Prodigals and Finding God

progidal sonOver the next few weeks we are going to be moving into a new series looking at the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. This is a story that is very well known in general. But what is often true is that the most familiar stories are sometimes the least well known. Meaning that some of the most familiar stories are so familiar that they have lost their initial impact, shock, and experience.

This is what I hope to explore over the next few weeks. Because this story is shocking in what it reveals.

  • It shows a God willing to divide up his life for people to make the wrong choices.
  • It shows a God willing to accept and offer forgiveness before it’s asked for.
  • It shows how we can break the rules, and obey all the rules and still miss God.
  • It shows how our own righteousness and obedience to the law can distance ourselves from God just as much as running away.
  • And most of all, it shows a radical picture of God that differs from the unchanging, cold, distant entity in heaven; instead it shows a God radically open, relational, and filled with reckless love.

So that is where we are going for the next few weeks; looking each week at one of the characters in the story and how our lives might line up with theirs. But before we do that, why not spend sometime and slowly read and digest this story. Listen to it as if for the first time and discover not only who God is, but also who we are.

Luke 15: 11- 32.

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Chasing Stars to Jesus

On Sunday we looked at an odd story of Magi, stargazing, and finding Jesus. What we saw in Matthew 2 is a beautiful story of sacrifice, searching, and stargazing. We see Magi who have been diligently searching the Scriptures because they knew of the prophecy about the birth of the Messiah. We see them willing to sacrifice and travel over 700 miles to Jerusalem to welcome and worship the new king. We see them suffer through heartbreak and difficulty as they finally reach their destination to discover there is no king in Jerusalem. And worse than that, it seems like Israel as a nation isn’t even looking. Doubt and dejection becomes a temptation. But they press on, they keep following the star, wondering and hoping that it will lead them to the one they have set out months and months ago to find. And finally after miles and miles of travel, after cold nights, endless sacrifices, threats, and rough journeys they arrive to find Jesus. They find him. And I think this is a beautiful story about how to find Jesus.

I love this story because amidst all the heartbreak, set-backs, and sacrifices they get to meet with God. Even though at times they were looking for Jesus in the wrong places, and maybe not in the right way, God still guides them to him. What matters to Jesus is the heart that is searching for him and these magi have a heart that demonstrates sacrifice, perseverance, and audacious hope. I love this because this story reminds me to never give up searching for Jesus.

Maybe you know what it is like to search for God and feel disappointed. Maybe you know what it is like to give up and leave behind your context to find this King,only to become confused and unsure. Maybe you know what it is to search but still haven’t found Jesus.

Well, I think this story teaches us something profound: don’t give up. Keep going. Keep believing. Even if doubt tempts you to give up, hold onto hope that Jesus could be over the next hill. Because the magi hold onto to hope in face of difficult circumstances, and eventually they go over the next hill and discover Jesus. And so what I want to leave with you today is this…Jesus could be just over the hill…so if you are searching, don’t give up

Because the God that you’re searching for…is searching for you too…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Your heart matters most in finding God

Take Aways…

  • What matters most in a gift is the motive and meaning behind it
  • What matters most to God isn’t looking for him in the right way, or the right place. What matters is the heart that is looking for him
  • Is your heart ready and willing to follow, sacrifice, and celebrate to find Jesus
  • Don’t ever, don’t ever, don’t ever give up searching for Jesus.
  • Focus on getting your heart right and never give up looking for the God who wants to be found

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you in the sermon? What was new? What was different? When have you been given a gift with a “great motive”? What was the best gift you’ve ever received? Think about your motives. Are you searching for God? Are you willing to sacrifice for him? How might you sacrifice to find him this Christmas?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take time to talk with your kids about what matters in giving and receiving. Tell them that the heart behind it is what matters most. Talk to them about Jesus and how that’s what matters most with him too.

Challenge for this Week

Examine your heart your searching for Jesus with, and ask what you might need to sacrifice to find Jesus…