We always record our sermons as most of you know and we're hoping soon to make these lesson tapes and sermon tapes available to anyone who would like to hear them. But we don't yet have a duplicator as most of you also know. Until we get a duplicator, we can't make them generally available, of course. We can't send out our only copy of the tapes because our original copies would soon be destroyed.
Let's turn to Luke chapter 15. I will just mention to you now what I am thinking about preaching on next Sunday morning. Unless the Lord changes my mind, I think that next Sunday morning I shall preach on this subject: "Six Questions About the Future of Unsaved Sinners With Bible Answers."
Turning now to Luke chapter 15 for our message today, beginning with verse 11, let's read the story of the lost son or the parable of the prodigal son as it is very often called. Beginning now with verse 11 of Luke chapter 15, "And he said, ‘A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said unto his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son has come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.'"
Let's pray. Father, we pray that You will bless the reading of Your Word today and bless us as we try to expound it to these people. May Your Spirit take it and plant it in the hearts of people here today. Into each of our hearts that it may bear fruit in our hearts according to Your will. We ask this in Christ's name, amen.
Now as we begin to look at this story of the prodigal son, or we might call this "The Prodigal's Return." There is another name that we could give this message which would fit very well also, we could call it, "When He Came To Himself." That'd be a pretty good title for it. But the key verse is verse 17 where it says, "And when he came to himself," referring, of course, to the prodigal, to the son who had gone away, "And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!"
Now as we begin to think about this in an introductory fashion, we want to think for just a moment about the different stages in the life of the sinner as we see it here in this story of the prodigal son. The different stages in the life of the sinner as we see it shown here in the story of the prodigal son. In the first place, we notice one thing which is characteristic of all unsaved people. And that is they desire independence from the Father, just as this prodigal son did. He wanted to go away from the father. He says, "Father, give me the portion of the goods that falleth to me." He wanted to go away and be—do his own thing as we say today. He wanted to be—wanted to be just a strictly independent individual. Separate from his father and away from his father.
In this verse 12 that we just read to you, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me," showing that he did desire independence from the father, even in that we still don't see any open rebellion against the father, do we? Nothing really particularly evil about that in the general understanding of the meaning of those words. No open rebellion, just, "Well, I want to go off and do my thing. I want to go off and do my own thing, be my own man." He wants to make his own choices. He's a grown up man now and he wants to go out and just be an independent individual. He didn't show any intention here in the beginning of going out into riotous living. Not one thing that he said when he left the father showed that he had that intention! Nothing that he said showed that he meant to go out and become a riotous person in the sense of wild living as we call it today. He didn't have any intention to go out into riotous living or into deep sin and yet, we'll see later he did that, though he had first shown no intention to do so.
Now the next thing we think about as we begin to think to think about this a little further. And that is that the sinner today, if you're at this stage, then stop right now. Maybe you've not be in open, wild rebellion against the Father. Maybe that's perfectly true of you. Then if that's true, stop right now before you do go into open, wild rebellion against the Father. Stop now. Don't go a step further away from the Father.
Realize that to have other interests than He who made you must be dangerous or fatal. Now think about the meaning of those words. Realize—everyone of us needs to realize that to have other interests than the one who made us is certainly going to be dangerous, possibly even fatal. Therefore, come to yourself at this earliest stage of your journey away from God, if you're departing from God.
We find in verse 13 another stage in his departure from God. Departure from the father, which, of course, is certainly a type of picture here of a parable illustrating the sinner going away from God. In verse 13 we find the next stage, the riotous living stage. That's the next stage after leaving the Father and desiring total independence from God. The next stage is riotous living. He felt restrained while He was so near the father. And while he was living in the father's house he didn't go out and—and consume the father's wealth with loose women. He didn't go out and enter into wild and riotous living with his buddies. He didn't do that. Because he felt restrained while he was at the father's house, in doing these things. But he went into a far country, away from the father. As we just read to you there in verse 13, "Not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country." And the very next step there is, "There—there wasted his substance with riotous living." He went into a far country, far away from the father.
You know, the attitude of a lot of people in the world today seems to be this, a short life and a merry one. And, of course, that's a very poor excuse for an attitude toward life, isn't it? A short life and a merry one. And yet, that's the attitude that this prodigal son appeared to adopt when he went to the far country, forgetting about the long eternity and a woeful one when they say, "A short life and a merry one," then they're forgetting all about the long eternity and a woeful eternity.
