Tony Evans — Reversing Spiritual Consequences
God is inviting us to a family reunion. He wants to reconnect with members of his family who have drifted from him. That term is repentance. Repentance is that inner resolve and determination to turn from sin and return to fellowship with God.
It is that inner resolve and determination to turn from sin and return back to God that is validated by what the Bible calls fruits of repentance, or visible demonstrable actions that are taking to prove you weren't just talking noise or having a momentary feeling because you took steps to return back to him that could be authenticated, fruits of repentance.
Repentance is the word to bring you back into fellowship, which opens up the door based on God's sovereign prerogative to address the consequences that the departure created from him.
Many, most, if not all can point to regrets in your life that, if you could go back, turn back the hands of time and do it all over again, you would've done it differently. Because there is the ongoing consequence of the sin that you are ashamed of. It is with that in mind that I want to let the Lord tell us a story. It is a well-known story.
But walk with me through this story, because I believe it will be transforming for you and me and us, but also help you to help other people who need a U-turn, a reversal in life so that their circumstances can be affected, their consequences.
In Luke chapter 15, we are told that the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to Jesus to hear him teach. They were listening to his message. But the religious leaders, according to verse 2, the scribes and the Pharisees grumbled, saying, "This man, Jesus, received sinners and he actually eats with them."
They were ticked off that Jesus Christ was interfacing and even fellowshipping with folks who, in their minds, ought to have been avoided. This leads Jesus to tell a couple of stories. He tells about a shepherd.
When one sheep goes and gets lost, and the shepherd leaves the and goes after the one, and brings the one back. He then says, "There's a woman with ten coins. She loses one, she turns on the light, she dusts, she sweeps in order to find the one coin."
And the shepherd celebrates when he brings back the shepherd, the woman celebrates when she finds the coin. And then he makes the point that heaven rejoices when one sinner repents than over righteous who do not need to repent. Heaven has a party when a sinner comes home.
There is actually a party in glory when someone who is lost returns to the fold. Having stated his two illustrations, he comes with the zinger. You know it as the prodigal son.
Let's revisit his story today to see how it affects your fellowship with God and the possible reversals of consequences you may be experiencing because of sin, or those you know and love may be experiencing because of sin.
I think you'll find some very interesting things in this story. "A man has two sons," verse 11 says. "The younger of the son comes to the father and says, 'Give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So, he divided his wealth between them." The younger son comes to dad, and he says, "Dad, I want my inheritance because I want to leave now."
Now, that may not seem like a big deal to you and me, but it was a big deal back then because in the Jewish world, you only sought your inheritance when it was time for your father to die. Well, this father's very much alive, and the son says, "I'd like my inheritance now." Translation, "I wish you were dead."
So, he gathers his things together. And when he gathers his things together after many days, he goes on a journey to a distant country, where he squandered his estate with loose living, spent everything he had. There was a severe famine that occurred in the country, and he began to be impoverished.
He was messing up stuff he could control, then stuff he didn't count on happened. Famine. And so, things don't look good for our young man here. But they get worse.
Verse 15, "He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into the field to feed swine. And he would've gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swines were eating, and no one was giving him anything."
It went from bad to worse. Okay, he done run out of stuff. His greenbacks have gone back. So, he becomes a dayworker, feeding pigs. Now, you have to understand this is a Jewish boy feeding pigs. That's as low as you go if you're a Jewish guy and you got to feed pork, the unclean animal.
Now, I know it's good for us, it was bad for them. That was an unclean animal. He had--he went to the garbage. I mean, our friend is broke, destitute, famine, everything is just--his world has crumbled right beneath his feet.
Verse 17 offers us a transition, "But when he came to his senses." Hmm, when he came to his senses, translation he was out of his mind. So he said, "How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread? But I am dying here with hunger. I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired men.'"
He says, "I'm going to go back home to daddy, and I'm going to tell daddy I have sinned. I am no longer worthy." He was brought to a place of brokenness.
God will let sin do you in until you crack. Till we get to the point where we recognize, "I am too low. I'm too far for too long. Look at my," watch this, "my circumstances." See, it was his consequences that woke up him. And so, God will allow us to have consequences until we get tired of pig life, garbage life, dirt life, tore up from the floor up life.
"I'm going home. I'm going to confess my sin and my unworthiness to my father." "And then he shows the fruits of repentance," verse 20, "so he got up and came to his father."
He didn't just have a discussion with himself about going back, 'cause that's what we do a lot of times. "I should go back. I should return. I should get out of the pit." No, he got up. Fruit of repentance, he acted on his internal decision, validating that his internal decision was real.
So, he's making his way back to his father, "And I'll say to him, 'Father, I've sinned.' He gets up, while he was still a long way off," verse 20, "his father saw him, felt compassion for him, ran and embraced and kissed him."
