- Sermon Notes
God Loves You This Much
May 30, 2021
1. It happens even in the best of families; relationships get strained and, over time, the strain can lead to separation.
ILLUS – A Father’s Love
2. I have noticed that when we hear stories such as this, the initial warming of our hearts is often followed by reflections and thoughts about our own relationships, the relationships we have with our parents, siblings, and loved ones and the possible need for healing and reconciliation.
3. And I have noticed that when we hear stories such as this, some may also begin to reflect upon deeper questions about their relationship with God such as:
a. “Does God still love me?” or
b. “Can God ever forgive me?”
4. Questions like these are understandable for who among us is perfect or pure as the wind-driven snow.
5. The raw truth is that none of us are perfect because all of us have made our fair share of mistakes, regrettable decisions, embarrassing choices, and willful sins.
Psalm 14:1-3, They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. . . Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
6. If this is what the Bible says about us, then what does God think when He thinks about us?
a. Does God still love us though we have failed?
b. And can God forgive us? If so, how? Why?
7. Tonight, we will discover the answers to these questions and so much more as we look to Jesus’ teaching in Luke 15.
8. From three famous parables, we will learn just how much God loves us and why.
Transition – The first principle that Jesus wants us to know about God’s love for us is. . ..
I. You are Valuable to God (3-10)
• When we turn to Luke 15, the Pharisees and scribes are grumbling about Jesus once again. Surprise! Surprise! (2)
• Why were Israel’s self-righteous religious elite grumbling about Jesus? Because “all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.” (1)
• At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking, “That makes perfect sense.”
o Why would any “godly person” want hardcore sinners to come to Jesus to hear what He had to say?
o They might get saved for crying out loud!
• But wait, for the scribes and Pharisees it actually gets worse because Jesus not only taught them, He even broke bread with these deplorable sinners. (2)
o The scribes and Pharisees were thinking, “How could Jesus do such a thing?”
o “A real man of God would never debase himself this way. . . right?”
• For the Hebrews, eating a meal with someone else was of great significance.
o It was a picture of commonality, of acceptance, oneness, and relationship.
o In Jesus’ day, people would gather around a table, and with their bare hands break off a piece of bread from a common loaf, place a chunk of meat on the bread, dip both into a common bowl of sauce, eat it, and then go back for seconds and thirds.
• Why would Jesus welcome sinners, teach sinners, and even eat with sinners?
o Was there a method to His madness?
o Was there some important message that Jesus was communicating to us through these interactions?
• The answer is “Yes!” In fact, Jesus seizes upon the opportunity to use this moment to transport them, and us today, to the very throne room of heaven so that we may capture a glimpse of God’s heart for lost souls; for the tax collectors, the prostitutes, drug addicts, thieves, gamblers, adulterers, fornicators, liars, and anyone else who has ever broken any of the Ten Commandments.
Transition – What’s His message?
• As I said a moment ago, that “You are Valuable to God.”
• And because you are valuable to God. . .
A. God pursues us in love
1. Being the Master Teacher that He was, Jesus knew His audience and shared with them parables they could relate to.
2. The first parable is about a shepherd with a modest-sized flock of 100 sheep. (3-7)
a. As it is today, the shepherd was responsible for the care of his flock, for feeding, leading, and protecting the sheep.
b. It’s also important to note that when you compare sheep with other creatures, they don’t score very well.
• Sheep are not strong like elephants, or fast like cheetahs, or smart like dolphins.
• Sheep are weak, slow, and tend to score low on their IQ exams.
c. So shepherds needed to keep watch over their flocks by night and day because predators were always on the hunt for some tasty lamb kabobs.
d. To make matters worse, sheep are prone to wander, like the one that foolishly wandered away in Jesus’ parable.
e. If one went missing and was not recovered, the shepherd was required to pay for the loss out of his wages.
3. Jesus teaches this parable to reveal the tenacious, loving heart of God for the lost.
a. When the shepherd left the ninety-nine to pursue the one, it was not because the other sheep were less important to him.
b. The ninety-nine were safe, but the lost one was in danger.
c. So, the shepherd looks for his lost sheep “until he finds it.” (4)
d. Why? Because even lost sheep are valuable to the shepherd, just like we are valuable to God.
4. The second parable is about a married woman who lost a silver coin. (8-10)
a. When a Jewish woman got married, she would wear a headband with silver coins attached to it.
b. The silver coin, a drachma, equaled a day’s wage for the average worker.
c. Now, that may not seem like a lot of money for some, but it was back then.
d. But what made the coin more valuable was its sentimental value; to lose a coin from the wedding headband would be like losing a diamond from your wedding ring.
e. This explains why the woman carefully searched and would not stop until she found the coin.
APPL – Again, the meaning is clear. The lost sheep and the lost coin are like a lost soul; we are valuable to God.