The question at this point is this, "Are you making haste to enjoy yourself as did the prodigal son?" Now don't misunderstand, there's not a thing wrong with us having joyous occasions. I believe that a Christian, a real Christian who knows for sure that his destiny is fixed in heaven, I believe that he's the only one who can really have that deep down in the heart joy. Because the others must have something there that's holding back the joy knowing that they're not prepared for eternity. But this red wine of riotous living, as we might call it of the prodigal son here, it sparkles in the glass to begin with. But it doesn't last very long. As it tells us in Proverbs 23:32, it says, "In the end it bites like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."
The third stage for this prodigal son, after his first stage which was relatively harmless, desiring independence from the father; he went into his second stage, the riotous living stage. Thing the third—the third stage for him was the same as for the sinner today. And that is this one where it says, "And when he had spent all—and when he had spent all," and begins to be in want, that's the third stage of going away from God. There comes a time when life becomes meaningless without God. That's true of all men. There comes a time when life becomes without real purpose without God.
It comes through the time when we realize that we've spent all and we have nothing left. Nothing really, nothing permanent, nothing real, nothing really important. And then we begin to be in want—in spiritual want. Even if your money is unlimited—which I know few who could say that that fits them, but even if your money were unlimited, then your health is not unlimited, is it? So, going away from God into riotous living, of course, would be limited. You would have spent all your health even if you didn't spend all your money.
If health doesn't fail, then a desire for the riotous living and the riotous life begins to fail. It fades away. It's like a drug which requires increased dosages all the time. And finally there comes a point in increasing dosages on drugs when you're past the limit and you can't take any more and without the extra additional going beyond the limit you can't get the thrill any more from drugs. And that's the way it is with the life of a sinner. There comes a time when there's a limit to his joy, or his pleasure—his fleshly pleasure in living.
This as we said is like the drugs where it requires constant increases in dosages and finally a limit comes, but as this enjoyment of sin decreases then the prodigal goes deeper and deeper to seek the pleasures of sin. That's the standard procedure. The standard, step-by-step process it follows. And finally he has spent all as the prodigal son here in our story that we read from the Bible. When he has spent all, we could say that's the point of moral bankruptcy, and oftentimes it's a point of physical or health bankruptcy as well. And then comes the time of the terrible hunger for something better.
The need, the desire, the knowledge that there must be more to life than just these few years here on earth when we work hard, we make a living, we build us a house and we live in it, and we marry us a wife and we love her; there must be more to life even than that, mustn't there? And we begin to realize that. There comes a time when there is a hunger for something better, something else beyond, realizing that sin is not the answer. Realizing that rejecting God is not the answer. Realizing that there must be something better. If there's not, then life is relatively pointless, isn't it?
A craving comes that cannot be satisfied when the sinner reaches this point in his spiritual journey. A craving that can't be satisfied. Just like the prodigal here when he went out to feed the swine. It says he, "fain would have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him," in verse 16. He began—the prodigal here, began to feel a craving that could not be satisfied. He just couldn't get enough of anything to be satisfied.
There was, as we say sometimes, an itch that he couldn't scratch. He had an itch that he just couldn't scratch. No matter how much he scratched, it just didn't scratch the right place. And that's the way the prodigal became. He began to realize that there was more to it than what he had thought about. "Oh, my father's rich. I'll just take mine and I'll go out and I'll have me a high heel good time. A short life and a merry one."
But he began to realize that didn't work. And it doesn't work. It never works in the long run. He began to feel a craving that could not be satisfied. He had reached the stage as we gave it to you in our key verse, he had reached the stage when he came to himself—when he came to himself. He began to realize the real situation. There is hope. There's always hope when the sinner reaches this stage. But every sinner has to come to this stage. When he came to himself. Until he gets to that stage there's not much that can be done for the sinner. But he has to reach that stage.
Now think for a few minutes about the condition of a sinner as revealed in this story of the prodigal son. In the first place, a sinner is beside himself while living in sin. Now we read that to you here in the story of the prodigal son. He is beside himself. You saw that in the example that we read today in the parable of the prodigal son. In other words, when we say he's beside himself while he's living in sin, he's out of his mind. He's insane. You say, "Oh, well I know a lot of sinner who were brilliant men." Oh, I do too. They're brilliant in the things of the world. But in spiritual things they're beside themselves. They're insane. They don't know anything about spiritual things. If they did they'd come to God, if they really understood anything about spiritual things they'd come to God.
