Most people have a deadly disease and do not realize it. This is the disease that prevents them from seeing God for who He is. This is the disease that prevents them from seeing Jesus as their True Elder Brother. Before we reveal this disease lets read again from the Parable of the Prodigal Son:
The father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing… he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him….and he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ “Luke 15:22-32(ESV)
The Father told his oldest son, “We must celebrate!” It hardly seemed the appropriate thing to do considering the waste and debauchery of the younger brother’s life. But the Father said “We MUST!” In order to understand the Father’s declaration and see the Disease that keeps us from celebrating, we must see some things from this parable.
1. Man is in Exile
The truth is that we are all in exile on this earth. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, man has not been welcome on this planet. We are seperated from our Creator Godby a Wall of Fire. We were expelled from the home God designed for us. We were expelled because of our willful rebellion, our sin against the Father.
2. There is NO WAY to Go Home.
There is no way to get back. Our pitiful estate is described in Romans 3:10-18.
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Our Creator God longs for RELATIONSHIP. He longs for those whom He created to come back to Him, to come home.
So here is what our Father did: Romans 3:23-28 (NLT):
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
I want you to notice something about our Father. Our Father is always Looking Ahead so He Can Work in the NOW!
It’s like the movie “Back to the Future” where Marty McFly had to go back in time to change the future. Well God is all about the NOW because He is LOOKING to the FUTURE. He is looking to get us HOME! And so He wants us to enjoy the NOW!
GOD COVERS OUR PAST SO WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE AND REJOICE IN THE NOW!
3. The Parable of the Two Lost Sons is about Coming Home.
This is why the Father sent our True Elder Brother to this world, and at the cost of His blood and body, He paid the price to redeem us from our slavery to this hostile world and it’s devilish owner. He satisfied the Holy and Righteous demands of the Father, and so the Father opened His arms to us, and He is calling us Home.
Home is the place we long for at the end of a hard day.. Home is a refuge from the troubles of the world. Home is a place we can relax, walk around in ratty old sweats, scratch and not worry about saying excuse me when we belch or whatever. Young men who go forth to serve for our country can’t wait to come home. Home is for fellowship, relationship. Home is always in the present, but it also shadows the future.
God calls us home in the present time, God reaches for us in the present time, God places us at the Banquet Table in the presetn time, but His heart is on our future together!
The Younger Son came to his senses, and the Father wants each of us to find our “God-Sense”!
4. COMING TO OUR GOD-SENSE WILL LEAD US HOME
The younger son thought he was doing the right thing when he got his inheritance and went to a far country. We don’t know how long the partying lasted, but the father was far from the younger brothers thoughts. He was doing things his own way, having fun and living large. Only when he was at the end of his rope, stinking with the fetor of pig slop did he come to his senses. His “Father sense” kicked in.
Preachers know that it is best to reach people’s hearts when they are young, when they are more open to God. It is best to build Biblical truth into a young heart. We know all too well that this world has a much stronger attraction to exploring hearts. If there is no solid Biblical truth guiding a young heart, often our young people go off to college and for years never again go to church, study the Bible. They are off doing their own thing. Suddenly, something happens. Perhaps their marriage takes a turn for the worse, a child becomes seriously ill or has problems at school, a close friend becomes stricken with a deadly illness, tragedy strikes in the form of an auto accident, a job loss, a natural disaster.
Something happens to cause the wandering son to come to his senses, to look up and see the Father! We start to head home, we seek to know this Heavenly Father, we seek for meaning in our life.
I was in a small Christmas Play in College at Seminole Baptist Church. It was about a college student coming home. He had just been to his first semester of Bible College, and had come home all pumped up and wanting to witness to his family. Almost immediately his brother and sister started in on him, criticising him, mocking him. Then his mom joined in, followed by the condemnation of his father when he got home from work. At one point they were surrounding this young believer and while not stoning him, were hurling verbal insults and abuses at him. He is on his knees on the floor, hands over his ears, and as they continue to make fun of his belief in Jesus, suddenly a bright light shines, and the Lord Jesus Christ appears, calling his children to join Him in the air. The young man starts singing as he is raptured to be with His Lord:
I’ll tell the world, that I’m a christian,
I’m not ashamed, His name to bear;
I’ll tell the world, that I’m a christian,
I’ll take Him with me everywhere.
