Prodigals: The Father

The hardest part for us about living in Illinois is being so far away from our families. I have a very big and very close extended family. My cousins were over our house all the time and we got together often. When my brother Peter got married two years ago in the middle of nowhere Canada, about an 8 hour drive from the border, three of my uncles game and brought their families.

Last week I saw one uncle, my uncle Dave, who I haven't seen in over four years. He'd never met Noah. I don't even know if he'd met Molly. So it was a happy reunion. When it was time to leave - he came up to me in front of my whole family, gave me a big bear hug and prayed for me out loud right there in front of everyone.

I thought - wow, that was over-the-top. That was extravagant. But I also knew it was heartfelt and sincere.

Do you remember the definition we gave this morning for "prodigal?"

spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

Remember - prodigal means "spending extravagantly." It's a word about spending.

In a sense - what my uncle David did was prodigal. It was extravagant. It was over the top.

Look at the Father in this story. Can I tell you something? What the Father does in this story is "over the top." It's "over the top" in a good way - but it's still "over the top." In a sense, the father in this story is a prodigal too. He is spending extravagantly too.

I want you to do something tonight with me that I think will help you to understand: lets take the father's actions out of this parable and you put them into real life. Let's imagine that the father in this story is your neighbor.

So, your neighbors son comes to him and demands his inheritance now. He says "I want what is coming to me and I don't want to wait until you are dead. Give it to me now so I can move as far away from you as possible."

What would you expect your neighbor to do? I don't know. But I wouldn't expect him to mortgage his house and liquidate his stocks. But that is what the father in this story does. Isn't that a bit extravagant?

Ok, so the son who does this to your neighbor goes as far away from the neighbor as possible and just absolutely blows through everything. He has nothing left. He takes his part of your neighbors house - that you know your neighbor paid off one month at a time for a lifetime, and he wastes it on partying and drinking.

How would you expect your neighbor to treat his son in that case? I know what I wouldn't expect. I wouldn't expect for the neighbor to love his son and miss his son and talk about his son all the time. You know that guy or lady you know who is always bragging about their kids and their grandkids? You wouldn't expect your neighbor to act like THAT GUY.

But what if he did? What if he talked all the time about when his son was coming home? What would you think? Wouldn't you think he was a little "over the top?" Wouldn't you think that was a bit extravagant?

OK, so let's say that this kid who ran away and wasted your neighbors money comes home. And he comes home broke. He comes home dirty. Maybe he's got tattoos all over his body and long nasty dreadlocks and piercings. But your neighbor - as soon as he sees him runs down your road where everybody can see him and he starts crying and gives his nasty, dirty, smelly son a huge hug and starts kissing his face. In public! Wouldn't you say that is a bit "over the top?"

But then your neighbor really lost it. He gives his son his bedroom back. He forgives him totally. He gives him access to the family bank account and decks him out in nice new clothes.

You'd probably think - if that kid ever came back to me I'd tell him where he can go. But this neighbor - he just keeps loving on this kid.

But then the neighbor does one more thing that just baffles you. He throws a big block party. He invites everyone in the neighborhood. He hires musicians. He buys a lot of food. He spends thousands, just to celebrate his son coming home. Isn't that "extravagant?" Isn't that "prodigal?"

Do you see what I meant when I said that there is more than one prodigal in this story? The son was prodigal - he wasted his father's money. But the father, in the eyes of his neighbors, would have been prodigal too. His actions were "over the top" but in the best way imaginable.

And that is a parable about our God. That's the way our God is to us.

So let me give you four ways that the father in this story was prodigal, and with each one we'll talk about how our God is prodigal too.

The first thing I want you to see is that the father showed:

1. Prodigal Forbearance

When the son in this story demanded his inheritance and disrespected the father - the father would have been within his rights to cut off his son. You can imagine that happening today - some kid goes to his father and calls him names and demands his inheritance now and the father goes to the lawyer the next day and writes his son out of the will. But that's not what the father did here - he gave his son what he was asking for and watched sadly as his son went away. But he never attacked his son or acted vengefully toward his son.