So, as we said in the first place a sinner is beside himself while living in sin. That is, he's out of his spiritual mind. No matter how brilliant he may be. He may be an outstanding professor in one of our big universities. He may be a brilliant person in many ways, but yet he's insane first because his judgment is altogether out of order. His judgment's out of order. "Well," you say, "well what about that?" Well, he makes a lot of fatal mistakes about all important matters. What's the most important matter? We know that if we are strong, healthy, and the Lord blesses us, keeps our heart beating, gives us air to breath, and some lunatic behind a car wheel doesn't run us over, or some maniac with a gun doesn't shoot us, or some thug with a knife doesn't stab us to death, or a few hundred other things don't happen to us, we know that if we're strong we'll probably live to be about 70 years old. Or, if we're exceptionally strong and the Lord particularly blesses us, we might live to be as much as 80 or 90 years old. And yet, that's as a drop of water in a bucket-full, or as a grain of sand on the sea shore as compared to eternity, isn't it?
So the man who as we said is beside himself—he's insane, or out of his spiritual mind while he's unsaved, is proving this because of the fact that he makes this fatal mistake about all important matters. That is, he puts the things of earth ahead of the things of eternity. And that, of course, is not really sensible if you stop and think from a spiritual viewpoint, is it? It's not sensible from a spiritual viewpoint. He makes fatal mistakes. He reckons that the short life here is more important than eternity. Now that's a fatal mistake, isn't it? That's a fatal mistake. He concentrates on the present and ignores eternity. A fatal mistake.
He fancies that he knows more what is right for him than the law of God declares. And, of course, this could not possibly be true since God made him. How could he possibly—the creature, know more about what is good for him that than the Creator who created him. That's not sensible, is it? He's beside himself. He's spiritually out of his mind. The devil is blinding him until he comes to realize his position and condition.
He dreams --- that is, the sinner, he dreams that the everlasting gospel is hardly worthy of his attention and he passes it by with contempt. Although it cost the life of the Son. It cost the life of the Son of God who left the glory of heaven and came down and died on the cross in agony to pay for our sins, yet the sinner is rejecting all that, not even considering it worthy of his consideration. He's beside himself. He's beside himself.
He steers his ship of life toward the rocks of judgment deliberately. Now that's what every man who rejects Christ is doing. Furthermore, his actions, spiritually speaking, are those of a madman. The unsaved person, the man who is in the place of the prodigal here in our parable today, spiritually speaking, his actions are those of a madman. Oh, he may be a wonderful fellow, a very pleasant man to visit with. He may be a great man to his family. He may be a great man to his buddies. He may be a great man to his wife. He may be of wonderful, moral character. And yet, spiritually his actions are those of a madman.
Now let me show you from the prodigal son here that this is true. The prodigal had interests apart from his father, didn't he? He obviously did as he would not have wanted to be separated from his father. He had interests apart from his father. And for me as a man to have interests apart from the one who made me and the one who keeps me alive is madness, isn't it? It's madness. It's madness. For man to fancy that he can have a will in opposition to the will of God, and that he can so live and prosper, it's madness. There's no other word for it. Spiritually it's madness, isn't it? Spiritually it's madness.
He who yields himself to omnipotent goodness must be logically in the tracks of the greatest possible happiness, mustn't he? God is omnipotently good, therefore the one who yields himself to this God who is omnipotently good, that is all-powerfully good, must be in the track of the greatest possible happiness! Yet, the prodigal rejected this. He who resists the grace of God must be hurting himself, as was this prodigal when he left the father and went away. Yet the sinner does not see that this is so. I understand this, or rather I mean I realize this is true. The sinner doesn't see that this is true because he's beside himself. He's spiritually mixed up.
This prodigal proved the fact that he was beside himself by going away from his home, although it was the best in the world. He went away from the father. Now, how do we know it was such a wonderful home? Well, from this parable that we read to you, this story of the prodigal son there are several things in the story that clearly indicate to us what a wonderful home it must have been. In the first place, it was a wonderful home because of the tenderness and generosity of the father. And that shows all the way through this story, doesn't it? The tenderness and generosity of the father. There is no hint of stinginess or harshness on the part of the father in this story! Not even a hint of it anywhere. So it must have been a wonderful home because of the tenderness and generosity of the father. He didn't even fuss with the son when the boy came to him and said, "Dad, I want to go away. I want to take my share of the inheritance and I want to go off and do my own thing." He just gave it to him, didn't he? Didn't even fuss with him about it.
Even the servants were well treated and happy. It tells us that in the story, doesn't it? "Even the servants," he said (the prodigal did) when he came to himself and realized his situation. He said "Even the servants have plenty and to spare." The servants, or the slaves were well treated. The happy home was well supplied with every need and yet what happened? The son left it didn't he? He left it. He quits it to go he knows not where.
Now that's another thing. An unsaved man does not know where he's going. Oh, he may realize back down deep in the backside of his heart somewhere that he's going to face judgment someday, but he doesn't really know where he's going, does he? And that's the way the prodigal son was. He quit to go from this beautiful, and lovely and wonderful home to go whither he knew not. To live among strangers who cared not for him. That's all in the story, isn't it?
