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When the Lost Are Found

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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February 12, 2023 12:01 am

When the Lost Are Found

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 12, 2023 12:01 am

The parable of the prodigal son marvelously depicts Christ's extraordinary patience and mercy toward those He came to save. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Luke, returning to this parable to reveal why we should rejoice every time a lost soul is found.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind. In His ministry, Jesus called for sinners to repent. In some cases He did so sternly, in other cases more gently, in a way that expressed His care and concern for those who needed to be found. We have been on an expositional tour of Luke's Gospel with R.C. Sproul, and we're in chapter 15 today where Dr. Sproul continues teaching on perhaps the most familiar of Jesus' parables, where we see an extraordinary example of God's love and patience for His lost people. Well, this morning we're going to continue with our study of the Gospel according to Saint Luke. And in our last session of our study, we were in the fifteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel, and I was dealing with the parable of the lost son, or otherwise known as the parable of the prodigal son. And I joined it with the earlier parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and so was only able to get through a portion of the beginning of that parable. So this morning I'm going to read again from Luke 15, beginning with verse 14 and reading through the end of the chapter.

And I'd like the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. 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. And 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 in your sight, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servant, Spring out the best robe, 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. 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, and therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. And 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 that 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 make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again.

He was lost and is found. This parable is one of the most popular parables ever given by our Lord for good reason. It is filled with the poignancy of compassion, of forgiveness, and of love. You recall the context in which it was given was when the Pharisees complained that Jesus was spending time with sinners. And in response to those complaints, our Lord told this parable and two shorter ones to speak of the joy in heaven that occurs when that which is lost is found. This is the teaching of Jesus.

Please receive it as such and be seated. Let us pray. Father, whenever we begin to think about the breadth and the width and the depth of your grace and tender mercy, we are overwhelmed. We are journeying into areas that we cannot fully grasp or understand. And here in this story given by Jesus, we need your help to really understand it, that this Word may pass through our minds, into our hearts, and into our souls, and that you would give us ears to hear what our Savior has said. For we ask it in His name.

Amen. Meanwhile back in the pigsty, I said when we stopped at midpoint of this parable that I would begin the next time with those words. Meanwhile, not back at the ranch, but meanwhile back in the pigpen where we left this prodigal son in his state of great want. Now we understand that there's a principle of hermeneutics, a principle of interpreting the Bible that for the most part parables are to be interpreted because of one central point. And the one point that links together these three parables in chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel is the point of rejoicing that occurs when that which is lost is found. And so probably I should focus my attention this morning principally on that same rejoicing that takes place when the lost son returns home.

But though I will look at that briefly, that will not be my chief consideration. Each one of these parables, the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son, each one of these has a critical turning point within them. Obviously in the parable of the lost sheep after the shepherd had searched far and wide, wide and for a long time looking for that one sheep, that moment comes when in the distance he hears the bleeding of that frightened lamb, and he finds it and tenderly picks it up and puts it on his shoulder and brings it home to the sheepfold. The turning point in the parable of the lost coin was when that woman, frightened at the loss of ten percent of her net worth, swept the house clean until she saw that tiny little glitter of silver.

That made her realize that she found it. Well if there's a turning point in the parable of the prodigal son, I believe it's in these parts. Verse 17, But when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger? I will arise and go to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. Here the crisis moment occurs according to Jesus when it says, He came to himself.

That's a strange way to put it, isn't it? We had just read that he had gone through his inheritance, wasted it in extravagance and lawless living in a far country where he was anonymous. We learned that suddenly he was penniless, and at the same time a severe famine came upon the land, and he began to be in want. He was out of money. He didn't have a job. He didn't have any food. And the only position he could secure was that from a swineherder who had him go into the pig pen to watch after the swine, and even there he was so hungry that he yearned even just to have one bite of the slop that was being fed to the pigs.

