Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. As part of a classic dysfunctional family, Absalom rebelled against his father David. He went his own way and ended up dead. The story is in the Bible for us to read and then heed its warnings. Today, crucial lessons for all parents of prodigal sons.
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, why is rebellion so common among children, both then and now? Well, you know, Dave, I think that you have already hinted at it in your intro when you talked about the fact that David's family was very dysfunctional.
Here was a man who committed adultery and murder, lost his moral authority over his children, Absalom rebelled, and the Bible says that David did not correct him. But I also have to emphasize that oftentimes there are those who rebel who are brought up in fine Christian homes. It is not always the fall to the parents. But what I'd like to emphasize today is that no matter who you are, no matter where your children are, they can always come home. I've written a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. Can't help but think that I'm speaking to those who wish that their past could be put behind them. Thanks to the grace of God, it can happen. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. How wonderful it would have been if Absalom had come home. He didn't, but he could have. Let us listen. Five lessons now that I want you to write down, I want you to keep, put them on your refrigerator until you know them all by memory. You're dying in a hospital someday and the doctor says, now what were those five lessons that Pastor Lutzer taught you about Absalom? And you spit them out one right after another. Because now we get to pay dirt.
Now the transformation happens. What are the five lessons? Number one, although a father might repent of his sin, children might not.
Although a father might repent, children might not. David bounced back from murder and adultery. He was back in fellowship with God. You read Psalm 51.
I mean, he was pouring out his soul. He was admitting to everything and God even restored the joy of his salvation, but he lost his family. And after he committed adultery and murder, God says to David, he says, you're going to pay for this sin fourfold and four of his sons died. First of all, you have the baby that Bathsheba bore died. And you remember David wept and prayed that God would heal the child. But when the baby died, he washed his face and they said, that's unusual.
Why are you not mourning now? David says, I will go to him even though he will not come back to me. David said, I expect to see my baby again.
We will be reunited. And I'm sure that they have been. But when it comes to the other sons, you have Amnon, who was murdered by Absalom. You have Absalom who was caught in an oak tree and murdered by Joab. And then you have Adonijah. Adonijah rebelled after David died. He wanted the kingdom, but David had given it to Solomon.
So they had to kill Adonijah too. And when David wept over those sons, he could not be comforted because he knew right well that he would never see those sons again. They parted their ways not only in life, but in death and forever because there is no evidence that Absalom ever received God's grace or forgiveness or help or reconciliation.
He went his own way. And I'm sure that that was true of rebellious Amnon and Adonijah too. Parents separated from their children forever.
No wonder David would not stop weeping. You see, we as parents might bounce back. We've walked with God for many years. We fall into sin. We confess our sin. But when we lose moral authority in our family, the kids might not. The kids might not bounce back to God.
Sobering. Second lesson to be learned is unresolved sin leads to further sin. Unresolved sin leads to other sins.
It always increases because sin basically comes in clusters. Now here's what happened. Absalom commits murder trying to bring justice to a situation that his father ignored. So Absalom commits murder and now his conscience is hardened. In my book Hitler's Cross, I talk about the fact that Hitler had a procedure by which the consciences of young German soldiers would be hardened so that they could murder without conscience. This is very important, the deadening of the conscience. And what deadens the conscience is sin that is unresolved, that is unforgiven, that is not dealt with, that is kind of just stuffed in the soul and it stays there. And in the case of Absalom, he went from stealing the revenge, I should say, revenge killing Amnon to being willing to kill his father. That's what sin does.
It always goes farther than you thought it would. And the Bible talks about those who add sin to sin. You know, you're in sin, you've learned to manage it and so you keep on going because you know that for every mile you go, you've got a mile to return and so what you do is you keep going in the same direction and you say, I don't care.
This is the direction I have chosen. You add sin to sin. Many years ago when I was the pastor of another church here in Chicago and that was many, many, many years ago, I was asked to visit a man who was dying in the hospital. I explained the gospel to him but he wouldn't believe and it's not as if he had some intellectual doubts, he just kind of shook his head and said, I can't, I can't. Well, why can't you? Well, later on I discovered that that man, I was told on good authority, had been guilty of murder and had never been charged.
Many, many, many years before that. So here's a man, you see, who's learned to stuff it in your soul. You learn to live with your sin, you learn to live with a guilty conscience until in some way you deaden it and then you come for God's forgiveness and you think one of two things, either A, God isn't gracious enough to forgive me, which would be wrong because God forgives murderers and adulterers and all kinds of sinners. Thank God and thank you for saying amen. Praise God. Because we're all sinners.
