Luke 15

I want you to think about something that is impossible as though it were possible. First, suppose that you had one chance to go back in your life. You literally could travel back in time in your own life. But, you could do this only in your own life. Second, suppose that when you went back, you knew everything that you know now. When you went back in your own life, you had all the understanding and wisdom that you have developed from study and experience. Third, when you went back in your life, you could change three things. You could change any decision that you made. You could change any failure to take action. You could change any action that you took.

BUT, you could do these three things only in your own life. You could not go back and change anything in anyone else's life--not Mom's, or Dad's, or your husband's, or your wife's, or your children's life, just in your life. You could change nothing they did, only what you did.

What would you change? I wish I could change some things. There are some things that I would not do. There are things that I would not say. There are people that I would not hurt. There are motives that I would change.

"Why would you make those changes?" I would make most of them because of the understanding I have now that I did not have then.

How about you? Would you change a decision, an act, or a failure to act?

"Who would not! But we cannot do that." No, we cannot do that, but there is something that we can do. Again, this morning, I call your attention to the Jesus' parable that we call the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

  1. You remember the parable.
    1. A younger brother, the youngest of two sons, wanted to leave home.
      1. The parable does not say why, but perhaps he had all he could stand of home, of Dad, and especially of older brother.
        1. In their society, older brother was in control when Dad died.
        2. In their society. older brother received two thirds of the inheritance.
        3. In their society, older brother would make the family decisions.
      2. Perhaps he left because he was sick of religion.
        1. The Jewish religion controlled every aspect of life.
        2. It controlled what you ate.
        3. It dictated what you could and could not do on Saturday.
        4. It controlled everything from your work to your food preparation.
        5. You went to the synagogue every Saturday to listen to scripture read and discussed, to hear rules and laws declared, and to pray.
        6. You went to the temple to offer sacrifices.
        7. You were expected to pray personal prayers three times a day.
        8. There was a rule for everything, and you were to know and keep all the rules.
      3. Perhaps he just wanted to experience life without religion, experience what the New Testament refers to as the "pleasures of sin."
        1. Maybe he wanted to get drunk.
        2. Maybe he wanted to "run with the bar crowd."
        3. Maybe he wanted to be sexually irresponsible.
        4. Maybe he wanted to gamble.
        5. Maybe he wanted the high of being the center of attention by blowing money.
    2. The parable does not say why he wanted to leave home; it simply tells us he did.
      1. So he demanded his one third of the inheritance, which meant he likely received it in cash, precious metals, and jewels.
      2. Soon after he got his hands on his inheritance he left home.
        1. Can you picture him leaving home?
        2. He did not need anybody! He certainly did not need his family!
        3. I bet he wore some fine clothes! I bet he was looking good!
      3. He went far away from home and all the influences of home.
        1. He planned to live like he wanted to live with no restraints, no restrictions.
        2. He did not want his family to bother him.
        3. He did not want religion to bother him.
        4. He did not want to be near anyone who knew his family.
        5. He was committed to doing his own thing--"get out of the way, here I come!"
    3. Living the life that he chose was expensive.
      1. As long as he could pay for the party, he had all kinds of friends and he got all kind of attention.
      2. And I have no doubt that he experienced pleasures that he never knew existed. He probably experienced some fantastic highs.
        1. Doing what is wicked and irresponsible can create incredible pleasures.
        2. The pleasures just have terrible consequences.
        3. And the worst consequences, the most painful consequences, the consequences that demand prices that you never dreamed existed are the consequences that occur inside you.
      3. He had neither the time nor the desire to work; he was too busy escaping, too busy having fun.

