MESSAGE DELIVERED: JULY 23, 2017
I spent some time last week cleaning out a couple filing cabinets, throwing a bunch of stuff away, but it’s amazing when you do something like that, the stuff you run across that, maybe YEARS ago you thought was worth saving, but have since then completely forgotten about.
Well, one of the things I had saved, I didn’t put a date with it, but it was something that had impressed me, so I kept it. It was a newspaper article about a preacher in Texas who had just bought a BASKETBALL ARENA, and was planning on turning it into a CHURCH! The article didn’t mention how much he had PAID FOR that arena, but it DID say that he planned on spending an additional 75 million dollars MORE, to make it even BIGGER, so it would hold 16,000 people!
And you know, stuff like that is really FRUSTRATING to me, when WE have to struggle just to keep the LIGHTS on and the DOORS open! But I’m NOT supposed to covet, and without getting into whether or not this guy is preaching TRUTH to those 16,000 people, it still made me wonder…
How much GOOD do you suppose could have been done…what kind of an impact would it have had, if that 75 million dollars had been spent on promoting the Gospel all around the world, instead of just building a big MONUMENT, in Texas?
Well, as I was going through those old file cabinets, I was also listening to a CD from John MacArthur. I’m not sure where it came from, probably someone had given it to me, and the sound quality was a bit garbled, but I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to it. I do kinda admire John MacArthur, so I was listening with half an ear until I realized he was condemning all those “BIG NAME” preachers, who have successful TV ministries, and who had all gotten RICH, through those TV ministries…and well, let me just say he wasn’t a big fan OF those guys.
And he was saying how he thought those of us in the evangelical community should rise up and CONDEMN what he called CHARLATANS and HUCKSTERS who present themselves as FAITH-HEALERS, in order to separate GULLIBLE people from their money.
But I was thinking “I’m just a SMALL-church preacher”…and I know you can read that different ways, but let’s not get into that. Suffice it to say that I feel my calling is simply to try to FEED those that the Lord sends us, with the GOOD FOOD of the Gospel. I do NOT spend a lot of time examining the ministries of OTHER preachers.
I KNOW there are a lot of charlatans out there, using the Name of the Lord to make a name for THEMSELVES, as well as a lot of MONEY for themselves. There always has been. Even Paul complained about them. But it keeps me pretty busy, just trying to keep up with what I’ve been called to do each week. I don’t have the TIME, or the EXPERTISE, to judge what OTHER men are doing. If John MacArthur does, then God bless him, HE should be sounding the alarm, not telling ME to do that!
I know that, in large part, the Gospel IS being “watered down”, and I know that words like “SIN”, and “REPENTENCE”, and “THE BLOOD OF CALVARY” are being REMOVED, in order to make people feel good about themselves, so they’ll keep coming back, with their CHECK books…although a LOT of them now allow you to make your tithe through MASTERCARD or VISA!
AND I know it’s HIGH time for them to STOP that…stop promoting themSELVES, and start promoting JESUS! But I have to confess, it’s very frustrating, when I see what a huge DIFFERENCE it makes, between preaching what is RIGHT, and what WORKS!
And it’s discouraging to keep preaching truth to EMPTY SEATS. That’s probably discouraging to YOU as well. But still, I can’t bring myself to SUGAR-COAT what God said, so as not to OFFEND anyone, and thereby to attract a larger crowd.
I’m sure those mega-churches are filling a NEED in some people, based on their success. But I’m NOT so sure they’re fulfilling the Great Commission. In fact, I see a lot of them as a WASTE of RESOURCES. And when I think of WASTE, I always think of the PRODIGAL SON, and that’s what I wanted to look at this morning.
I got an invitation in the mail last week, inviting me to attend a presentation by a group that is promoting tours of the HOLY LAND. And that, since I’m thinking of a few things from the past, reminded me of when Dawn and I had actually attended one of those presentations, several years ago, because IT was different from the USUAL promotions. The one we attended was held by the Tourism Department, of the Israeli Government itself.
I’ve told you this story before but it’s germane to what I want to talk about this morning, and the invitation I just got in the mail reminded me of it. Obviously, the purpose of the presentation was to convince ME, to convince YOU, to book tours of the Holy Land.