You remember that college retreat where the kids put up a banner over a door and said, you know, where you went into the auditorium that says for sinners only and some of the college kids said, where do we go? You know, well, you need a little lesson in theology I think and you need a little bit more honesty. So we're all sinners and God could have forgiven him but I think also in retrospect what that man was thinking maybe was this, that if I receive God's forgiveness freely, God is going to require me to deal with issues of lying and deceit that I have stuffed into my soul and I just don't want to touch it.
I don't know. But you add sin to sin. Hard conscience leads to other hardness of heart. It's a second lesson. There's a third lesson and that is that there's a lesson in judgment.
There's a lesson in judgment. Sometimes those who are struggling with God like some of you who are here, I have no doubt that you're struggling with God because in some sense you see yourself in Absalom, not in detail but in principle and you're struggling with it and you say to yourself, well, I have time. Before I die, I hope that I'm going to get all this right but like somebody told me, he says, regarding God, I'm just pushing that out to the circumference for now and I'll deal with it later.
Well, you can say that you heard it here but you don't know that there's going to be a later. You know that morning when Absalom woke up thinking that the battle was going his direction and he was riding his mule and he was on his way, he had no idea that morning that he'd be dead by evening. The Bible says in Proverbs chapter 29 verse 1 that the person who is often reproved, who hardens and stiffens his neck will be cut off without remedy. God will just go zap and it'll be over. Absalom did not have time to repent. He did not have time to get right with his father. He didn't have time. He simply died.
Boom. You know those of you who are struggling with God today, you're saying why am I struggling? I'm pushing God off. You do not know that you'll even have tomorrow or maybe even tonight. Your soul will be required by God. So that's the third lesson.
The fourth lesson is this. Today, today it is easier to repent than it will be tomorrow. Today it is easier to repent than it will be tomorrow because you'll be a little harder. That's why the Bible says today if you have heard his voice, don't harden your heart.
Look at Absalom. When would have been the easiest for him to repent? Well, first of all, he should have repented before he even killed Amnon and figured out a different way to resolve that situation. But after he had killed Amnon, the least thing that he could have done is go to his father and say I have sinned against heaven and against God.
I want this resolved. You have to understand that I want to be back in the good graces of the family and I want to receive God's forgiveness. That would have been much easier. My, after he stole the kingdom and stole people's hearts through his charm and after he committed adultery with David's harem, there was no chance that he could repent then because the hardness of heart was so great.
It was like flint. There was no way then he would change. Today if you hear his voice, don't harden your heart. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning thinking about this sermon and I thought, why am I preaching it? And I thought to myself, well, I want to explain to people the nature of prodigals.
That seems to be a good reason. And it was as if something impressed itself mightily upon me, as if to say that is not the reason you're to preach this sermon. You are to preach this sermon with one intention and that is that prodigals come to God for forgiveness and to believe that because of this message, some of you who are on the fringes either who've never believed in Jesus or you have and you have backslidden, that you'll come back today to God. That's why I preach. And every once in a while when you say something to somebody, you say, well, now don't take this personally. Well, today I want you to take what I'm saying personally, very personally, okay? It's for you, not the person who's sitting next to you. It's for you. When you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Today is going to be easier. It's going to be easier after this service. When I was pastor of the other church that I mentioned, I remember some teenagers sitting in the balcony.
I don't know where our teenagers are seated today, but I know that we used to have teenagers who for some inexplicable reason that we've never been able to investigate loved the balcony. We should do some research on that. But I remember one time they told me when you are finished preaching, before you pronounce the benediction, we are already out of here. We are in our cars and we turn up loud music to stifle the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says if you hear his voice, don't harden your heart. Don't you dare stifle the work of the Spirit. It's easier today to repent than it will be tomorrow.
Finally, I think we are at number five, are we not? People repent not because of judgment. They could care less about judgment. They repent because of the grace and because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. If God were to withdraw his Holy Spirit from you, you would not feel even the slightest desire to come to God through Jesus and be reconciled to God.
Not even the slightest desire. There's a passage in the book of Revelation that just astounds me. Now Revelation, it's got all of these judgments.
I mean, hailstones are coming out of heaven, scorpions are coming over the whole earth, and you know, it's just one awful judgment after another. And this is what it says, but the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood which cannot see or walk, nor did they repent of their murders, their sorceries, which is basically the New Age movement, or their sexual immorality or their thefts. After all that, they still don't repent.
