Introduction

In this series of studies – Who is God – we have been taking a look at who the Lord is.  We have seen that the Lord is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  In our study last week, we saw that God is a loving and compassionate God to mankind, especially to those who are of a poor and contrite spirit.  Our study this week is going to be both the concluding lesson of this study and the concluding study for this season.

God, we know, is our savior.  The Father gave to the world His only begotten Son who through our faith in the Son, we will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  This should actually not be a topic of controversy but who can and who is saved has been made into a controversy.  Some use the idea of who can or is saved as a stumbling block to others and that should certainly not be the case.

You see, you and I cannot be a judge and determine who can or cannot be saved – that is not our place.  In fact, something that I mentioned this past Sunday during our Sunday School, is that we are not actually commissioned to “save souls”.  No, we are actually commissioned to minister the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).  The onus is on those that hear the gospel, just as it was with us, to accept the gospel.

There is only one who can judge and determine who will be saved.  I also want to say that this same one has already determined who can be saved.  God is that righteous and sovereign judge that has and will make these determinations.  The Lord determined that all people can be saved when He gave to the world His only begotten Son.  So, there is no controversy when it comes to who can be saved when the Lord has made it clear that anyone can be saved.

I want you to understand that the Lord is righteous in His judgment.  So, to close out this series and season of studies, I want to focus on what God is like as the righteous judge.  I also want to show you that we don’t have to be so afraid of the Lord as our righteous judge.  Yes, I certainly know that God as a judge can be a frightening thought, but you have nothing to be afraid of.

Parable of the Lost Son

So, to show you this, I want to take a look at Jesus’ parable about the lost son.  The Parable of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son can be found in Luke 15:11-32.  In this parable, we are going to see how the Lord is as a judge and in this picture of the Lord, our nerves should start to be settled.  At the same time, this parable should give the one who is lost in sin, comfort in returning to God.

Jesus said He taught in parables for this reason, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given … because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:11,13).  So, parables were used to draw those who were curious to seek more and ask questions so that they could gain understanding.  So, let’s gain some understanding.

This parable opens with Jesus speaking to tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, and scribes (Luke 15:1) about a certain man and his two sons (Luke 15:11).  As always, when Jesus taught through parables, the parables were always told figuratively.  The certain man represented God the Father.  The two sons, one the older and the other being the younger, are representative of all people.

Leaving his father’s house

There was a day when the younger son went to his father and desired for his father to give him his portion of goods that fell to him.  So, the father divided his livelihood between the older and the younger son and gave it to them (Luke 15:12).  

Note:  I would liken this to how we go to the Lord in prayer and we pray for the Lord to bless us.  Meaning, we ask for the Lord to provide for us and to make us happy in our soul.  As Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).  When we pray, the Lord answers.  In this parable, the younger son asked and the father, without hesitation, gave to his sons.

In the next verse, we are told that the younger son left his father’s house and journeyed to a far country (Luke 15:13).  This son, we could say, was literally heading out into the world as he was leaving his father’s house.  It seems he had the mindset of being tired of living under his father’s roof.  He was that child that badly wanted to get away from being under his father’s rules and so he left to go in his own way.

By worldly logic, this is certainly understandable, right?  The younger son wanted freedom from his father’s authority.  Spiritually speaking, there are many people that desire to be free from God’s authority; they have no desire to be obedient to His authority.  So, instead of living in His way, they choose to live in their own way – this is the way of a sinner.  Jesus tells us how the sinner’s life works out for them as we continue in this parable.

Living without the father

When the son arrived in that country, everything seemed to be going well as he was living it up and having a good time.  This good time, however, came at the expense of prodigal living – he wasted the possessions he had received from his father (Luke 15:13).  The younger son was living worldly by partying and apparently with harlots as well.  These were things he certainly would have not been able to do in his father’s house.

As he was living “the good life” with prodigal living, it seems he never expected the day would come when he would need all that he had wasted.  Jesus tells us that a famine hit the land and because he had wasted all that he had, he found himself being in great want (Luke 15:14).  When he needed someone in the land to help him out, he could find nobody to help him!

Note:  he was in a world without the help of his father.  So, I would liken this to living in sin.  The younger son was lost in sin and he had nobody and nowhere he could turn to help him.  He managed to find some work feeding pigs, but again, since he had nobody to help him out in his time of great need, the young son would have happily ate slop out of a pig’s trough (Luke 15:16).  Note:  I would liken this to the sinner seeking to be pleased by anything or anybody rather than the Lord.