But the DIFFERENCE that time was, all the presenters were people who actually LIVED IN the Holy land. Now, I’ve been involved with Jewish folks about all my life. I had a friend who was the son of a Rabbi, and who wasn’t the least bit interested in religion…and a Jewish MAN, who was married to a METHODIST woman, and they were trying to HOMOGONIZE their kids, by feeding them a little bit of BOTH religions, figuring when the kids were older they could decide for themselves which one they wanted to follow. Those are just a few.
But they were all American Jews. One of the women making that presentation introduced herself as a SABRA, a young woman who had actually been BORN IN Israel. That may not seem like such a big deal, but you have to think about that. She was part of the FIRST generation of people to BE born in Israel, in nearly 2000 years! And she was justifiably proud of that fact.
Another of the presenters said that she wasn’t really comfortable speaking ENGLISH, since she had been RAISED speaking only Hebrew. And she wanted to read a portion of Scripture IN Hebrew, which she did, and then asked if any of us recognized it, and of course none of us did. So she read the same passage in English. It was from Psalm 137:1-6.
And now you all recognize the LAMENT of the Hebrew people, when they went into the Babylonian captivity. But, that was an event that had occurred 2500 years before this woman was even BORN. But, to this young woman, what, 30, 35 years old?…one of the first generation born in Israel since the Dispersion, in 70 A.D….as she read that passage, her EYES filled with tears. She actually got EMOTIONAL, as she read about her FARDISTANT ancestors, being cut OFF from the land of Israel…from Jerusalem!
And THAT, too, reminded me of the Prodigal Son. Because it reminded me that there are TWO sons in that story. AND, because here was this young woman, and her LOVE was SO DEEP, but NOT her love for GOD! Her love is for the LAND. And I can equate THAT with the ELDER brother in this story.
So I guess I want to help you to realize that there are TWO types of Jews IN Israel today; the RELIGIOUS Jew, who loves GOD, and yearns for Him to RETURN to the people of Israel…and the NATIONALISTIC Jew, who worships not the GOD of his ancestors, but the LAND of his ancestors.
Both groups have vastly different agendas, and that makes it easy to SEE, that there will NEVER be PEACE in that country, until ANTI-CHRIST arrives, to MAKE peace. And it should make you see that the “Land for PEACE” deal they’ve been trying to broker over there, will NEVER work. See, it’s NOT just a conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians. It’s a conflict between the Palestinians, the RELIGIOUS Jews, and the NATIONalistic Jews. And it will take an AMAZING person to unite THEM!
So let’s take a look at those two brothers that we just read about. And let me tell you there are TWO kinds of preaching. Or should I say at LEAST two kinds…and they are EXPOSITORY, and ALLEGORICAL. Expository is what we do as we looked, for three months, at the “Sermon on the Mount”.
I was amazed that we spent that much time there, but the material warrants it. Expository preaching means you take what the Scripture says, and EXPLAIN or DEFINE it. In allegorical preaching, you take what the Scripture says, and make the individual elements of the Scripture stand for something else. For instance, at the Last Supper, when the Lord said “This is My Blood”, He was speaking allegorically, or SYMBOLICALLY.
When we read the PARABLES, you are often MEANT to read them allegorically, since the elements of the parables often DO stand for something OTHER than only what was said. And there may be several possible different interpretations that can be made from that same story, allegorically.
So this morning, I want to look at these two brothers, as the CHRISTIAN, and the JEW. I know that might be a bit of a stretch, but if you’ll bear with me for a minute I’ll try to make that point.
So, we have two brothers, sons of the same Father, both part of the Father’s household, both living WITH the Father. And it’s kinda difficult at first, to define the younger brother as the GENTILES of the world, as those who have never KNOWN the Father, since BOTH these sons ARE part of the Father’s household…but the younger one LEFT!
He abandoned the father…took all his blessings, and went out and WASTED them. Verse 13 says that not long after receiving those blessings, he left, traveled to a far distant land, where he WASTED all that the Father had given him. I want you to understand, that’s WHAT the word, PRODIGAL, means. I know often when a young man goes out into the world and makes a name for himself, does real good, and then returns to his ancestral home, the local newspaper might print a story with the lead, “The PRODIGAL Returns”. But the world usually has that backwards. He didn’t do GOOD, he WASTED it all, and that’s what ‘prodigal’ means; ‘waster’.
