Monday, February 13, 2017

Running From God - Prodigal Son

When I was a kid I decided to run away from home. I have no memory of why, only that after I filled a grocery sack with clothes and started for the front door, I never made it out of the house.

We’ve probably all felt the urge to run away at one time or another. I feel it every tax season.

A mother went to wake her son for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on his door, he said, "I'm not going!" "Why not?" "I'll give you two good reasons. One, they don't like me. Two, I don't like them." His mother replied, "I'll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you're 47 years old. Two, you're the pastor!" 

Sometimes running away means leaving, other times it means staying but withdrawing from everyone else. Sometimes we act on it, most times we don’t. Some even try to run away from God.

Running from God can be a momentary thought, a passive/aggressive withdrawal or a full-blown, turn our backs and walk away rejection.

Why might someone run from God?
1.                    Disappointed – God failed me – prayers
2.                    Interfering – God wanted something for me I didn’t want for myself – Moses
3.                   Demanding – God expected something from me I was unwilling to give or give up
4.                   Hurt – God took something away that meant more to me than He did – loss

All of these are about loss. An expectation lost, a desire lost, a sense of privilege lost, a loved one lost. With loss comes grief. Grief is the price you pay for loving.

Paul said when we experience loss we aren’t to grieve as those who have no hope.
·                           Hopeless grieving
·                           Hopeful grieving
One takes us to our hope, the other away from our hope.
In one we run toward God. In the other we turn away from Him.

Most of the time we look at running from our side of the equation—how we feel, what happened to us, what are our justifications for running or even thinking about running.

In this series, called Running From God, we’re going to look at God’s side.

Luke 15:11f – We call it the Prodigal Son story.

In this story, you heard that the son chose to leave the father. No reason given. But by what the son did once he left, we can understanding his motives: he squandered his estate with loose living.

Loose living – unrestrained – without boundaries

I want to be in charge of my own life. I want no restrictions or restraints. I want to be free to do as I please. Greatest cry of rebellion. It’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it.

What did the father do?
1.                              He let him go.
2.                              He let him struggle.
a.      Why would a good father let his child struggle? Sounds unloving.
b.      Help him!
c.       Help and enabling are separated by doing what’s best.
                                                              i.      Help is providing what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need – empowering someone to succeed.
                                                           ii.      Enabling is help intends to resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or make the problem worse.
                                                         iii.      Genuine help deals with the problem.
                                                          iv.      Enabling help deals with the symptoms of the problem.
d.      No one changes until they reach the turning point.
Question: Is struggling a good thing or a bad thing?
If the best thing for us is to live in fellowship with God, anything that gets us to return to that fellowship is a good thing.

3.                             He welcomed him home.
4.                             He restored him back within the family.

Though this is called the Prodigal Son story, it should be called the Father of the Prodigal Son’s story.
The father, represents God in what the story is really about. Like God, he was willing for his son to get swallowed up in his own misery so he might wake up and return home.

The resolution started when the son came to himself. He reached the end of his running away and decided to go home. That was the father’s hope.

In all those days the father sat on the porch looking for his son to return, wanting him back, he never wanted him home if the son was still running. Until our heart comes with us, there will always be the desire to run again.

This isn’t a story about family relationships. This is a story about how Grace operates in our lives when we turn away from God.
·                         By Grace God will let us run.
·                         By Grace God will use whatever it takes to get us to return.
·                         Because of Grace, God never stops wanting us back.

And 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. (Luke 15:20)

Fell on his neck and said: don’t you ever embarrass me like that again…

Fear of coming back to God? Look at how the father reacted.

And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' (Luke 15:21)

But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24)

If you’ve ever thought: I’ve messed up forever. God will never take me back after what I did or said. I’ve sinned away any possibility of returning to God. I blew my only chance…

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. (Isa 49:14-16)

First Turning Point – It’s my fault. Owning up to the fact all of this is because of a choice I made. Can’t blame anyone else.

Second turning point is facing reality. I hate where I am - I’m going home – I was better off there.

Third turning point: receive Grace. Be restored to the Father.

Wherever we are, however near or how far we’ve run, there’s always a turning point that takes us back to God.

God is the God of second, third, fourth…chances. I’m probably over a hundred by now.

I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, (Isa 65:2)

For us to be able to return, we reach out to the hands reaching out for us. Here’s the promise: even in our rebellion, He’s there urging us way back into fellowship with Him.

1.                          We cannot run far enough nor fast enough to run away from God.
2.                          Wherever we are, there He is.
3.                         His intention is for us to accept the way back to fellowship with Him.
4.                         His love for us is stronger than our willingness to stay away.

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