Just let me have one of those pods that you come to feed the swine. And then in this state of ruin where he had come to the end of himself and actually hit bottom. And I mentioned that we all are aware of people whose lives go in such a destructive path that it gets worse and worse and worse, and we pray for them and counsel them and try to encourage them, but we sometimes get the sense that nothing is going to change until they hit bottom. Sometimes that bottom is bankruptcy. Sometimes that bottom is prison. Sometimes that bottom is not reached until they lie at the bottom of their graves. But in this case, this prodigal son hit bottom. And when he hit bottom he said, and it's said of him, and he came to himself. Now, my question is, how did he come to himself? And what I'd like to consider this morning is this, that this young man came to himself, but not by himself. He had no resources left to arouse himself from his dogmatic slumber, his torpid state. There was no alarm clock powerful enough to wake him up. He was moribund, already spiritually dead, but now biologically that close to physical death, though strength was left in his bones. And yet he came to.

Now, how do we use that phrase in our English language? Of whom do we say they came to? We're thinking of people who have been knocked unconscious, or people who have slipped into a coma, and they're in that comatose state. They don't speak.

They barely move at all. And then sometimes their eyes will open. They regain consciousness. And we say, they came to. They woke up. Well, this man in the pigpen came to.

He woke up from his almost fatal slumber. He came to himself, but not by himself. I think we're all aware of the man the Encyclopedia Britannica calls America's most brilliant intellectual and philosopher, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and writer, Jonathan Edwards. If you know nothing else of Jonathan Edwards, you know of his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Which sermon he didn't preach at his parish in Northampton, those people would have probably perished from hearing it. But he preached rather at Enfield, Connecticut, where when people heard it for the first time, they were passing out in the pews. So vivid was the imagery Edwards used of God's judgment. Well, that's the sermon for which he's most famous. It was preached in 1841. But seven years earlier, he preached another sermon, which sermon catapulted him into the public eye in New England and throughout the colonies.

That sermon was an exposition of the great confession given by Peter, and that sermon was titled, A Divine and Supernatural Light. And in that magnificent sermon, which I urge you to get a hold of and read in its entirety, Edwards commenting on the confession of Saint Peter at Caesarea Philippi when Jesus said to his disciples, who do men say that I am? And some of them answered by someone, some say you're Elijah, some say you're the prophet, some say you're this, some say you're that.

Jesus said, okay, who do you say that I am? You've been with me. You've heard the things that I've said. You've beheld with your eyes the things that I've done.

What do you think? Who do you say that I am? And you recall Simon's reply, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And do you remember what Jesus said to him? He pronounced a benediction on Simon, and He said to him, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven. Now when Edwards talked about a divine and supernatural light, he distinguished sharply between the divine and the human, between the supernatural and the natural, between those things that we can learn through the exercise of our own intellects as severely hampered by sin as they may be.

Even in our fallen condition, we can still add two and come up with four. We can still work simple syllogisms. And anybody with half a brain watching Jesus during His earthly sojourn should have been able naturally and humanly to recognize who He was. They should have said, we've been doing our detective work, Jesus, we've been studying the Scriptures, we watched what you did at Canaan, we've heard your teachings as profound as they are, and logic has driven us to the conclusion. You must be the Messiah, the Christ. You must be the Son of the living God.

But you know they didn't get there. And Jesus said to Simon, blessed are you because you haven't learned this, you haven't seen this, you haven't understood this by your flesh or blood or by your natural brilliance. But My Father has opened your eyes. He's awakened you. He has given you light that nature does not afford. He has provided illumination that the power of the intellect cannot create. And so, Simon, because of this divine and supernatural light, you're blessed because you see Me for what I am. Nobody ever comes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ without that divine and supernatural light.

You may study theology and make A's in the course. You may have a profound and profoundly correct theologically accurate understanding of the person and work of Jesus, but a saving knowledge wherein you not only know it with your head, but it is filling your soul and burning your heart. That can't happen unless God Himself visits you and awakens you by that divine and supernatural life. In all probability, this parable was a fictitious story that Jesus made up for illustration. I doubt very much if He was recalling an event that actually took place in space and time, but let's just assume for a moment that there was such a person as this prodigal son who had wasted his life, his father's money, and his own soul until he was living with pigs.

