- Sermon Notes
The Seeking Heart
When Jesus was teaching, large crowds would gather to hear Him speak, and in Luke 15, it says that all the tax gatherers and sinners were coming near to listen to Him.
When the Jewish leaders saw that sinners were drawing near to Him, however, they grumbled, saying, “Can you believe this? Look, this man receives sinners and even eats with them.” They thought they were accusing Him, but Jesus wanted sinners to draw near to Him. Even today, Jesus wants sinners to draw near. Jesus is often called ‘the friend of sinners.’
The Jewish leaders were wrong. A lot of people are wrong when it comes to what Jesus thinks about them. Which reminds me of a funny story… A burglar broke into a house and as he was tiptoeing through the dark he heard a voice, “Jesus is watching you…”
Many people have the wrong view of God. Some think He’s always cranky because they’re convinced He’s angry with sinners. Other people think He’s out to ruin their lives to get back at them for all the ways they’ve messed up their lives.
But all of that’s wrong. Do you know why Jesus is called the friend of sinners? Because, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life.”
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, He came to give hope to those who have no hope.
Many in the community know that our daughter was murdered several years ago. When it finally came to trial, both my wife and I had the opportunity to speak directly to the man who killed our daughter. When we spoke to him, each of us offered our forgiveness. I then added, “If you want to do anything to help us, then take this forgiveness as an opportunity to start your life over. One day you will stand before the judge of all the earth and give an account of your life, but it’s not too late, this is an opportunity to redeem your life.”
God is a Redeemer; he gives hope to the hopeless; He gives meaning and purpose to those who are lost.
A few years ago, I visited a prison in Texas where there is a program that takes inmates and trains them with the good news of the bible and makes them chaplains and pastors. They are then sent out to all the other prisons in Texas to redeem lives and transform other inmates by the power of God.
We now have that same program here in Oregon, by the way. When I was in Texas, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the inmates that were being trained to be chaplains and I asked, “What has this meant to you personally?” They responded, “It means everything to us. We have hope, we have meaning and purpose in our lives.”
One of them told us his story, “My mother always blamed herself for the mess I made of my life,” he said, “when I graduated, they let my mom attend the ceremony. Afterward, I folded my cap and my gown and gave them to her. I then said, “Happy Mother’s Day…”
In Luke 15 there’s a story of a young man who messed up his life. That part of the story we can all relate to; but there’s much more; it’s not just a story about a young man who messed up his life, it’s a story about a father who sees his broken son walking toward home. He runs down the road toward his son. And with tears of joy welcomes him home.
Here’s the thing; it’s never too late to come home. It’s never too late to change your life. You’re not too young, you’re not too old. You’re going to have the opportunity today to change your life.
My dad was an alcoholic. He abused my mother, then later divorced her, and by his own admission he was just an old wretched cuss. But at 75 years old he realized he had wasted most of his life. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at a service just like this. He came forward and gave his life to Christ and I baptized him with my own hands.
I. God Pursues You with His Love
Jesus gave these parables in Luke 15 to show why Jesus pursues sinners; a shepherd had 100 sheep and one of them was lost. “Does he not leave the 99 and go after the one which is lost?” Jesus asked.
A woman had 10 silver coins and one was lost. “Does she not search carefully until she finds it?”
A. God is seeking after you
These parables are helpful because many people misunderstand how to find God.
There’s an old saying that many people like to think is true, “All roads lead to God.” It suggests that there are many roads people can travel in their pursuit of trying to find God. And it doesn’t matter which road they take since all roads lead to God.
But this is completely wrong. It’s not about finding the right road that will take you to God, it’s about realizing that no man can save himself, that no one is good enough to earn his way into heaven.
It’s about realizing that the only road that matters is the road called Via Delarosa, the road Jesus walked carrying the cross on His shoulders on His way to the place where He would be crucified for the sins of the world.
