Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sermon--8-27-06--I'll Take You Back

I’ll Take You Back—1 John 3:11-16

I want to share with you a familiar story that Jesus once told but with the rules of this world guiding things instead of the heart of God. as a result, the same basic story has a very different ending.

A son goes up to his father and tells him, “Dad, I can’t wait to get away from you and all your self-righteous rules. Just the sight of you makes my stomach turn. In fact, I don’t want to wait for you to die to inherit your fortune, so why don’t you go a head and give me what’s mine right now, so I can go on my way and be rid of you forever.”

Hurt, angry and confused, the father gives his son some money. After the son has moved off, the father begins to hear stories of his boy’s wild living—throwing away his hard earned money. With each story and each day, the father’s anger grows. The father expects that some day soon, that ungrateful boy is going to come crawling back to him and when he does, he’s going to get more than just an earful, more than just a whipping.

“I’ll finally get a chance to teach that boy some respect.” The father is so looking forward to this day of teaching his son a lesson or two that he begins to watch to road for his return.

One day, when the son finally comes home, broken and seeking forgiveness, calling out—“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 men.” Instead, the father rejects his pitiful pleas and immediately calls the police, has him arrested for trespassing and convinces the judge that he needs to serve 10 years with a cellmate named Bubba.

What makes the parable of the “Prodigal Son” so popular and so powerful is that it describes the love that we all HOPE gets shown us. It shows love that is the exception, the extraordinary, and the wonderful. It is so contrary to the way that most of us think and act.

Most of us have had conversations like the one between the father and son with somebody—an ex-friend, a family member when the feelings are the same—“I can’t stand being around you anymore. I can’t wait to get away from you, just the sight of you makes me sick.” How many divorces end this way? How many friendships end when you’re hurt, angry and confused?

Years can go by and one day, you see them, bump into each other in some unexpected place, or they come and find you to say, “I’m sorry.” All those feelings and memories can come back in an instant. How do you respond in that moment? If we were to live and operate by the basic principles of this world, we’ll react with “Get outta my face!” or “You treat me like dirt, say a little ‘I’m Sorry’, and you expect me to act like nothing has happened?”

The general rule of the world is—if you inflict pain on my or wrong me in some way, I’ll never forgive you for it. I will hold on to it forever and I’ll look for a way to get back at you for it. Don’t ever expect me to trust you again.

John calls for us to not carry that kind of attitude with us in life. It is exactly the kind of attitude that motivated Cain all the way back in Genesis—but before we go there, look at 1 John 3:12

1. Resentment Motivated Cain—Genesis 4:1-12 & 1 John 3:12-16
a. Can had made an offering that would have been fine, but his heart was not in it. He was going through the motions. God saw through the motions and did not look on his offering favorably like He did Cain’s brother, Abel. Cain felt rejected by God—and was angry at God, but instead took it out on Abel and blaming him instead of searching his own heart.

b. It’s like the kid in school that thinks all the teachers are just out to get him, because they’re always getting on to him. This kid assumes the teachers must pass on warnings to each other to watch out for him, always assuming the problem is with them being out to get him, rather than his own bad behavior that goes with him to each class.

c. So Cain resented his brother and wouldn’t consider his own heart, wouldn’t consider mercy, wouldn’t consider letting his life go on with this self-perceived slight. But the problem wasn’t with his brother, but the fact that his own heart and actions were evil—

d. Cain’s anger and hatred moved him to murder which is why they are the same in God’s eyes—vs. 15—“anyone who hates his brother is a murderer”.

e. It’s also why Jesus linked the anger and murder in Matthew 5:21-22—“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder” and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Not a different kind of judgment, but the same judgment. The root of murder is anger, and anger is murderous in principle.

f. Can you look at your life and see similar feelings of resentment and anger towards someone? Are there those that have wronged you, that you don’t want to be in your life anymore, that you wouldn’t take back, who’s apology you would never accept?

g. You need to know that those feelings will affect you and hurt you more in the long run than any actions done in the past.

h. What about the flip side? Have you ever been on the other side of that fence? A time when you wronged someone and they wouldn’t accept your apology, told you they never wanted to see or speak to you again.

i. Don’t get me wrong—forgiveness is not easy—it’s not really natural either. Holding on to a memory of pain and hurt is a good survival tactic—it helps you avoid being hurt in the future. But I want you to consider that the only way we are able to forgive is because we have been forgiven. True forgiveness is a gift from God. We have been forgiven so we are then free to forgive. Colossians 3:13—“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

j. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways—but what if they were?