Mmm. Guess what? Daddy at the window looking for his boy. 'Cause the Father is waiting for some folk to come home. But please don't miss this, don't miss this, don't miss this. He never went to the far country. Stay with me here. He didn't go to the far country. See, a lot of folk are in the far country, calling on God to deliver them. They are away from God, begging God to turn their situation, they're waiting for that change to come in the far country.
In other words, they want to keep their sin and have the father. No, no, no, the father did not run to him until he saw him on the way back. There must be movement toward God demonstrating their sincerity about repentance, and the Father will meet you before you ever arrive. 'Cause he wants you to come home, looking for you to come, desirous of you to come home.
But you got to be coming home. Lot of folk want God to meet them in the far country. The reason he can't do that, the Bible says, is because the world, the far country, is enmity against God, James 4:4 says.
1 John chapter 2, verses 15 and 17, "Don't love the world or the things in the world. For if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." You lose the love of God, you're at enmity with God. So, he's not going to hang out with you in the far country.
But he'll meet you if you decide to leave the far country. And to help you want to leave the far country, he'll wait till you hit rock bottom. And trust me, sooner or later you will. Because that's what sin does, it takes you down in one form or another.
But here is a picture like a soldier returning home, you see it on television and the families waiting for them, and they run and embrace each other. The father runs and embraces his son. Because notice it's his son. And he never lost sight of the fact, "I'm my father's son," or that this is my father.
So, this easily relates to a Christian who needs to come back to Daddy because they wandered away in a far country. They wandered away from God in one form or another.
Oh, here's something interesting. He comes back to his father, his father's kissing him, loving on him, and the son said to the father, verse 21, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. And because of what I did to your name, because of what I did to your resources, I don't deserve to carry your name."
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. And bring the fatted calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate."
Wait a minute, something is missing. The son said, "When I go back, I'm going to tell my father I've sinned, I'm going to tell my father I'm not worthy, and I'm also going to tell my father, 'Make me one of your hired servants.'" But the father never lets him get out the last line. So, he throws a party.
My boy gets a party by the father after he's confessed that he's sinned and returned home. See, a lot of folks want a party without a confession. Got a party going on.
"Now," verse 25, "the oldest son was in the field. And when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing." So they having a great time. They having a celebration going on. "And he summoned one of the servants," verse 26, "and began inquiring what these things could be.
What's this party all about? He said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed a fatted calf because he received him back safe and sound.' But he became angry," watch this now, "and was not willing to go in. 'I ain't going to that party.' "And his father came out and began pleading with him, 'Come on in, come on in, come on in.'
But he answered and said to his father, 'Look, for so many years I have been serving you, I never neglected a command of yours, and yet you have never given me a young goat. You gave him the fatted calf, never even gave me a goat. You gave him the turkey, didn't give me no chicken. You just--so that I might celebrate with my friends. You never did that for me.'"
"And he said," verse 31, "Son--" 'cause he's a son too-- "you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has become alive, was lost and is now found."
Do you remember what we just defined dead to be? He had--he wasn't physically dead, he was separated. So, death in the Bible means separation. This brother was dead, dead to the family, separated from the family. He's alive. That is, there has been a reunion.
"You, older son, have been with me always. All that I have is yours." I don't know if you caught that. "You've been with me. You never left me. You hung out with me. You've been doing it for years. All that I have is yours."
Translation, "You could've had a party any time you wanted one. So, if you never had a party, it's 'cause you never decided to have one 'cause the party was right in your backyard."
In other words, brothers and sisters, there are two kinds of prodigals. There is a prodigal that's a-- I call him a secular prodigal. This is the one that leaves church, this is the one that goes out into the world, this is the one that leaves God.
This is the one that doesn't want to have anything to do with faith. This is the one that's throwing a Bible away, has no time for prayer, and is out there just living it up, and it's evident. The reputation is evident that this is a sinning son. That's the secular prodigal.
Oh, but you can have a religious prodigal. The religious prodigal is staying in the vicinity of the Father. He's hanging out in the Father's field. He still comes to church every Sunday. She still sings in the choir. He still serves on the usher board. They're still around. They give the picture of fellowship with the Father, never taking advantage of the relationship. They are religious prodigals.
See, we give a hard time to the secular prodigals 'cause that's like overt wickedness. But God has a lot of other children. He got a lot of other children, a lot of other boys and girls who stay in the vicinity of the Father, who never take advantage of what the Father has to offer.
They still in church, but they are disconnected from the Father, so they don't get the benefit of what they could've had. See, the beauty of the second son is that he could've had what the young man had all the time, but he was satisfied with being in the vicinity of.