Because that really happened, and he came to himself. Well, at that moment, dear friends, that man, instead of being the most destitute man in all of the world, was the most blessed man in all of the world because he came to himself, not by himself, but by a divine and supernatural light that awakened him to truth, to the truth of God, and to the truth of himself. Martin Lloyd-Jones, a great preacher of Great Britain in the early part of the 20th century, it was said of him that when he preached, it was logic on fire. And Lloyd-Jones used to say that he was preaching, praying that God would use the power of His Word and join it with the Holy Spirit so that people sitting under his preaching would be awakened. And they were awakened to the sweetness and to the loveliness and to the excellency of Christ. But Lloyd-Jones went on to say that there is no awakening without first the Spirit bringing conviction of sin that drives people to Christ. They must hear the law before they will overhear the gospel.

Good news is not good news until you understand its antithesis, until you're aware of the bad news. Now again, beloved, you don't need a divine and supernatural light to know that you're a sinner. Even in your fallen condition, and even though your conscience may have calluses on it, it hasn't been annihilated, and you know that you have sinned against God. The worst sinner will admit to err as human to forgive his divine. But there is a mighty difference between a natural awareness of your shortcomings and of your sin and a spiritual conviction in your soul brought by the immediate power of God the Holy Spirit.

There are many people who know that they are sinners who are not born again, but no one can be born again without knowing that he or she is a sinner. So with this awakening to the beauty and sweetness of Christ also comes with it a profound conviction of sin, and we see it with the prodigal son because we notice here that as soon as he comes to himself, he said, I will arise. I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to leave this pigsty. I'm going to have done with this lifestyle that brought me here, and I will go to my father. And when I go to my father, I'll have something to say to him. And here is what he resolved to say, Father, I've sinned against heaven and against you.

Notice the order of these words that he resolves to say. I'm going to go to my father. I'm going to apologize to my father. I'm going to confess to my father that I've sinned against my father. But my sin against my father is not an isolated thing on this terrestrial ball.

No, first and primary. My sin is against God. And so I will say to my father, Father, I've sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Whatever it takes, Father, forgive me.

You don't need to restore me. Make me one of your servants. I'll work for you like I worked for the man who put me into the pigsty.

I'll be your slave, but I want to be home, and I want to be reconciled with you. And so he arose. And Luke tells us that Jesus said he came to his father. First he came to himself. Now he came to his father.

How he got to his father, we don't know. He obviously didn't have the money to buy a donkey or a camel or a horse, and we know that he was in a far country. And so presumably the only way this young man could ever get home was by walking. And already his clothes held the stench of the pigs, and they were tattered. And his shoes had disintegrated. So as he stunk, he walked, and he walked, no shoes on his feet, his clothes filthy rags, and in tatters.

Every step was painful. He could have stopped and decided to go back to his comfort with the pigs, but he kept on going. And unlike the woman who turned up heaven and earth to find her coin and the good shepherd who searched far and wide to find the lost sheep, there's nothing in this parable but the father sending out a search party to find his son. He waited, and he prayed that the prodigal son would someday come home. And one day, in the distance, the father saw somebody approaching too far away to see the face or the hair features, but instantly he knew that the one who was coming was his son. How did he know it?

Well, Jesus doesn't tell us. I remember my father's funeral when our preacher gave the funeral sermon and eulogy. He mentioned in the sermon, he said, whenever I would be in my study in the church and I would hear footsteps coming up the stairs, I always knew when it was Bob Sproul, I could tell by the sound of his footfall. And my mother burst into tears next to me, and after the funeral, I said, Mom, what was all that about? I don't know anything distinctive about the way my dad walked. And she smiled at me. She said, Son, it's just the way it was. It was a characteristic gait, the way he carried himself, and our minister knew it by the sound of his feet. I think it must have been something like that, that the father observed at a distance. He could see the way the boy was walking. He could see the way he carried himself. He could see his gait, and he knew it was his son. And immediately he hiked up his robe, and he buckled and guarded himself around the waist, and in his weak and elderly legs, he started running down the road, not with his finger outstretched and saying, Where have you been, young man? But when he got to his son, he fell on his neck, and he kissed him. And the son says, Father, wait a minute.