It’s about coming to the realization that God is pursuing you and that all you need to do is open your heart and let Him into your life.
Romans 10:6-8, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (That is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” What does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
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.”
B. God rejoices when one sinner repents
Jesus said in verse 7- and you have to love this-“I tell you, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.”
This is about God’s heart. It’s amazing to imagine God rejoicing over sinners. The scripture says He even shouts for joy.
Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is in your midst… He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
I love the part of that verse that talks about God rejoicing with shouts of joy, but don’t miss the part where it says He will be quiet in His love.
There is an aspect of love that says, “I love you so much I won’t keep bringing up your past.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Love is patient, love is kind… love is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs.
Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter…”
In contrast, the enemy of your soul is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He’s the one who likes to remind you of your shame, of everything you’ve ever done wrong, saying, “You don’t deserve forgiveness, you don’t deserve God’s grace.”
Hey, if you deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace.
II. Prodigal Sons must come Home
This is one of my favorite stories in all the Bible.
Yes, it’s about a sinner, but the parable is really about the Father. If you could be convinced of your Father’s heart for you, it would change your life.
A. He came to his senses
The prodigal son came to his senses when he came to the end of himself.
He had squandered everything and then a severe famine hit the land and he began to be in need.
God allows difficulties so we come to our senses. That’s the point where we wake up and realize that we’ve been spiritually blind.
Proverbs 13:15, 20-21, 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.
The prodigal son came to his senses when he realized that even the servants in his father’s house were treated better than this.
He decided to go to his father. He had his speech ready in his mind; he was no longer worthy to be a son; he just wanted a job.
B. He was empty and hungry
The prodigal son is a soul that is lost, empty and hungry.
He came to the end of himself when he became envious of the pigs he was feeding. They had food and he did not. It’s emptiness and loneliness that causes people to look to the world to try and satisfy their soul.
Illus – A few years ago our family was on vacation at the coast. There was a big crossword puzzle and we thought it would be fun to do it together; and it was fun… until we couldn’t find the last piece.
There’s something missing for a lot of people, and they’re trying to fill the void by looking in all the wrong places…
Illus – To quote from the famous American philosopher, Waylon Jennings, they’re “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”
In other words, the things the world offers will make the soul sick. And when you’re hungry, even things that are bad for you look good.
Illus – It’s like this; you’re really, really hungry; so you eat a greasy hot dog with a side of french fries smothered with fake cheese sauce and then soothe your conscious with a diet Coke. I’m sorry, a diet Coke isn’t going to make up for all that!
The prodigal son longed for the food the pigs were eating, but when he returned to his father’s house, they killed the fattened calf and put on a great feast and celebrated with great joy.
What a contrast between eating the food of pigs and having a feast in his father’s house!
Psalm 63:3-5, Your loving kindness is better than life… so I will bless You as long as I live… My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
C. It’s time to come home
When the prodigal son came to his senses and realized that even the servants in his father’s house were treated better than this, he did something about it; he got up and headed for home.
His words were ready; he didn’t feel worthy to be called a son, he just wanted a job.
Oh, how people can relate to this. Many people don’t feel worthy of being loved and can’t comprehend the possibility that God would want them as a son or daughter.
When the father ran to his son, he said, “Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on… my son, and put a ring on his finger and sandals for his feet… for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”
Can you imagine how the prodigal son must have smelled? His dirty, tattered clothes? The dirt on his feet? He didn’t clean himself up, he came just as he was in his brokenness.
Some people say, “I just need to work this out on my own, I’ll get myself together and then, maybe I’ll come to God.”
No you won’t, you won’t work this out on your own that’s what got you into trouble in the first place. You come, just as you are, broken, dirty, or filled with shame; He’s the one who will get your life together. Come just as you are.
Luke 15:11-24 NASB
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 falls to me.’ So he divided his [a]wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and [b]hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the [c]pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to [d]his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and [e]in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to [f]his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and [g]embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and 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 put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us 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.