Charles Stanley - Absent From The Party
Jesus was a master story teller. Not only that, He knew exactly who His audience was. When you look at the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, which is where our text is, you'll note that He knew exactly who was in the crowd, who was listening and who was watching. So that chapter begins with these words, "Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near to Him to listen to Him". Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them".
And so they were very, very critical of people who were listening to Jesus and so as a result of that, Jesus told three stories. He said a man had a hundred sheep, lost one of the sheep, he left the ninety-nine, and went after the one sheep, and brought them back, and they had a big time rejoicing about it. Then a lady had a coin. She lost that. She found it, and she again with her friends rejoiced about it. And then He talks about the prodigal son. And so we usually know this as the story of the prodigal son and the first part of it is about that. But I want you to see that there's another side of the story of the prodigal son.
We know that story that he decided that he'd lived long enough with his family. He wanted his share of what was coming to him, and he decided he'd leave home. He left home and the Bible says very clearly that he wasted his substance with riotous living and when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in the land and it he was poverished, and he ended up in a hog pen and eating hog food, pods they called them. And so, we look at that, and then we see how he finally came home and the rejoicing that was going on. And think what a wonderful story of forgiveness that God demonstrated through Jesus about the prodigal son. There's a whole 'nother story here and that story's one we don't mention very often.
And I want to say this right up front, everybody can find their life, themselves in this parable. For example, there's the prodigal son, then there's the father who waited for him and forgave him, then there's another son. And that other son is the one I want us to look at particularly today. We've talked about the son coming home, and now what about the other son? So I want you to ask yourself the question, which one of these characters best describes you? Loving father, wayward son, or the son who did not leave home but stayed there? So look at it for a moment.
And as I think about that I think about what happens here beginning in the twenty-fifth verse, "Now the older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing". So think about this. The party's on. Nobody has invited him. He just came in and found out the party was going on. What in the world's going on? And so the, "Older son was in the field when he came and approached the house, and heard the music, he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. So he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'"
Imagine what the brother felt, "But he became angry and was not willing to go in, and his father came out and began pleading with him". But his response was this, "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, I have never neglected a command of yours, and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.'" What kind of a dad are you? "But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes". It's interesting he didn't name a whole lot of sins, he just named the worst one. "You killed the fatted calf". And he said to him, "Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to," look at this. "We had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found". Period.
So the title of this message is, "Absent From the Party". Now I want you to think for just a moment, I want you to think about what was going on in this man's heart, in his life, in his thinking. When he came home feeling like he'd been ostracized, overlooked. "Well if my brother's all that important, then why didn't they tell me about it"? So what I want you to see is this. It's easy to criticize other people who are living in sin without looking at ourselves, Real easy to do. And all of us have done it. We've looked at other people's sin and think how awful that is and never stop to think about, "Well why? How do I compare with that"?
The next, the next few words I'm going to give you are words that describe this elder son. First of all, verse twenty-eight says, "He was angry". Naturally, he was angry. He got ostracized. Nobody told him about the party because his father said, "We had to celebrate". He was angry. Secondly, he was jealous. Look in verse twenty-nine. "But he answered and said to him," father, 'Look! For so many years I have served you, never neglected a command of yours, and you have never given me a young goat, so that I may celebrate with my friends". Very jealous. Three, he was very bitter. Listen to that. "But when this son of yours, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him.'" Resentment. Look in twenty-nine. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you.'" Very resentful about the fact that he'd been faithful in the household, doing his job and not getting any recognition. Verse twenty-nine, rejection. "So many years I have served you, you didn't do this for me". He felt rejected and rejected his father as a result.
Every single one of these, the verses are here. Anger, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, rejection and unforgiving. Here's what you've done. Now look at me. Very unforgiving about it in verse thirty, "But when this son of yours came, and who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him.'" Very disrespectful. Look if you will in verse thirty, but when his son, "This son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth..." And notice he makes those words very, very pronounced, "This son of yours". Verse twenty-nine, very accusative. "Look! Here's what you've done. You've never given me that". And then very self-righteous, "I've been with you all these years. I've done everything you asked me to do". And then verse thirty, caustic, biting, piercing words, "But when this son of yours". Not my brother. "When this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him".