He goes to people who will drain his purse. And that's in the story, too. He had lots of friends as long as his money lasted. But when his money ran out he didn't have any more friends. They wouldn't even feed him when he was starving. He had to eat the hog slop. They wouldn't even feed him, all these fine friends that he had when he had money. Friends who drained his purse and then won't even spend a penny to keep him from starving. The prodigal must have been mad to act like that. And yet, men are still acting like that today and in the same way from a spiritual viewpoint.
He proved his madness by spending his money riotously in a far country. He doesn't count the cost, he doesn't spend it carefully. He doesn't go there and set up a business. He doesn't go there and carefully manage his finances so that he's okay in the future. He doesn't even count the cost and spend it carefully. And that's just what the sinner does today. If the sinner is self-righteous, he's trying to weave a robe of worthless material out of his own works. Or, if he's given over to sinful indulgence, what folly to hope for pleasure in this in the long run.
Now, a question here. Do you expect to meet angels in the sewers? No, of course you don't, do you? You don't expect to meet angels down in the sewers. Do you expect to find heavenly light in a dark mine? Of, course not. That's foolish, isn't it? To ask those questions is to answer them! But it's completely irrational and unreasonable of men to fling their life away like a pebble on the seashore instead of spending it for its true design with God. Now those are not just words. That is truth, isn't it? And we see all of it here in this story of the prodigal son.
There's a further proof of the prodigal's madness, and that is he spent ALL. He didn't just spend "nearly all." He didn't hold back a tiny portion, but he spent all it says. He didn't stop half way, he spent every bit of it as verse 14 says. And sin is like drink or drugs. One sin leads on and calls for another until there's no limit. Sin is like a magnet for another sin.
You, no doubt when you were youngsters, played with a magnet sometimes. You could take a little pile of small nails out here, and a nice little magnet to play with. You could hold this magnet up here and it will attract the first few nails and then those nails will attract some more nails. And then those nails will attract some more nails. And that's exactly the way sin is. It's like a magnet and one's sin attracts another sin. It's like a greased slide. And how quickly and how far one can go in sin without really intending to in the beginning.
This prodigal son, when he went away from the father, he didn't show any indication that he intended to go out into wicked and riotous living at all. He didn't show any indication that he meant to fall down to the stage where he couldn't even feed himself. And yet that's eventually where he ended up, wasn't it? And it didn't take very long! He had some help along the way from his so-called friends. He recklessly spent all. As many young sinners do today, old sinners also sometimes appear determined to be damned, wasting time in their life.
You know, it's like the story I told you once about the famous preacher who went to preach to his students at Cambridge many years ago --- at Cambridge University. And he preached to them the plain old story of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, and made an appeal to them. Some of the students cornered him afterwards, some of these modern students you know, back in those days we had modern students, too. And they cornered him and said, "Why that gospel you preach is not fit for anything but old ladies with one foot in the grave." He replied to them and said, "That's where we all stand." We all have one foot in the grave, don't we? Even from the day we are born, we begin to die. We don't like to think about that, but it is still true.
When he had spent all and began to be in want you might think then that he would immediately return to his father. But is that what happened? No, that is not what happened. It says he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. He tried something else first before he went back to the father, didn't he? "Went and joined himself to a citizen of that country," in verse 15 it tells us. This fascination of the far country keeps him away from the one place that he could be truly happy. So sinners are today, and so we see the prodigal had the ways of a madman.
The examples that one could give of how the sinner often thinks and acts like a madman! Let's say just like the madman in our asylums today. The madman never believes that they've been mad at all until after they're cured. You realize that. I'm sure if you've ever been around any person who was insane, or ever even read much about them, you realize that the insane person doesn't think he's insane. He thinks everybody else is crazy. I'm the only sensible one. You know, that's the way they think. But when he gets cured, then he begins to realize that he was not the one who was sensible and everybody else was insane, but rather he had a bad spell himself.
They often turn, madmen do, on their best friends. Sinners do too, they reject God and Jesus, the friend of sinners. The best friend that a sinner could have is Jesus. They despise Jesus, the Savior of the world. And they say dreadful things about God and His Son, and about faithful Christians because they're beside themselves.
