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Jack Graham - I'll Be Home for Christmas

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    Jack Graham - I'll Be Home for Christmas
TOPICS: Home for the Holidays, Christmas, Prodigal Son

I want to bring you a message from Luke 15 called "I'll be Home for Christmas". Now Luke chapter 15 is really the story of why we celebrate Christmas. You know, the story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told. And when Jesus came to earth, He came telling the greatest stories ever told and they're called parables. And the most famous of all the stories that Jesus gave us is this story that we look at today called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

As we noted last week it's really the parable of a prodigal God whose love is outrageous, whose joy is celebrating a lost one who comes home. But the fact is that it is the story of why Jesus came, because Jesus told us exactly why He came. In Luke chapter 19, verse 10: "I have come to seek and to save the lost". Jesus left His home in the Father's House, in heaven so that we could come home to Him. It's our story. It's the story, we love this story. It's well known and well worn because it's a story about a family. And at Christmas in particular we're moved to be with family and it's a story filled with love and hope and forgiveness. Begin looking with me and reading along with me in verse 11:

"And he said", this is Jesus speaking, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in the country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants".' And he arose and he came to his father".

What a story! And in this story, just taking it apart a little bit with you this Christmas, I see the reason for rebellion. The rebellion that creates so many problems in peoples' lives. The source of the human problem, it's true, right here in this text, the young man demanded of his father his way! He said, "Give me what is coming to me"! And in this story, the young man is in love with himself and his desires and his wants. And long before he left home he had a prodigal heart. He was lost before he went to the far country. He was lost in his father's house because he had a problem within, and it is the human problem. The problem, the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart! And just as we see the rebellion in the soul of this man, we realize that every one of us has a prodigal soul.

All of us are sinful to the core and willfully disobey God the Father. We have a rebel heart. We are, according the Scriptures, conceived in sin; that is, we are all born with a propensity, a genetic disposition, inclination to sin. It is our natural state. And so we are all lost. We don't have to go somewhere to be lost. There are many explanations for evil and suffering and tragedy in the world, but ultimately in Genesis 3 when man sinned against God, you see the real problem. We as Christians know that ultimately the answer to all of these questions regarding tragedy and hurt and pain and suffering and evil, ultimately we know that it's a spiritual problem.

Jeremiah the prophet said in Jeremiah 17:9 said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it"? Sometimes we think, well, you know, that person did a terrible thing, but they've got a good heart. No, the heart's what's wrong with them! The heart is the problem. It was the problem of this boy who rebelled, and it's my problem and yours. Now that doesn't mean you're going to go out and be a mass murderer. But what it does mean is that every person is capable even of terrible sin. Left to my own resources, left to myself, I am capable, and so are you, of the most egregious sin! And with this problem around the world, we have to wonder how does the world even exist? How do we get along as well as we do? Well, here's why. God has placed, graciously, has placed certain restraints upon humanity. We are held in check. Evil is held in check by the sovereign hand of God.

You say, "how so"? Alright let me give you a few examples: The conscience. When God created us He gave every human being a conscience, instinctively, instructively, innately within every one of us there is that sense of right and wrong. That is why every generation from the beginning has built in laws into the society because people know instinctively because of the human conscience that there is right and there's wrong. We are not animals! We are made in God's image, and therefore the conscience makes us able to choose good over bad, to choose morality over madness. But the problem, of course, while the human conscience restrains evil, the conscience can be hardened. The conscience, according to the Apostle Paul can be seared like, it's a vivid picture, like a hot iron. So you can burn your conscience so that it is no longer responsive; it is now numb. But the fact is that it is the conscience of a human being that restrains evil. God has established certain institutions to restrain evil.

For example, government. It is part of the purpose of government to restrain evil. And we're told in Romans chapter 13 that God has established order and law and even the police officer on the street or the governor or the president. These are ministers of God, our governmental officials to protect us. There are laws to be established. There is a judicial system. There are prisons to punish and laws in place to regulate behavior. People say, "well you can't legislate morality". Well, no, not ultimately, but you can make laws against immorality. Why? To protect society. And that's why we have laws. God established government and law in order to restrain evil. One of the problems that we have is our children are being often raised in schools which are teaching a values neutral concept of life and morality. So no one seems to know what is right and what is wrong. It is the government, including schools that are supported by the government responsibility to restrain evil.

