Just Like You Never Left
JUST LIKE YOU NEVER LEFT
I have been a minister now for over 30 years…and I suppose one of the things that has been the most concerning to me is the number of Christians that are robbing themselves of the joy and peace that being in Christ affords, all because they are not sure they are going to go to heaven.
- “I hope so….I hope God will forgive me.”
It is interesting that many who have not obeyed Christ are confident they are going to heaven.
- But some of us who have confessed Christ as Lord, who have repented of our sins, who have been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and who are manifesting our faith by our good works aren’t sure.
We are not sure that God can or will forgive some of the sins we have committed.
- “I did some pretty bad things when I was younger.”
- “I was married and divorced a couple of times before I came to Christ.”
- “Do you think God will forgive me for that?”
- We carry these feelings of guilt and let them destroy our assurance.
I have on occasion talked with some who were not Christians who had it in their minds that “there is no way God would forgive or save anyone like me who has done all the things I have done.”
If that is the way you think you have some wrong concepts of God. Look with me at the passage that was read.
We have already read the passage…so for just a few minutes let’s get into the thinking of a couple of the different characters.
First, let’s consider the boy…the younger son.
- This boy has gone to the “distant country” and has been involved in quite a bit of “loose living.”
- Now, I don’t know for sure what all is involved in “loose living”…but I get the impression that it included a broad variety of activities.
- That term “loose living” is also translated “riotous living” and that conveys the idea of uncontrolled, undisciplined, rebellious living.
- There is no telling what this boy was involved in.
But this boy comes to his senses…and in verse 18 he decides to go home…not as a son…but hoping to be a “hired man.”
- You see, when this boy starts home…in his mind…he is thinking, “Things will never be the same.”
- “I am no longer worthy to be called my Father’s son.”
- “If I am fortunate, maybe he will let me be one of his “hired men.”
That wasn’t asking much.
- It was no great honor to be a “hired man” in those days.
- In fact, it was better to be a slave.
- The “hired men” were migrant workers.
- They worked for wages and were paid every day.
- And what they would do is go to the market place and if someone came and asked, you might get to go and work in the fields.
- You get a glimpse of this in Matthew 20 and the “Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.”
- And when you worked in the fields they paid you only for the days you worked.
- And you hoped to earn enough to buy food so you could come back the next day.
- It was a lousy life!
- But it was a better life than he had in the “distant country!”
And so this boy gets up and he comes home, soiled and stained by the sins he has committed, and every step of the way he is thinking, “I am not worthy to be your son. Could I just be a “hired man” you use every now and then?”
And He doesn’t know what the father is going to say.
- All the way he is thinking, “I don’t deserve anything at all.”
Now, as Jesus is telling this story, the people (Pharisees and scribes; vs. 1) listening at this point, don’t know how this story is going to end.
- They probably expected Jesus to say, “So the boy came home and told his father, “I am not worthy to be your son, let me be your ‘hired man’.”
- And the father said, “Well, I don’t know. Let me think about it. You know, you blew it…you did some pretty bad stuff…I don’t know if I even want to mess with you.”
But that is not what the father said.
- That may be what life is like.
- Life says, “You blow it you pay for it.”
- But that is not what the Father says.
- This father says instead, “It will be like he never left!”
Notice what this father does in verse 20.
- While the boy is still a long way off, the father sees him and he runs to him…and he is full of compassion.
- And he throws his arms around the boy and he kisses him.
- The father doesn’t stand back.
- He doesn’t play hide and seek…and keep the boy guessing.
- The father doesn’t embarrass the boy by asking for some lengthy explanation.
- “Just where have you been son?” “What got into you head?”
- “You tell me what you have been up to?”
- “Have you learned your lesson?”
The father doesn’t do any of that!
- The father is not only glad to see his boy…but the father restores him back to son-ship…just as though he had never left.
That is not like us is it?
- We tend to put prodigals on probation.
- “Oh, you can come back but you can’t lead a prayer.”
- “Oh, you can come back but you can’t teach a Bible class.”