What does that tell you about God?

Do you know there are people in every major city in America that openly hate God. They mock Him every chance they get. They pay for big billboards that say things like "there is no God" and "God is not real." They write books like "the God delusion" and "God is not great."

And do you know what I would do if I were God? I'd wipe em out. I'd smush them like the insignificant little bugs that they are. I'd go after every single person who shakes their fist in God's face and I'd make sure they got exactly what they deserve?

But is that what God does?

No. God makes the sun to shine of the evil and the good. God gives these evil rebellious people plenty of time to repent and turn to Him.

You heard about the shooting in Orlando last night. A muslim opened fire in a gay night club and killed about 50 people. It's the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

How do you think God views that? I think a lot of Christians think that that makes God happy. I don't. I think God looks at that and He will rightfully judge those people but he would rather they had repented and come home.

God gives us so much time doesn't He? He gives us radical, prodigal forbearance.

The second thing we see this father doing is showing:

2. Prodigal Love

In verse 20 it says:

"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"

The word "kissed" there doesn't mean "to kiss once." This father didn't just give the prodigal son a peck on the cheek. The word means "to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly."

It wouldn't do disservice to the Bible to read that "and fell on his neck and kissed him over and over."

Imagine if you saw a dignified grown man run up to a rough looking twenty-five year old in the middle of walmart and give him a great big hug and just start kissing him over and over.

Do you know what that is? It's prodigal love. It's over-the-top love.

When we come to God for salvation we are no less ragged and unlovely as the prodigal son and yet God just loves on us.

A third thing the father showed was:

3. Prodigal Forgiveness

Let me read you this quote I found in a Spurgeon sermon:

 "Master Trapp says that, if we had read that the father had kicked his prodigal son, we should not have been very much astonished. Well, I should have been very greatly astonished, seeing that the father in the parable was to represent God. But still, his son deserved all the rough treatment that some heartless men might have given; and had the story been that of a selfish human father only, it might have been written that "as he was coming near, his father ran at him, and kicked him. There are such fathers in the world, who seem as if they cannot forgive. If he had kicked him, it would have been no more than he had deserved. But no, what is written in the Book stands true for all time, and for every sinner,-"He fell on his neck, and kissed him"; kissed him eagerly, kissed him much."

What the son deserved was a beating. He deserved to be shewed away. But that's not what He go. He got forgiveness and restoration.

When we came to Jesus for salvation - we deserved God's wrath - we got God's mercy.

Let me say that again: We deserved God's wrath - we got God's mercy.

Do you know what I think, I think the father didn't need to hear about all the son had done in the far country - I think he forgave him of all of it from the very first moment. He forgave radically. Prodigally.

Think about this people - what does that say about our God? What does it say about the lost world? God is able to save to the uttermost and He can save the guttermost. I don't care how filthy, how vile, how wicked people are - they aren't outside of the bounds of God's mercy and God's forgiveness and they can be new creatures in Christ.

This goes back to one of our assertions this year: God wants to save people.

When you go to Denny's and you see the guy with the tattered jeans and the vile t-shirt and the tattoos all over him - try to remember that God wants to save that guy and would welcome him into His arms and forgive him freely.

When you go to EIU and you see the two ladies with butch haircuts holding hands, try to remember that God loves those people and desperately wants them to come home to Him and would give them prodigal grace and forgiveness if they do.

So the father showed, prodigal forbearance, love and forgiveness. ONe more thing:

The Father showed:

4. Prodigal Grace

Look at verse 22:

"But 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: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry"

Let me tell you - that's not a small gift. A ring, the best robe, shoes - that was really, really expensive stuff. But killing a fatted calf and making a party - that was really, really expensive. This could have costed thousands.

I remember when my sister got married - I saw the cost for the reception. Yep. Not looking forward to that.

This is over-the-top. It's prodigal. Many would say it's wasteful.

But I think it's grace. Grace means "unmerited favor." It means "getting something you don't deserve."

Let me remind you that God gives us so much that we don't deserve through Jesus Christ. He showers us with Grace.