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THE PRODIGAL'S HEART

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, February 23, 2003


"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).


The Greek word translated "presseth" is "biasetai" - which means "to push, to press, to force." Christ was telling them that you must push and force your way into the kingdom of God. We see in verse 14 that these remarks were given by Christ to the Pharisees, who were deriding Him, sneering at Him, as usual.

Turn back to Luke 15:1-2,

"Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Luke 15:1-2).

So Christ's audience was made up of publicans (tax collectors who were hated by the Jews for their unscrupulous practices) and sinners, plus the Pharisees (highly religious people) and the scribes (the religious teachers). The hated publicans and vile sinners were on one hand, and the highly religious Pharisees and scribes, on the other.

These people were quite similar to those in our church this morning. There were two groups: the scribes and Pharisees in one group, and the publicans and sinners in the other group. Here this morning, we have the religious-but-lost "church kids" (who are like the scribes and Pharisees), and the unconverted "new people," who are like the publicans and sinners. And just like it was in Christ's day, several of the "new people" are becoming awakened and converted - while the Pharisee-church-kids go right on sneering at Christ and His message.

So Jesus spoke to these two groups, the sinners and the religious-but-lost. He told them the parable of the lost sheep. He told them the parable of the lost coin. He told them about the Prodigal Son, and the unjust steward. And then Jesus said:

"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

He told them that they had to push, press, even shove their way into the kingdom of God.

Christ gave four parables in this story. Three of them show pressing into the Kingdom from God's side.  One of them, the one about the Prodigal Son, shows pressing into the Kingdom of God from man's side.

Notice the parable of the lost sheep, in chapter 15, verse 4,

"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?" (Luke 15:4).

The Pharisees had been murmuring "This man receiveth sinners" (Luke 15:2). Jesus is saying, "What's wrong with that? If you lose a sheep, you will go to find it. You will search for it. So I seek out these lost sinners."

Then, He gives the parable of the lost coin. Notice verse 8,

"Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?" (Luke 15:8).

So, He is saying, "What's wrong with me receiving sinners? If one of you women lost a silver coin, you would search for it. So, I seek out these lost sinners, and receive them."

Jesus was telling them how He seeks for the lost. But He did not go into detail about how He does that until He came to the account of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal Son is clearly lost, and then found. Look at verse twenty-four:

"For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:24).

So, in this account, Christ tells us in detail how a lost person gets saved. Then He sums it up by telling them that all these publicans and sinners were getting saved the same way, "and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

The story of the Prodigal Son tells us how a lost person "presses into the kingdom of God." It is a rich explanation of how this happens, and I want you to notice three things about it.

I. First, think about the prodigal's heart.

The father gave that part of the inheritance to his son. Then notice verse thirteen:

"And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance in riotous living" (Luke 15:13).

This verse shows us the stubbornness of the human heart in its opposition to God. The human heart is alienated from God, excluded from knowing Him. The Bible says:

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated [cut off, excluded] from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

Not only is the unconverted heart alienated from God, it is also against God. The Bible says:

"The carnal mind is enmity against God" - is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7).

Put these two together and you have a picture of the Prodigal's heart - blind to the things of God and hostile toward God. That is the way your heart is before conversion.

Now, isn't that a picture of you? Isn't it true that God is far off and unreal to you? Isn't it true that you sometimes feel very angry at God? That's exactly the way the Prodigal Son felt. The younger son took everything and moved far away. He began living a life of rebellion against his father, and against God. "He wasted his substance in riotous living" (Luke 15:13). He was far away from his father, and from God.

And that's the way you are. Your heart is far from God. You seldom think of God. Your mind is on material things, school, fun, sex, movies, sports, perhaps drugs. You are only thinking about enjoying life and making money. There is no serious thought of God in your mind. You are "alienated" [cut off, excluded] from the life of God through the ignorance that is in" you (Ephesians 4:18).

The only time you think about God seriously is when something goes wrong. A close friend dies, a tragedy occurs, and you say, "Why did God let this happen to me?" The only real thoughts most people have about God are thoughts like that. They think about God in an angry, hostile way. They blame God for every problem in their lives. Haven't you sometimes felt like that? Haven't you sometimes felt anger that God allows war, and suffering, and pain? Haven't you felt hostility toward God when a close friend or relative dies? That's a very common human experience.

"The carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God" (Romans 8:7).

If you want to be saved you have to acknowledge the fact that you have a prodigal's heart. You have to be honest with yourself and admit that your heart has gone far away from God, and that you really don't agree with God, and that you are, at least sometimes, openly hostile to Him.

I have always loved that old gospel song Mr. Griffith sang a few minutes ago. It gives a picture of the prodigal's heart. I believe that it's a picture of your heart. "I've wandered far away from God." "The paths of sin too long I've trod." "I've wasted many precious years." Most of you have felt like that at times. I believe, if you are honest with yourself, you will agree that you've wandered far from God - that you have trodden the paths of sin - that you have wasted many years by serving the Devil instead of God. Many young people tell me that they feel cut off from God, filled with anxiety and lonely, without God, and without hope. Haven't you sometimes felt that way? You may be in a big crowd of people, at a rave, or at a sports event, or at a dance - and suddenly it strikes you - "I don't really know any of these people. I'm really all alone. No one really cares about me." Haven't you sometimes felt like that?

