Today on Renewing Your Mind, the parable of the lost son. There was one lost sheep on that hill far away, far off from the streets of God.
And that one who strays from the fellowship of the church is sought by the Lord until He is found and brought on. This is about compassion. This is about the love of Christ for His people. Jesus told a series of parables that expressed His care and concern for the lost, people who needed to be found, to be loved, to be forgiven.
Today on Renewing Your Mind, R.C. Sproul returns to his sermon series from the Gospel of Luke. And as we begin our study of chapter 15, we'll learn that Jesus seeks and saves His own. We're going to continue our study of the gospel according to St. Luke this morning. We're beginning a new chapter, chapter 15, but instead of starting at verse 1, I'm going to start at verse 11 and read through verse 32, which is Luke's record of the parable of the prodigal son. Now I have not forgotten that there are two shorter parables that Jesus gives before the parable of the prodigal son, and I will then therefore incorporate those prefatory parables in the sermon this morning.
But for our purposes now, we'll be looking beginning at verse 11 through verse 32, and I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. Then he said, A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And so he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, but no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and despair, and I perish with hunger? I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
Make me like one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring out the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet, and bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.
For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found, and they began to be merry. And now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.
But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore, his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years I have been serving you, I never transgressed your commandment at any time, and yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends.
But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him. And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should be merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again.
He was lost and is found. What a magnificent story this is. No wonder it is one of the two more popular of the parables of Jesus, along with the parable of the good Samaritan. Because in this story, we read our story and of the blessed grace of God. This is His Word, His truth that carries His authority.
Please embrace it as such and be seated. Let us pray. Again, our Father, we call upon You, and once again we ask for Your help.
We've heard Your truth. We've listened to Your Word, but we have built a shield around our souls, lest that Word would pierce it. And so we ask now that by Your Spirit, You would cut through that shield that Your Word may find a resting place in our souls. For we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. The context of this parable that follows the two shorter ones had to do once again with a confrontation that Jesus had with the Pharisees and the scribes. At the beginning of chapter 15, we read that all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus in order to hear Him. But the Pharisees and the scribes complained about this, and they said, This man received sinners, and he eats with them. And that's the reason Jesus gives these three parables in chapter 15, because He had just heard this criticism that He had associated with tax collectors and with sinners, not only associating them with them, but actually sharing meals with them. This made the scribes and the Pharisees aghast, because it violated every principle that they held precious, where they practiced a kind of spiritual apartheid in which they actually believed that salvation came through segregation in which they actually believed that salvation came through segregation by keeping oneself a perfect distance from anyone who was tainted with evil of any kind. And they saw Jesus spending time with the sinners and with the tax collectors.
He hung out with them, as it were, not because He wanted to be like them. Jesus went to these sinners because He was driven by compassion. This was His mission. He said on another occasion, I came to seek and to save the lost.
Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but these people need Me. And so, that's where He spent His time. Now, in responding to this vigorous criticism that came to Him from the scribes and the Pharisees, He told two brief parables before the larger one that we've just read. The first was the parable of the lost sheep.
Listen to it briefly. He said this parable to them, saying, What man, if you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls his neighbors together and says to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. And I say to you, likewise, there'll be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. It's a simple story, taken from the common activity of the land that was filled with sheep and with shepherds. How many times do the Scriptures liken God and ultimately Christ to the Shepherd of our souls?
So He said, This is a simple thing. He said, Which one of you, if you owned a hundred sheep and one of your sheep wandered away and was lost, wouldn't leave the ninety-nine that were safe in the sheepfold and go out and pursue through the darkness or through the heat of the day, searching everywhere for that one one sheep that was lost? You would keep looking. It wouldn't be a casual search. You wouldn't just spend five minutes looking about the landscape to see if you see this little sheep scurrying here and there. No, you'd keep looking and looking and looking until you found it. Unless you're a harling, unless you were simply being paid to take care of somebody else's sheep, then if you lost one, you may think, Well, what's one out of a hundred?
It's only one percent. The sheep owner will probably never even notice that this one was gone. But if you're a good shepherd, you can count, and you know your sheep, and your sheep know your voice.
So that if one strays and gets lost in the wilderness, you're on a holy pursuit until you find him. And when you find him, you don't take your shepherd's crook and beat him over the head with it. You don't scold the sheep. The sheep's probably bleeding, frightened to death, being separated from the flock and the shepherd. And when you find that sheep trembling, you stoop over, and you reach down, and you pick up that lamb, and you put him around your neck and hold his feet, and you bring him out.
And when you bring him home, you can't wait to tell your friends. You say, I found him. You know the sheep that wandered away? I lost him. But I went out, and I looked, and I looked, and I searched, and I searched, and I searched until finally I found him.
