By Larry Liu
18 Dec 2011 Sunday
Worship song: Amazing Grace
|Verse 1||Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now I'm found was blind but now I see
|Chorus||My chains are gone,
I've been set free,
My God, my Savior,
Has ransomed me
And like a flood,
His mercy reigns,
|Verse 2||T'was grace that taught
my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved
How precious did
that grace appear the hour I first believed
|Verse 3||The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
|Verse 4||The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:11-24
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Good morning. I am so happy to see you. I am so glad you are here. Today I am going to talk about God’s amazing grace. We are going to look at the parable of the lost son. In some translation it’s called the parable of the prodigal son. Right? This parable was told by Jesus. Jesus is giving us a picture of what our God the Father in heaven is like.
I believe many of you have heard or read this parable before. I believe there are a lot of things we can learn from this parable. I hope today’s message can give you a fresh look. For some of you, you are probably quite new to church. For some of you this may be your first time coming to church. My prayer is that, by the end of this service, you will experience God’s amazing grace and unending love. You will understand His forgiveness.
Please join me in a short prayer.
Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak about your glory, your love and your amazing grace. Lord, please help me to speak about this subject clearly. I ask you to open our eyes, help me to deliver your message. I want to lift up the rest of our time into your hands. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
Let’s get started. If you have a Bible with you, please turn to Luke 15. Let me read the first two verses.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
In this story, there is a father with two sons, one elder son and one younger son. The younger son came to the father and asked for his inheritance. The father divided that between both sons. I want to give you some background information to help you understand. You know, in Jewish culture, a father only gives his assets to his son when he is dead. However, the younger son went to his father and asked for the inheritance. That’s not common. It’s like your child come to you and ask,
”I love your wealth more than I love you. I want my inheritance now. I wish you are dead so that I can get my inheritance.”
The Father’s First Shame:
Can you image your child come to you and say that? That just breaks our heart. Don’t you think so? That’s really disrespectful to the father. His father can reject it, refuse it. If the father accepts his request, at that time, in Jewish culture, all the wealth was held in land. There is no bank account. His father cannot write a cheque or give him a credit card. His father had to sell the land. That’s really a shameful thing. Think about what people in that community would say,
“What happened to his family? What happened to his son?”
You know what, the father accepted his request and allowed him to make his own choice and go on his way. The father knew that pushing his son or asking his son to stay would not help. That would only push his son further away. He couldn’t get his son’s heart.
The Waste and Famine:
(Let’s) carry on the story. In verse 13:
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
Let me tell you a little bit more about the Jewish culture. Accepting inheritance means accepting responsibility to carry on providing for the family. The son is not looking for responsibility but money. He wanted to choose an easy road. The younger son got everything he could get and he left his father, his brother and the community. He went to a distant country. He could buy whatever he wanted to buy and live a life the way he wanted it to be. In the story, he wasted everything he had. After he spent everything, there was a bad famine in the country and he began to be in need. When I read here, I felt really sad, not because he spent all the money but because the choice he made. He just broke his father’s heart, left his father and made his own choice. Sometimes we are just like the younger son. We want to make our own choices. We don’t want to listen, we want to control. We walk away from our Heavenly Father. We think that’s the best choice.
Verse 15 says this:
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
You know, in the Jewish culture (back to the culture again), they think pigs were unclean animal. Jewish people do not even want to touch pigs. For Jewish people, a person to feed the pig and eat the food pigs have just touched, that’s just humiliating. No one gave him anything. Look at the story. All his friends left him. He spent all the money. He was hungry, homeless and had nowhere to go.
Decision to Come Back:
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
This younger son wanted to go back home. He knew that his father’s hired men, they had more than enough food. He was starving to death. He knew he needed to go back to his father. Some believers say, this son repented and came home. But think about it. Did he really care that he broke his father’s heart? Did he really care? Why did he want to become his father’s hired man? I believe he was not going home for his father. He was going home because of food. He also prepared a little speech, what he wanted to say to save some face and get some food for him.
The Father’s Second Shame:
Verse 20, So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
So the son went home and his father saw him while he was still a long way off. He ran to him. What does that tell you? From hundreds of meters away, his father saw him and ran to him. It tells this father is always waiting and watching for his son to come back.
When I ask you how old do you think this father is? Some people may say (he is in his) forties, fifties or sixties, we don’t know. But we know one thing in Jewish culture. For Jewish culture, if (we let) an old man run that is called humiliation. In the story it says, his father saw him and was filled with what? Compassion! Notice that his father was not filled with anger. You know the same way, no matter what you have done, you can be far away, but our Heavenly Father is waiting for you to come back. He is looking for you. His love is constant, patient and welcoming. He is searching for us, giving us opportunity to respond. He will not force us to come to Him and love Him. He loves us while we were still sinners and we rebelled against Him. Sometimes we come to God not directly for Him. We have a motivation; maybe the motivation is not pure. We want something to eat, or to be blessed financially, or to be healed. God understands our feelings. He welcomes us. No matter what we have done. He is waiting and watching for you to come home. That’s our Father.