  2. One day he was broke, and at the same time this country he was in entered a severe economic depression.
    1. Immediately, perhaps overnight, his situation totally changed.
      1. Before he had lived in the finest places and was welcome everywhere; now he had no place to stay and was welcome nowhere.
      2. Before he had lots of friends who loved to party with him; now that he had no money and could not afford to party, he had no friends.
      3. Before he never wanted for food and alcohol; now he had nothing to eat and no alcohol to drink.
      4. Before he did not want work and did not need work; now he was desperate; he had to find a job at a time when there was no jobs.
      5. Everyone was struggling; nobody needed another party animal to feed.
    2. He left home to get away from every restraint and influence of home, and he did.
      1. He probably wanted to get away from Dad's watchfulness, and he did.
      2. He probably wanted to get away from older brother, and he did.
      3. He probably wanted to get away from religion, and he did.
      4. But getting away did not create the result he expected.
        1. The only job he could find was feeding pigs.
        2. He would never feed pigs at home because pigs were forbidden the Jewish people.
        3. He was truly away from God's influence because Jews could not eat pork.
        4. Necessity forced him to do the unthinkable--feed pigs.
          1. Have you ever been really lonely and really hungry?
          2. He was literally starving, and no one cared; in fact if he died, his death would solve their problem.
          3. Nobody cared enough about this starving man to give him anything.
            1. He wanted to eat what the pigs ate, but it would not keep him alive.
    3. Then, in one of the most insightful statements that Jesus ever made, the man took the first step toward a total change.
      1. Jesus was the master of stating the most profound, insightful understandings in very simple statements.
      2. Jesus said that one day as this starving man was feeding the pigs, that he came to himself (Luke 15:17).
        1. Many translations say, "He came to his senses."
        2. What a horrible moment of realization!
        3. In that moment he actually understood what he had done.
        4. In that moment he actually understood where he was and why he was there.
        5. In that moment he realized it was not Dad's fault, it was not older brother's fault, it was not religion's fault, but that it was his fault.
        6. He was where he was, he was doing what he was doing, he was starving to death because of his choices, because of his decisions.
      3. At that moment, he realized a lot of things.
        1. He realized he could not turn the clock back--what had happened was real.
        2. He realized that he did not have to be there.
          1. If he stayed there, it was because he decided to stay there instead of accepting responsibility for his decisions and his actions.
          2. If he starved, it was because he decided to starve instead of accepting responsibility for his decisions and actions.
          3. If he died far away from home feeding pigs, it was because he decided to die instead of accepting responsibility for his decisions and actions.
      4. In his heart of hearts he knew that he could never go back and be a son.
        1. He did not even want to go back and be a son.
        2. He was ashamed of himself.
        3. He was ashamed of what he had done.
        4. He was ashamed of the grief and pain that he caused.
        5. He was ashamed of the way that he wasted life.
        6. He just did not want to starve to death, and the only person who might care enough to let him work as a servant and have food was Dad.

  3. It is extremely important that you see this clearly: nothing good happened in this man' s life until he came to himself.
    1. Horrible things are happening in our society because people do one of two things:
      1. Either they never come to themselves in their despair, loneliness, and pain.
      2. Or when they come to themselves they refuse to accept responsibility for their decisions and their actions.
    2. Horrible things are happening in the church because struggling, dying Christians are doing one of two things:
      1. Either they never come to themselves in their despair, loneliness, and pain.
      2. Or when they come to themselves they refuse to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions.
    3. Why don't suffering people who endure the consequences of the life they live come to themselves?
      1. They prefer to deny the reality of their situation.
      2. Or, they prefer to blame someone else for what they allowed to happen.
      3. Or, they prefer to hold someone else responsible for their choices.
        1. "It is my parents fault."
        2. "It is my husband or wife's fault."
        3. "It is my children's fault."
        4. "It is my boss' fault."
        5. "It is the fault of the person who deceived me or hurt me."
      4. Did all these people contribute to your problem, to your situation? They surely did!
        1. We rarely experience a crippling problem or a devastating situation that is solely our fault.
        2. Other people always contribute to our problems.
        3. But when you come to yourself, you see what you contributed to your problems, and you accept responsibility.
      5. That is the heart and soul of repentance.
        1. The person who refuses to come to himself or herself cannot repent.
        2. The person who repents has choices.

  4. What happened to the prodigal son is very simple: one day he woke up, saw what was happening, saw where he was, and asked, "What am I doing here?"
    1. Has that ever happened in your life? If it has never happened, your life is in a mess.
    2. If it has never happened, that is very likely a major reason for your life being in a mess.
    3. Hasn't the time come to wake up, to realize what is happening, to see where we really are, and to ask ourselves, "What am I doing here?"
      1. Before I will allow God to forgive me, I must accept responsibility for my life.
      2. Before I will allow God to forgive me, I must repent.

[Prayer: Father, bring us to our senses. Whatever needs to happen for us to come to ourselves, may it happen. Give us the courage to see how much we need You and Your forgiveness.]

If you could change any decision you made or any action you took, what would you change? You cannot go back and undo it. But you can repent and redirect your life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 November 1999
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