And here he is. Come, rejoice with me. And Jesus says that not only do his neighbors rejoice with him, but he says in like manner, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who don't need repentance. Now there's a dispute about who the ninety-nine just persons represent. Do they represent righteous people in the world who have no need of the gospel, who have no need of the tender mercies and compassion of the Good Shepherd?
I don't think so, because in that case you couldn't find ninety-nine of those in the whole world. So this could only refer to those who have been justified, those who have come safely home to the Savior and now reside in his church, as it were. But every congregation has those who stray. Some stray because they never were converted in the first place.
As John said, those who went out from us were never really among us. But even when we believe, as we do, in the perseverance of the saints because the Lord preserves those who are his, we acknowledge that even the truly converted person may fall into serious and deep sin and stray from the kingdom of God and from Christ, as some of us have done. But when that happens, the hound of heaven will not stay home. The song and the hymn of the church is not, leave them alone and they'll come home, wagging their tails behind them. No, the church sings there are ninety-nine who safely lay in the shelter of the fold. But there was one lost sheep on that hill far away, far off from the streets of God. And that one who strays from the fellowship of the church, from the means of grace, and from the community of Jesus is sought by the Lord until he is found and brought on. This is about compassion.
This is about the love of Christ for his people. He says that in like manner, it's like this woman who also suffers a loss. What woman, he says, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it. Now, the first little parable, it's only one percent of the sheepfold that is lost, and only one percent of that valuable collection had disappeared.
Now, it's ten percent. This poor woman only has ten silver coins. One silver coin was the equivalent of a day's wages of a laborer in the ancient world. So in the parable, Jesus is describing a woman who is virtually destitute. She has ten coins to her name.
That's it. She doesn't have an IRA or an annuity or a highly salaried position. Her life saving amounts to the wages of ten days labor. And if you lose ten percent of that, you have lost something exceedingly valuable. And so this woman's first reaction is panic. Can't find the coin.
The whole day's work. Ten percent of her net worth gone. She lives in a small house with a dirt floor, crude furniture. She turns the furniture upside down. She grabs a broom. She goes to the dirt floor. She sweeps this corner and that corner. She then lights a lamp and holds it close, looking at every nook and cranny in her house with the hope that she'll see that little glitter of silver. Not like my wife when she loses an earring. It's not going to change her lifestyle. It still requires me to turn a heaven and earth upside down to find that one earring.
You guys are laughing. You're married to the same kind of woman. I understand that. We don't like to lose anything that we consider valuable. But the reason why the shepherd went looking for the sheep and the reason why this woman took the trouble to search for this coin was because the shepherd cared for his sheep. And this woman valued this coin. And so she diligently searches after it. And we read in verse 9, and when she has found it, she doesn't just get down on her knees and thank God.
She runs out her front door and she goes to her next door neighbor and the neighbor next to her and says, Come on, we're having a party. I found that money that I lost. It was there all along.
Nobody stole it. And so rejoice with me, for I have found the peace that I lost. Jesus said, Likewise, I say to you, there's joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
What's the point? Jesus is saying to these religious leaders, What's wrong with you? You complain when I seek the lost while every angel in heaven is rejoicing. No wonder He called them the children of the devil, because every time Christ finds one who is lost and brings it to Himself, the angels rejoice, and the devil complains. And we all know that sheep are valuable. We all know that money is valuable, but it's just stuff.
But sheep and silver cannot compare with the value of a human being. And so these many parables were simply prefatory, a warm-up for the big one, which He begins in verse 11. And don't panic about the hour, because I have no intention whatsoever of finishing this parable. I have no intention whatsoever of finishing this parable this morning. I'm not going to do a whole chapter in Luke in one day.
No way. So we're just going to begin our study of the prodigal son. So now Jesus comes to the larger story. And He said, A certain man had two sons.
Now it's not one out of a hundred or one out of ten, but it's one out of two. And the younger of them said to His father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And so He divided to them His livelihood.
You hear what's happening here in the ancient world, just as is the case today. Inheritances were passed down to children and grandchildren following the death of the owner of the estate. On rare occasions, though, of course, the wealthy owner could give a trust fund to his children or give them certain gifts in advance, but it was exceedingly rare that anybody would give the entire inheritance to a child before he died. That would mean liquidating all of his assets in order to distribute them among his heirs.
It would usually, in such cases, involve a potential long-term loss of the real value of the estate, but that didn't bother this son. He said, Father, I want my inheritance, and I want it now. I don't want to have to wait until you die. I may be too old to enjoy it. I want to enjoy my portion of your legacy now. Let me pause for a second. What we have here, folks, is a case of a young man who did not believe in delayed gratification. He wanted it, and he wanted it now so he could spend it now.
