Lost and Found

Lost and Found

“Lost and Found”

(Luke 15:11-32)

Series: The Gospel for Real Life (6 of 8 )

Team Preaching with Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD and Rev. Rich Stratton


Words in Black: Todd Linn

Words in Red: Rich Stratton


  • Take God’s Word and open to Luke, chapter 15 (p.704)


If you’re visiting with us we’ve been in a special series in Sunday school and worship.  In Sunday school we are reading through this book by Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life.  We’re reading two chapters a week and sharing what we’ve learned in Sunday school.  In our worship time Brother Rich and I are team preaching through a passage of Scripture related to our weekly readings.  And while we aim to reinforce truths from the weekly readings there is no substitute for being actively involved in a Sunday school class.  Every Christian needs to gather together weekly in a big group and a small group.  It is the biblical model.  We were created for fellowship with God and fellowship with others.  Sunday school is critical to our growth.  Thank you, teachers and outreach workers in Sunday school, contacting members & prospects weekly through MTV—mail, telephone, and visit.  Sunday school is essential.


Today in our big group, we’re looking at a passage familiar to a great number of us.  It is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  The story begins in verse 11 and goes to the end of the chapter.  I’m going to read the first three verses and then we’ll pray and ask for God’s help.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.

12 “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.

13 “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living (or, reckless and wild living).


  • Pray.




You’ve probably heard before about the man who drove into a large city looking for Main Street.  Having difficulty finding it, and realizing he was lost, he noticed a boy standing on the street and called out to him: “Young man, do you know where Main Street is?”  The little boy shook his head and said, “No.”  The man asked, “Well, do you know where First Street is?”  Again, the little boy nonchalantly shook his head and said, “No.”  Getting a little frustrated, the man asked, “Well, do you know where this road leads?”  And again, the little boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.”  Exasperated, the man shouted, “Boy, do you know anything!?”  The little boy said, “I know I’m not lost.”


Chapter 15 is about the lost. And it’s about the lost being found.  Jesus tells about a lost sheep, and He tells about a lost coin, and He tells about a lost son. We’re going to focus on the lost son, but we want take a moment and make sure we understand the context.  So look in your Bible at the very beginning of the chapter, Luke 15, verses 1-3:


1Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So He spoke this parable to them,


Then what you have in verses 4 to the end is basically one parable with three illustrations.  Jesus tells these three short stories to teach about the God who comes to seek and save the lost.  And especially important to our study this morning are verses 1 and 2.  The Bible says that the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus to hear Him.  You will remember from last time that the “tax collectors and sinners” were considered the lowest rung on the social ladder.  These were the so-called “bad” people that the so-called “good” people shunned at every opportunity.  This is why verse 2 says “the Pharisees and scribes complained” about Jesus.  The Pharisees and scribes considered themselves “good” people, “religious” people, “morally upright” people. And their complaint is in the last part of verse 2, “This Man (Jesus) receives sinners and eats with them!”  They are appalled that Jesus is hanging around these “terrible sinners.”  So—verse 3—“So He spoke this parable to them.”  See the connection?  It is because of what the Pharisees and scribes say in verse 2 that Jesus begins to speak in verse 3.


So Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son to correct the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes who were all bent out of shape about the fact that Jesus was associating with sinners.  This will be especially important to us when we get to the end of the story of the prodigal son.


We’re going to make our way through this story, stopping occasionally to look at various pictures that surface in the story.  There are four pictures for us to see.  The first picture is a picture of:


1) Rebellion (11-16)


We read verses 11-13 earlier and read about a man who had two sons and the younger son is a rebellious child.  The younger son says in verse 12, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.”  He is asking that he receive his inheritance before his father dies.  In Bible days, this meant the son actually wished his father were dead so that he could get a bunch of money and go have fun.  This rebellion dishonored his father, but the father gives in to his younger son’s request and gives his son his inheritance early.  And verse 13 says the younger son “journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal (reckless or wild) living.”


These first few verses illustrate well the rebellious heart of every person born into the world.  We are sinners by nature and, therefore, enemies of God.  We don’t become sinners when we sin; we sin because we’re sinners; it’s our nature.  We are rebellious by nature.


Jerry Bridges says it’s like we’re condemned rebels who have tried to assassinate the king and overthrow his government.  He says, “If that seems too strong a comparison to you, consider that every sin you commit is an act of rebellion against the sovereign authority of God, or, as someone has said, an act of cosmic treason (126).”


Remember that Paul writes in Romans 5 that we are all by nature children of Adam.  Only those who are saved are children of God.  Every one of us in this room is either a child of Adam or a child of God.  The difference is whether we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior, the One who saves us from eternal death, which is what our rebellious hearts deserve.


Now watch what happens to this younger son once all of his money runs out, verse 14:


14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

15 “Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 “And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.


The younger son reaches the point of despair.  He recognizes he has nothing.  He once had all this money and now he is destitute.  The only job he can find now is a job feeding pigs.  And he’s so hungry that he’s thinking about eating some of the pigs’ food—yuck!


The first picture is a picture of rebellion.  Here’s the second picture, picture number two:


2) Repentance (17-19)


17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,

19 “and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ‘


So one moment the younger son is about to eat the pigs’ food and then he realizes how foolish he is.  Verse 17 says, “He came to himself.”  He came to his senses.  He awoke and remembered his father back home.  So he comes up with this plan.  He says, “I’ll go back to my father and humble myself before him and ask if he’ll let me live there at the house as a slave.  I certainly don’t deserve anything more than that.”  So I’ll tell him, “I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.”


