Pastor John had preached this message from Luke 15 at Grace Chapel almost on a yearly basis. This is one of his favorite chapters of the Bible simply because he feels it is a message that the church needs to hear, the Lords love for us. The message from this chapter is more than one message; it is several messages in one.
The wonderful thing about that is the more you preach it the more it gets into your system. So I love to preach this message.”
This particular sermon from Luke 15 came the day before Martin Luther King Day in 1996 as our country was celebrating the move away from prejudice that has occurred in our history. He thanked God for His guidance away from prejudice and hoped that Grace Chapel would become completely free from prejudice.
There are all kinds of prejudice in the world. The true meaning of prejudice is when we have prejudged/predetermined value and worth systems, where if anyone that doesn’t fit our particular values or idea of what is acceptable we have already prejudged them.
In our country we have a lot of prejudice that has to do with economic status because we are such a nation given to finances, how much someone is worth, certain education levels and even the people that we know. There are all kinds of prejudice that we need to drop according to Pastor John. Most of the time as Jesus said in Luke 7 that when we judge we are judged back again in the same measure that we judged with.
And the problem about any kind of prejudice is that it puts us in a greater bondage than the person we are prejudice against, because then we find ourselves in that kind of a box with God. This is the reason that most people have difficulty accepting God’s love for them. It is because they have formed a value system that excludes themselves from the presence of God and they don’t understand God’s value system.”
In Luke 15 we have three of the most precious and famous of Jesus’ parables. According to Pastor John the few times when we preach these parables do we preach them within the context of why they were given. Most of the time we use these parables an expose of Jesus, but in his message on Luke 15 Pastor John will talk to us about why Jesus gave these parables, as we find by reading the first two verses.
Jesus is that Word; He is that instrument that God the Father gave us so that we could understand God. Therefore, Jesus’ ministry was to communicate to men God’s heart. He did that in two ways, one by action and one by what He says. His communication in these two verses was showing that God himself would love to commune with them, sit down to dinner with the publicans and eat with the sinners.
We need to know on what basis the Father loves us. Jesus gives three parables that declare unto us differences in value systems between God the Father and us. He shows how we have different value systems as men, women and as people. In these three parables the message is clear, it is showing us the basis for God’s love which is based on a different value system than ours.
Jesus loved these Pharisees and scribes. They had put themselves in a box so that they were working hard to merit and earn God’s favor that was being offered to them free. They couldn’t come because they had put themselves into a judgment that if they didn’t keep working they wouldn’t meet up with God the Father.
So we had three judgments, three value systems. The value system of the sinner, the publican and the super religious and none of these values systems have any merit before God. That isn’t the basis of God’s love. So Jesus tells these three parables.”
The first parable is a simple one only four verses long but it is powerful. Its called the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
3And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he layethit on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
The importance of the message here according to Pastor John is that the Lord is showing that the shepherd has their own value system. This man finds the sheep and is so excited about finding his sheep that when he comes back he goes and wakes up his friend who is sound asleep to have a celebration. A shepherd would understand the excitement behind finding one of a hundred sheep because they have a shepherd’s value system. They don’t want to lose a sheep because it has a greater value than its market value. So Jesus says, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
Where there is joy, there is joy in heaven.
They didn’t get this message so Jesus tells them another story geared towards women called The Parable of the Lost Coin.
8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
This woman had 10 coins that were part of her wedding promise and vow. She had lost one so she couldn’t wear it, show it and it appeared like she was careless. So the value of the coin in this situation is worth more than the market value of the coin.
Now to the person who only wanted a 50 cent silver piece could say big deal that you found your coin. But the person that has the relationship value gets all excited about it.”
After telling this story Jesus gives the punch line again only this time the punch line is very interesting according to Pastor John.
10Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
This was so exciting to Pastor John because he always thought it was the angels that rejoiced. But who was actually rejoicing here John asks. The rejoicing is going on in the presence of the angels.
Is that a mind blower or what? God himself is excited because a publican came to Jesus. A sinner came back. Look! The publicans are eating with Him and heaven has to put up with the party. And the angels who have been faithful all of their lives have to watch the Father have this feast because publicans and sinners are sitting with His Son having dinner.”
They still didn’t get this so Jesus told one more parable. This story is probably the most precious to most of us according to Pastor John. It is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
At that time if you were a Jewish person there were four things basically that if you violated these things you were considered an outcast. The first was that you needed to honor your nation, standing up and be a good citizen and honor Israel. Secondly, that you honor your family. Third is to stick with your family and the fourth is that you stay with your family. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus talks about a young man who broke all four of these and broke them bad.