You know in the story, the father ran to his son, he is not like walking or jogging. You know in the Hebrew, I mean in Greek the “ran” is “trekh’-o”, which means to run his son in a race, hundred meter race, to run really fast, to his son. He threw his arm around his son’s neck and kissed him over, over, over again, mua, mua, mua! Do you have an earthly father like that? I believe even the best earthly father cannot do that.
You know, have you thought of asking, why did the father run? What motivated him? You know he has to shame himself, and I told you that in Jewish culture, an old man is not supposed to run, that’s considered shameful and humiliating, and you know in that time the Jewish people got the long robe when they ran he had lift up their robe and ran. This is another humiliation. Why his father ran, Have you ever thought about it? Why and what motivated him to shame himself? Fristly, I believe the father was really really happy. His heart was filled with joy: my son is back, my son is back! And I believe… think about the son, what he feels that moment? You know, his son were likely to be filled with fear and shame when he came close to his home -- the people in that community or maybe hired man would disrespect him or look down on him, wanting to reject him. However the father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son. He wanted to show their community that his son was welcomed back, so his son would not experience the same shame and humiliation of the rejection. What an amazing grace! Can you see that? You know the father ran to his son very fast, threw his arm and kissed him over and over again. This happened even before the son could tell his father, “I have sinned against heaven, against you.” Before that, did you know that you have a Heavenly Father like that, you have a Heavenly Father. He is waiting for you to come back. When the moment you want to return, he runs to you, wants to throw his arm around you and kiss you, not just to walk to you.
The Father’s Love:
Verse 21 to 24:
The son said to his father, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
This son has prepared a little speech when he came back and he had been practicing all the way: father, I have sinned against heaven, and against you, and no longer worthy to be called your son; and your lost son had absolutely dishonored his father. In Jewish law, a rebellious son can be stoned to death or his father can disown him. His father didn’t say to his servants: “Bring my sticks, I am getting a beat him, this is a rebellious son!” He didn’t say like some parents would to the children, “you are so stupid, I told you why didn’t you listen, you ruin everything”. Instead, his father welcomed him, gave him ring, got him honor, some shoes, had a feast, and celebrated for him. What a great picture. This son did not ask for this thing, did he? The father just gave it to him, treated him like a hero. It is hard to understand. You may say: he doesn’t deserve this, no, he doesn’t deserve this. But you know what? That is called grace. Grace is something someone give you that you didn’t earn it or deserved it. I need to elaborate this. I want to show someone grace today.
“What’s your name?”
“Yu’na? OK. I have a gift for you, this is an mp3 with Bible audio on it. I hope you can listen to it all the time.”
You may say: why did you pick her? What did she do? I don’t know. Maybe just she sat on the front row. This is going to happen, next week you will see that is a very hot seat, or nobody wants to sit there. You know that’s the grace, someone give you something, you don’t deserve it or you don’t earn it. That’s called the grace.
Performance – based Society and Religions:
I feel living in this society many things are performance – based, performance - based love. Think about it, when we were young in school, during school, for students who could get good scores in exams, they were called what? Good students. The parents will love them, the teacher will love them, by the way, I was not one of them. You know if you obey your parents, they will be happy. We grew up, we go to a company to start to work. Our boss or manager loves the one who can bring the most profits to the company, and who can get job done well. They could love them and think of them highly. You know everything is so performance - based. After I became a Christian, I thought if I could do good things, I think God will think of me highly or love me more. If I have done something wrong, I am very ashamed to come to God, I am afraid to come to God. And I think God probably is not going to love me. But that’s a lie, that’s not true. Some of you, you have become Christians for many many years. Are you also in that category? Like the elder son, you still think God’s acceptance or His love is based on your performance? If we think in that way, you know, we will have little joy in our Christian life. Phillip Yancey, a Christian author, says, “Grace means that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. Grace means that there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. It is not dependant on our performance, but His own.”
Sometimes, people think God is like a policeman always looking for faults. If we have done something wrong, He is going to punish us. You see the story, our God is merciful. He is a loving Father. Amen. Our God is a loving Father, He is merciful.
There is another group of people, they think by doing good works, they will go to heaven. If you ask someone, “Do you think you will go to heaven?” They might say, “Why not? Because I am a good person. I am always doing good things.” What is wrong with that for a good person doing good works? In a worldview, that seems to be someone noble. And they can tell God, “God, look, the things I have done, I have done this, I have done that. I earned a way. I can go to heaven.” Let me tell you this, that is not noble, that is arrogant! They want to put all the focus on them, they want to get the glory.
