Week Commencing Sunday 20th September

Week Commencing Sunday 20th September 2020

Call to worship

‘The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.’ Daniel 9:9

Hymn

 

1 I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.
I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.

2 I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;
Faint was I from many a fall;
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.
Days of darkness still come o'er me,
 

Sorrow's paths I often tread,
But the Saviour still is with me;
By His hand I'm safely led.

3 He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He'll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.
Yes, I'll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

Francis H Rowley

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDPCFbAysBc

 

Prayer

 

 

Our gracious Father, we confess that we have sinned against you and done many things to grieve you; we have often been selfish, we have sometimes forgotten to pray to you and we have not loved you as we should. For these and all other sins forgive us we pray through Him who died for us- Jesus our Lord.

Father we thank you for the grace you show us. This undeserved favour. Stooping down to us and treating us who are inferior on equal terms. For our creation and all the created gifts we enjoy. For your provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. That He died for us, even when we were your enemies. For this grace you show to us throughout our lives, and that one day, because of your grace, we will share eternity with you. Lead us to meditate on and believe in these truths today. We worship you and give you thanks. Amen

 

 

 

Reading. Luke 15:11-32

1511 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

 

Sermon. ‘The Parable of the Lost Son’.

Luke’s Gospel Chapter 15 opens with Jesus being accused of welcoming and having fellowship with ‘sinners’ (verse 2). His reply to these accusations is found in the Parables of the ‘Lost Sheep’ and the ‘Lost Coin’. Jesus welcomes sinners because that’s what God does. As a woman delights in finding a lost coin, as a shepherd celebrates the finding of his lost sheep, so God rejoices when a lost sinner is found: there is ‘rejoicing in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents’ (verse 7).

The Parable of the Lost Son illustrates this same theme. The joy of God over one repentant sinner is like that of a father who welcomes his returning, wayward son.

The younger son wanted to leave his home. He asked his father to give to him the portion of the estate that he would inherit upon his father’s death. The son could do this legally but it wasn’t very loving toward his father. This premature action illustrated that he didn’t care much for home and was set on wanting to please himself.

The father would have been hurt by the son’s request but it would have been worse to force him to stay at home. So the father divided his estate between the two sons (verse 12b). The custom was that the older son received twice as much as the younger. The younger son took his inheritance and set out for a distant country.

The young son acted on the lie that his father’s restraints were not to be tolerated. He believed living far away would bring him happiness.

The Bible’s big picture describes how that outlook is true spiritually of men and women in general. Like Adam and Eve we have been tempted by the devil to doubt God’s good purpose; that God is being mean with us, ‘God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened…’ (Genesis 3:5) Here is the devilish insinuation that God is suppressing us, that He is a kill joy. God’s real motive: that He so loves and cares for us that He warns because He does not want us to die is omitted. Like Adam and Eve we fall for the temptation that sin is attractive; ‘the fruit of the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye… (6)

The younger son believed these lies and headed for the distant country, but when he got there he found something worse…

Destitution

The distant country promised freedom but actually enslaved the younger son. While his money lasted he had so called friends, but when it was gone he was destitute. He hired himself out to a Gentile to feed his pigs (this would have been degrading for a Jew on both counts). He longed to eat the pigs’ food himself. The younger son was about as low as you can get!

The form of rebellion the younger son took was what the Bible describes as license.

God has created many good gifts for us to enjoy. He loves us. He intended we know Him and live happy contented lives. God has made us part of a world, indeed a universe that has so much to explore and learn about. He made us stewards of His Creation (Genesis 1:28). He gives us many pleasures: food and drink, marriage and family life, interests of various kinds. All these things God created for us. They are all, He declared ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).

License is when people ignore God and just make his gifts to us all important. To love the gift rather than the Giver is to be guilty of idolatry. Those given over to license ignore what God says through His Word about how these gifts should be used, and instead do what they want- believing the lie that they will find their freedom in so doing. However the gift they idolise becomes a false god that in reality enslaves them.

Many are lost like that younger son. They take the way of license and end up spiritually destitute and enslaved by whatever has mastered them:

Drugs used correctly have great medicinal benefit, but when they are abused leave the user addicted. Short term thrills but soon the user is restless, nauseous, can’t sleep, addiction follows, perhaps a turning to criminal activity to fund their habit. Alcoholism is a form of drug abuse.