11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
The value system of the father is not based on the performance of the son or how good this son is, but the fact that he is his son and that he is tied to him and has the ability to redeem, save and restore him.
Pastor John wanted us to see the two value systems clashing. The boy who had failed, rejected the family, had no sense of the value of the father, Israel or the nation had walked away, had now learned a terrible lesson by his loss. He comes back completely dejected knowing he is unworthy. He is not even up to asking to come into the main house, but because of his own hunger he is driven to ask to be a servant. So the value system that he has broken will not let him raise his head to appeal to his father any other way than a hired servant. But the value system of the father had him throw his arms around his boy holding him to himself thinking that he must hide the past of his son. He was lost and then was found.
There is no way for God to convince you of His love for you other than for Him to put a robe over you and to put a ring a of authority and belonging on your finger. For Him to put shoes on your feet and invite you to His feast. To have you sit at His table, look at His face and to feel Him holding you is the only thing that will work to pierce through that value system of unworthiness.
That is what all of this moving of the Holy Spirit in these meetings is about. The Father calling a party because you and I came back. Because you and I approaching Him and tell Him we don’t want a high position we just want to be around you a little bit, but God tells us He couldn’t handle that. I can’t just handle you being around me, you must be with me. You must sit at my table and live in my home.”
We then have another value system that comes and sticks its nose right into the equation and that is the value system of the elder son. This was the good boy who did nothing wrong and everything right, but he did it for the wrong motives. He is the typical religious person who didn’t sin because he didn’t want to lose. He would liked to have sinned if he could’ve got away with it. He was scared that God would get him so he was going to be good because God owed him.
25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
This boy was trying to earn his way so much so that he could not participate in a grace party because it would have violate everything that he thought was right and he lived for. He tells his father even with all of the work that I have done you have never gave me a grace party. This son of yours who came has devoured your livelihood with harlots and you killed the fatted calf for him. You are rewarding this man that totally messed up and all the time I lived with you I never received a reward.
The father’s words in the final two verses reveals probably the value system of God more than anything else as compared to our value system. The son didn’t value the presence of the father. That was no big deal to him. He valued the party with his friends more than the relationship, the mentoring, learning, sharing, the love and the living with the father.
I don’t know how it is that the older you get the more value you put on that. The more you understand this is the most valuable thing in the whole world.”
We understand that the older brother who was good didn’t lose the reward and that the things that the younger son wasted were lost, but he could start again. Not on his own. He could start again with the father. He could begin again.
This probably explains the value system of God better than any other parable.”
Pastor John asks why does God love us. God loves you because when He calls himself the Father that is not just a title it is a description. He really is your father. He is more your father than your father.
Pastor John then asked, how long will we let our value systems of worth, legalism or what ever it may be that is not God’s value system keep us back and away in second place? How long will we refuse to come to the party? How long will we stay away from the outpouring of God’s presence and His graciousness to pour his love upon us because we don’t feel worthy?
The fact is we are not worthy, but that has nothing to do with it. God has taken away our guilt by one stroke of history. He put upon Jesus all the penalty of our sin and He opened the gate and doors of heaven that you and I can come unto the Father through Jesus Christ. Through this we would be welcomed and there be joy in heaven.
The God of the universe, my Father is thrilled and excited because I have returned to Him.”
Then what are the barriers? What is the hindrance? The answer is our own value system.
How can Jesus explain it to us and how could we understand it any better then the way a father thinks about a son.
God cannot make you a hired servant in the barn and in the bunkhouse. You have got to face it, you are gonna have to move up to Father’s house.”
This is what the world is made for. It’s not to live there or get used to the culture and stay away from Father. This is what creation was all about. It was that God could bring many sons unto himself and that we would be sons of God.
How great is the love of God that is shed and brought upon us that we should be called the children of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs of Jesus.
Can you say this with me.
I am an heir of God.
I am a son of God.
I have a right to sit at Father’s table.”
We need to speak against this value system that causes us to hold back and refuse the very invitation of heaven because of our own unworthiness and past failures. The thing that we most need is the continued visitation of the almighty God to be brought into relationship, so that we could walk with Him.
Father in Jesus name break this thing down. Break our blindness, break our hearts. Let us see Lord you draped around our necks, closing our mouths with kisses, putting the robe upon us so not even the servants can see where we have been. Bringing us into the house, making us the most honored guest of your feast in Jesus name, amen.”