The father forgives…and he says: “Quick, put the best robe on him. Put a ring on his finger. Put shoes on his feet.”
- Every single one of those was meant to say, “My son is back!”
The robe covers the marks of the “distant country.”
- It is a symbol that the boy has been forgiven.
- Not just that the penalty has been remitted but that the relationship has been restored.
The ring is like giving the credit cards back to the boy.
- The boy could go to the market place with that stamp on that ring and have anything that he needed…as if the father was there himself writing the check.
- The ring says to the boy, “You are back…you are accepted…you are trusted.”
- It is just like he never left.
And the shoes are important because in that culture slaves weren’t given shoes.
- They belonged only to free men.
- Do you remember the old Negro spiritual that said, “I got shoes…you got shoes…all God’s children got shoes.”
- The shoes say to the world, “This boy has not been demoted to servitude…instead he has been reinstated as a son.”
There is a lot of difference between probation and pardon.
- We tend to put people on probation.
- Probation says, “We are going to watch you closely…and if you slip just once.”
- But the son was pardoned.
- The record was erased.
In Romans 5:1 the apostle Paul says, “Therefore we have been justified by faith…” Do you remember in Bible class, the word “justification” and what your teacher said it meant?
- It means, “Just as if I’d never sinned.”
- That is what the father is doing.
- He is treating this boy just as if he had never left.
And notice, the father is not only glad to see his boy…and not only does he restore him to son-ship…but he restores the boy’s reputation.
- He says: “Bring the fattened calf and let’s kill it.”
- “Let’s celebrate…let’s call the neighbors and our friends.”
- “Let’s let everyone know that my son was lost and now he is found.”
- The father is taking a stand by the boy.
He is not saying to the boy, “Ok, you can be my son but I want you to stay out of sight.”
- “I am kind of embarrassed to let you be seen.”
The father says, “You are the celebrity. You are the object of honor at this feast.”
- “He is the real reason for the feast…and I want everyone to know that he is back…just as though he never left.”
The father restores him back to son-ship.
And God does the same for us.
- When you/I come home…He sees us as a son to run to.
- He restores us back as a son.
- And he restores our reputation.
- And he does it all, no matter how much or what kind of “loose living” we have done.
In 1914 a great fire destroyed Thomas Edison’s factory…Thomas was 67 at the time.
- Charles, his son was 24, and he watched his dad as his dad saw his dreams go up in smoke.
- He was feeling sorry for his dad when suddenly his dad said, “Where is your mom? She will never see a fire like this as long as she lives.”
- The next day Thomas said, “Tragedy is not always a disaster. All of my mistakes were burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
- It is the same for us…Thank God we can start anew.
Look with me at Col. 1:22. Paul says: …yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–
I have one question. How?
- How in the world can God make us holy?
- How can God view us like we have never sinned?
I have an answer. Gal. 3:27: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
When you, the prodigal, put on the robe of Christ, the only thing God sees is Jesus.
- That is why and how you can be holy before the father.
Widow…poor…made her living by doing laundry…and she was putting some laundry out on the line to dry.
- The preacher commented on what a good job she did…and he commented on how white everything looked.
- She invited him in for tea and they visited…and while they were visiting a snow came in and as he got up to leave the ground was covered by the snow and he looked again at the laundry and he commented that it did not seem quite as white as it had before.
- To which she replied, “The laundry is as clean as it can possibly be…but who can compete with God’s white?”
Did you know that snow is not even pure white?
- Snow is formed when the water crystallizes around a speck of dust.
- And did you know that the Bible says that God is going to make you whiter than snow?
- You don’t get more perfectly complete than that.
- That is God’s forgiveness.
If you are one of those who are letting doubt destroy your peace and joy…God can pardon sin.
- But the only way he can is if, like the prodigal son, we come home.
- We must come home and repent of our sins.
- But listen, repentance does not take away sin.
- Repentance does not atone for one single sin.
The only atonement that God accepts is Christ’s robes of righteousness.
- And according to Gal. 3: 27 the only way you clothe yourself in Christ is through baptism.
Acts 22: 16
Acts 2: 38.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023