his father was the superintendent of
the public schools. We kind of new that he placed all these incredible demands upon his son.
He had to be an impeccable student and he had to be an impeccable athlete and he had to
always tow the family line. I think it became too much for him.

And then we got the news one day that he took his own life. I mean only like 18 years old. It
was too much pressure. I don’t know if it was the case, but maybe from his perspective maybe
he was living with an unpleasable father where your best never seems to be good enough. And
you start to think of God as an impossible to please Father. And at some point, what are you
going to do? You’re going to quit trying altogether, because you just come to this conclusion:
everything I try to do, it’s never good enough. I always seem to fall short. He’s an unreasonable
father. He’s an unpleasable father.

And then, in some cases they come to this conclusion: God is an unmerciful Father. He’s just an
angry God ready to distribute punishment. Just waiting for you to slip up. Just waiting for you to
make a mistake, and once he catches you, no matter how sorry you are, they’ll be hell to pay.
And in some people’s minds, literally. That’s their idea of God. These are people who always –
maybe they were people in their younger days, they were always taught to fear God. We know
what the Scriptures say. Proverbs 1, the Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
But what does that mean? Does God want us to have a relationship with him where we just live
in constant utter fear of who he is? Afraid to come into his presence. Afraid that if we make a
mistake, that we should do everything we can to sweep it under the rug, to hide ourselves from
him because we know how upset and how angry he’ll be? No.

When the Bible speaks about the fear of the Lord, it’s talking about trust. Reverence for God.
Understanding who he is. And part of that understanding is you know he is merciful. And you
know that his mercy even celebrates against judgment. In fact, I love what the prophet Isaiah
said. I think it’s the 57 chapter. It talks about judgment, and it calls it the strange work of God.
Think about that. Why would judgment be the strange work of God? Because it’s inconsistent
with his character which is one of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And I understand that you
have to have judgment in order to have justice, but God clears the way of judgment so that
everyone has the opportunity to approach his throne of grace.

Some people see God as unmerciful, and they’ve been conditioned to fear God. And then
finally, some people leave for that far country because they see God as an uncaring Father.
They come to this conclusion: God wasn’t there when I needed him the most. So, off they went
and they never went back. Their attitude is something like this. Listen. If he didn’t care about
me when I needed him the most, then I don’t care about him.

Whatever it is that caused some people to go to a distant land, a far country, they will
eventually find themselves in a place like the prodigal son did where they are in desperate need
of help. And then they will hopefully come to this conclusion and that is what we said at the
outset of the message this morning. Self can’t help self. What they really need and the teaching
that they really need is that even though we might at times in our lives turn our backs on God
and walk away from him, we need an understanding that he is a loving, merciful, gracious and
caring Father. That’s what the Bible tells us that God is like.

Things changed for this lost son. Not when he made a determined commitment to help himself.
Not when he just said listen. I’m going to turn things around. I’m going to make things right. I
read this story of a pastor. Someone in his congregation, a parent told him. They said our son
went off to Colorado State University and he got there and apparently he was majoring in
partying as soon as he got to the university. He joined a fraternity, and for the first three
semesters, it was just party, party, party. That’s all he did. His grades began to plummet and he
was a young man who came from a ministry probably a lot like ours. He grew up in the faith.
But once he got to that college scene, my gosh it just kind of overwhelmed him.

And finally, he just couldn’t take it anymore. His soul was so deeply troubled. He realized he
had gone to a far country, a distant land. So, in the fraternity one night, he just wanted to reach
out to people who would understand what he was going through and would perhaps give him
so wise counsel. So, he called his parents. He couldn’t get away from all the partying, so he
went into the bathroom and he looks there and finds a big stack of pornography and all of us
friends and he just turned away from it and called his parents. And he just poured his heart out
and he said my gosh, I have blown it. My grades are in the tank. My walk with Christ is just
ruined. I have strayed so far from him. I don’t know what to do?

His parents, they said just three words to him. And they didn’t say turn things around. They
didn’t say that. They didn’t say make it right. Or get some help. They didn’t even say these
words, “we love you.” They didn’t even say we forgive you. Listen to what they said. Just come
home. Just come home.

When we find ourselves going to a far country, a distant land, and don’t even know why we’re
doing it; that’s what God would whisper to you and I. Just come home. Because that’s what we
need. Because as we come home, guess what we discover? God is not an unreasonable Father.
In fact, think about it. God actually invites us to reason with him.

