Family: A Better Way
Have you ever wondered what God thinks of you? Do you feel that He remembers your past or that He dreams about your future? The way we answer those questions has a profound impact on how we perceive God — either as distant and demanding or as a loving Father who has compassion for His children. In this message, we take a look at the prodigal love of our heavenly Father. You’ll learn the true meaning of “prodigal” and how it defines the heart of God as a generous Father who loves us, even when we don’t deserve it.
Bottom Line: How do I become a loving person?
Something To Talk About:
- Young son wanders from home: The prodigal son is demanding to be sure. He does not ask kindly, and he lacks grace and tact with his choice of words. There is no discussion about his intentions. He demands that his father give him his inheritance now. The father did not argue or try to reason with him. The result was painful. Life in a distant land from his father no longer held the excitement it did at first. Instead, he became miserable. His life went downhill fast. He was put to work in the pig pen to feed the pigs. To a Jewish citizen, to not only feed pigs but also to be hungry for the pods that the pigs were eating was a picture that this man had hit rock bottom in his life.
- The Young Son’s Awakening and Repentance: Then he came to his senses. (Luke 15:17) He realized the madness and folly of how he had been living his life. He began to examine his life, reflecting on how he had managed to get himself in such a position. The younger son began to think of returning home and what words he could say to make amends and be restored. He knows that he has no right to anything and that he must face the shame and scorn of the father and his elder brother. He is bankrupt of position, and he now is ready to be a servant of his father. He prepared his speech and resolved that he would serve his father by being a day laborer in his fields. The words, “So he returned home to his father” (v. 20) describe his repentance. All the listeners at this point in the story would be amazed at the level of shame the son had brought the father, the family, and the town in which he lived. In the listener’s minds, they were wondering what would be the acceptable punishment for the son for his rebellion. All kinds of thoughts of just penalties would have been in the minds of the Pharisees to stop this kind of thing from happening again, but instead of hearing the expected condemnation, Jesus’ next words shocked them to the core.
- The Prodigal Father: “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (v.20) The elderly father was so ready to forgive that he does not even give the young man a chance to speak his words. The father accepts the young son before he got his words off his chest. This story describes a father in great love with his son. There is no thought in the mind of the father about what he did. He is just so pleased to see him that he expressed kindness even before the son expressed his repentance. These words speak of God’s kindness and His readiness to be reconciled to those who have been apart from His love. The servants were told to kill the calf fattened for this day. This father had been slowly fattening the calf, knowing that, someday, he would celebrate when his son would come home. These were all gifts of grace lavished on the slave returning home and restored to sonship. This father is a picture of God the Father, a long way from home, waiting and looking for his son. There was no anger at his son’s sin; when this father saw his son in the distance, the only emotion he had was compassion.
- Do you have a different view of the prodigal son after hearing this message?
- In describing this young man’s awakening to his need, the Lord used the words “When he came to his senses” (v. 17). What does the term mean to you? What is repentance, and what words in the text indicate his repentance?
- If you had never heard this story before, what would you assume would happen next when the son returned? What do you think Jesus’ listeners in that day would have expected to happen for the returning son to be accepted back into his Father’s house?
- When Jesus presented this parable, why did he have the father running to the son, and what aspect of God’s character does this display? What three things were brought for the son, and what do you think these things can represent to us as Christians?
- Our Father is exceedingly generous and lavishes love on us, which fits the definition of prodigal (exceedingly generous or lavishly wasteful). Some see God this way and others are fearful of His judgment. How is God our Father like the father in the parable?
- What comes first—confession or the father’s love? It has been said we do not change our lives to be forgiven; we change our lives because we are forgiven. How should this influence us in our relationships with others?
- Think about people who, like the son, are far away. What are some reasons that would keep them from coming home to Jesus? How might the outcome be influenced if we extend a hand of forgiveness?
- How does God feel about you, according to Zephaniah 3:17? What would you say to a person who has a hard time believing that God rejoices and sings over them?
- What are your expectations for this week as a result of Sunday’s message?
- What about the message will stick with you over time? Why?
Take one thing home with you:
Forgiveness is a precious gift we’ve received…and one we’re called to give others. But sometimes people get stuck by thinking that if we forgive it’s as if we’re saying that what the other person did, didn’t matter. That is not true. After all, we can only forgive when there’s something to forgive. Forgiveness acknowledges that the other person has done something wrong, and is truly at fault. When Christ uttered, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34), He knew all too well the depth of the deep offense against Him. But we need to remember that Jesus didn’t die for a select group of people. He died for everyone. That includes those who have been good to us and those who have harmed us. Understanding what God did for us is the best way to learn how to forgive.
Rick Warren summed it up in this quote: “And you know when you’ve experienced grace and you feel like you’ve been forgiven, you’re a lot more forgiving of other people. You’re a lot more gracious to others.”