Then there is sex:

The marriage ordinance is described in Genesis 2. It is rooted in the Creation account of Adam and Eve, and this marriage ordinance is reaffirmed by Jesus’ own teaching:

Creation account. Genesis 222 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’(Genesis 2:22-25, for historicity of Adam and Eve see end note1)

 

Jesus teaching. ‘Mark 106bat the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10: 6-9)

 

God intends that sex be reserved for marriage between a husband and his wife. But sexual permissiveness through fornication and adultery has left many casualties in our culture and proved to be the enemy of stable family life and permanent unions. Sorrow and heartache follow. As one Minister put it, ‘There are some things which are pleasant, but not good, as youthful lusts and worldly delights. They carry honey in their mouths, but they have a sting in their tails.’ (Rev William Secker).

The younger son also squandered his money. Jesus warns against the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10). When a person loves Money (Mammon- making money an Idol) it becomes a light to them, but it is a false light that Jesus teaches in reality is darkness. (Matthew 6:19-24). This has been personally brought home to me through observing my father over the years because my father is a compulsive gambler. He would continually gamble on horses, dogs and cards. The initial thrill of the gamble would soon be replaced by insecurity and anxiety about having no or little money. This would leave my father a tormented man. There was hardly any money in the house as I was growing up. It was only my mother becoming a Christian in her early thirties that in her own words stopped her from trying to leave or kill him. Her commitment to God, including the marriage ordinance was a strong witness to the reality of God and His teaching. Her trust in God meant we were provided with all we needed. By His grace they are still married today (both seventy nine years old). My father, although a gambler still, has softened in later years and regrets much of what has gone before. However this form of license has left him destitute spiritually (and more often than not materially too).

Romans 1:18-32 is the Apostle Paul’s diagnosis of the human condition. The sinful nature rebels against God and believes it will become more enlightened, truly free in so doing, however, license leads to degeneration and sorrow.

Fortunately the Parable does not end on that note. The younger son ‘came to his senses’. He came to a right view of his father. He thought about the goodness of his father; how the hired hands had food to spare. He thought he would go back, confess his sin and asked to be a hired hand. This aspect of the parable illustrates true repentance. Not merely regret or remorse, but acting on what we know to be true, to confess our sin to a good God. There is a turning around here. Paul said ‘I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.’ (Acts 20:21). The son’s going to his father illustrates a burgeoning faith.

The father’s love

We have these wonderful words “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ The father has been looking out for his son to return. There is real feeling here for his son which comes before any confession/ repentance. It reminds us of the active seeking and searching for what was lost in the first two parables. In the same way God seeks us out.

The son begins his confession, but does not have time to request he be like a hired worker because it is abundantly clear his father has fully forgiven him. Further there is an urgency in the father making sure the son knows he is accepted as a son. He is quick to call for a robe, a ring and sandals for his son. The ring was a sign of sonship, the best robe was proof he had been received back into the family. Servants did not wear rings, shoes or expensive garments. So too God calls us into His family when we put our faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:5)

In addition the father orders a banquet. Evidently the father is so glad to have his son back ‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’

In all these details we see the passion of God’s love for us.

Jesus is saying that God is more merciful than we dare ask Him to be and that His fatherly heart yearns to forgive.

Grace is the showing of love even when it is undeserved. We see the father’s grace shown toward the son in this parable, similarly we see God’s grace supremely shown toward us all at the cross. The Bible teaches that that Christ paid our sin debt on the cross ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24). We cannot pay our own sin debt, but ‘when we were powerless Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6).

Ephesians 2: 4, 5 also speaks of the amazing grace shown to us in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Paul writes ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved’

To the person who comes to Christ in repentance and faith, they, like the younger son receive forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. This is complete and irrespective of what we have done in the past:

Abraham was so fearful he let a man sleep with his wife. David was an adulterer and he had the woman’s husband killed. Peter betrayed the Lord. Paul had Christians killed for their faith. But God forgave and restored all of them. And He will forgive you on account of Christ.

John Macey, National Director of ‘Team challenge’ describes how a lady rang their helpline. She said ‘I don’t want to give my name, but I’m depressed. I can’t live without my tranquillisers and I feel so guilty. Unless I get immediate help I’m going to commit suicide’ Macey met with her. ‘Slowly the story emerged. Over a period of time she had been stolen money from an employer who trusted her; he had been very good to her even when he found out, making her redundant so that she could pay him back out of her redundancy pay. But she was overwhelmed by guilt and shame, unable to put the past behind her and go on with life. Macey described the destructive power of sin and the way the devil exploits our weaknesses to destroy everything meaningful in our lives, ‘I showed her that God could give her a new start, wiping the slate clean. She could be forgiven, born again.’ Macey adds ‘Christine made a commitment to Christ there and then, and returned the next day with her husband, who was unable to understand the change in her. After a few minutes counselling he too became a Christian.

