Friday, February 26, 2016, 3:35 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 15:11-32 (ESV). In Context (summary) In verse one we read that “sinners” were coming near to Jesus and were listening to him. The scribes and the Pharisees grumbled about this, accusing Jesus of receiving sinners and eating with them. So, what is a sinner? A sinner is a person who falls short of God’s divine approval. We are all born into sin, so that makes everyone a sinner. Some of us, though, have been saved from slavery to sin by God’s grace. Yet, we still have the ability to sin, and we are still tempted to sin. It is just that Jesus provided a way out for us to where we no longer are enslaved to sin, but we are now free to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness by faith in Jesus Christ, and in the power of his Holy Spirit living within us. So, what is sin? It is sinful to do what we know is wrong, but it is also sinful to not do the good we know we ought to do. Sin is disobedience and rebellion against God. It is to do what is in direct opposition to God’s moral laws and his divine nature and will for our lives. It is to turn our backs on God and to go in a different direction from what he is leading and directing us. It is sinful to ignore God’s words to us and to go our own way. So, why were these people called “sinners” but the Pharisees and scribes were not, except by Jesus? The Pharisees and scribes saw themselves as better. They thought that because they followed a set of religious rules and traditions of the elders that it made them superior to those who were openly living sinful lifestyles. But, they weren’t better. They were just bitter. Jesus shared this parable to show the Pharisees and scribes the riches of God’s grace to sinners, but to also give the religious, self-righteous and hypocritical leaders a good picture of themselves. The younger son in this story represents the publicans and sinners whom Jesus was ministering God’s grace to, and about which the religious leaders found offense that Jesus would open himself up to them. The older brother in this parable thus represents the scribes and the Pharisees and their attitude toward God and toward these repentant sinners, and shows the sickness and wickedness that is in their own hearts. Squandered Inheritance (vv. 11-16) And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” In Romans, chapter one, we read that what may be known about God was revealed to all mankind, so that we are without excuse. God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in all his created works. So, it isn’t that people don’t know who God is or that they are not cognizant of the fact that God exists, it is that they don’t honor him for who is he, nor do they give thanks to him. Instead of becoming worshipers of God, they bow to idols. So, God gives them over to do what their sinful hearts desire to do. And, that is the picture we have here of the son who took all that he had been given by the father, and he squandered it in reckless living. Although God had given him the breath of life, and the opportunity to live his life for God, and not for himself, he chose to rebel against God and to go his own way. He worshiped created things, rather than the creator. He became filled with wickedness, and he was senseless, faithless and disobedient to what he knew was right. Sin had power over his life, and he was its slave, and it his master. His life was now spent in living in wild, senseless indulgence in the flesh, so that eventually there was nothing left but painful memories of what could have been, had he not made those wrong choices. Still he did not turn to God. He tried to resolve his problem with his own intellect and reasoning, but that backfired on him. And, now he had nowhere to turn. He Came to Himself (vv. 17-24) “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Sometimes people have to bottom out before they will ever look up. Sometimes God has to allow difficult times in people’s lives just so they will realize what a mess they have made of them, and so they will repent and will turn to God (or return to God). I believe God will bring such trying times to America to get the people of this nation to come to him or to return to him. His word teaches that such times are coming. Yet, I believe God’s purpose is to revive his church and to bring many people to salvation from sin before he returns to judge and to take his bride to be with him forever. So, these difficult times which lie ahead of us are for our good. They are God’s mercy to us in getting the people of this nation to repent of their sins of idolatry, complacency, apathy and spiritual adultery against God. Those who have lived wickedly, and/or who have never before given Jesus Christ Lordship over their lives, but who have followed in the ways of their own sinful flesh, when they come to their senses, and they humble themselves before God, and grieve over their sins, and believe in Jesus Christ, God will have mercy on them, and he will forgive their sins. He will give them new lives in Christ Jesus free from slavery to sin and the control of Satan over their lives. Amen! By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins, crucified with Christ in death to sin and resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is true grace, i.e. the kind that does leave us still under the control of sin, but that frees us out of sin. The Bitterness of Jealousy (vv. 25-32) “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Those who live self-righteous, hypocritical lives, who appear to have done all the right things, and obeyed all the rules, and who keep all the traditions passed down to them from their religious ancestors, and all the rituals of their particular “Christian” denomination, oftentimes, like the Pharisees, see themselves as superior and everyone else as “sinners.” They may have no problem watching sexually suggestive or provocative junk on television, or wasting their time away on what is meaningless, and which has no eternal value at all, and they may not give God even 5 minutes of their time each day, if at all, but they will condemn those who don’t attend what they call a “worship service” every Sunday morning in a building called “church,” and merely because that is the way they were raised. They don’t have the Spirit living within them, most likely, because they are just following a religion, but they don’t have a relationship with God/Jesus. There has been no death to sin and being resurrected to new life in Christ, because their faith is in form only. Jesus is not Lord of their lives. They are their own lord (master), and they do as they choose. Following a religion makes them feel good, and perhaps gets them a good reputation with others who will see them as “godly” or as “good” because they go through all the right motions. But, God knows their hearts. And, he sees what they do when no one else is looking. They may not get all that excited about sinners coming to repentance, perhaps out of jealousy, because they will think the repentant sinner is getting more attention than them, even though they are the ones who obeyed all the rules, or so they thought. They also may not get all that excited about sinners coming to repentance because that will only make them feel uncomfortable about their own hidden sins. There is a saying that says, “Misery loves company.” It means that if you are unhappy, you want other people to be unhappy, too. It is the same with sin. Those who know they are sinning and that they need to change are not comfortable being around those who are walking in obedience to their Lord and who are enjoying good fellowship with their Lord. It makes them feel guilty. They may even try to lead a righteous person into sin just so they don’t feel as bad about their own sin. Yet, we should rejoice whenever anyone comes to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and is translated from death to life of the Spirit of God, and thus leaves his/her life of sin behind in order to follow Jesus Christ in surrender to his will for their lives. This should be great cause for great rejoicing! It is not cause for rejoicing, nonetheless, when so many are being fed lies instead of the truth and so they make false confessions of Christ as Savior from sin because they think it will get them an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when they die, but they believe God requires nothing of them in the way of repentance or obedience. He does! His word says so. He said so. We are saved from sin, not to sin. If we are not delivered from slavery to sin so that we can live to righteousness, but we continue to live sinful lifestyles, thinking that God’s grace covers it all, then we need to read the scriptures, because that isn’t what they teach. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. We must repent of sin and follow (obey) Jesus to be saved. He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014 Based off Isaiah 9:2-7 People walk in darkness. They abide in their sin. It has power o’er them. True belief escapes them. Jesus Christ came to save them. He gave His life up for them; Crucified; died for our sin, So we might be forgiven, And have life up in heaven. Many come to know Him. God’s love now o’erflows them. They rejoice in vict’ry. Their sin is but hist’ry. We were once bound in slav’ry. Jesus lifted our burdens; Set us now free from Satan, So we now walk in freedom. Sin has no more dominion. Praise be to our Savior! He showed us His favor. He took all our burdens; Cast them all upon Him. He is our mediator; The Light which shines in darkness. Counselor in our troubles; He gives peace now in our hearts; Joy which is everlasting.