2. What if God Shared the World’s Attitude?
a. If God had the same attitude—you and I would be in real trouble. We would be on the outside of heaven, longing to be let in. if God wouldn’t have anything to do with us ever again, if God wouldn’t speak to us, listen to our prayers, or become unwilling to love us, then we would have no hope for living or going on.

b. We need to remember that God has reason to treat us this way—He has just cause—He has been hurt—by us—by you and me. We have all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

c. We reject and resent Him every day. You and I wag our finger in his face and call on Him to stop judging us, giving us guilt, or to stop trying to spoil our fun with all Your rules.

d. If God treated us like we treat those who hurt us, we should expect no mercy. If God treated us like we treat our enemies—we should expect rejection. And we are His enemies when we have no relationship with Jesus.

e. Colossians 1:21—“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Alienation implies that there once was relationship but that it has been broken.

f. We are born as sinners, essentially God’s enemies and we prove it every day when we sin. We are held captive as slaves to Satan before we belong to God.

g. We think and act like we know it all. We can’t wait to do it all on our own. Humanity has become so arrogant that many believe we don’t need God anymore, that we have advanced and figured everything out so much that so humanity has proclaimed that “God is dead”—as if He were merely our invention for us to raise and kill at our whim.

h. We’re afraid that God will treat us like we sometimes treat others—“Get away from me, I don’t love you anymore” We fight at every step, we resist His guidance and will, we prefer our pain and separation to His Embrace and Healing.

i. We even have the nerve to claim that we know what love is based on how we treat each other, based what we see around us and how we act. And yet any quick glance at the magazine racks or the TV can tell you our society is totally confused as to what love really is.

j. But the truth is, apart from God and His faithful love for us, we don’t really know what love is. And God didn’t just tell us about it—He demonstrated it for us. Vs. 16—“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”

k. God is the one who knows something about love. Love is His nature and He created us in order to love us and so we would freely love Him in return. Despite our hostility toward Him, the pain and sorrow we cause Him, through it all—God takes you and me back over and over again.

l. You may be afraid, you’ve messed up too often, for too long or too recently, but God will take you back. Because Love Forgives.

m. The real Father of the Prodigal Son shows the heart of God—you can see it in Luke 15:11-32. The father took his son back, despite all he had done, all the pain he had caused. The father didn’t take his son back as the son suggested, a slave, a hired-workman, or a second class child—as one who would always hold his error in his face. Instead, the father celebrated the son’s return and took him back as the heir he had always been. Even in the pigsty, the prodigal never ceased being the son, never ceased to be an heir—he just wasn’t living in reality.

n. God doesn’t treat us as we deserve, but gives us His grace—His love that we don’t deserve.

o. Romans 5:6-11—“ You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

p. Wherever you are, wherever you have been, whatever you have done, God will take you back when you turn to Him, when you come to your senses and seek His forgiveness that is freely given in Jesus Christ. And He will come running to meet you because
He’s been looking forward to your return and expectantly waiting for you all this time. He is calling your name right now. He wants to hear you say—“Father, I have sinned against You and I’m sorry. Please forgive me and come into my life and help me to fulfill what you created me for—to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.”

After this message, I sang "Take You Back" by Jeremy Camp


Bryan Riley said...

Praise the Lord for His grace and forgiveness. Thank you for sharing that message. It seems we struggle at every level with walking by sight versus walking by faith, with walking according to our experience versus walking believing His promises and obeying his commands.

Johnathan Martin said...

The truth is, many people have ears and can hear the Word of God, but only those who walk in the name of the one and only Jesus Christ are bringing the WORD to LIFE. I think sometimes people get caught up the idea that if I go to church and do my best, god will accept me for who I am and who I choose to be. I think that if we screw up it's nice to know God takes us back into his arms, but we must be able to eventually LIVE the way Jesus TAUGHT us to live. a look at psalm 119 :105 gives us hope and allows us the choice of trust, but we must still reflect on the first chapter of the Gospel of John in order to call ourselves Christians. It is a great message that has been given each of the last 5 sundays I have attended.
In response to Brian Riley, I agree, but I think that walking according to experience and sight is what god eventually wants us to do. Not just obeying his commands but getting to a point where we experience HIM and we see HIM. The light shines in the darkness and we have no reason to feel disarayed when we walk in light of him.