And then, of course, God gave us the family. The first institution was the family, and God established the family within communities in order to help restrain evil. This is why we must be proactive in teaching... coaching is even a better word, training our children in the way of Christ. Our kids are being bombarded with evil and violent influences today from video games to vulgar movies to online obscenity to negative music and media and movies. Now you know me, I like a lot of music and not all music bad, not all media is bad but a lot of it is! Throw drugs and alcohol in and you've got a major problem. Therefore, you know, if our school do not teach values, who then must be assigned to teach values? Mom and Dad! Make sure that you are training your children, and the best way to do that is not, "You sit down, you be still while I instill"! The best way is by your example, by the temperature and the attitude and atmosphere of your home, by as Deuteronomy 6 tells when we sit down for a meal, when we get up to have a conversation, that your faith is woven into the very fabric of your family. That it is normal and natural to have these conversations. That faith is not something we do on the weekends, but it is life! We do life and faith together as a family!

And so God established the family to restrain evil. And then, the church. Every church should proclaim truth and righteousness, teach the Ten Commandments, the principles of God, including the fear of God which is a greater force on earth than you can imagine, even in the minds of secular people. Ha, the fear of God! And it's the church's responsibility not just to get everybody together, and sing Kum Ba Ya, but to teach and train and develop men and women of faith who will be salt and light in a deteriorating culture! One day the church is going to be out of here! The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming to rapture His church into His presence. And guess what happens when the church is gone? It's called the Great Tribulation, and all hell breaks loose on earth! And what many in the world have been waiting for a long time, no more church, no more rules, no more God! They're going to get what they want, and when they get what they want, they won't want what they get! Because the Spirit of God in God's people is a restraining force in the culture.

So God has established restraints, else evil would dominate and destroy us all. Thank God for His grace in that. But here is the reason for the rebellion. I and me and my! It's my heart! It's our heart! But then we see the result of this young man's recklessness. He's in a hurry to get out of there. He basically says, as we noted last week on the message on the father, "Dad, drop dead. I don't care if you live or die; give me what's coming to me. Give me my inheritance". And Jesus said he was in a hurry to get down the road. He couldn't wait to get out of there. He got his money and a few days later he's off, and he has a great time in the far country. He had no intention of ever coming back. What he wanted was the freedom to sin. You think about it. That's what he really wanted; to live his own life his own way. The freedom to sin. To get away from his father, to get away from his family, to get away from his community of faith and-as we used to say back in the sixties-do your own thing.

This is an illustration, of course, of people today who want nothing of God or morality or faith. All they want is the pursuit of personal pleasure and fulfillment. Well, the result is clear. The young man got wasted, living recklessly. That's the word prodigal. When it says here that he wasted his life with reckless living, that's the word prodigal. It means extremely extravagant. Phillips who paraphrased this word called it "extravagant wickedness". But he's throwing his life away. And he ends up in a pigpen. A famine came, another tragedy that no one could explain. Often God uses tragedies and crises in peoples' lives to bring them to Himself.

So this famine came. He's out of money, and when he got out of money, he ran out of friends in a hurry. Right? I mean, you want to find out who your friends are, you see who's still left when you're out of funds. When he found out he had nothing, so he ends up in this pigpen. Look, I've said it before: Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you far more than you want to pay. Sin promises success but it brings failure! Sin promises life, but the wages of sin is death! Sin promises pleasure but it delivers darkness and despair ultimately. Oh, there's pleasure in sin for a little while, for a season. It would be a lie to say to our young people, or to anybody, "There's no pleasure in sin". There's pleasure in sin but you can't sin and ultimately win! Because the seeds of sin produce death. And this is the terrible tragic picture of our sinful and spiritual condition outside of Christ.

