Charles Stanley - The Condition of the Heart
The condition of your heart determines the direction of your life. I don't know what direction you're walking in right now, but the condition of your heart, I'm not talking about the physical heart, your spirit determines the direction of your life. If you're walking in the right direction, good. Walking in the wrong direction, it's going to be fatal. Very important that you walk in the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have other ideas, most people do, but eventually you're going to discover whatever God teaches in His Word is the way it is. Not the way some people think it is, it's the way that He is. In this particular passage of Scripture, Jesus has really described how all of us are.
All of us will find our way at some point in this passage of Scripture because we're either a sinner living in sin like this young man, or we are having an unforgiving spirit like his brother, or we have a wonderful forgiving spirit like the father. The story of the Prodigal Son has all of us in it somewhere. And that's what I want us to talk about in this particular passage.
So, I want us to read part of this fifteenth chapter of Luke, and if you'll turn there for a moment, Jesus was telling the Pharisees, talking to the Pharisees and telling them some stories here, giving them some illustrations, and He talked about the sheep that'd gone astray. He talked about the lost coin, and then He came to the son, and this is probably one of the most memorable stories Jesus ever told, one of the most effective. And all of us fit in this chapter one way or the other. And so, today I want us to look at the son. And the Scripture says in this fifteenth chapter beginning in verse eleven, "And Jesus said, 'A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me".
So he divided his wealth between them. 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. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed swine. He would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving him anything. But when he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have more than enough to eat and I am dying here with hunger! I will get up, I'll go on to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; no longer worthy to be called your son, make me one of your hired servants.'"
So he got up, came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, felt compassion for him, ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son". But the father said to his slaves, "Quickly bring out the best robe, put it on him, put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; bring the fattened calf,"'" we're getting ready to have a big party. I love that. It's what happened.
So, I want you to see something here. The Word of God is true from Genesis to Revelation. And when God gives us a very clear picture of something, He wants us to understand this is the way it is, not the way you think it is, this is the way it is. And this young man's life is a perfect example of where most people are living today, or want to live. I want you to ask yourself the question: where am I headed? If the condition of my heart determines the direction of my life, where am I walking? Where am I headed? So, I want us to think about it, first of all, I want us to look at step number one, which is the desire he had in his heart.
And so, after a while, he decided I don't want to live here anymore like this. I want to enjoy life like other people are enjoying life. And so, he went to his father and he said, "I'd like you to give me my part of your estate that's coming to me and just let me do what I think I would like to do". And thinking in his heart, listen, if my dad did this well, you ought to see me. And so, his father didn't argue with him because he knew how absolutely determined he was to have his way. And so, the Scripture says that his father divided the estate, and he divided up between him and his brother. And so, not many days later, what happens? The Scripture says he made a decision. And he made a decision to live his life, his way, where he wanted it to live.
That's always a step in the wrong direction if you forget that the condition of your heart will determine the direction of your life. And many people make a decision in life and they don't realize that that decision is just here. It's what happens after the decision. And the devil, whether you believe him or not, he's real. The devil is very careful to make you believe that your choice minus God is the beginning of real life. And so, this young man decided he'd leave home. And I can imagine as he decided to do it, that he probably put on his best and said, "I want to look good where we're going". And so, the Scripture says He made a decision and he departed. And he went to the far country. That's the King James' Version, "To a far country".
So, the question comes is this: where is a far county? A far country is wherever you choose to go outside the will of God. And I can remember one Sunday morning, a lady, young lady walked down the aisle and told me what was going on in her life. And I had preached on this particular passage. And she said, "Pastor, I've been in a far country. I've been living in a far country". Listen, you can live in a far country and never leave your house. You're living without God in your life, you're living in a far country.
I remember the same message that a young fellow walked down the aisle and he said to me, "Last night, I slept with my girlfriend. This morning, we woke up. I turned on the television and there you were". And he said, "I knew I could not lie here a moment longer. I got up," and he said, "She wanted to know, 'Well, where are you going?'" He said, "You won't understand". So he got dressed, came to church, got saved that morning.
Walked down the aisle, he said, "I want to be saved today because I've been in a far country". Anywhere you're living outside the will of God for your life's a far country. It can be a block away or it can be a thousand miles away. It's the condition of your heart that determines where you are and what's going on in your life. So, the Scripture says he packed his duds and left. He was going to live life for the first time the way he wanted to live. That's always Satan's lie. Listen, Satan's always pointing to something you don't have and simply saying to you, "If you had that, or if you had her, or if you had him, or if you lived there, if you were here, if you drove that, if you could live in that kind of house, always if you this, that, and the other".
