Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Grace and its Effect March 14, 2010
Sermon Text: Luke 15

Matthew records in his gospel the following account of a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples as they were coming into a new area. Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
KJV Matthew 16:14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
KJV Matthew 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
KJV Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:13-16)

We read newspapers, we read magazines, we read books, we listen to sermons and lectures, we listen to talk radio and from them we are barraged with many opinions as to the answers to the same two questions that Jesus asked his disciples: First He asked: What are people saying about me? Who do they think I am? What does the latest public opinion poll say about me? Various answers were given: Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. They spoke of people who had already passed from this life.

Then He said: "Whom do you (plural) say that I am?" How would we have answered this question if we would have been there? How do we answer that question this morning? How do we really know who He is? Well, if we wanted to get to know somebody, we would communicate directly with them in person. Since Jesus is not here speaking to us in the flesh, but by His Spirit through the Word, we do the next best thing: We observe those things He said and did while He was here on earth. We have a historical and true record of some of those things before us here today.

Read Luke 15:1-32

The whole context of our text is based on a similar type situation, for in the first verse it states that Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.(Luke 15:1).
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

(Meaning: 1 The tax collectors were as a class, detested not only by the Jews, but by other nations also, both on account of their employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they did their job)

Matthew and Levi, two of the Apostles were publicans before they were chosen by Jesus
KJV Matthew 10:3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
KJV Luke 5:27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.

One that does not hear the call to repentance in order to be restored is referred to as a publican
KJV Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

A clear definition of the two classes of people (the religious and the sinners) is given by Jesus himself in the 18th chapter of Luke through a parable He spoke to those who trusted in themselves:
Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

So Jesus took advantage of a "teachable moment" and proceeded to use four parables to teach them of who He was, for they (Pharisees and scribes) did not accept Jesus for who He was and how He conducted Himself. They were the leaders and no young revolutionary was going to tell them or show them how to worship their God. They more than murmured, they grumbled because He was receiving publicans and sinners. How could He do such a thing, and then even to eat with them? He teaches through the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the younger son and the elder son.

In all of these parables, Jesus is desiring to reach the heart on the basis of grace. He does this in the hope that our heart, that part of us which is unseen by others, is often disregarded by ourselves and from which all the emotions, attitudes and actions of life flow from would receive the grace of God and consequently, live our lives in grace. We would see the value of the lost souls of mankind and extend unto them the grace that we have received from our Father.

Jesus begins to reveal to them of the nature of His ministry and consequently of the nature of the kingdom of God. Recognizing that the Pharisees and scribes detested the publicans and the sinners, but also looked upon the occupations of a shepherd as less than noble, Jesus places Himself as a humble, seeking, committed to finding, and upon finding, joyful Shepherd who has great joy when He restores a lost sheep to sheepfold.

The Lost Sheep
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

There is one lost sheep out of a hundred and in his compassion, the Shepherd values the one so much that He goes to seek the loved, lost and lone sheep, until He finds it. When He finds it He carries it back to the sheepfold, rejoicing and when He gets homes He rejoices with His friends and neighbors. Not only that, but there was rejoicing in heaven also. To the Pharisees and the publicans, there was a prejudice against shepherds, therefore presents Himself as a shepherd.

The Lost Coin
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Jesus presents himself as a woman seeking the lost coin. The Pharisees and the scribes have wrongfully devalued women according to their interpretation of the Scriptures, therefore Jesus placed this parable before them, portraying Himself as a seeking, loving and committed woman. There is the diligent seeking, the coin is found and again there is rejoicing not only by Him, among His friends and neighbors, but also among the angels in heaven over this found one.

Leaving the the metaphorical language, Jesus now presents to the audience two sons, a younger son and an elder son.

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The younger son, after he asked of that which was his,( In the culture of the day, to ask for your inheritance while your father yet lived was tantamount to wishing your father was dead,) left home with his inheritance, wasted it all, and ended up starving in the pigpen. He came to himself, remembering his Father's house, and decided to return to His Father's house as a hired servant. On the surface that sounds good, but was he understanding the grace of God? Or was he in some way trying to "earn" his way back to the good graces of his Father. Let us consider this important aspect of what Jesus was trying to teach those who were and are listening. We probably have the most difficult time grasping the concept that God has already made atonement for our sin and there is no payment that needs to be made to Him other than to accept the free and gracious gift. We can go all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see how this already was a problem then. For we read of how Joseph's brothers had the same thought that the younger son did. Let us read that portion:

Genesis 50:14 And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.
18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

The brothers had gone with the family to bury their father, and now with their father gone they began to think of how they were going to have "to pay" for their cruel treatment of Joseph. First they sent a messenger to their brother, who took to Joseph the command of their father, that Joseph "had" to forgive his brothers.

