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Getting Parenting Right Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
August 17, 2021 1:00 am

Getting Parenting Right Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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August 17, 2021 1:00 am

The story of the Prodigal Son is really the story of two prodigals. One left in rebellion, the other stayed in rebellion. In this message we look into a famous parable of Jesus that shows how the Father in heaven relates to His beloved children—even when they go astray.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The story of the prodigal son is really the story of two prodigals.

One left in rebellion, the other stayed in rebellion. Today, another look into a famous parable of Jesus that shows how the Father in Heaven relates to His children, even when those children go astray. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, the amazing love the prodigal's father bestowed on his wayward son is almost more than we can comprehend.

You know, Dave, I want to commend you for the way in which you introduced this message because you're absolutely right. There are two prodigals in this story. There's the one that we always think about who ran away from home, and then there's the one who stayed home but served his father out of a sense of duty without a real sense of love and connection. Two prodigals, absolutely right. Now, I think that this parable has a tremendous lesson for parents. And I say to all who are listening, you have a wayward child?

Be sure to keep the light on, so to speak. Let them always know that no matter what they have done, you don't have to agree with their lifestyle or the kind of life that they have lived. But what you need to do is to assure them of your continuing unconditional love. And of course, as we think about this parable, the father of course represents God. And so I say to those of you who have wandered away from God, come back home. The father is waiting.

Now, at the end of this message, I'm going to be giving you some info as to how you can connect with us. But for now, let's just listen to what Jesus had to say and the lessons of the prodigal son. Those who understand their need, and even those who've gone to the far country, actually are much more welcomed by the father than somebody who believes that his relationship with God is based on his performance. You see, here's a young man who said to himself, I'm doing all of the right things.

I am the one who gets up early in the morning, I go to bed late at night, and the farm is prospering because of me, and you don't do this for me. Of course, the father says, you know, everything that I have is yours. Several lessons immediately grow out, and that is it is possible to be a son of God and still live like a servant. It's as if this man didn't understand that he had an inheritance.

He could throw a party whenever he wanted to throw a party. But as long as his relationship with the father was based on a sense of duty, it was based on a conviction of merit, his anger toward his father grew. And I might say to those of you who believe that your relationship with God is based on merit, you're going to be angry with God and you're going to be angry with others. If you believe that God owes you, and the reason that God owes you is because of what you've done, and look, I've abided by the rules, I've tried to go to church, I've tried to be the best person I possibly can, and therefore God owes me blessing, he owes me heaven, you are going to be bitterly disappointed and angry because when God doesn't come through for you, and when you begin to understand that your merit does not add anything to God's grace toward you, then you will become bitter and angry and your soul will be closed to the father. You see, the elder brother illustrates the fact that it is possible to be busy in the father's work and still not share the father's heart.

It's possible for you to be faithful in your service to the Lord and yet there's no connection really with your father. All that there is is resentment particularly to those whom God seems to bless. By the way, have you ever noticed that God sometimes blesses some people more than he should? Have you ever noticed that? I've certainly noticed that sometimes God blesses people that I wouldn't bless if I were God.

Are you envious because God is generous? As a matter of fact, when this boy is emoting here and explaining why he won't come into the feast, you'll notice he says, when this thy son, he never even called him his brother. He says, when this thy son has come who has devoured thy living with harlots, with prostitutes, you've killed for him the patacath. Interestingly, nowhere in the text earlier does it say that the boy did that.

The elder brother is kind of tipping his hand as to what he would be doing if he had the nerve to leave the farm and spend time in the far country. And so there he is out of sorts with his father. Why was the father so delighted to see this wayward boy? The wayward boy came and said, father, I've sinned against heaven and against thee and if I am to receive even so much as a crust of bread, it is going to be a demonstration of your matchless grace. And the father loved that because the father deals with us on the basis of grace and not merit. And so what the father was saying is, at last, I have somebody who's willing to wear my robe and to have the ring and to give shoes to because I'm a giving father.

I love to give. And as long as I was dealing with the elder brother on the basis of merit, I couldn't give because I only deal with you on the basis of grace. Some of you think that the way to the father is by being good.

Well, it's good to be good. But that's not the way to the father. The only way to the father is by grace.

I think it was Mark Twain who said on one occasion, having spent a great deal of my life with good people, he said, I now understand why Jesus spent most of his time with tax gatherers and sinners. We all know what it's like to be with good people, judgmental. They become the standard by which others should be judged, resentful of God's mercy poured out on other people.

Why? Because they're out of touch with the Father's heart, though they delight in the fact that they have been so very good. Let me ask the question, how does this relate to those of us who are fathers? And I understand that we can't take all of the things that are here with this father and apply them because certainly with our children, we do have issues of accountability. But first of all, I want us to understand that as fathers, we have the responsibility of being law givers, but also grace givers.