That's not the issue. Satan always paints pictures, watch this, that he knows gets your attention. That's the kind he paints. And with the picture comes the assurance you could have it, if you'd just do what he said. If you'd just follow him, you could have whatever you want. You could live wherever you live, drive whatever you drive, have who or whatever it might be. And so, just follow him. That's the downward steps away from Almighty God. And that's the way it works. And so, the Scripture says he departed. And naturally, what he was thinking, what a fantastic time he was going to have. He had half of his father's estate, so he had plenty of money. And secondly, he didn't have to give an account to anybody.
That's one of the devil's lies. You don't have to give an account anybody. Listen, you have to give an account to God twenty-four hours a day whether you are twenty-four or whether you are a hundred and four, you do not have the privilege of living without accountability. You may live without accountability on this earth to parents and so forth, but you're accountable to God. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment". Because we're all accountable. So, he left. He had lots of big dreams, and his departure was awesome for him because this was the beginning of a new life. How many people have made that mistake? I'm going to live for the first time the way I want to live. Nobody's going to be telling me what I can do, what I can't do. I can buy what I want, go where I want, and have who I want.
That's the devil's, that's always his approach. That is, if you'll serve me, the devil says, just watch what I'll do. The only problem with that line is this, he only tells you the first part. There's always a second part to the message he doesn't tell. And Satan painted this awesome picture for him of deception, and so he left. And so, he had a wonderful time, he thought. And so, the Scripture's very evident. God doesn't leave out anything in the Bible. So how did he spend his money? And he was spending his money partying, drinking, carousing, have what he thought was a good time. Watch this, Satan always blinds your mind to the effects and the nature of sin and its consequences at the moment.
Eventually you're going to see it, but at the moment, he blinds the consequences. Right now, you feel good, you look good, you have it all, and so everything is fine. That's the devil's line, you're going to be fine. You're going to meet beautiful women. You can drink all you want to drink. Look how much money you've got. Satan never says, "How much money are you going to have when I get through with you"? He doesn't say, "How are you going to feel feeling so immoral and partying and drinking and carousing and sleeping around with other women? Then how are you going to feel"? Well, but you see, that's the devil's way of catching so many people. Living in sin, disobeying God, and having plenty for the moment. But that doesn't last because you see, it's a downward step.
And so, he lived like he wanted to live for a while. Then he found himself wanting. That is, you know, these things don't satisfy me now. What's happening? I've had all of this I want and all that I dreamed of and something's missing. And so, all of a sudden, he finds himself getting lower and lower on his resources, and finally, he hasn't got any money at all. Now, what about his friends? There are a lot of people who make you think they're your friend, as long as you have something to give. You don't have anything to give, it's amazing how they just evaporate right in front of you. "Well, what happened to so-and-so"? Well, he got busy. What about this person? What about that?
And so here he was. He had all the drink he could want. He had all the women he could want. He had all the pleasure he could think of, and now he didn't plan on something. He didn't plan on the famine that suddenly came to the land. Watch this, you can't plan on the devil's traps. You can't. You may think you can, but you can't. He's going to be there sooner or later and he's going to take you down in one way or the other. And the next thing you know, the Scripture says he began to be in want. And as he was, he finally had to hire himself out. I don't know who he hired himself out to first, but finally he end up in the lowest place he could end up as a Jewish boy. As a young Jewish man, he ended up, we would say our time, slopping hogs. But they were eating pods. They were hogs eating pods and here he is in a hog pen feeding the hogs the pods.
And when I think about this young man in the hog pen, what he began to think about, "I had it all. I had everything I thought I wanted. I got everything I wanted to get, and now where did it get me? It got me to lowest point of my life. My clothes are gone, my dignity's gone, my sense of self-worth is gone. I don't have anything, I'm starving to death. And here's what a false dream planted in his heart caused him to end up in a hog pen. Now, listen carefully. All the hog pens weren't destroyed a few thousand years ago. There are hog pens today. Wherever you're living without God in your life, it may look like it's good. You may have everything you want. But if you are spiritually without God, you're still in a hog pen. And as long as you listen to the devil, as long as you refuse to surrender your life to God, it's just going to get worse and worse and worse.