Now, when you look at his accusations, you can understand why he felt it. And sometimes we are prone to be critical of other people when they've sinned, sinned against God in terrible ways, awful ways, horrible ways sometimes, and oftentimes don't stop to think, "What about us"? So I want us to look at a few lessons here. And what Jesus is saying to these Pharisees and Sadducees, "You keep the law. You're you're very evidently keeping the law, but what about your attitude"? And so, there are two pig pens in this parable. One's in a far country, and one is at home. This boy was in a pig pen at home. He never left home, but look at his character. Anger, jealous, bitter, resentful, rejecting, unforgiving, disrespectful, accusative, self-righteous and caustic, biting. Your son... here's what you did for him. You've never done that for me.
Sometimes we can feel very pious about things. And what I want you to do as I went through this passage looking at myself. "Lord, do I have any of this stuff in my life"? It's sinful. It's wicked. It's vile — has nothing to do with righteousness or living a holy life. Listen to this. Anger, jealousy, bitter, resentful, rejection, unforgiving, disrespectful, accusative, self-righteous, caustic, biting and piercing. And you've thought about something in your own life already, I'll bet. Two pig pens — one of them was home, one of them was away from home. And what Jesus was saying is, "You can go to synagogue every Sabbath. What about your heart? What about your attitude? What about your view of others"? Then, think about it in this way. You can be in a far country and not even be aware of it. You go to church on Sunday or do nice things or give or whatever it might be. It's the condition of the heart. What do I think?
One son was aware of his sinfulness. Humbled himself in the hog pen. Repented of his sin. Returned home to be a servant in his father's household. Said, "Make me one of your hired servants". He came back a total wreck, lost everything. And his father had been waiting for him a long time wondering if he'd ever come back. And he could tell at a distance there was something about this guy walking up the road. He could tell the way he walked, it was his son. And the Scripture says he took off running to meet him. And rather than listen to his confession, repentance, he just grabbed him and hugged him and kissed on him and told him he was welcome home. "Let's go home". And what did they do? As soon as he got to the house, they brought out the finest robe, a ring, killed the fatted calf. I mean, they're having a big celebration that night. And he messed up bad. He was an embarrassment to everybody.
But his brother who never left home, who was faithfully serving his father was in another kind of hog pen. Self-righteous, and then full of anger, bitter, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, rejection, unforgiving, disrespectful, accusative, self-righteous, caustic, biting and piercing. You say, "Why do you keep, why do you keep bringing that to my mind"? Because I want us to look at ourselves and see, is any of that true of us? He, would you not agree that none of that fits a follower of Jesus? None of that fits a person who's been born again. And so the other son, chose to remain in his own home in his own pig pen, miserably, emotionally separated from the family. Yet he was in the household, but separated from the family. The other boy was separated from the family, wasting away his time and his life and the fortune that his father had for him.
So, when you look at these two boys, one of them was feeding on corn shucks, we would say, or pods. And the other one was feeding on the poison of unforgiveness. Because he has heart full of unforgiveness and jealousy. Bitter toward his brother, bitter toward his father, bitter toward life. So whatever was going on, the bitterness, hostility, unforgiveness, all came to surface. "I'm not joining this party. I'm absent from the party. This is the way you've treated me. Now this is the way you've treated him. Forget it"!
And I think there are a lot of people who live in that second pig pen that don't realize they're there. All kinds of attitude and prejudices and unbeliefs and false doctrine and so forth, but just attitudes. And you, if you'll think about what Jesus talked about most of all in all of His teaching, wasn't necessarily performing miracles or giving us a doctrinal statement about something. It was about attitude. Jesus knew how to drive straight to the heart. To help us to examine ourselves, understand what's going on. So one son was so desperate he was feeding on the pods that dropped from the tree that the hogs were eating. And he had to sort of beat the hog to the pod. The other son could sit down at this awesome meal, physically, but emotionally, it was the poison of unforgiveness in his heart. Because he may have been at home, but there was no oneness between him and his father. He may have done everything his father told him to do. But what about what he felt? What did he feel? Anger, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, rejection, unforgiveness, disrespectful, accusative, self-righteous, caustic, bitter, piercing attitude.