Grace – giving Father:
Do you know all the wisdom, resource, dream and strength, that is for God? And you want to get the glory; you think that is something you have done to earn it? If we think that we have to do good works, we can go to heaven, we have little joy, because we will think, “Am I good enough? Am I good enough to go to heaven? Am I good enough?!” The gospel tells us that we can go to heaven not because of us, but because of God, what God has done for us. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us on a cross, paid our sin, we can trust Him, ask Him to be our Saviour, to save us to live for Him, and He will give us this for free. Salvation does not come by work, but by the grace of God! Let me repeat this, “Salvation does not come by work, but by the grace of God!” Can you read out loud with me?
“Salvation does not come by work, but by the grace of God!”
A famous pastor, Tim Keller, puts it this way,
“Religion says, ‘I give God a record of righteousness, and God owes me a blessing.’ But the gospel says, ‘God through Jesus Christ has given me a perfect record of righteousness, which I receive by faith, and now, I live for Him.’”
The Bible tells us, “All have sinned, all human being has sinned.” We are all like the lost son, we all fall short the glory of God. And sin separates us from God.
Understand God’s Grace More:
Let me read the rest of the story, verse 25 – 32:
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.
So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.
'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'
Many people are familiar with what happened to the younger son, but there is also important truth we can learn from the elder son. The elder son is being self- righteous. It is clearly contrasted. The father is giving grace and mercy, but the elder son is so angry because he thought the more he served his father, the more he would earn his blessing. But we see what the father has is already his, he does not have to earn it. We live in this society, in which we think everything is performance – based, we have to earn it. You know, God rescues us, and with this gift, His own Son Jesus Christ, He showed us His amazing grace.
Exaltation of Grace:
We know that Christmas is coming, the whole world celebrates Christmas. Christmas is not just for having a good time, or having a discount that we can go shopping, or Christmas is not just for a holiday. The true meaning of Christmas is that we celebrate Jesus’ arrival, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrate the eternal hope we can get. Jesus is the Saviour for all nations. Every single person in the world, Jesus paid it all (for their sin). You know that men do not seek God, God seeks men, and God’s grace found us. It is all about His grace. I believe that you are here not of accidence or coincidence, God is waiting for you to come back home. It is all about His grace. We can know Him not because we are so good, or better than some one, that is because of His grace! We can live, that is because of His grace. It is all about grace! Can you tell your neighbour, “It is all about His GRACE!”
It is all about His grace! He loves you, He wants to give you grace by you believing in Jesus Christ, His Son, you can have eternal life and enter into heaven. Some one might say, “Wait a minute, you mean, everything I have done in the past, everything, he is going to forgive it all? Erase it all? And I do not need to pay? I can go to heaven?”
Yes, by believing Him, trusting Him, asking Him to be your Saviour, to save you. By repenting, asking Him to be your Lord, you can go to heaven, you can have an eternal life. Salvation is a free gift, but it is not cheap, Jesus paid it all. By believing Him, asking Him to be your Saviour, you can have eternal life.
Some of you know that my wife and I are expecting a baby. In 10 weeks’ time, we are going to see our baby. Holding my baby, I always think, it is so fast. But my wife always thinks, why is it so slow? We just love the baby, (who is) so precious. We speak to the baby, we pray for the baby, we read for the baby, we sing for the baby, (who is) so precious! I cannot imagine someone might hurt my baby. When I think of God sending His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die for sinners, people to be against Him, I just cannot understand. That does not make sense. That is beyond our law, imagination or logic. But God loves us, He loves us, no matter what you have done, Jesus paid it all.
Call for Believing and Reflection:
I want to ask you to close your eyes, to reflect on this parable, to think about God’s love. I cannot imagine, I send our baby away, not only sending away, He died for someone, someone who is against me. When I think about that, it just makes me cry. Think about how great that love is, God loves us more than we can think or know. We have a Father in heaven like that. Every time he surprises us with His grace, He truly is a loving and merciful Father beyond our imagination, beyond logic. He loves us because it is who God is, not because who we are. He wants to give us His grace, we have to accept it. For some people in this room, you may think, “Nobody loves me! Nobody loves me in this world, how can I find love?” You have to know that God loves you so much that He can accept you no matter what you have done, no matter what poor choices you have made. You can come to our heavenly Father empty - handed, you do not need to earn it. God loves you, and wants nothing more than you to come home. Jesus has paid it all. This morning, you can ask Jesus to be your Saviour, ask Him to give you grace, to be your Lord, your friend.
For some of you, you have become a Christian for many years, you think God loves you because of your performance or your efforts or what you have done, you can come back to God, ask God, “Thank you for your amazing grace, not based on my performance.”
If you accepted Jesus, you can pray with me,
“Jesus, I want to come home. Thank you for dying up on the cross and rising again to save me. I was lost and I want to be found. Forgive me now of all my sin. Come, be my Saviour, my Lord, my friend. Change my life, make it new, and help me, Lord, to live for you. Thank you Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Transcribed by Chuck, Esther and Franz, with grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
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