Father, I've sinned against heaven, and in your sight, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Look at me. Smell me. Look at my feet. Look at the filthy rags I'm wearing on my body.

Does this look like one of your children? I'm not worthy to be called your son. Nobody ever entered the kingdom of God saying, Well, here I am, folks. Heaven wouldn't be right without me. This is the only way you get to heaven, broken and dependent on grace and grace alone. So the father said to his servants, I want you to do a few things for me. The first thing I want you to do is cover these filthy rags.

I want you to go in, and I want you to get the best robe you can find in the house and put it on him. No one has ever entered the kingdom of God without wearing the robe of the righteousness of Christ. All of our own righteousness, the Scriptures tell us, is as filthy rags. And the first thing that happens to us when we are born of the Spirit is just as God knelt down and covered his shameful sinners, Adam and Eve.

So he covers us with the robe of Christ and if it's righteousness. And don't forget the family ring. Give him the ring that signifies, not that he's a servant here or a slave, but that he's my son. Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And then I want you to bring the fatted calf, and I want you to go out into the cow field and find a scrawny, lean, good-for-nothing little cow.

You know the one I want, the one that we've been saving for a special occasion, the one we've been feeding with the best food, fattening him up for a party that won't quit. Get the fatted calf and bring it here and kill it because we're going to eat and be merry, because this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found. You know the sad part of this story, that as we hear these words, there are people in this room right now who are dead and who are lost.

And I pray that God the Holy Spirit with the divine and supernatural light will quicken their souls to newness of life and awaken them from their sleep that they may be found and no more lost. Now his older son, who obviously represents the Pharisees in their complaints, was in the field. He was coming in from the field, and as he came close to the house, he heard all the music and the dancing. He knew that there was a party going on. He didn't know why, so he called one of the servants and said, What do these things mean? What's this all about? Why the music?

Why the dancing? The servant couldn't wait to tell him. He said, Hey, guess what? Your brother came home, and because he's been received safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.

What? He's throwing a party for him? He was so angry, we're told he wouldn't even go in and join the party. So the father came to him, and we said, Didn't just talk to him. He begged him, Son, come in.

Rejoice. Instead, he said to his father, How many years have I been serving you? I never transgressed your commandment.

You never gave me a young goat to party with. But as soon as this son of yours, not this brother of mine, but this son of yours came, who devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him. The father said, Son, you're always with me, and all that I have is yours. It's right that we should make merry and be glad. It's right that we rejoice when someone who is lost is found. It is right that we celebrate when one who is spiritually dead by the supernatural and divine light of God is made alive again. For your brother was dead and is alive again. He was lost, but now he's found. And while we're eating the fatted calf, the angels are having a party in heaven. That is an extraordinary thought, isn't it?

That's R.C. Sproul showing us the important lessons that we learned in the parable of the prodigal son. This is just one of the sermons from Dr. Sproul's series in the Gospel of Luke, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. Each Sunday, we're returning to this series, and over the course of the next few months, we will complete the entire Gospel. Our resource offered today is a helpful tool as you continue your study with us. I hope you'll contact us and request a digital download of R.C. 's commentary on Luke's Gospel.

In nearly 600 pages, you'll find helpful insight into every verse in Luke. To receive it, just contact us with your donation of any amount at Our goal here at Ligonier Ministries is to proclaim the holiness of God to as many people as possible, and your financial gifts help fuel that outreach. And today, for your donation of any amount, we will say thank you by sending you the digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary. We hope to hear from you, and on behalf of all of my colleagues here at Ligonier Ministries, thank you for your generous donation. Again, our web address is I hope you have a great week, and make plans to join us again next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 12:38:36 / 2023-02-22 12:49:19 / 11

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