What kind of forgiveness is that? No wonder Joseph wept at these words that made forgiveness to be done simply as a requirement and not as a result of the graciousness of God. We act in the same manner as Joesph's brothers when we demand forgiveness of our children to the one they have offended. We make forgiveness a requirement when we force someone to ask forgiveness. Joseph's brothers did not understand the love that Joseph had for them in that he did not even remember the negative aspects of his brothers treatment toward him, but he looked upon them in the grace of forgiveness. He could do this because he knew that God looked upon him in the grace of forgiveness, and therefore since God received him in the grace of forgiveness, he could only look upon his brothers with the same forgiveness.

The prodigal did not understand as of yet of the total acceptance that His Father had toward him. We yet have the most difficulty grasping that God does not see into our past as His children. We have difficulty realizing that He sees only one thing: Have we received this gift of grace by faith? Are we believing in the Jesus that has made complete atonement for all sin? Are we living in the gospel of forgiveness? Are we free from the guilt, the shame and the recriminations of our past?

Jesus refers to the importance of coming to realize that we are a friend and not a servant, for the servant is still outside of the house. If we are still outside the house trying to earn our way in, we have not yet "come home."
KJV John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
KJV John 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
KJV John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Jesus then presents a fourth parable, showing that one can be in the house, can have the full benefits of Sonship, but not as of yet come to truly live in that experience and knowledge. He speaks concerning the elder son.

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

How did he react to the news of his brothers return? He became angry at this news and his father responded with a gracious invite. Then he criticized his father in not recognizing his (elder son's) faithfulness, sinlessness and instead blamed his father for not appreciating all his service toward his father. Then the elder son accused his father of being unfair in his treatment for celebrating the return of "his sinful son" and had never done such for him.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

To these sorrowful statements, the father again responded to the elder son through grace.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

He said you are my Son, you are always with me and all that I have is yours to enjoy. But your way of looking at the restoration of your brother is lacking, for this your brother was dead and now is alive again. He is my son, and he is your brother. He was lost and is found. I am rejoicing, our family is rejoicing, heaven is rejoicing, everyone is rejoicing except you.

Here is a quote from a writer for Ravi Zacharias Ministries:
"We are easily broken over the pain and suffering we see around us, and well we should. But what a day of rejoicing it is when our hearts are broken by the sweet bitterness of seeing our own sinfulness against the blinding purity of the Son of God; when our fists begin to loosen our grip on the stones we would self-righteously cast at others, and when we finally approach God, not as his advisors, but as sinners in need of mercy and forgiveness! When the intent is right and the mirror is the word of God in its historical context, the revelation that true beauty lies in Christ alone will only drive us ever closer to the restoration of our own beauty in Him. Such an encounter with our Creator is not to be found amidst the cacophony of noises within the factory of dedicated god-crafters; it is best seen when nothing obscures our view of the Cross."

God's grace is like this: He does not remember our sins when we talk about them to him even though they may come back into our mind and we may feel the accusations of the Accuser, the devil. Jesus has bore them away on the cross and they are to never be remembered again by us. He never brings them back to us again. We at times are attacked and accused by the devil in our mind and at times are tormented by our sinful thoughts, emotions and acts of the past and yes, even present ones. When we fall to that trap, we are like the younger son who returned to the father's house initially like a slave and not as a son. He did not understand grace until he saw his father running to him with open arms, possibly shouting, my son, my son, I have been watching and waiting for you to return to me. He kissed and kissed him, and so forth. All this was not understood by the elder son, who reacted in a angry, critical and blaming manner.

A couple of days ago I spoke disrectfully to my wife, hurt her and I understood that. Seeing the hurt, I asked forgiveness but she had already forgiven me, but the hurt remained. A day later as we were talking, I mentioned the incident again and I asked her with a somewhat assuming manner, "You are not going to hold that against me, are you? (I was not valuing the grace of forgiveness in her heart and I was also falling victim to the idea that I had to do something to pay for my sin. She replied to my question as to whether she would hold it against me with, "What are you talking about?" That is how grace works, my dear brothers and sisters.

When Joseph's brothers came to somehow "pay", Joseph wept.

When Jesus looked out over Jerusalem at those who would not believe that His grace was upon them and for them, He wept.

When the Prodigal wanted to "pay"his way back to the Father's house, the Father went out to get Him and showed Him grace.

When the elder son did not respond with grace toward his Father and his brother, the Father responded in grace.

When we mistakenly think that we must pay to get in, God says, what debt are you talking about? I do not even know what you are talking about. Come on in and enjoy everything that is mine, My Son. You are all paid up...My Son did the paying, Believe it to my glory, my honor, my rejoicing in you, and to the peace and joy of your soul. In Jesus Name, Amen.

May the humble, seeking and joyful grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be experienced by you today.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 14 Mar 2010 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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