• But some may ask, “How does God pursue us in love?”
• God pursues us through Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd; when He died on the cross at Calvary to pay the penalty for our sins.
Isaiah 53:6, All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD
has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
APPL – Now any scribe or Pharisee would agree that tax collectors and sinners have gone astray.
• But please note that Isaiah says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray,” which means scribes and Pharisees are included, and also you and me.
• In love, God pursues us all because we are valuable to Him.
• In love, God opens our eyes to see our need for Him and how lost we are without Him.
• In love, God knocks on the door of our hearts so that we may open our lives to Him.
Revelation 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
ILLUS – John Newton’s famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
Transition – Next we see how much God loves us in His response to those who open the door of their hearts to Him, when they are “found?”
B. God rejoices over us when we’re found
1. The second part of both parables reveal how God and the heavenly host responds when a lost soul is found.
2. Simply and powerfully put, God rejoices and so do His angels in heaven.
3. In the first parable, once the shepherd finds the wayward sheep, he picks it up, lays it on his shoulders, and heads home rejoicing. Once he is home, he invites his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. (5-6)
4. Jesus then said, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. . .” (7)
5. The same is true in the second parable. Once the woman finds the lost coin, she invites her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her. (9)
6. Here, Jesus adds that even “the angels of God” rejoice because they see the spiritual reality of the battle for our souls in a way that we do not see on this side of heaven. (10)
APPL – We are valuable to God so He pursues us in love.
• We are valuable to God so He rejoices when we open the door of our hearts and receive His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior.
• We must never forget God’s heart for us.
• Just think about it, God rejoices over us sinners.
• In fact, the Bible says that God even shouts over us with shouts of joy.
Zephaniah 3:17, The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
• I don’t know how one can read this and not be moved by the thought of God rejoicing over us.
• In all honesty, I can see why God would yell at me instead!
• But God shouts over us because we are His.
• The verse also adds that God is “quiet in His love.” What does this mean?
• In one sense, it means we are safe with Him and we have no need to fear or feel anxious. His quiet love calms us our hearts.
• But in the context of Zephaniah 3, it also appears that God’s “quiet love” means our past is forgiven and He will not bring it up again.
o What God calls clean, is clean.
o What God says is forgiven, is forgiven.
o That’s “quiet love.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV)
• By the way, that’s why Jesus mentions the older brother of the prodigal son. (25-32)
• The older brother is the scribes and Pharisees who are grumbling about Jesus’ interactions with sinners.
• Jesus is saying that if God forgives even the worst of sinners, then they are forgiven and no one should say otherwise.
• What God calls clean, is clean.
• And what God says is forgiven, is forgiven.
Transition – In many ways, the first two parables focus on God’s part in our salvation, He is the initiator.
• But there is a second part to salvation, our part.
• In order for us to be saved we must respond to God’s initiative.
• The third parable, which has been called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” captures our part perfectly but also reveals other facets of God’s love for the lost. . .
II. God is Waiting for You to Come Home (11-32)
• In this most famous of parables, Jesus taught about a man with two sons.
• One day the younger son told his father that he wanted his inheritance, now. (12)
o As the younger son, he would receive one-third of the estate with the remaining two-thirds going to his older sibling in keeping with Deuteronomy 21:17.
Deuteronomy 21:17, But he shall acknowledge the firstborn. . . by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.
o Now in that day, a father could give the inheritance to his children while he was still alive, but typically the father initiated the transfer because he felt he could no longer manage his affairs.
o But in Jesus’ parable, the younger son initiates the transfer, a maneuver which sent a hurtful message to the father.
o One scholar notes, in essence, the son was telling his father, “I wish you were dead!”
• A few days later, the lad took his inheritance and journeyed away from his father to a “distant country.” (13)
• On his own for the first time, he did what many do with their new-found freedom, “he squandered his estate with loose living.” (13)
• What jumps off the page is the question, “Why did the father in the parable, who represents Father God, let his son leave?”
• And why did the father not pursue his son like the shepherd who pursued his lost sheep or the woman who carefully searched for her lost coin?
Transition – The Father allows us to wander from Him and even squander our lives because. . .
A. God respects our free will
1. The father allowed his son to leave and do what he wished with his inheritance because it was his to use and even lose.
a. Did the father want his son to squander his wealth and waste his life with prostitutes and loose living? No.
b. Was the father pleased that his son squandered his wealth and wasted his life with prostitutes and loose living? No.
2. But the father let his son leave and as he left, the father’s heart went with his wayward, prodigal son.
a. The father knew what his son would do, why else would he leave?
b. The father knew what his son would lose, far more than money because sin always costs us more than it promises to give.
Proverbs 16:25, There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
3. The thing about free will is that it must be free; free to choose good or evil, purity or perversity, life or death. This means. . .
a. To be free, it can’t be controlled.
b. To be free, it can’t be manipulated.
c. To be free, it can’t be coerced.
d. To be free, it must be free will.
