The Lost Son The Prodigal’s AHA

Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. In 1988, there was a story in the LA Times entitled “A Mother’s Search for Russell Love.” It told of a woman in Houston named Beverly Elliott. She had not seen her son, Russell Love, for four years, and had not heard from him in two years; but she knew he was homeless somewhere in Los Angeles County. The FBI and L.A. Police all had said they could not help her. After a long time of missing her son, she decided to run an ad in the L.A. Times. The article said for Russell or anyone who knew where he was to call his mother, and it gave her number. It went on to say that his mother loves him and would never forget him. She desperately hoped someone would get in touch with her. There was a man named Ralph Campbell, who had spent twenty five years living on the street, had once given some extra sandwiches to a friend. He remembered that this friend had turned to another homeless man and said, Russ, do you want a sandwich?” Campbell reached out to the newspaper, and later led a reporter to some shipping containers in a parking lot where he thought Russ might be sleeping. The next morning the reporter returned and saw a young, blond man asleep, rolled up in a bright yellow blanket. When he awoke, he lay there and smoked a cigarette. The reporter asked if he was Russell Love. He said he was. The reporter told him that his mother wanted him to call her, so after a few days, that’s what he did. They talked three more times over the next week and, after she sent him some money, Russell flew home. When he got home, they were both so excited to see each other that they hugged for a long time. Afterwards, Russell said “It feels great to be home.”

This week, we are continuing our series called The Lost Son, and we are going to look at the story from the point of view of the youngest son. We can all probably relate to the youngest son in some way, or at least can say that we have been like him at some point in our lives. AureliusAA Augustine said “It is not reason which turns the young man from God; it is the flesh. Skepticism but provides him with the excuses for the new life he is leading.” Most of us have had a rebellious time in our lives. The degrees of rebellion may vary, but we have all had times in our lives where we have rebelled against our parents, against our friends, or even against God. My rebellion started in my teenage years, and lasted up until a few years ago. I drank heavily, objectified and used women, and really didn’t care about much of anyone other than myself. I don’t know what your story is, but take a listen to the story of a young man named Josiah, and his prodigal son story.

Maybe you’re still living in rebellion. Maybe your rebellion was never really that bad. Whatever your story is, we can all relate to the story of the Prodigal Son.

Our text today comes from Luke 15. Jesus tells 3 different parables in this chapter, all of which are meant to explain to the Pharisees that were listening to Jesus why God cares more about the salvation of someone who is lost than He does about pampering the saved. In Mark 2:17 (NLT), Jesus says “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” You see, the Pharisees were upset that Jesus spent time with and ate with people they considered to be sinners, so He told them three parables to explain why He did so. Last week, Mercy GraceBill talked about the story from the point of view of the father, and how the father represents God and His grace and mercy. Max Lucado said “Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.”

We’re going to look at the entire text of Luke 15:12 – 21, and then we will go back and break it down, discuss what it means, and how we can apply it to our lives. Just to refresh, v. 11 (NIV) says “Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons.’” We continue with verses 12 – 21 (NIV), which says “The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

Now, the title of this message is The Prodigal’s AHA, and it’s based on a book that a friend of mine helped write. The name of the book is AHA. We’ve all heard the phrase “AHA”. It refers to kind of a light bulb moment. The common idea is that you come to a realization or have some epiphany, but in the book, my friend says that AHA consists of three parts, though. The three parts are A Sudden Awakening, Brutal Honesty, and Immediate Action. Without one of these three parts, you don’t have true AHA. That brings me to the first part that we’re going to look at.

TLS1

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night suddenly? Several years ago, I woke up to the sound of the tornado sirens going off near my apartment. After realizing that it wasn’t a dream, I immediately got up and took cover. Most of us use an alarm of some kind to wake up in the mornings. For some of us, it’s our phone or tablet. Others of us use an old-fashioned alarm clock.

No matter the device, the effectiveness of the alarm is directly correlated to how much you don’t want to hear it anymore. The funny thing about AHA is that it is usually the ones who need an awakening the most that are the least likely to know or admit that they need it. Look back at Luke 15:13 (NIV). It says “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, 1513set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” The son longed to live a life free of his father, so he took the money and left. When our desire is to live in sin, we long to escape the authority of God. The son wants to be as far away from his father as he can get so that he no longer has to answer to him. One commentary that I read referred to this time as a season of indulgence. Sooner or later, sin fails to satisfy us, and we need to wake up. Sometimes we need the alarm to go off to realize that what we are doing is wrong, or isn’t working.

Luke 15:14 – 16 (NIV) says “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.1416 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything.” That same commentary refers to this section of the story as his season of misery. The famine represents the crises that happen in our lives that are amplified by the weight of our sins. It’s the affair coming to light after a season of fighting with our spouse. It’s the loss of a job right after you foolishly buy something you couldn’t afford to begin with. Jeremiah 2:13 (NCV) says “My people have done two evils: They have turned away from me, the spring of living water. 213And they have dug their own wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water.” When we turn from God’s will, there are always consequences, but God will often allow us to live in disobedience for a season so that we will learn the lesson when we fall on our faces. The famine amplified the situation the young son was in. It made the fact that he had run out of money even worse. The son was forced to wake up. He took a job feeding pigs, which was a job that no self-respecting Jew in those days would take. Jews considered pigs unclean, and therefore didn’t touch them.