That’s what he said to the nation of Israel when they as a nation were drifting away from him into a far country. A whole
nation was experiencing what the prodigal was experiencing. And what did God say to them in
Isaiah 1:18. He said come now my people. Let us reason together. Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be as wool. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow.
God wants us to come together with him to reason with him.

That’s what the Bible tells us. It’s almost like God says let’s talk about it. Tell me what’s troubling your soul. Tell me what your misconceptions are about me and I’ll help you straighten them out. Cause I want you to know
that nobody cares as much about you as I do. Nobody will ever love you as much as I do.
Nobody has prepared the best possible life for you like I have. Let’s reason. I’ll give you wisdom
from above. It looks like things are in turmoil in your life right now. It looks like you don’t know
what to do or where to turn. But just like the parents said to their son, just come home. That’s
all.

He's not unreasonable and he’s not an unpleasing Father. In fact, think about what God says
about you and I. Just meditate on this thought, Ps. 103:14. Listen to what God says about you
and I. It says he remembers our frame and realizes that we are but dust. That is – when I read
that, I think to myself, thank you Lord. And don’t call me John anymore. Just call me dusty cuz
that’s what I’m like. You know that.

It’s almost like God says I know what I created you out of. The dust of the earth. I know what
you’re capable of. I know how difficult it is for you in a world that’s filled with temptation and
all kinds of distractions to keep your focus on me and to keep your heart and mind stayed upon
me. I understand. I know where you’re coming from. I’m only asking that you trust me. I’m only
asking that you learn of me. That’s it. Just trust me. You don’t always have to live in triumph.
Just learn to trust me. Because that’s all God cares about.

Heb. 11:6 says what? Without faith it’s impossible to please him. We think, oh God has all these
demands, all these rules, all these regulations. Why don’t we make it as simple as we possible
can. God says just learn to walk by faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please him. That’s all
he asks for. Just to say Lord – and sometimes this is what we say – Lord I believe but would you
help my unbelief? You know what his answer is? He never says, unbelief? What? Get rid of that
and I’ll help you. Straighten up and I’ll help you. Get your act together and I’ll help you. No, God
says unbelief, I understand it. My own disciples had unbelief. My own disciples had their
doubts. My own disciples were characterized more often by fear rather than by faith. I
understand. Yes. I’ll help you.

You might say this morning, I don’t even know if I can please God. Listen. If you’ve trusted
Christ as your Savior, that means God has taken you and placed you in his Son. And let me tell
you what he says about his Son. This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And when
you’re in the Son, God is well pleased with you. Because that’s how he sees you. He doesn’t see

you any longer after your weaknesses, your frailties, your failures. He sees you perfect. He sees
you as if you never sinned. And that’s the way he deals with us. And he remembers our frame
and knows that we are dust.
And God certainly is not unmerciful. In fact, what does the Bible say about God’s mercies. They
endure forever. They endure forever. The prophet Jeremiah when he was lamenting his nation
and their rejection of God and their turning away from God so faithfully and so consistently, he
came to this conclusion. That it was because of God’s mercies that they were not ultimately
consumed.

Every single one of us has the same testimony here this morning. None of us have a right to
stand up and say let me tell you how I endured by faith for the last decade, two or fifty years or
sixty. We’d all stand up and say it’s because of the Lord’s mercies I haven’t been consumed. It’s
because his grace is greater than my sin. That’s why I’m still here. That’s why I’m still moving on
by faith. We take no credit. We give all the glory to God and who he is an what he’s done for us.
He’s not an unmerciful Father.

In fact, Ephesians 4:2 says this: But God who is rich in mercy. You think about that. He is rich in
mercy. I am not rich financially. If you came to me and said, P. Love, could I borrow some
money. I might say – I hope nobody does it after the service! But I might say yes, but how much
because you need to know I’m not rich. But if you had a very generous rich person that you
knew that was just very, very wealthy, you might ask him and you might be blown away by
what he could give you.

But when it comes to God, when it comes to God’s riches, when it comes especially to the
riches of his mercy, oh he is infinitely rich wherewith his great love where he has loved us. The
Bible even speaks of the multitude of God’s mercies.

When Paul was pleading with those at the church of Rome to present their bodies a living
sacrifice, he pleaded with them to do that on the basis of God’s mercies, plural. Some of us
have said from time to time, I don’t think that I could write out another check for mercy
because I think I reached the bottom of the barrel. I have news for you. That barrel has no
bottom. It is as infinite as God himself is.

