A sermon I’ve never forgotten
Allow God to speak to your heart and your mind today as we explore this incredible story together.
One of the most famous stories in the Bible is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. And though most of us have heard the story many times, I believe that God has new truths waiting for us each time we connect with him in Scripture. Allow God to speak to your heart and your mind today as we explore this incredible story together.
“His father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him”Luke 15:20 ESV
I went to college at a Baptist university. One day, I heard a visiting pastor speak in chapel on the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15:11–32.
As a religion major, I thought I knew all there was to know about this famous story. I knew that a son asking for his inheritance before his father had died was extremely disrespectful in Jesus’ culture, or any culture for that matter. I knew that a Jewish boy feeding pigs was the absolute worst outcome you could imagine in their day. I knew that the father’s decision to give his returning prodigal the “best robe,” a “ring on his hand,” and “shoes on his feet” (Luke 15:22) was a sign that the father was welcoming him not as a servant but as a son.
And I knew that the older brother who was angry and refused to go into the celebration that ensued represented the Jewish religious leaders and their condemnation of all who did not share their legalistic righteousness.
As the pastor told the story and explained these details, I waited for the sermon to be over so I could get on with my day. But when he was done, he asked a question I had never considered, one that struck me deeply and resonates with me still.
He looked at the chapel filled with college students and asked, “If you were the prodigal son, who would you want to greet you when you returned home: the loving father or the older brother?”
How would you answer his question?
Here’s the good news: your Father will never be the older brother. He forgives every sin you confess and then forgets what he forgives. But here’s the catch: he can receive you by grace only when you come to him for grace. He honors the freedom he has entrusted to us and will not force us to receive his gifts of love. He knocks at the door of our hearts and will come in only when we open it (Revelation 3:20). Just like the prodigal son, we have to turn toward the Father.
In Isaiah 30:18, the prophet explained: “The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion” (NLT).
As we focus this week on God’s call for his people to “turn from their wicked ways,” know that when you do, you will be met by a Father who loves you more deeply than you can imagine.
When you take the first step to him, he will take all the rest to you.
Turn toward your loving father today as we enter a time of guided prayer.
today’s devotional is written by Jim Denison
1. Think about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Imagine yourself as the prodigal and then as the older brother. Which resonates more deeply with you today?
2. Reflect on times your Father has forgiven your sins and welcomed you home as his child.
“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
3. Ask the Spirit to show you anything in your life that displeases your Father today. Confess what comes to your thoughts and claim his forgiving grace. Feel yourself in his loving embrace and express to him your gratitude for his grace.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus’ parable ends with the older brother standing outside the house where the younger brother’s return is being celebrated. We’re not told whether the older brother joined the party or not. But I believe Jesus ended the story like this to show us that we can decide how his story will end in our own lives.
Extended reading: Luke 15
Confess what comes to your thoughts and claim his forgiving grace. Feel yourself in his loving embrace and express to him your gratitude for his grace.