I’ll tell the world, how Jesus saved me,
and how He gave me a life brand new;
And I know that if you trust Him,
that all He gave me, He’ll give to you.
I’ll tell the world, that He’s my Saviour,
No other one, could love me so;
My life, my all is His forever,
and where He leads me I will go.
For when He comes, and life is over,
For those who love Him there’s more to be;
Eyes have never seen the wonders,
That He’s preparing, for you and me
Oh, tell the world, that you’re a christian,
Be not ashamed, His name to bear;
Oh tell the world, that you’re a christian,
And take Him with you everywhere.
The homecoming that I was looking forward to, to telling my family about Jeus, turned into a nightmare, with my family continuing to reject me. But then Jesus appeared, and the most wonderful homecoming happened. It will be so wonderful to go home! We can not even begin to imagine the celebration that will take place! God wants us to have a taste of that celebration here on earth. He wants us to feast and celebrate here!
The Elder Brother, the Younger Brother, any Brother, any Sister needs to discover their God-Sense, and see what the Father has done for us. We need to come home. We need to come to the Father. We need to come and enjoy the feast He has prepared for us.
What is your God-Sense today? You may think you are safe and comfortable, just like the Elder Brother. But he had to see that he had no God-Sense, no Father-Sense. He was exiled from the Father’s love. He did not go into the Feast.
With God, our Home Coming is not a future event, it is not a one time event, it is meant to be an on-going event! It is meant to be a LIFE DEFINING EVENT!
This morning we all need to go home. We all need to go in and enjoy the FEAST!
5. A Deadly Disease Keeps Us from the Feast: It is called Stiff-Neckitis
The Elder Brother suffered from a deadly disease. It is a disease that some of you may suffer from. It has been called many things through the years, but the Bible simply calls it sklērotrachēlos (sklay-rot-rakh’-ay-los).
In Acts 7:51 it is translated “stiff-necked.” It is a disease that results in a slow death, sometimes 40 years after diagnosis. (The Jews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until they had died)
You may be thinking of the stiff-neck that you wake up with sometimes. Or perhaps you have had a child with a sore stiff neck and they suspected meningitis. But the stiff-neck mentioned in theBible is much more deadly. And the Elder Brother had the disease.
Stephen was stoned because he called the Jews “stiff-necked”. He told them they do always resist the Holy Spirit. Much of what he was preaching to them about was about their fathers in the wilderness. They too were called stiff-necked.
This disease prevents people from feasting, from going home, from escaping exile. People with stiff-neck disease are people who resist God.
Stiff Necks Refuse the Feast
Perhaps you remember the Terminator movies, when Arnold returned as a good robot. These other bad robots were after the kid or the mom. But what I remember most was that it was almost impossible to stop the robot. One was like mercury, just kept bending and changing shape. No matter how many times Arnold shot him or beat him or crashed him, he just kept on coming.
That is a picture of a stiff-neck to God. No matter how Good God is, no matter what God sends their way to wake them up to Him, they refuse to come to God! Be it kindness or trials, they refuse to honor God!
The Jews in the wilderness were so stiff-necked, that no matter what God did for them-manna, quail, water from a rock, victory over Amalekites, victory over giants Kings, or no matter what he did to them, snakes, the eart swallowing them up, killing those who worshipped the golden calf, they refused to humble themselves to Him as God. They kept complaining, kept longing for Egypt. They rebelled and resisted Moses.
Are you stiff-necked this morning? Not the kind that comes from sleeping wrong. The kind that the Elder Brother had. He was stiff-necked in his heart.
He had a problem, in that he lived in the flesh. He only believed what he saw. He saw a brother who was selfish, sinful, wasteful, doing all sorts of evil and dirty things. He saw his brother as one of those filthy stinky pigs.
Even though he came home, and got all cleaned up in the robe and new shoes, he was still filthy and dirty to the brother. That is all he could see.