This is a beautiful picture of repentance.  The younger son “came to himself.”  He awoke and came to his senses.  That’s repentance at its very core.  Repentance is to have a mind change.  It’s a change of mind that leads to a change of action.  God changes our mind and we change our behavior.


Now while it’s not the point of the parable to teach everything about repentance it is helpful for us to remember that repentance—like faith itself—is a gift from God.  We are naturally born sinners at war with God.  We are in rebellion against the sovereign authority of God.  And this is all because of our sin nature.  Recall Ephesians 2:1 that says “we were dead in trespasses and sins.”  There is nothing we can do to improve our standing before God.  Then God acts.  He comes to us that we may “come to our senses.”  He awakens us from our sinful stupor in order to save us through the power of the Gospel.  Ephesians 2:5, “Even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ.”  God made us alive.


Without God’s intervention we remain dead in trespasses and sins.  We cannot improve upon our situation.  So we don’t wake up on our own.  We are dead.  We don’t just one day decide to change our lives.  God must come to us and wake us up. God intervenes and changes our hearts.  God changes our hearts so that we change our behavior.  And God’s intervention is a gift.  James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.”  God gives to us the precious gift of repentance.  He awakens us so that we “come to our senses.”


This is what Charles Wesley wrote about in his hymn, “And Can it Be?” Listen to the words:


Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray (a light that awakens);

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.


God awakens us from the pig-pen of our condition and changes our mind.  He changes our mind and we change our behavior.  When God changes our mind we place our faith in Christ.  We “rise, go forth, and follow Thee.”  But it’s a gift.  God owes us nothing.  Remember: He’s the God who rhetorically asks in Job 41:11, “Who has first given to Me that I should repay him?”  God owes no one.  That God awakens our dead hearts is owing to His grace and mercy.


So the younger son repents.  He confesses his sin and plans to tell his father that he has sinned against heaven and against his father.  And he is going to ask his dad to make him as a hired servant in his house.


First picture: rebellion, second picture: repentance, here’s the third picture:


3) Reconciliation (20-24)


20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.

23 ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;

24 ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.


Bridges referenced this very point in the story in our reading last week.  He was writing about what it means to be adopted into God’s family; what it means to receive the full rights of sons.  Let me read to you his comments regarding the father’s dressing his son in the best robe and putting a ring on his hand, and so forth.  He writes:


In the custom of that day, the robe would have been a status symbol, the ring probably an indication of family authority, and the sandals a sign of sonship.  He then orders the killing of the fattened calf, which would have been reserved for only the most special of occasions.  The contrast could not be greater.  From a mere hireling, hungry, bedraggled.  And feeding pigs, this young man is immediately restored to a position of dignity, honor, and full acceptance.  He even becomes the guest of honor at a feast of celebration…Remember again that we were rebels, objects of God’s wrath, and on death row.  We should never lose sight of this fact, for it is the tremendous contrast between what we once were and what we have become by His grace that makes our sonship so amazing.  We too have been redeemed from slavery to sin and Satan, have been clothed with the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and have been given status as sons in the royal household (130).


This is why the Apostle John marvels as he does in 1 John 3:1 where he writes, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”


How marvelous that God would come to us in the pig-pen of our sinful condition, awaken our cold, dead hearts by granting us the gift of repentance so that by faith we “say yes” to Jesus Christ and then God brings us into His family forever and ever.  We were once children of Adam and now we are children of the very King we had rebelled against!


“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!”  That statement cannot be amazing unless you really take time to remember you were once a child of Adam.


We have seen three pictures: rebellion, repentance, and reconciliation.  One more picture:


4) Rejection (25-32)


Remember the older son?  Unlike the father in the story who accepts the younger son, the older son rejects his younger brother.  Verse 25:


25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

26 “So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

27 “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.

29 “So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.

30 ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.

32 ‘It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ “


Do you hear the self-righteousness of the older son?  In verse 29 he boasts about how good he has been to his father.  He says, “I’ve been so good and you never had a party for me!  You kill the fatted calf for my rebellious little brother, but you never even made a dinner of goat’s meat for me.”


Remember why Jesus told this parable.  How many of you remember?  Look again at the beginning of the chapter, verses 2-3:


2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So He spoke this parable to them,


How many of you think the older son is acting just like a self-righteous Pharisee or scribe?  I’m raising my hand with you.  Like many of the scribes and Pharisees, the older son was proud of his morality, proud of his goodness, and he looked down his nose upon his rebellious little brother.  Because he is so stuck on himself, he cannot rejoice that his younger brother was once dead, but is now alive; was once lost, but now can see.


The older son is also like many self-righteous, professing Christians today who not only look down their noses upon others, but also look to their own goodness and to their own religious performance as the grounds of their acceptance before God.  These people are clothing themselves in their own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Christ.


Before we pray, write down and think about these 4 questions:


**4 Questions We Must Answer:


1)      Do I know beyond any doubt that I am a “Child of God?” and not a “Child of Adam?”

2)      Like the Apostle John, do I marvel that I am actually called a “Child of God?!” (1 John 3:1).

3)      Am I ever like the older son, looking down my nose upon other people?

4)      Am I ever like the older son, wrongly trusting in my own goodness for acceptance before my Father?


  • Stand for prayer.

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