4. The father knew that manipulation, threats, guilt trips, fits of rage, the “silent treatment” would never fix his son’s heart. Frankly, those tactics never work.
5. At first, the young man was living large; lots of friends, fast chariots, and faster women. (13)
6. Then reality hit, like it always does. (14)
a. The money is dried up and his fair-weathered friends evaporated.
b. A severe famine hit the land too.
c. Suddenly, the young man who had the world by its tail is “impoverished.”
d. Work was hard to come by and the only job this young Jewish man could find was “to feed swine.” (15)
e. Hungry and lonely, he finally hit rock bottom.
ILLUS – DC Talk hit song, “The Hard Way”
Warren Wiersbe explains what happens when we choose the hard way over God’s way, “Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery; it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). The boy thought he would ‘find himself’ but he only lost himself!”
APPL – God allows difficulties in our lives so that we will come to our senses.
• That’s the point where we wake up.
• That’s the point when we see that we’ve been blind.
Proverbs 13:15, 20-21, Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard. . . He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Adversity pursues sinners
7. The prodigal son comes to his senses when he remembered something he had never thought about before; even the servants in his father’s house are blessed. (17)
8. At that moment, while salivating over pig slop, he realized how empty his life was; how he hungered for something more.
APPL – The parable of the prodigal son is a powerful picture of the condition of every lost soul; that they are empty and hungry.
• The prodigal son came to the end of himself when he realized that pig slop looked tasty.
• Spiritually speaking, it’s emptiness and loneliness that causes people to look to the world to fill the void in their souls.
• The problem is that the things the world offers makes our souls sick.
• And the problem also is that when you’re hungry even things that are bad for you look good.
• The prodigal came to his senses and did something about his mistakes; he went home.
• Like the prodigal son, the answer is to leave the world behind and go home to our heavenly Father and have our souls satisfied in His presence.
St. Augustine, a former skeptic, once confessed, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
Transition – Once you decide to go home you will find that God will receive you with open arms.
B. God will receive us with open arms
1. The prodigal had his speech prepared and rehearsed. (18-19)
2. He was determined to be a servant and not a son; it was the right thing to do after making a mess of his life.
APPL – I believe many people can relate to this way of thinking.
• Many people don’t feel worthy of being loved and can’t comprehend why God would want them as a son or daughter.
• But here’s where the story turns towards the father and this is where we must also understand our Father’s heart towards us.
3. While the prodigal was still a long way from home, he saw something unfamiliar yet familiar quickly coming his way; it looked like his father but men that age and in that day did not run like that. (20)
a. Then the prodigal realized it was his dad running out to meet him.
b. Why would dad run? He looked for weapons but dad wasn’t carrying any.
c. In fact, tears were streaming down his cheeks and love was radiating from his face. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his dad smile like that.
d. Suddenly, the son felt his father’s warm embrace, the very thing his soul had been aching for and craved; his dad’s arms were literally draped over him and he could feel his father’s tears wet his own cheeks as his father kissed him.
e. He tried to apologize but his father interrupted him mid-apology.
f. Before he knew it, there was a ring on his finger, a beautiful robe in exchange for his filthy garments, and sandals on his bare, dirty feet.
g. Then there was a celebration, the likes of which he had never seen before. How? Why?
APPL – This is how much God loves us.
• Please let this picture be etched into your soul.
• It should cause us to respond to Him with shouts of joy because God has taken away our shame through Jesus Christ.
• Through Jesus Christ, He has covered our shame with a robe of righteousness and celebrates over us; should we not also celebrate in return?
Psalm 25:1-3, To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed. . .
Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed
APPL – Does God still love you? Yes.
• Will God forgive you? Yes.
• Will God accept you as you are? Yes.
• Come home. God has been waiting for you. Jesus has been pursuing you.
• Will you answer the door and let Jesus in?
Luke 19:10, For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Let’s pray. . .
Luke 15 NASB
1 Now all the tax collectors and [a]sinners were coming near [b]Jesus to listen to Him. 2 And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to complain, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 And so He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the [c]open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
8 “Or what woman, if she has ten [d]silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that [e]is coming to me.’ And so he divided his [f]wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his estate in [g]wild living. 14 Now when he had [h]spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began doing without. 15 So he went and [i]hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he longed to have his fill of the carob pods that the pigs were eating, and no one was giving him anything. 17 But when he came to [j]his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired laborers have more than enough bread, but I am dying here [k]from hunger! 18 I will set out and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and [l]in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired laborers.”’ 20 So he set out and came to [m]his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and [n]embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and [o]in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and [p]put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, slaughter it, and let’s eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never [q]neglected a command of yours; and yet you never gave me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your [r]wealth with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you [s]have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”