So, I would simply ask you this: where are you in this downward trek? You started out with everything, but where are you now? Are you satisfied where you are now? No. Do you know how to get out of this? No. Well, I want to show you how. I want to tell you how. No matter how deep you are, how distant you are from God, I want to remind you this: that God hasn't stopped loving you. You may be unfit to be hugged, unfit to be kissed. You may be unfit for anything in your eyes, but God still loves you. And so, it's just a matter of making a decision. He's at the bottom rung of the ladder. All his friends are gone. All his money's gone. All of his self-dignity's gone. Everything's gone, it's just he and the hogs.
I wonder who you're fellowshipping with. Are they people sort of in the same condition you are? Listen to what happened to him. The Scripture says, "When he came to his senses". Many people need to come to their senses. Because the Holy, watch this, the Holy Spirit of God will work on you, work on you, work on you, work on you, and remind you of God's offer of love, His offer of His presence, His power. And whatever you need in life, He's going to provide. He has the offer. The Scripture says, "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I'm dying here with hunger!'
Now, it could stop right there. That's where many people are. They drink every night. They carouse every day. They've lost this job, that job, the other job. And they're living in sin. And the truth is, they may be smiling on their face, but they're hurting so deep in their heart. Their hearts are torn apart. Too embarrassed to go home. Maybe they have no home. Maybe they've hurt themselves so badly they can't go home. And so, what they have to say is, "What can I do"? Well, listen to what the Scripture says. He says, at that low state, "I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, in your sight.'"
The perfect solution, listen, that's always the right thing to do. That is, he came to his senses. And my prayer for you is this, whoever you are, wherever you're listening from, whatever your situation, circumstances, you may be as low as the prodigal. You may be lower than that. But you're not hopelessly, helplessly lost if you will listen to what I'm about to say. Because God's love for you has not ceased. He's willing, knowing what you've done with your life, what you are doing with your life. You may be twenty-one years of age and already messed it up so badly. You may be so embarrassed at eighteen years old, you can't even go back home. You may have left your family. You may have been living a double life, but I want to tell you this. You're not going to be happy. You've not going to find any peace, no joy. You can't make enough money. You can't have a big enough idea about yourself, you can't have enough status to keep you afloat because the Spirit of God is going to work in your heart and convict you of sin.
And if you keep listening, I'll tell you what you can do. You can change all of that if you'll remember this: the Heavenly Father loves you. In spite of all your sin, all your disobedience, all your drunkenness, all your sexuality, all these things that you've done in your life, He's still listening. If you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sin, don't try to justify it. God, I've sinned against You just like this boy. I'm going to see, going to get up and say, I'm going to my father and say, "I have sinned against heaven, and before you, no more worthy to be called your son".
Are you willing to say that to God? Are you willing to say to Him, "Lord, I've been sinning against You. I've turned away from You. I've known it wasn't right. I've just turned a deaf ear to the gospel. I'm asking You today to forgive me of my sin. I'm not making any promises. I'm just surrendering, God. I'm surrendering my life to You. I'm asking You to save me, forgive me, cleanse me. I'm asking You to do what You said in the Bible, and that is to write my name in the Lamb's Book of Life. I yield my life to You, thanking You for the forgiveness of my sin. And God, I want to be a new person starting right now".
I know that was fast, but you got the message. And all you have to do, if you can't remember anything, but, "Lord, You heard what he said, that's what I believe". Ha, ha, ha! "I--that's what I'm, that's what I'm feeling, Lord". He will change your life seated right where you are right now, no matter where you are. You may be seated here or ten thousand miles away. God will forgive you. He'll cleanse you. He'll straighten up your life. He'll make you a new person.
Are you willing to receive Him as your Savior and your Lord? What a wonderful, simple story, for his father received him, and the Scripture says in the most beautiful way, "He got up and came to his father. And while he was still a long ways off, his father saw him," never forgotten him. He must have looked a whole lot different than when he left. He saw him, felt compassion for him. His father took off running. Ran, didn't wait for confession. This is an awesome scene, ran, hugged him, kissed him. And the Scripture says, "The son said to him, 'Father,'" he started confessing his sins. His daddy's hugging him all this time. Forgiving him and promising, "Here's what I'm going to do. You're totally forgiven. And to show you, we have the best robe, ring, the best sandals". You know what? That's a simple story, but it's the truth of the way God sees things. He'll save you from the mess you've made of your life if you'll let Him.