The verse also says that the son longed to eat the same pods he was feeding to the pigs, which shows just how far he had fallen. Not only was he desperate, but he was also insignificant and neglected. Wild living and spending everything you have plus severe famine equals real desperation. It takes him ending up in the pig slop and wishing he could eat what the pigs were eating for the alarm to finally be loud enough for him to wake up. The consequences of his actions, in addition to the unforeseen circumstances that the famine brought led him to the sudden awakening. The thing I want you to remember is that it’s not necessary to get to this point in your own life. If you can avoid hitting rock bottom, do it. Don’t let your life get so bad that you have nowhere to turn before you ask for help. Luke 15:17 says 6 words that are very important; “When he came to his senses.” The awakening had to happen for him to begin the process of AHA. The next part of AHA is this:

TLS2

Luke 15:17 – 19 (NIV) says “When he came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.1719 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” Not only did he have to wake up to the situation he was in, but he also had to be honest with himself. He had to tell himself the truth about himself and the circumstances he was in. He had been deaf to all reason for so long beforehand. The alarm had been going off, but he wasn’t hearing it. That’s the thing about alarms: As long as you can stand to hear it, you will continue to sleep through it. For most of my adult life, I was fine living in sin, sleeping around, drinking, and ending up in relationships that all ended the same way. I tolerated women who put me down, cheated on me, neglected me, and even women who were abusive to me, all because I simply wanted to be with someone. It took hitting rock bottom for me to be honest with myself about who I was.

You see, brutal honesty does two things for us. The first thing is that it changes the way we see ourselves and our circumstances. We no longer see what’s happening to us as an accident, but we understand that it is the result of choices that we have made. It was my fault that I ended up in relationships that hurt me and hindered my walk with Christ because I was desperate to have someone. It’s your fault that you have an enormous amount of debt because you bought things you didn’t need with money you didn’t have. It’s the Aggie’s fault that they’ve lost 4 games this year because their defense can’t seem to tackle ANYONE (seriously, guys, it’s embarrassing). The second thing about brutal honesty is that it’s freeing. Hebrews 4:13413 (NCV) says “Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before him, and to him we must explain the way we have lived.”

I just finished a discipleship program at my church called Rooted. It lasted 10 weeks, and one of the weeks, we discussed our strongholds. It was something that I originally was nervous about, but as we went around the room and confessed to each other the things that we try to keep hidden from most people, my nervousness began to lessen. When my turn came, I confessed things that had been weighing me down and keeping me from being closer to Christ, and as I did, I felt that weight lift off of my shoulders. When we confess our struggles and our sins to people, we are no longer alone in those struggles. We have people who care about us, and who are willing to help hold us accountable. We are no longer bound to the chains that hold us down. In our moments of honesty, we let go of the things that have us held down. James 5:16 (NLT) says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Honesty is impossible when you’re still holding onto pride, because it requires us to humble ourselves. The last step required for AHA is:

TLS3

Luke 15:20 (NIV) include the 4 most important words in this story; “So he got up.” The full verse saysprodigal-son-601 “So he got up and went to his father.” Without verse 20, verse 17 doesn’t matter, because without the action, awakening and honesty don’t matter. A person doesn’t lose weight because they’re honest about their poor eating habits and refusal to exercise. It takes getting up early, going to the gym, eating healthier, and doing it even when you don’t want to. You don’t get out of debt just by realizing that you’re spending money you don’t have, or even by making a plan. It takes executing the plan, saving money, paying cash for things, and not buying things you don’t need. Verse 21 (NIV) says “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” The son had to wake up to his situation, be honest about what needed to happen, and go back to his father and confess his sins for the full AHA to happen. Without all three of these things, AHA doesn’t happen.

Change or die. What if you were given that choice? If you don’t change, your time would end soon. Could you change when it mattered the most? These are the questions Alan Deutschman asks in his book hoyt0517Change or Die. Deutschman concludes that, while we have the ability to change, we very seldom ever do. Maybe it’s not death that you face, but maybe it’s the end of a relationship or marriage. Could you change something about yourself to save that relationship or marriage before it ended? Maybe you’re at a weight that is dangerous to your health. Could you make the necessary changes to your diet and exercise routine before it was too late? Could you change your spending habits before you run out of debt, or stop smoking before you end up with lung cancer? Could you stop being late for work and be more productive to avoid losing your job, or maybe even get a second job to avoid losing your house or apartment? When will the alarm be loud enough for you to get up?

Kyle Idleman, who wrote the book AHA, said “God often uses desperate moments to wake us up. Only when things start to fall apart do we finally open our eyes.”KI For me, it took changing the way I went about my life and my relationships for things to change. It took me surrendering every aspect of my life to God to see things start to improve. Without the son’s willingness to act, this story would not teach us anything. That’s what action does. You see, it took action for the son to get into the circumstances he was in, and it took a completely different action to get him out of them. The good news is, no matter how rebellious you’ve been, or are continuing to be, grace meets us in our rebellion. Just as the son didn’t have to get himself cleaned up to go back to his father, we do not have to clean ourselves up to come to God. He meets us right where we are, and welcomes us home. Let’s thank Him for that.

Father,
We thank You so much for Your grace. We are so thankful that we do not have to clean ourselves up and make ourselves right before You, but that You meet us where we are, and You clean us up from there. I pray that You would stir the hearts of all of those who are lost in their own distant countries right now. I pray that they would wake up, be honest with themselves, and come home to You. Most of all, I thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name that I pray.
Amen

Some of you may be in that distant country right now. If you are, and you’re ready to come home, but don’t know how, leave us a comment or send us a message. If you want to know more about what it means to become a follower of Christ, or you want to know how you can grow in your faith, do the same. Next week, we will be closing out our Lost Son series with a guest writer, Ali Greene. I’m really excited to have her joining us next week, and possibly more in the future. Have a blessed week!!!!!

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