Now, hurrying on, it's a glorious thing when the sinner comes to himself. It is a truly wonderful thing. It is a marvelous thing --- incredibly great! In Luke 15, verses 17 though 19, let's read again those verses. "And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
Notice those words, "when he came to himself." When he began to think straight again, when he got his spiritual thinking sorted out. Sinner, do it now. Do it now. Do it now. If you're unsaved today, do it now. Get your spiritual thinking sorted out. Come to yourself and come to the Father, by trusting Christ! Or if you're here and you know you've been saved but you've been backsliding, away from God, then get your thinking straightened out. Get your spiritual eyes open and come back to the Father.
Sometimes this change comes suddenly. This is the way home. First, come to yourself, sinner. And realize that you're on the wrong road which dead-ends in hell. Come to yourself, awaken; that's the only solution, isn't it?
Then come to God. Come to the Father. Return to the Father. Sometimes it comes slowly, gradually, this coming to oneself. This change, it comes slowly, not that I'm saying now that salvation comes gradually; it doesn't, but this opening of the eyes and this realization of what one's position is and what one's needs are --- Sometimes that comes gradually. Salvation, itself, when it comes, it happens instantly, just like that. But sometimes this realization, this coming to oneself comes slowly, gradually. Their eyes are opened by degrees. They see that something is missing in their life and then they come to themselves.
Now how did this change happen? How did this happen in the case of the prodigal son? It didn't happen when he'd spent all. He didn't come to himself then, did he? He'd spent all and he still didn't go back to the father, did he? It didn't happen when he became hungry. When he was hungry, he didn't go back to the father and say, "Father, I'm starving." He didn't do that, did he? Rather, he attached himself to a man in that far country trying to earn his own way. And he found out that wasn't going to work, either. He still tried to help himself by joining himself to a citizen of that far country instead of going back to the father.
But he finally came to himself when he was very hungry, wanted to eat the husks, he was in great sorrow and he was alone. Nobody to drink with, no friends when his money was finished, as we've already mentioned to you. Nobody to sport with and nobody near him, no sounds to hear at all. We can judge from the story here that there wasn't a sound around him when he came to himself, except the grunting of those filthy pigs. That's the only sound he had around him as far as we can tell from the story, isn't it? Nothing else. No sound around him except the grunting of the hogs and the munching of those husks. That's all the sound around him.
The "friends" of the sinner disappear when his money runs out. And when he was ready to lay down and die of hunger and loneliness, only then did he come to himself. And when he came to himself, then he came to his father. When the sinner today comes to himself, he soon comes to his God. When he really awakens spiritually, then he soon comes to God. The poor prodigal, soon after he came to himself, said these words in verse 18, "I will arise and go to my father." And that's what happens today when a sinner becomes spiritually awakened, when his eyes are opened, when the scales of the devil's blinding are removed, then he comes to himself --- he will soon say, "I will arise and go to my Father."
Now you might say this, or ask this question, "What led him back to the father?" Well, one thing that led him back to the father was his memory of his evil life. Another thing, his misery bestirred him, no doubt, to go back to the father. His fears whipped him back when he said, "I perish." His fears, no doubt, affected his determination and his decision to go back to the father. But I believe another thing drew him even more perhaps than any of these things back to the father, and that was his hope! His hope drew him to the father.
Sinner, think what God can do for you now. Think about it and realize it and then say, "I will arise and go to my Father." And what happened when he came to his father? He came to his father and did the father say, "Well, you've been a naughty boy, I just don't want to have anything to do with you"? Is that what he said? No, that wasn't what he said, was it? "Oh, you've been a rascal. You took off your share of the inheritance and wasted it on harlots." Is that what the father said to him? No, he didn't say that, did he? The father had been standing, you can tell from reading the story that the father had been, no doubt, sitting on the porch often, ever since the son left, watching. Everyday he'd sit out there in the afternoon and watch, hoping his son was coming back. Looking, waiting, longing, loving that son that was lost. And that's exactly a description of God's attitude toward the sinner today.
This prodigal when he came to his father, the father came running out to meet him while he was a great way off. There in verse 20. The son in verse 18 said: "I will arise and go to my father." And then he went back, started back to the father, and in verse 20, "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off," the father didn't wait till he got there, he ran out to meet him --- Yes, he ran out to meet him. "His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." In the same manner, God is waiting to save every sinner who is willing to come unto Him.
The father came to meet him while he was a great way off. If you're here today and you're not saved, you are tired of the ways of sin and the world, just trust the Lord and He will save you. Come to Jesus. He's the only one that has a cure for our sins and our problems. He's the only one. When we come back to Him, He'll come running out to meet us and fall on our neck and kiss us. And give us the robe of righteousness, which comes only from washing our sins away in His own blood.
If you are today unsaved, trust the Lord here and now, and He'll save you. Or if you're backslidden, come back to the Father today. Don't just stay far away from the Father, but come back to Him!