"The wages of sin is death". This is what it means to be lost, separated from the Father, listen to me! This is what it means to be lost, to be separated from the Father, in pursuit of our own selfish desires. And this always ends up badly, very badly, because to run away from God and live your life without Him is to end up in a place you never thought possible. Well, back home the father is brokenhearted. His son is gone; he doesn't know that he'll ever come back. As we noted the last time, he waited and he waited and kept looking. And ultimately he embraced him home. And this is a good place for me just to stop and to say to parents or grandparents of prodigal children: Don't stop believing, don't stop praying, don't stop hoping, don't stop, what ever you do, loving that prodigal child.

It doesn't mean you condone their action. It doesn't mean that it doesn't mean you may not go to bed with tears pouring out your eyes. It doesn't mean that you approve of what your child may be doing, but if you have a prodigal, rebellious child, don't you dare give up on your child! You keep loving them, you keep praying for them! And as we say keep the porch light on! Keep the porch light on!

The story of Christmas is the story that God keeps His promises. Remember, God had promised a Messiah to Israel and to the world, but for 400 years previous to the birth of Jesus there was nothing but silence. No word from God, no prophet from God, no Scripture, nothing! And the children of Israel were in darkness and depression and oppression! They waited and waited and waited and cried and cried and cried for one to come who would deliver them! Day after day became decade after decade! Centuries, 400 years. But in God's time, in God's way. Galatians 4, "in the fullness of time" the right time "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law".

The message of Christmas is that God keeps His promise! And if God gave you a promise regarding your children, your grandchildren, your family, God in His own way in His own time will keep that promise to you. You keep praying! You keep trusting God! You know, Jesus came into a dark world, into the darkness. It was a light, a brilliant star that led wise men to Christ. The shepherds were out in their fields at night. Jesus was born at Bethlehem in the darkness. There was the darkness of Roman rage; there was the darkness of Jewish emptiness; there was the darkness of religion emptiness; there was all kinds of darkness in the world, and Jesus burst forth.

The Babe of Bethlehem is the hope of humanity! That is what I'm talking about when I say this is the road to redemption. The boy who was hopeless and broken, no friends, no way out, no hope, no purpose in his life. He had bottomed out. Maybe you feel like that boy, that DUI, that addiction, that brokenness in your marriage or in your relationship. You got thrown out of school. Maybe you're even suicidal. You say it can't get worse. Some of you have been raised in a Christian home but you've rebelled against God. You left home and you just kinda start throwing your life away.

And there's all kinds of excuses people make for living this way. We live in a victim kind of mentality in our culture and it's always somebody else's fault, right? "It's my parents fault; it's my churches fault; it's all those hypocrites at church-it's their fault, all the phonies! This is why I left. It's like my phony elder brother back home". We'll get to him next week, "The Grinch that stole Christmas", the elder brother. But, you know, "it's my brother; it's my dad! This dysfunctional family! It's this addiction! It's the dog"! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! But this young man finally said, "No, it's my fault"! You have to ultimately come to the place where you own your own sin, and say, "I did it! I'm wrong"!

He admitted his sin, He said, "I will arise and go to my father". He said, "I'm wasting my life out here. Everything I need is back at the father's house! I'll arise and go to my father". Because you see, he came to himself, admitted his sin. He realized that sin is moral insanity. There's something about sin that short-circuits the brain. You say why do people do such crazy things? Why would a grown man leave his wife and kids for his secretary? That's just moral insanity? That's what sin is. He comes to himself. He gets a grip. But while he came to himself, he couldn't save himself. You see that? He had to go to his father to be saved, to be redeemed. And that's what he did. He went home!

And listen to me, everything you need in life is in a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. And if you will admitting your sin and committing to following Jesus Christ, and submitting your life t o the will of the Father, then I promise you, if you will get up and go home and follow Him, that He will embrace you and welcome you! I will arise and go to Jesus! He will embrace me in His arms. "In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh there are 10,000 charms". That's what this boy did. He went home to the father. And that's what I'm inviting you to do today. Come back. It will change your life. That boy came back and he was dirty and he was filthy and he smelled like pigs. The breath of hell was on that boy. But his father received him and loved him, cleaned him up. You see, God loves you, He'll accept you just as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you the way you are. He'll cleanse you and change you from the inside out.
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