Original Series Name: The Fellowship of Grace (original name)
New Series Name: The Prodigal God
He Came to Himself
A story about the meltdown of community and its restoration. Family is the most basic human community.
To ask for your inheritance when your father is still alive is to wish him dead.
The Importance of Repentance
'Came to his senses' is a Semitic idiom that refers to repentance
If you want the power and love of God to explode into your life, the fuse is repentance.
You notice how often Jesus says 'repent and believe the Gospel'
'If you don't repent, I don't have anything to give you.'
Martin Luther's 1st of 95 theses: 'Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.'
'All of life is repentance.'
Lord Byron: 'The weak alone repent'
What the world thinks about repentance: it's a sign of weakness, it's an experience of disempowerment, it's an aberration - you hope it hardly or never happens
Luther says the opposite. Repentance is a sign of strength. Do you realize how full of joy you have to be, how loved you have to feel, how strong spiritually and emotionally you need to be in order to repent at the drop of a hat when you do something wrong?
--Yes, I do because I so seldom have that strength!
The inability to repent is a sign of weakness.
Who do you agree with? Luther and the Bible or Byron and the world?
Repentance brings liberation. Finally free from pretense and evasion. Free from the need to always win every argument, from the need to defend yourself, from the need to expose others, to show other people 'you're not so great'.
A repentance person is vulnerable and happy to do it. 'Yes, I was wrong. Let's make it right.' Quick to repent. Joyful in repentance. It's liberation. I don't have to control what everybody thinks.
In fairness, there really are two kinds of repentance.
2 Cor 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. But worldly sorrow brings death.
The Anatomy of Repentace
what did the young man in the parable do right?
1. came to his senses
biggest problem sins are ones you don't see. you're in denial. the human heart runs on denial the way my car runs on gas. coming to your senses happens to you. wrongdoing sets up strains that lead to breakdown. when we come to our sense because of pain, we can repent.
anyone who sees themselves clearly knows we don't always see ourselves clearly. they come circumstantially, not at our command.
what did the younger brother do right?
realized that first he sinned against God
Psalm 51: against you only have i sinned
whatever sin you've done, primarily you've sinned against the goodness and greatness of God.
what wakes us up to what is wrong with us? pain.
and what is wrong with us is a form of self-centeredness.
when the pain comes, it is possible for 'repentance' to be not a change from self-centeredness but a deeper kind. it is possible for 'repentance' to be self-absorbed
story of manipulative husband. he was really upset -- for himself
beautiful Charnock quote: 'i have offended a god who has the deportment of a friend'
How could I treat God so badly given all that He has done for me? How can I break His heart?
'i have sinned against you. i am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
no blame-shifting. takes responsibility.
The Key to Repentance
what didn't he do?
make me like one of your hired men.
NB: this is an illustation of God's love. not all of it applies to our human relationships. eg, if we were the younger son, we should try to make things right, try to pay back. restitution is appropriate in human relationships.
but, in this story, the son's approach to repentance, if it's ours with God, is totally wrong.
religion v. Gospel
religion: 'if i have a good record, then God will bless me'
in religion, repentance is a disaster. it's weak. it separates you from your source of power.
it's a form of atoning for sin. self-flagellation. loathing. bent way of trying to get good record back. 'surely only a good person would think he's so bad, right?'
the father is watching for his son
does not allow working way back in or abjectness
God's love empowers the repentance, makes first part of son's speech easier
in the Gospel, repentance connects you more deeply to your source of joy and power. it's Jesus' record, not ours.
amazing that Jesus told this story, when that was not how Jesus was received by God on the Cross
you're so hopeless, Jesus had to die for you. it's humbling and keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves, sins of pride.
other times, i feel like i'm not valuable, but the Gospel affirms us: Jesus loved us and valued us and died for us and that affirms us. fights sins of self-hatred.
The Kind of Community that Results From Repentance
1. if 'coming to our senses' doesn't necessarily happen on command, if we sometimes need to be brought to our senses, then what kind of community do we need to be in?
Odysseus had himself lashed to the mast.
too many of us are simply church consumers. we don't join. we don't take a vow that members (elders, officers, pastors, friends) who see us going crazy can confront us. and if not, then you don't understand repentance yet. a Gospel Christian understands that sometimes you're going to be out of your head and need to be brought to your senses. sometimes we say 'tie me to the mast and wait 'til I go sane'
you say 'i've been in a church where authority was abused'
well, there are quack doctors, but you don't swear off anti-biotics.
in a repentant community, any person trying to help you will be gentle and not give up on you
don't you want to be in a community like that? truth and love? no abuse, but no neglect of people who are have lost their senses, either.