So, to reiterate, the younger son thought things were going to be better for him living out of his father’s house but it turns out that things were not better for him.  There are many people that believe things will be better without the Lord, and living under their own rule.  However, as Solomon points out through the book of Ecclesiastes, it is vanity to live life without the Lord.  

Some will say, ‘they [those who live without God] still have friends and family that can help them in life.  Friends and family certainly can be there for support, but at the same time, they have their own famines to deal with and go through.  As shown in this parable, the younger son had friends that he partied with but they were also enduring the same famine.  The truth of the matter is that there is only so much that we can do to help one another – in the end we all need the Lord.

Turning Back to His Father

Now, I believe every person that walks this earth reaches a moment where they have a decision to make:  repent or not.

The younger son looked at his situation, realized how dire things were, and came to his senses.  Jesus tells us that he said to himself, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger” (Luke 15:17)!  You see, the younger son left his father’s house not realizing how good he had it in his father’s house.  He left because he had to be obedient to his father’s way, but he did not realize how his father’s way was for him.

You see, his father was so blessed that he was able to provide for his own and even hired help.  His hired help had an ample supply of bread that they could even afford to spare what they had to those around them!  Let us note:  what the Lord has is unlimited.  Again, if someone was to ask:  Who is God?  I would tell them that the Lord is my provider.  

As David said, in the presence of his enemies, the Lord filled his cup so that it ran over (Ps. 23:5).  The Lord does nothing half way, especially when it comes to providing to those that love Him.  With the Lord as your provider, you are never in want of anything.

The son’s repentance

So, the son made the decision that enough was enough – he needed help and he knew that his father could help him.  He determined that he would go back to his father’s house and admit that he had sinned against heaven and before him; he also determined that he would tell his father that he was not even worthy of being his son (Luke 15:18-19).  So, this was a young man who had been humbled by all that he had gone through; it takes humility to repent.

So, how would the father respond?  Would he respond harshly towards the younger son?  Would he mock the younger son for his failure?  Even worse, would he not allow the younger son to return back home?  How would you have responded to a child who took what you gave, went away and then wasted all that you gave to him?

The father’s compassion

As the son was nearing home, scripture tells us that he was “still a great way off”, when his father saw him approaching.  I can only imagine how nervous the son must have felt as he was drawing closer to home and could see his father.  The feeling that I imagine he felt is similar to how we felt as children when we had done wrong and had to face our parents.

Even more, I imagine he felt that same nervous feeling that some of us have when it comes to praying to the Lord when we know that we have trespassed against Him.  That nervous feeling comes from a place where we are worried about what God will think.  I have had believers personally tell me that they are afraid to pray to God because they are afraid of what He will think about their sin.  I definitely understand that feeling, yet, I want you to see the father’s response.

Jesus tells us that the father, when he saw the younger son approaching, had compassion, ran and fell on his son’s neck and kissed him (Luke 15:20).  Any nervousness the younger son may have prior to seeing his dad were probably eased in that instance!  The son then acknowledged his wrong to his father and says he is not worthy to be called his son (Luke 15:21).  

What I want you to have in mind here is repentance – this is a visual representation of what repentance looks like!  We can be terrified to go before the Lord and repent, but the Lord desires for you to come to Him and will be pleased at your arrival.  Let us remember, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  God desires for you to come to Him and I tell you that it pleases Him when you come to Him!  

Let us also remember that the Lord already knows what we are coming to Him about before we even go to Him!  When He taught us how to pray, Jesus advised us that the Father knows the things we have need of before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8).  We often think of this to mean our needs in what we physically need provided to us.  However, let us remember that when we go to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy, we are asking Him for His forgiveness and mercy.

So, when Jesus says that the Lord knows the things we have need of before we ask, God knows we have wronged Him and that we are in need of His forgiveness and mercy.  You ought not ever be terrified of going to God about anything, even when you have trespassed against Him.  Our trespasses can become such a heavy burden for us and that guilt can be too much to bear.  It is better for us to not try to bear that guilt when God desires for us to come to Him with that guilt so that He can deal with it.