And a little later it says in chapter 16, the people nod their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and their sores, but they did not repent. You can't repent unless God by his Spirit moves you and shows you his love and shows you his grace. It is grace ultimately that causes people to repent. The fact that you, of all people, could be saved and forgiven – just think of it. Think of you. Even as I think of me, that we could be forgiven, that motivates me.
I say, my goodness, if God can forgive me, he's got me for the rest of my life. We are motivated by the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, no man can come except the Spirit draw him. Even today, the work of the Spirit is happening in your heart to draw you to Jesus who died for sinners, who was crucified on the cross, who was raised again so that we might be forgiven, that we might be reconciled, but we come with our need.
We come, we bring nothing except our need to receive his love and his grace. Absalom perhaps didn't know that. Not sure exactly what he knew, but he should have seen that his own father understood God and had a connection with God based on the coming Messiah who would eventually come and die. You know, there's that old story about a miser who used to live in a cabin and he would hide some of his money in the floor and every once in a while he took the money out and counted it. Maybe he thought it just felt good. He should have known how much was there. He didn't know that two thieves were watching him do it through the window. So he put the money away under the floor as he did and then he took a drink and he fell asleep. Middle of the night, his dog begins to bark. He tries to get the dog to shush, be quiet. The dog is quiet for a little bit, but then continues to bark and his stupor, the man gets so angry, he takes his gun and he shoots the dog. Well, you know the rest of the story, don't you?
The thieves came and stole his money. He shot the voice that warned him, that could have saved him. Don't you dare turn away from the voice that is drawing you to Jesus. Don't you dare either as one who knows Jesus, but you've decided to go a different direction or you have never connected with God or you're unsure if you have. Don't you stifle that voice today if you will hear his voice. Don't harden your heart.
Don't be like Absalom. Be like the prodigal who came all the way home to the Father. Would you join me as we pray? And now before I pray, I want you to pray. I want you to talk to God based on what you've heard today. If you've never received Christ as Savior, say, Lord Jesus, save me. I'm coming home.
If you know him but you've walked far behind him and you know there's a whole backlog of things, would you come back to him right now? This is your opportunity. God is listening to your heart and listening to your prayer. What about you? Are you struggling? Are you stifling the voice that spoke to you today if you've heard his voice?
Don't harden your heart. Father, for those who are struggling, may they continue to struggle until they say, okay, Jesus is calling me. I'm coming home. My friend, no matter who you are, you can always come home.
I urge you to come to the Father. Don't be an Absalom. And if you know those who are Absaloms, continue to pray for them and give them hope. That's why I've written a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. This book deals with all kinds of hurts, all kinds of reasons why people think that they have to be bound to their past. Why is it that they continue in evil ways?
What is it that brings them back to the Father? These are the kinds of questions that are answered in this book that I think will be a tremendously encouraging resource for you and your family. Putting Your Past Behind You, now for a gift of any amount, it can be yours. And thanks in advance for helping us because together we are making a difference running to winners now in 20 different countries in four different languages. Here's what you do, and I hope that you have a pencil handy. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. But again, I want to emphasize to everyone who is listening, it is possible for you to come home. You need to put your past behind you. God will do that for you.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Married couples enjoy kissing as well they should. Tony and Judy have written asking a question about kissing. Our question refers to Romans 16, 16, where Paul talks about greeting one another with a holy kiss. What does the original language say about this verse?
What do you believe Paul was trying to tell us in this verse? Well, Tony and Judy, this verse says in Greek exactly what it says in English, namely, greet one another with a holy kiss. The fact is, this is the greeting that was given in those days. You know, if we were saying this today, if we were writing a letter, we'd say shake hands with everyone and greet one another. Now, this holy kiss was not an essential kind of kiss. You've sometimes seen, even today in some of the eastern countries, you see men kissing each other on the cheek.
That's the idea here. One day I was speaking to our singles and I was asked about this question and I said, yes, you can greet one another with a kiss as long as it is a holy kiss. And that clearly is the Apostle Paul's intention.
It was the custom of the day and he was just simply saying, in our language, shake hands all around. Thank you, Tony and Judy, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com 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, Illinois, 60614. Many a parent has a heavy heart knowing that a son or daughter is far away from them and from God. A famous Bible story gives hope to all parents of prodigal children. Today we heard The Sad Account of Absalom. Next time on Running to Win, a story with a happier ending. Join us for The Prodigal Who Came Home. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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