So the path of freedom from the hog pen of life is paved with what? Repentance and surrender to the will of the Father. Admit it, acknowledge it, confess it and come home to the Father. And what Jesus was saying is, "Look. You may be in the synagogue every week. You may be able to quote the Law. You know the Ten Commandments. But what about your attitude toward other people? Your true attitude toward God. What about that"? And so, I look at that passage and remember what Jesus said. "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I'll give you rest. Come unto Me all of you". None of us are perfect. We'll never be perfect. And this passage of Scripture is so descriptive of those who stand on the outside and criticize us for our mistakes and failures. Those who try out life and just mess it up badly have to come home in shreds emotionally. And those who are pious, full of jealousy, anger, criticism, prejudice, you name it. And what? Which of the two is in worse condition?
Probably if you ask Jesus, which one do you think He would have said? I think He would have said the boy who stayed at home and looked good was in a whole lot worse condition than the boy who messed it up bad and was genuinely repentant and said, "I'm going home. I'm going to make this right. I'm going home as a servant to my Father. I don't even deserve forgiveness. I don't deserve acceptance, but I'll just go home and be a servant to my Father the rest of my life". And let me ask you a question. Is there anybody that comes to your mind in your life that fits that person that you may have rejected? Jesus wanted the Pharisees and the Sadducees to see. It's not our status, our position, our wealth, our acceptance, our titles. It's the condition of our heart. You can live in a dump and be a saint. You can live in a castle and not be fit to live with. It's not all that outward stuff. It's who we are, what we are in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's who we are and what we are when we're alone.
When we're thinking our thoughts privately, speaking and feeling what we are feeling. You can be in a hog pen, be the best dressed person around. Be in a hog pen, drive the best automobile. Be in a hog pen, live in the biggest house. Live in a hog pen and have the highest position in your occupation. It's not just how you think about God, it's how you think about other people. When we talk about loving God, what does that include? Loving my fellow Christians and loving my friends who are good to me, or do I just love people because they're people? All of us at some point in our life, in some way, whatever it may have been, all of us have sinned against God. And you may be seated here today thinking, "I don't know why I showed up this morning. I don't feel like I'm worthy to be sitting among a bunch of holy people". You should never feel like that you're so sinful you can't come to church. You should never feel like things are so bad for you that you wouldn't be accepted if you told us what you've done. That's not the issue.
Jesus never turned away a sincere repentant sinner. And He was saying to these Pharisees and Sadducees, "You look good, but look at your heart. This boy blew it all in a hog pen. And you all blow it all and go to church. Listen, every single one of us can find ourselves somewhere in this story. We talked about the prodigal son coming home, and here's the prodigal son that stayed at home. And you may be thinking, but you don't know how bad I am. God knows, and listen to this verse of Scripture. "For God so loved the world," everybody, "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life". And He did not say, except, if, but. He says, come home and I'll forgive you.
And I want to invite you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sin. I don't care how far down you think you are. You think you're helpless and hopeless, you're never hopeless as long as God is, and He'll always be, you're not hopeless. You ask Him to forgive you, He'll forgive you. Not only that, He sends His Holy Spirit into your life to enable you, encourage you, cover you, shadow you, energize you, to provide everything you need to live a clean, godly life. Whatever habits you may have, whatever course of action you've taken that's heading in the wrong direction, today you can turn around by asking for His forgiveness, surrendering your life to Him, and asking Him to guide you to friends, to the right church, to listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ and begin to grow in your Christian life. You don't have to stay in the hog pen, you don't have to stay there.
Father, we confess that we would all be in a pig pen were it not for Your grace. Amazing grace that has reached down into our lives, dealt with our sin. By the blood of Jesus our sin's forgiven and name written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and we have You as our life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Father, I pray that You speak to every single one of us, today, and that we'd be honest enough to answer the question: Am I in a hog pen out of Your will and it's very evident I'm out of Your will? Or am I in a hog pen sort of hidden away, and nobody knows what I'm going through? I pray that You'll speak to our hearts, Father.
I pray for somebody here today, and somebody who has been listening or watching knowing in their hearts where they are, spiritually and emotionally, to be willing to confess their sinfulness to You and recognize that You have provided grace through the cross to forgive us of anything, everything, and all things, forever. You said, "If we confess our sins," Which means if we agree with You about them, "You are faithful and just". That is, You can always be counted on to do it, to forgive us of our sins, not only that, clean us up, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, all sin and give us a fresh, new beginning. No one may know where we are in the hog pens, but God, You know. And as You loved both of these boys the same, we pray that wherever we are, and whatever hog pen we're in, today we choose to turn around and come home, and thank You for a new beginning, in Jesus' name. Amen.