The father’s forgiveness

I can imagine that the young son was so down in his spirit, and was ready for the moment that his father would lay into him with words.  Yet, the father called for his servants to bring out the best robe and put it on his son, along with a ring and sandals on his feet.  Then, the father told his servants to get a fatted calf, kill it, so that they can have a wonderful feast (Luke 15:22-23).  You see, the father did not hold his son’s actions against him.  I would even suggest to you that the son was harder on himself than the father was.  

Now, the older son could not understand the commotion of the celebration as he was coming in from the field.  When he had heard from the servants that the celebration was for his brother’s return, we are told that the older brother grew angry and would not go in (Luke 15:25-28).  

So, why was the older brother angry?  When the father goes out to speak to him, the older son speaks to how he was faithful and never trespassed against his father.  In other words, the older son was speaking to his faithfulness.  The older son told his father that he was upset that his faith was never rewarded with a fatted calf and celebration whereas the younger brother, who trespassed his father, was being celebrated (Luke 15:28-30).

Now, I want to point out to you that the older son was judging his brother here.  Not only was the older brother judging his brother, but he also had an idea in mind as to how his younger brother should have been treated in his return.  In his mind, the younger brother should not have received a celebration after he had “devoured [the father’s] livelihood with harlots.”

The father’s judgment

The older brother’s judgment is a representation of how we, mankind, judge one another.  Now, our judgment is not like the Lord’s judgment – our judgment is not righteous.  Why is our judgment not righteous?  The answer to this question points back to what Jesus spoke of when He talked about us judging one another.

In Matthew 7:1-6, Jesus taught judging another.  The first thing Jesus said about judging is that we ought not judge.  The reason Jesus gives as to why we ought not judge is because there is a “speck” in our eyes that many of us don’t remove, yet, we try to judge others for the speck in their eyes.  How could we ever judge someone for their specks when we have our own?  That is to say, how can we judge someone of their sins when we have our own?

The older son judged his brother’s sin and he made it seem like he was perfect, right?  Yet, nobody is perfect.  I am absolutely positive that the father, had he so desired, could have pointed out the older son’s transgressions, but he did not do so.  In fact, the father agreed with the older son in that he was faithful and always with him.  This is not to say that the father was not happy that his older son stayed with him because he was certainly happy.

However, it was a celebration for the return of one who was lost.  The father was happy that his younger son had humbled himself and returned home.  At the younger son’s arrival, the father said, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”  What a statement!  The father would repeat this statement again to the older son so that he could understand the reason for the celebration.  Note: this is the same happiness that the Lord has when one repents and returns to Him!

The Lord’s Righteous Judgment

God’s love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is the same towards all of us who repent and return back home to Him.  You may be afraid of how the Lord is going to judge what you have done, but I tell you, the Lord is simply happy that you have come back home to Him.  The father overlooked his son’s trespasses and rejoiced with great joy.

Is the Lord going to judge you harshly?  God is a forgiving God and He’s going to rejoice.  The Lord teaches us to forgive those who repent of their transgressions against us (Luke 17:3-4), so, why would He do otherwise when we come to Him in repentance?  As John wrote in his first epistle, the Lord is both faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness should go to Him (1 John 1:9).

Where we would judge someone both unfairly (like the older son did) and unrighteously because we are sinners too, the Lord has no sin in Him nor is He biased.  So, God is righteous in His judgment.  When we go to the Lord, He’s not one to hold our sins over our heads or to put us down.  No, when we go to the Lord to acknowledge our wrongdoing, He is one to be happy, hug us, and give us a kiss on the cheek.  The Lord is one to welcome us in and throw a great feast for us!

You have heard me speak of the Judgment Seat of Christ before, as well as the judgment at the Great White Throne.  In being just, the Lord will forgive all of us believers who go before the Judgment Seat of Christ and reward us with the heavenly kingdom and then being married to His only begotten Son.  However, those who do not return to the Lord in repentance, they will not enter into the heavenly kingdom.

The younger son could have stayed away from returning back to his father.  Had he done so, the misery would have continued for the younger son.  There are many people who live in our world today who go through life without ever repenting of their sins.  They may not seem it on the outside, but on the inside – in their inner man (their soul) – they are in great misery.  

I honestly can’t imagine the weight of guilt that one must feel in their soul because they do not repent of their sin.  The sad part is that there are many people who grow so cold in their soul that they feel absolutely nothing when they trespass the Lord.  This is a soul that is no longer alive, it is dead.  Thankfully our Lord is willing to forgive us of our trespasses against Him and still love us as His child.

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