It’s like coming to God’s throne of grace and looking for grace to help in the time of need. You’ll
never be disappointed. You’ll never be turned away. You’ll never hear God say, hey. The last
time you were hear for grace, I gave it to you. But remember I drew a line in the sand and you
crossed that line and there’s no more grace for you. You will never hear him say that. He will
tell you this. My throne is a throne of grace and I don’t want you to come timidly. I don’t want
you to come with a sense of being shy. I don’t want you to come like a beggar. I want you to come boldly to the throne of grace and find everything you need at the time you need it the
most.

And what about an uncaring God? No, he is not uncaring. He came into this world to become
like one of us because he cared. That’s what the Incarnation was all about. He’s not willing that
any should perish which is why he took the thorns and that crown that they placed upon him to
mock him as the king of the Jews. The Bible says that he cared enough for us that while we
were sinning in Romans 5:8, Christ died for us. You can’t even imagine Christ dying for you when
we stop sinning. That would mean Christ would never die for you because we could never stop
sinning. But why we were sinning, Christ died for us.

It was Peter. Peter in the boat when he cried out in the Gospels and the storm came and Christ
was in the boat. And it was Peter of all people. He cries out and what did he say? He said, Lord,
don’t you care that we perish? It would be the same Peter who would later write his first epistle
in 1 Peter 5:7 and would say these words: “cast all your cares upon him because he cares for
you.” Peter learned like we’ve learned how much God cares. He cares. He cares so much.
I just want to close this morning with this story. I read it and it touched my heart.

A pastor friend was telling someone else about a 16-year old girl in his church who got pregnant. She
was the daughter of a local businessman, a very successful businessman and a church leader.
She and her boyfriend went to this pastor because they were scared. Didn’t know what to do.
The pastor asked her, have you told your father? She shook her head no. She said she was
afraid of what he would do.

As time went by, she and her boyfriend continued to meet with the pastor but she refused to
tell her father. She knew she was beginning to show and she couldn’t keep it a secret much
longer, so she went to meet with the pastor one last time and told the pastor her plan. She and
her boyfriend were going to run away together. She asked the minister if he would tell her
father the story after they were far enough away. The pastor friend pleaded with her to tell her
dad but she was too scared. He insisted. Let’s go together. I’ll go with you right now and we’ll
tell him. I’ll be by your side.

Before she had a chance to disagree, the minister ushered her out the door. They drove straight
to her dad’s office. His assistant said, you can’t see him right now. He’s on the phone. My friend
told her, I’m sorry. This can’t wait and they went right into his office with his daughter. They sat
down across from the father’s desk. The father looked up, saw his daughter in tears and the
pastor with her, and immediately said to someone on the phone, I’ll call you back.

As soon as he hung up the phone, the girl started sobbing. She kept trying to speak but the
words wouldn’t come out. Finally, the pastor said, your daughter, she has something to tell you.
The father turned his gaze to his daughter who wouldn’t look at him. He breathed out with emotion and said, I hope you’re not here to tell me you’re pregnant. The girl sobbed even
harder choking out, daddy, I didn’t mean to.

My friend was a bit startled when the father suddenly sprang up from his desk, came around it,
stood in front of his daughter. His voice bristling. He said, you stand up. You stand up here and
look me in the eye. She didn’t move. He said it again. I said, stand up. My friend, pastor in the
room, was already on his feet unsure of what was going to happen yet. The girl stood up slowly
tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked at her father. Her father placed his hands on her
shoulders, looked her square in her eyes, spread out his arms and embraced his baby girl. The
story is told that the pastor was standing close enough that he heard the father whisper into
her ear. It will be okay now honey.

I love you no matter what. We’ll get through this together.
Sometimes, we expect God in his justice to be angry with us. But what does he end up doing?
Giving us the love and the grace and the mercy that we don’t deserve. And I just think of that
college student, what his parents said to him.

Those three words: Just come home. Sometimes
in our lives when we find ourselves living somewhere or living a way that we know we shouldn’t
be living, the best words we can hear God whisper to our hearts might be these words: Just
come home where you belong with your Father. He loves you. He has everything you need and
he has the best plans for your future. Amen. Let’s pray. (Prayer)

 

Please enjoy these sermon notes from the messages preached at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. These notes are provided to aid in your study and understanding of the Word. Note that these notes do not represent complete, word-for-word transcriptions. Also, they may contain omissions as well as some errors in spelling and structure, etc., as we attempt to provide them as soon as possible. Our hope is that these notes serve as a way to help you search and connect with messages on related subjects and passages. Thank you for your interest in the ministry of Greater Grace.