And this is very important. You know, I've noticed that there are many fathers who are law givers. And they like to shout out their laws. They like to almost be abusive in terms of their expectations.

They like to criticize. They like to say that in this home, this is going to be the standard and you'd better abide by it, etc., etc. Where is the grace? Where is the humility that says, as a teenager, I did the same thing you're doing and here's what God taught me about why it's wrong and why this is a better path? I cannot stress enough that we as fathers need to have law, but we also need to exercise grace. Grace isn't a lax attitude toward what our children are doing. It is forgiving, especially when they admit that they have done wrong.

Grace is necessary. True story. Young girl brought up in a very good home, by the way, church-going parents, loving parents, as she admitted, I should say, loving parents, but runs away from home as a teenager. Parents have no idea where she is. She doesn't connect with them for months.

And when she does, she's God knows where. What a tragedy in her life. I cannot even tell you the heartbreak that the far country brought for her.

A couple of children with different fathers going from one job to another, abuse, all the things that happen when you're in the far country. Thirty years later, 30 years later, she picks up the phone and calls her father, her loving father. And the first words out of her father's mouth were, where are you and how can I help you?

That's what grace does. Law might have said, you've disgraced us. You've been away for 30 years. You've embarrassed us as a family. Why should we have a relationship with you now? You made your own bed.

You can sleep in it. No, no, no, no. Grace, grace goes to the farthest reaches and grace is extended to the most needy of sinners because grace represents God. Grace represents God.

Some of you fathers and years ago, I told you this story before, but there are dozens just like it of a father who was in a meeting and he was seeing what God was doing among people, how families were being reconciled even within the church where he was. And he was angry with his five sons. He had five sons. He had a bad relationship with all of them. And of course, it was always their fault. They never lived up to his expectations. They never really obeyed him. They didn't really respect him. And he tried to work with them, tried to give them the right formula to be the people that they should be.

And of course, all of them missed the mark. You know, there are some parents who no matter how far you throw the football or you kick the football, even when it is in the air, they move the goalposts so that you can never possibly please them. But there he is. But he's a Christian, he says. And as he sees what God is doing, how he's breaking self-righteous elder brother hearts in this church, he takes his fist and pounds it into his hand and says, God, you will never get me. Imagine a Christian saying that.

And some of you who are listening who are not believers and you're saying the very same thing now. You say, well, you know, God isn't going to get me. Well, I'm very glad to say that eventually God got him.

God got him. And when he began to see his part in the struggle, he humbled himself, went to all five children and said, will you forgive me for my self-righteousness? You know, there are children who want to just embarrass their parents and they want to do that because they want to hurt their parents. So, you know, they'll dye their hair blue or something. Everybody says, oh, whose child is that? Oh, so-and-so's child.

Well, isn't he, isn't that a Christian family? Or they'll put on a tattoo that is very obvious. They want to embarrass their parents because they are angry. I think, for example, of one mother who when meeting her daughter's boyfriend said, well, there's one thing that can be said about him. She was looking for something positive.

She said, at least the words on his tattoo were spelled correctly. Parents, if you are shamed to continue to love your child, take a lesson from this man who said he's willing to forego the shame and even love the wayward child. So let us keep in mind, first of all, that we must always welcome wayward children.

Secondly, you must understand that as parents, we have the responsibility of bringing peace to our homes, don't we? I'm thinking, for example, of this man who ended up with a family problem. Here you have an elder son and, you know, the elder son is usually the achievers. They're the ones, you know, who are the perfectionists. They're the ones that outshine all the others that come behind them and the children that come behind them can never live up to the expectations of the elder one. And so you've got that in your home where you are negotiating issues between two different kinds of children, the wayward one over here and the goody two shoes over here. And what you must see is that it is your responsibility to bring about some kind of harmony. You have to invite each other and invite them to the feast, so to speak. And that's what he did.

Fact is that the Pharisees never really attended the feast. As long as they were merit-based and thought to themselves that their own righteousness should gain some kind of approval before God, they continued in that vein all the time and never really understood grace. And that's what leads me now to the final conclusion. When God deals with us, it is always on the basis of grace and not merit. It may be better to be the elder brother who stayed home than the wayward one who went into the far country.

Sometimes when you're in the far country, you can't come back. But this elder brother could never really appreciate the father or love the father unless he came to the father in grace, unless he acknowledged his own sin, acknowledged the fact that his relationship to the father could not be based on his performance and came with a sense of repentance and hope and said, Dad, I too have sinned. And because I have sinned, I also seek your forgiveness and your grace. And the Bible says that where sin abounded, grace abounded more. And as we come to God, we are faced with a God who loves to give grace. It was the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who says that we pile up a mountain of sin, and then God comes along and piles up a mountain of grace that is higher than our mountain of sin. And then we continue to pile up our sins, and God shows more grace and he shows a greater mountain of grace because grace is greater than our sin.

