Character of God - Seeking (Luke 15:1-31)

Dr Daryl Miller, August 7, 2016
Part of the Knowing the Character of God series, preached at a Sunday Evening service

Title: Character of God - Seeking (The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Sons)
Text: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”
(Luke 19:10).
Scripture Reading: Luke 15
Three companion parables in Luke 15 reveal God as the loving Father who seeks the lost. Jesus told these stories to answer the accusation of the scribes and Pharisees that “this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (v. 2). In effect, Jesus replied, “As a lost sheep needs a shepherd, as a lost coin needs to be found, as a son needs a father, so sinners need God.”
I. The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3?–?7).
A. Lost. A shepherd having a flock of one hundred sheep brought them at the close of the day to a fold in the wilderness. This fold was a stockade built mostly of rocks. A porter (usually one of the shepherds) guarded the door during the night. As the shepherd counted his sheep, he found that one was missing. The shepherd was not satisfied that only 99 percent of his sheep were safe, so he left the ninety-nine safe with the porter in the wilderness and went out into the night to search for his lost sheep. His purpose was to seek until he found it.
B. Found. What joy the shepherd had when he found the sheep still alive though so weak that it had to be carried to the fold. He was so happy that when he brought his sheep back home he called his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him.
C. Application. God loves every person and wants all to be saved. He is not satisfied with a good percentage. He seeks for the lost, and his Holy Spirit convicts of sin and invites to salvation. He rejoices “over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (v. 7). One repentant sinner pleases God more than a multitude of religious people with no sense of guilt.

II. The parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8?–?10).
A. The lost coin was valuable to the woman. She searched diligently, turning the place upside down until she found the coin.
B. Found. Joy needs to be shared. On finding the coin, the woman called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her. The value she placed on the coin is reflected in the joy of finding it.
C. Application. Every person is potentially valuable to God, but that value is potential only so long as one is lost. The coin must be found for value to become actual. So the lost must be found for potential value to become actual. “Joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (v. 10) must mean joy in the heart of God himself.
III. The parable of the two sons (Luke 15:11?–?32).
A. The younger son (vv. 11?–?13).
1. The departure. The younger son asked his father to give to him the portion of the estate that he would inherit upon his father’s death. The son thought that he could be happier away from home. His request was willful and selfish. It must have pained the father greatly, but if the son were forced to stay home, then home would be a prison; so, with sadness of heart, he divided his estate between his two sons. In accord with custom, the older son received twice as much as the younger. The younger son took his inheritance and set out for a far country.
2. Destination (v. 13). The younger son thought that living far away from home would bring him happiness, for he would no longer have any parental restraints. He acted on the lie that his father’s restraints were grievous. He believed Satan’s lie that sin brings pleasure. As Satan caused Adam and Eve to doubt God’s good purpose by asking, “Hath God said?” so the younger son doubted his father. Anywhere outside the will of God is a far country.
3. Destitution (vv. 13?–?15). The far country promised freedom but actually enslaved the young man. While his money lasted, the young man had some fair-weather friends, but when the money gave out, he was reduced to destitution. He hired out to a Gentile to feed his hogs. He tried to eat hogs’ food, but that was not food for a man. Man is made for fellowship with God. He can never find soul satisfaction in sin. As Augustine correctly perceived, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
4. Resolution to return (vv. 17?–?19). “When he came to himself” (v. 17) is a telling phrase. A demented person is sometimes said to be beside himself. Sin is moral insanity. The young man now came to his right mind about his father. He thought, The hired servants at home fared well. Father is a good man. I’ll go back to him, confess my sin, and ask to be a hired servant. His conviction and contrition issued in action: he did it. How much better it was for him to go to his father than to drown his sorrow in drink or give up to the despair of suicide.

5. The reception (vv. 20?–?24). His father saw him when he was a great way off. The father had been hoping and looking for his son’s return. The father ran to meet the son and embraced him and kissed him. The son started his confession, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (v. 21). The son did not get to request as he had planned, “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” When the father heard the boy’s confession, he pardoned him fully, gave him the insignia of sonship, and joyfully ordered a banquet saying, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost, and is found.” Jesus is saying that God is more merciful than we dare ask him to be and that his fatherly heart yearns to forgive.
B. The older son (vv. 25?–?32). How wonderful it would have been if the older son had said, “O how glad I am! The fact that my brother has come home shows that he has changed. I’ve missed him so much. I have prayed for his return. I’ve shared with Father concern for his safety. I must hurry to embrace him.” But his reply was much different. The older son was not like his father in some very essential respects:
1. He lacked loving concern. Had he prayed for his brother’s return? Did he rejoice at his return? Did he want to believe that he had sincerely repented? No! He showed lack of love for both his brother and his father. He was angry, and he refused to go to his brother’s homecoming party. He doubted that his father had done what was right and believed the worst about his father rather than the best. The self-righteous older brother considered himself a slave rather than a son. He said, “?‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’?” (vv. 29?–?30). His outburst revealed his ungratefulness. His father had provided all his needs and had also given him twice as much inheritance as he had given the younger son, yet he did not appreciate it.
The older son showed a lack of love for his brother by accusing him of spending money on prostitutes without knowing whether it was true. He believed the worst about his brother and painted a dark backdrop of sin against which to display his own goodness. Instead of “my brother” he called him “thy son.”
2. The older son had no place in his thinking for repentance and forgiveness. His idea was that one who sins should pay the penalty. His younger brother had made his bed, so let him lie in it. He, the older son, was sure of his own goodness. He merited much more than his father had ever given him. The older brother represents the scribes and Pharisees who thought that they were so good that they did not need God’s forgiveness and that the publicans and harlots were so bad that they were beyond hope. They were wrong, of course, on both counts.

Some people are lost like a sheep who misses the way by careless drifting. Some, through life’s circumstances, are misplaced like a lost coin. Others, like the young son, are lost through willful rebellion. Still others are lost as the older brother was?—?at home, yet far from the father; in church but full of hate, self-righteousness, prejudice, envy, and unforgiveness.
God is seeking lost persons as a shepherd out in the night, as a woman sweeping diligently, as a father earnestly watching.
When a sheep is found, the shepherd rejoices; when a coin is found, the woman rejoices; when a son is found, the father rejoices; when a sinner repents, God rejoices. Now is the day of salvation.


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