So, just for the sake of discussion, let’s say that the younger brother IS the Christian, and that distant land that he traveled to, is AMERICA! That might make this more relevant to you, as we just celebrated the 241st ‘birthday’ of America. That’s not really a long time, in God’s view…and America had more of EVERYTHING, than any other country in the world.
And it was established as a nation where all men were free to worship God as they saw fit. But NOW, 241 years later, the LAND, the WATER, the AIR, are all polluted…all those natural resources nearly used up, WASTED and GONE!…like the American BUFFALO, or Bison. Once there were MILLIONS, now almost all gone, slaughtered mostly for SPORT! That’s just one example. But now, instead of freedom OF religion, what’s NOW being promoted here, is freedom FROM religion.
Maybe from that, you can see how the BLESSINGS the Father has LAVISHED on us, have all been WASTED, today! Well the next element in this story that takes place in that distant land, is a SEVERE FAMINE. The King James Version says a MIGHTY FAMINE. Interestingly, if you look that up in the Greek, it says a VIOLENT famine.
MANY places in the world today ARE experiencing that VIOLENT famine of religion. Places like China, Sudan, the Near East…THERE, Christians ARE suffering, and even DYING, for what they believe. Can WE be CERTAIN that ‘VIOLENT FAMINE’ isn’t about to happen HERE?
That term COULD be used to describe the FORCEFUL attempt to REMOVE all aspects OF Christianity, TRUE Christianity, from public life. Actually, that’s the PLOT of my last BOOK, the FORCED REMOVAL of all aspects of Christianity from public life. And if I can come up with a possible way for it to happen, some TYRANT can, too!
But the story doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that after the younger brother had WASTED all his fortune, he found himself in the MIDST OF that ‘great famine’. He was even forced to take a HORRIBLE, LOWLY job that would disgust any good Jew. The only job he could get was feeding SWINE!
ANY Jew knows that PIGS are UNCLEAN animals, and this brother is SO hungry, he even wishes he could eat the PODS he was feeding to the pigs. But he could NOT! (It’s often explained that the ‘pods’ in question are the fruit of the CAROB tree, which pigs CAN eat, but which humans can’t digest.)
And THAT could mean that when TRUE Christianity is outlawed in America, maybe a new STATE religion would be put in place, and the churches FORCED to proclaim it, even though they can’t STOMACH what they have to proclaim. But to keep their place, they would HAVE to.
See, the U.S. Constitution says “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof”. But when the U.S. Supreme Court can say the that Constitution allows for the cold-blooded KILLING of unborn humans, then that document can be made to say ANYTHING they WANT it to say!
Do you think that can’t happen here? Right now, as a result of the LAST Administration, fundamental Christianity is being CONDEMNED as being EXCLUSIONARY, while ISLAM is often promoted as a religion of PEACE and LOVE. And this is happening all over the country. And if you’re not aware of it, you aren’t paying attention.
High School athletes today, can’t have a prayer for protection before a game, but employers HAVE to give Muslim employees time off to pray, three times every day.
Well, the reason the young brother can’t SWALLOW the things he was FORCED to feed to unclean animals, was because he KNEW they were WRONG for him…even HARMFUL to him! And that is when he finally comes to his senses, and wonders why he ever LEFT his Father’s house?
This Parable doesn’t show a SINNER coming to the Father for the FIRST time. It shows one who had once been a part OF that household, finally coming BACK to where he belonged.
See, even though he left, he never stopped BEING a son. But for a while he went away from the Father. Now he’s finally coming back to where he has belonged all along. And that is not ME making any interpretations. It is simply reading what the text says, in JESUS’ words.
And HERE is where we see the major difference between these two brothers. In verse 21, the younger says “I have SINNED, against Heaven AND against you…and am no longer worthy to be called a son”.
The OLDER brother says, in verse 29, “I have served you FAITHFULLY all these years, and have NEVER transgressed ANY of your commandments”. And you understand “TRANSGRESSED” means the SAME as “SINNED”.