The Father could see something else. He could see the son’s heart. He could see repentance, he could see brokenness. But more than that, he could see the future.
God is not a God of the Past. O sure, He wants us to know what He has done, but more than anything, He wants us to know who HE IS and WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO!
6. God is the GREAT I AM. God is God of the Living.
Too many of us define ourselves by the past. How we goofed up, how we sinned, how we succeeded. We define our marriage by the past. Too often we let the past influence the present, and then it works to rob us of the future.
The Past was Nailed to the Cross.
God forgives the past, and looks to the future. He is all about tomorrow. He is all about NOW!
7. God Uses Feasting to Teach Us That He is ALL ABOUT THE NOW!
God wants us to remember that He is God of the Living, and God of the Future.
How does He do that? He does it through FEASTING!
The Jews have several important Observances that involve feasting and celebrating. They are prescribed by God’s Word. We Christians have only one Important Feast prescribed by the Scriptures!
8. WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN’S FEAST? – The Lord’s Supper!
Most of us think that communion should be a somber time. We should be reflective, confessing our sins, wondering if we are partaking worthily. That is a complete misunderstanding of what communion is all about. NONE of us is WORTHY! We are there ONLY because of what our True Elder Brother has done, because the Father sent Him! We are to rejoice because of Him. We are to rejoice because of the Father! Communion should be a time of Praise! Psa;m 97 and 98 should be read at all Communion services. We should shout and sing and clap our hands because NONE of us is worthy to be at the feast! But the Father invites us in! The Father loves us. The Father forgives us becasue of what our True Elder Brother has done! Don’t fret about the past! Don’t fret about the future! Live in the NOW with the Father! Let Him take charge of the future!
9. What Keeps us from Enjoying the Feast?
Our Stiff-Necks! We need to Remove the things which make our neck stiff:
- Lack of Forgiveness
- Lack of Love
The worst cause of stiff-neckitis is a CRITICAL SPIRIT!
That is really why the elder brother refused to go in! He was so critical of his father and the younger brother. A Critical Spirit is looking at the past. A person is usually critical because of their own past. God offers to wipe the past away through the blood of His Son. He offers us acceptance, love, beauty, forgiveness. Our Father is never critical, His arms are always open to his returning children!
10. WE MUST CELEBRATE!
The Feast is our Testimony of the Father’s GRACE. It is Proof of His Love and Greatness. It is Proof of His Wealth.
COMMUNION IS the way we bear TESTIMONY to our FATHER AND IS ALWAYS SHOWN BY THE FAMILY, (the CONGREGATION)
- Psalms 119:59 (ESV) When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
- Psalms 119:79 (ESV) Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
- Psalms 119:111 (ESV) Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
- Psalms 119:146 (ESV) I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
- Psalms 119:88 (ESV) In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Failure to celebrate denies the TESTIMONY OF THE FATHER
Testimony and Congregation are almost identical in the Hebrew language:
עֵדָה, ‘ēdâ—congregation “company assembled together” for a certain purpose, similar to the Greek words synagōgē and ekklēsia, from which our words “synagogue” and “church” are derived. In ordinary usage, ‘ēdâ refers to a “group of people.” It occurs 149 times in the Old Testament, most frequently in the Book of Numbers.—
עֵדָה – ‘ēdāh: A feminine noun meaning a testimony, a witness. Derived from a word that denotes permanence, this term refers to the act of testifying to a fact or an event. For example, by accepting Abraham’s gift of ewe lambs, Abimelech acknowledged the truth of Abraham’s statement about the ownership of the well at Beersheba (Gen. 21:30). Likewise, a heap of stones became a witness to the boundary agreement reached between Jacob and Laban (Gen. 31:52). Within the context of a covenant renewal ceremony, Joshua placed a single large stone to function as a witness of the covenant established between the Lord and His people (Josh. 24:27).
Are you ready to Celebrate?
Let’s Give our necks and our hearts a once over. Close your eyes, relax your neck, now roll your head to the left three times.. Now roll it to the right three times. Ah, the stiffness is gone. Now we can go in and CELEBRATE!