I was looking at the Billy Graham Organisation UK website and found a section where they report a number of such stories where various people are converted to Christ in response to His grace, in similar ways to that of the younger son in the parable. Here is one you might like to follow up: https://billygraham.org/audio/the-man-who-broke-into-a-church-and-found-jesus/

 

Having discounted license in Romans 1, Paul in Romans chapters 3-6 outlines the way of God’s grace. A reading of those chapters would leave you amazed at God’s grace.

The older son.

The older son’s attitude contrasts sharply with the father and highlights how generous the father is.

The older son lacked loving concern for his brother. 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 banquet. 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 considered himself very hard done by, ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 

This outburst reveals the older son’s ingratitude. The father had provided for 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. Notice too that instead of calling him ‘my brother’ he called him ‘your son’

The older son had no place in his thinking for repentance, forgiveness or restoration. He was pretty sure of his own goodness. Indeed he felt he deserved a lot more than the father had done for him! His attitude is that of the Scribes and Pharisees. They thought themselves righteous and with no need of God’s forgiveness. At the same time they thought the tax collectors and prostitutes had no hope.

If Romans 1:18-32 is the Apostle Paul’s diagnosis of how the sinful nature rebels against God through license, Romans 2 traces how the sinful nature expresses itself in self-righteousness and legalism. The Apostle clearly shows the hypocrisy inherent in the position and that sins of envy, uncharitableness and pride are as serious in God’s sight as licentious sins and separate a person from God (and from other people). They too will face God’s righteous judgement unless they avail themselves of the salvation the Father provides in Christ. 

Conclusion. The truth is we are all lost whether through sins of license or legalism. These leave us destitute. Even the Church at Laodicea was upbraided for her pride ‘You say I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’ (Revelation 3:17).

What remains is the grace of God.

In the Parable of the Lost Son we see God’s grace expressed in lavish forgiveness, mercy and welcoming love. We see it clearly at the cross. We see it experienced by people in the Bible. We see it in the experience of people today. Have you experienced it? If not will you turn to the Father today?

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:8).

………………………………………………………………………………..

1 That we are all descended from one couple has been confirmed by genetic studies 11/2018: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6424407/Every-person-spawned-single-pair-adults-living-200-000-years-ago-scientists-claim.html But without added evolutionary assumption of shared chimp/human ancestry DNA mapping of human beings alone shows ‘mitochondrial Eve’ existed 6,500 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deV99oPnKlI&t=788s (‘Confirming evidence of a literal Adam and Eve.’ Dr Georgia Purdom. Relevant section of video from 28mins 17 secs).

 

Hymn

 

My Jesus, My Saviour
Lord there is no one like you
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love

My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King!
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of your name!
I sing for joy at the work of your hands
Forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You

Repeat verse

My Jesus, my Saviour
Lord, there is none like You
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of your mighty love
My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

 

 

Darleen Zschech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSQvoinDE4                                              PTO

Prayers (TearFund)

Bring to mind your family and those you love, and thank God for them. Pray for their protection from coronavirus, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable. Pray for God to comfort those around the world who are grieving the loss of loved ones, and for those who may be feeling isolated or lonely by being in lockdown. Pray for Tearfund and other aid organisations to be able get food, financial aid and emotional support to people whose already fragile circumstances have become desperate because of the pandemic.

 

Pray for all NHS workers to be kept healthy and well, for availability of necessary protective equipment, and for courage to replace fear as they care for infected people. Ask God to have mercy and to protect countries where there is a lack of basic healthcare, or where there is already devastation because of conflict and natural disasters. Pray for strength, wisdom and protection for the healthcare workers in these places. Pray for Tearfund partners who are setting up hand-washing stations, distributing soap, providing hygiene training and raising awareness about coronavirus prevention. Continue to pray for them as you wash your hands throughout the day.

 

Pray for wisdom for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Cabinet and senior civil servants as they decide how best to halt the spread of coronavirus in the UK while also protecting jobs. Pray for wisdom and support for governments of developing nations who are not able to provide safety nets to their people because of lack of resources and fragile infrastructures. Ask God to protect people living in refugee camps from coronavirus, such as the half a million Rohingya people in the world’s biggest refugee camp in Bangladesh. Pray for wisdom for leaders of these camps as they prepare to respond.

Hymn

 

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom

 

Stuart Townend

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzQj7XvKFmA

Blessing

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.                                             David Barnes 16/9/20