Remember a few weeks ago I told you of R.C. Sproul Jr.'s law of hermeneutics, that if you find something in the Bible, if you see someone who's acting stupidly, that's you. That's me. When we read this story, we want to identify with the father or with the good brother until he gets mean, and we certainly don't want to identify ourselves with this profligate young man who is flagrant in wasting his father's inheritance. We don't want to identify with this young boy who doesn't want to defer or delay gratification. We're not at all like him. We're not at all like him when we have interest payments on our credit cards, when we spend money that we don't have, when we live beyond our means and actually steal from our creditors by delaying our payment to them.
There's an old adage that fast pay makes for good friends. I've been working over the past couple of months with a contractor on a job, and each portion of the job he finishes he wants paid that day, even though 10 times at least he fails to show up on the days that he says he's going to be there. Nevertheless, I paid him the day he asked for, until the last time. I said, you keep saying you're going to do something, you don't do it. You keep saying you're going to be here, you don't come.
But when you do come, you want paid right now. And he said, well, I'm sorry. He says, it's been raining and we're delayed. I said, really? I get news for you. He said, what?
I said, it's been raining on my bank account and on my checkbook, and you're not getting another dime until you get over here and do what you said you're going to do. But we do this, don't we? Credit card debt, ladies and gentlemen, is an epidemic in America. It's crippling to people. But credit card debt comes when we're comes when we live beyond our means, when we become prodigal and profligate, just like this man in the story. That's bad stewardship. It's not how God wants His people to live.
But in any case, never mind for the moment the application, it'll haunt you later. But in this case, the young man says, give me the portion of good that falls to me. An incredible part of this story is that the father agrees to it. The father allows his son to go with his inheritance. So a few days later, the younger son gathered everything together and journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
Let me just stop there for a second. The first thing this young man does after he receives his early inheritance and gathers it together is that he leaves the house. He leaves the confines of his family. He leaves the restraints of his parents. And he doesn't just go to the next town where somebody might know him. He goes to a far country where he's anonymous.
He goes into the darkness where no one can see him, so he can do the things that he always wanted to do without restraint. Every year, I see the news accounts of spring break at Fort Lauderdale and here in Daytona. And you see the news showing the unbridled debauchery of these college kids, far from school, far from home. And you know that the TV cameras can only show so much and get away with it on their broadcasts, and so they leave to your imagination all the rest that is going on in this endless partying syndrome. And you see these kids having a great time. And every time I see it, I think, I wonder if there are parents of watching this on television. I wonder if their parents know what they're financing on spring break. Oh, I'm sure there are some parents that do know and say, go ahead, have a great time, do whatever you want.
But you wonder how many parents who care about their kids have any idea what they're doing when they go into a far country. This young man went to a far country where nobody knew him so he could have the mother of all parties. And he was like a sailor on shore leave with a pocket full of money. No restraints. And certainly, finances were not a restraint.
Finances were not a restraint. But there we are told in this far country he wasted his possessions with prodigal living. A prodigal is somebody who is involved in radical waste, lavish waste. He's wasting his money, his father's money.
He's wasting his time, but far worse, beloved, he's wasting his life. And we learn later on in the parable that he consumed his wealth in riotous living and in harlotry and lost it all until he became penniless and had to live with the pigs. Everybody in this room has known someone that you love and care about who's gone off the deep end into this kind of lifestyle. And you see them in misery, in shame, and often in jail.
And you still see them with hardened hearts. And you wonder what's it going to take to get them to the end of themselves, till they hit bottom and realize the enormity of this waste. Is there anything more tragic, beloved, than a wasted life?
It's one thing to waste a paycheck. But to waste a life is the tragedy of all tragedy. But Jesus is telling this story because He cares about people like that.
The Pharisees could care less about a young man wasting his fortune and living with the pigs. But the Lord of glory cared about this young man. I hope you have found that to be good news today. God has promised to forgive and cleanse if we confess our sin. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Lord's Day and another sermon from The Gospel of Luke by R.C.
Sproul. When you contact us today with a donation of any amount, we will provide you with a digital download of R.C. 's commentary on this gospel.
It's nearly 600 pages, and every passage is covered with R.C. 's easy-to-understand insight. To request it, just give your gift online at renewingyourmind.org. Last year, Ligetier Ministries had the privilege of reaching millions of people with trusted Bible teaching, and we're being presented with new opportunities to expand this outreach to serve more people in more places and in more languages. I had the privilege of spending many hours here in the studio with Dr. Sproul, and I know that he would be telling us that this is no time to pause or to slow down, so we are grateful for your financial support. I hope you have a great week, and please make plans to join us again next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind.
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