Because, you see, the Prodigal's heart drove him to a life of loneliness. Oh, he had lots of "friends" as long as he was spending his father's money. They flocked around him, lots of guys and girls. But when the hard times hit, and the money ran low, they were gone. You've had so-called "friends" like that, haven't you? When trouble comes, they are gone. They were never real friends in the first place. That's why you need to come back to this church! You will make true friends here - who will stick with you no matter what! That's the reason we say, "Why be lonely? Come home - to church" - come home, to Christ and get saved!

II. And then, second, think about the Prodigal's awakening.

He went down pretty low before he had a change of heart and woke up. Many people go that low, or even lower, without waking up. Every day young people die from drug abuse, from suicide, from alcoholism, from sexually transmitted diseases. Every day, many young people commit suicide. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people 18 to 25 years of age? Think of it - the third leading cause of death! That means that a lot of kids your age have gone even lower, emotionally and psychologically, than this Prodigal Son. You can go very low, you can even die, without waking up, and getting out of that situation.

It's like a little boy in Southeast Asia, who crawled inside of a coffin, next to a dead body, to hide from the Communists. He went to sleep, and when he woke up, he had been buried alive! Horrible - to wake up like that - trapped inside a coffin - buried under six feet of earth!

But that's only a weak picture of what will happen to you if you don't wake up now, while there is still time. You will wake up in the dark dungeon of Hell!

The Holy Spirit must affect you, and awaken you. That is the main work of the Spirit,

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin"
     (John 16:8).

You will only be awakened when God's Spirit begins to trouble you and awaken you to your sin and the coming judgment.

When the Holy Spirit comes to awaken you, He makes you think deeply about your sins. The young man Jesus spoke about began to think about this. He had wasted his life. Everything was gone. He was alone. Nobody cared about him. Now look at verse seventeen:

"And when he came to himself [when he came to his senses], he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" (Luke 15:17).

He realized that he was in a terrible situation, brought on by his sinful rebellion against his father and his God. David was in this state of mind when he said:

"The sorrows of death compassed me [surrounded me], and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me [confronted me]. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God" (Psalm 18:5-6).

David began to think about death, and "the sorrows of hell." He couldn't get these thoughts out of his mind. He was convinced of sin and judgment by the Holy Spirit. Then, in his distress, he turned to the Lord. He was like the Prodigal Son, who finally came to his senses! The Prodigal Son said, "I perish" - I am dying. I have no hope. When you start to think like that you are being awakened by the Spirit of God. Don't push these thoughts out of your mind! Think about them even more deeply. There is a little voice in your heart telling you that you are lost without Christ. That is the voice of God. Listen to Him. Come back here to church again. Get into the Bible. Get into church. Think about your coming death. Think about your sins. Don't make excuses.

III. Third, think about the Prodigal's conversion.

Look at the end of verse seventeen. That young man said,

"I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven [against God], and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Luke 15:17-20).

This is an illustration of what Jesus was speaking about in our opening text:

"The kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

The boy realized that he was dying because of his sin. He rose up and came home to his father. Nothing could stop him now! He was pressing into the kingdom. He was coming home.

His father saw him coming - way off - down the road. He ran to meet his son. He grabbed the boy in his arms and kissed him! He said,

"For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry" (Luke 15:24).

When you decide to come home to God, Christ will meet you. Christ will take you in His arms and hug you. You will be saved!

Many young people say, "How do I come to Christ?" That's really a silly question! Christ will come to you! When you take the first few steps toward Him, He will rush to meet you, and forgive you, and save you - because He loves you!

Come to yourself! Come to your senses! Press out of your sin. Say within yourself, "I am going to find Christ - no matter what it takes! I want my sins forgiven! I want Christ to wash me clean by His Blood! I want Christ in my life!" When you do that, Christ will come to you and save you! Do what that song says,

I've wandered far away from God, Now I'm coming home;
The paths of sin too long I've trod, Lord, I'm coming home.

I've wasted many precious years, Now I'm coming home;
I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I'm coming home.

I'm tired of sin and straying, Lord, Now I'm coming home;
I'll trust Thy love, believe Thy word, Lord, I'm coming home.

Coming home, coming home, Never more to roam,
Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I'm coming home.
      ("Lord, I'm Coming Home" by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921).

Turn to hymn number two on your song sheet. Let us stand together. While we sing, I want you to get out of your seat, and come and stand here in front of this pulpit. After you have come, we will go to my office and talk about coming home to Jesus Christ. While we sing, you come. Just leave your seat and come right now!

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 15:1-19.

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Lord, I'm Coming Home" (by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE PRODIGAL'S HEART

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16).

(Luke 15:1-2, 4, 8, 24)

I.   The prodigal's heart, Luke 15:13; Ephesians 4:18; Romans 8:7.

II.  The prodigal's awakening, John 16:8; Luke 15:17; Psalm 18:5-6.

III. The prodigal's conversion, Luke 15:17-20, 24.

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