I conclude today by asking you a question. Do you find yourself distant from the father? Some of you do because you've never trusted Christ as savior and your whole life has been performance based and God doesn't accept it and so you don't know the father personally. You have to come to him through Jesus Christ. And I'll tell you what he does when we come to him. You know the robe that the father was willing to give to his child, his very own? When we come to the father through Christ, Jesus takes off his robe, so to speak, and he gives it to us. He gives us the robe of righteousness. He gives us a ring that shows our authority. He gives us shoes to show that we are no longer just slaves, but we are sons and we are daughters. But the only welcome that we can have to the father is through Jesus Christ our Lord.

He's the one who puts us in touch with the father. There is a story which I read many years ago, and I'm not able to verify it, but I'll simply share it with you, about a wayward son who was off in the far country. And he didn't know whether or not his parents would welcome him home, but he did know that when the train came into their town, the tracks were quite close to the back of his house. So he wrote them a letter in which he said, I don't know whether or not you want me back, and I understand if you don't want me back. But if you do, I will take the train to town, and if you tie a handkerchief on a branch of the tree in the backyard, I'll know that you want me back. If it's not there, I'll just keep going to the next town. Well, as the story goes, as the train was rumbling through his town, he pressed his nose against the window, almost afraid to look at the tree in their backyard, only to discover that every branch had a handkerchief. God says to you today, your reluctance is what hinders you.

It's not me. I love to dispense grace. I'd love to give you a party and welcome you into the family, but you can't do it by being good.

You can only do it through repentance and faith, through Christ our Lord, grace and not law. Let's pray together. Father, we want to thank you today for your mercy and for your grace. Thank you that all of us are prodigals.

Thank you, Father, that the elder brother was also a prodigal, but unfortunately didn't know it. And so we pray that through self-revelation of your Holy Spirit, that you might help all of us to see what our needs are in your presence. Now, before I close, where are you in your relationship to God?

There's no reluctance on his part. Why don't you talk to him right now, even where you are? Father, we ask in Jesus' name that those who do not know you as Savior will come to know you through Christ, through grace. And for those who do, help us, Lord, to rejoice when you lavish grace on others. Help us, Father, to have a heart like yours, where we can enjoy your grace and delight in the fact that others are receiving it too. Do that, Father, for us, we pray in Jesus' matchless name. Amen. Amen. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer.

I have to ask you a question today. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of Running to Win? Do programs like this encourage you and instruct you? That's why Running to Win exists. And if you want to know what really blesses my heart is that Running to Win is heard even in the Middle East.

I hold in my hand a letter from someone from the great country of Morocco. Listening to Running to Win is like going to the church that I am unable to attend because of my background. Thank you for helping me be discipled and understand God's will for me on earth.

Well, my friends, I have to tell you that letters like this make it all worthwhile. Would you like to invest in the ministry of Running to Win? The reason that you are blessed is that others have invested in this ministry. I trust that you'll become a part of what I like to call the Running to Win family.

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, if you need info, here's what you can do. Go to Now, of course, RTWOffer is all one word. Or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. By the way, when you go to, be sure to click on the endurance partner button.

So to repeat or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. We don't look at you as a donor. We see you as a member of the Running to Win family.

I hope that you take the initiative to join us today. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. The last book of the Bible uses terms that can be hard to understand. John listens to our broadcast.

He asks this. In Revelation 3, verse 1, Jesus mentions the seven spirits of God. The footnote says, or sevenfold spirit.

Can you explain this to me? The term came up in our Sunday school class about a year ago, and I'm still wondering about it. John, let me begin by assuring you that there are not seven spirits that pervade the universe. Then we would believe in many gods. We'd be polytheists. Clearly, I think that your footnote is right that this is a reference to the sevenfold spirit or the completeness of the spirit.

And that's the point that is being made. You know, many people point us to Isaiah 11, verse 2. There you have seven references to the spirit.

Listen carefully. It says, it speaks about the spirit of the Lord. This is what is going to be upon Christ. The spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of counsel, the spirit of might, the spirit of knowledge, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord.

That's seven in all. So obviously, it is trying to give us a much bigger picture of the Holy Spirit. It is reminding us that the symbolism in the book of Revelation indicates completeness.

It does not mean that there are seven different spirits. Good question. I hope that my answer helps. Thank you, John, for that question. And thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Just go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. In an unusual parable, Jesus taught the disciples about how rewards are handed out in the kingdom of God. At first glance, what he taught seems quite unfair. Next time on Running to Win, we look beneath the surface of the words of Jesus and learn some life-changing truth that upends our innate sense of fairness. Don't miss Getting Rewards Right. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-15 05:13:25 / 2023-09-15 05:22:13 / 9

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