The younger brother eventually realizes the ERROR of his ways, REPENTS, CONFESSES his sins, and begs for the LOWEST PLACE in the household! But the OLDER brother has no SENSE of PERSONAL SIN, so HE sees no NEED of repentance!
In fact, you can see from verse 30, he feels so SUPERIOR to the YOUNGER brother, the WASTER!…that he doesn’t even SEE him AS a brother. He refers to him as “this son of yours”, and NOT ‘this BROTHER on MINE’.
Backing up for a minute, the Jewish tour promoters I was telling you about earlier, were DEEPLY concerned about the LAND of Israel. The land itself, and NOT the GOD OF that land. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we find where the priests bribed the soldiers who were to have guarded Jesus’ Tomb, to say the disciples had come and stolen the Body of the Lord.’
And as Matthew says, “this story is STILL being told today”! And it was certainly true when Matthew wrote that, but I think it may still BE true, today.
The Jews will allow the Christians to come, as pilgrims, to view all the remarkable sites of Christian tradition…the Church of Nativity, the Garden Tomb, ALL of it! But to THEM, Jesus was just another teacher, who was killed, and His Body stolen away by His followers.
Christians are allowed to COME there, but they are FORBIDDEN to PROSELTYZE, anywhere within the City of Jerusalem…because to THEM, Jesus was JUST a MAN. The RELIGIOUS Jews don’t BELIEVE in Him, and the NATIONALIST Jews don’t CARE! It is the LAND that is important, NOT the events that played out there!
So, the younger brother returned to the father, and as soon as the father saw him coming, he RAN to him. That is something NO self-respecting Jewish man would EVER do, but the Father cared far more for his SON, than he did for his own DIGNITY!
So you can probably see that the father had been sitting on the porch, watching, since his son left. And as soon as he saw him RETURNING, he RAN to him, THREW himself on the sons filthy shoulders, CLOTHED him in the FINEST robe, put a RING upon him, that IDENTIFYED him AS a son, and called for a huge FEAST in celebration.
And, as we’re currently studying the Book of Revelation, I see THIS as the coming MARRIAGE FEAST of the Lamb. That WILL occur, as soon as the Christians realize they’re supposed to be serving GOD, not building huge CHURCHES and TV networks…when we FINALLY realize that we have taken the riches of the Father, and SQUANDERED them on SELFISH endeavors!
Jesus clearly told us to take the TALENTS He has given us, and USE them to increase HIS wealth, NOT our OWN!…NOT to build “PERSONAL KINGDOMS” for ourselves. And I know it’s impossible for me to say that, and NOT be seen as painting EVERYBODY with the SAME brush. And I truly do know that there are MANY people, quietly working EVERY day, to ADVANCE the Kingdom of God.
But there are JUST as many, working to make a NAME for themselves, by USING the Name of Jesus. And when THAT happens, we ALL suffer! I do not believe that God needs a $100 million dollar church in a converted basketball stadium, to promote His Son. I do not believe that God needs a $50 million dollar BROADCAST STUDIO, to promote His Son!
I believe that WHAT God wants, is for people who have been saved by the Blood of Jesus, to go to OTHER people, and say “WOW! Wait until I tell you what happened to me”!
That’s one-on-one evangelism, when you sit down with a neighbor, and tell them about the wonderful Salvation you have found, and how THEY can find it, too!
Well, when the young brother is given the feast, the older brother is invited to join, and he refuses. He insolently tells his Father “I have NEVER sinned against you” but his insolence shows you that he is lying. He just doesn’t recognize his behavior AS sinful, and refuses to go to the party.
But when that party is OVER, THEN the Father will go to that older son, and deal WITH him, as befits the FIRSTBORN. And HE will receive from the Father, FAR more than the younger did.
That doesn’t mean that WE should feel slighted. WE will receive MORE than we will know what to DO with, but the ELDER will receive MORE.
We need to remember, no matter HOW Israel acts now, God isn’t DONE with them yet. My task NOW is to invite YOU, if you’ve never received an invite, to JOIN us AT that Party…that LAVISH Party…as God ushers the CHURCH into the WEDDING Feast of His Son.
Just confess you ARE a sinner. We ALL are! And acknowledge Jesus as the ONLY way TO Salvation. And then get ready, because that PARTY could start ANY TIME!