Sermons

An Attitude of Gratitude

Sun, Aug 21, 2022
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: Luke 15:25-32
Duration:30 mins 52 secs

Message text

An Attitude of Gratitude
Luke 15: 25 – 32

A friend of mine tells a story of when he was about 6 or 7 yrs old and wanted to go exploring in his neighborhood one summer afternoon.
He walked to the school playground which was about 4 blocks from his house.
While playing on the school playground he noticed woods beyond the school and decided to go on a hike to discover what was in and beyond those woods.
He says that he must have been gone a long time that day because his mom became frantic.

She asked all the neighbors and some of my friends to go looking for me.
When it began to get late in the day, I started walking home and was confronted by some of the people who had been looking for me all afternoon.
When my mom saw me about a block away, she ran to me, hugged me, and then whipped my behind all the way home.

That story ended on a good note. But every year, about 2 million children are lost to their parents.
Some run away.
Some are kidnapped.
Some are kidnapped and put in to sex trafficking.

I can’t imagine the panic, despair, and grief that a parent experiences when they have lost their child.
Can you imagine?
What would you do if one of your children got lost, not for just a few minutes in the mall, not for an hour, but what could be forever?
What would YOU do?

Please turn with me to Luke 15:11-32.
Luke 15 starts out with the scribes and Pharisees being upset with Jesus because He was eating with and socializing with tax collectors and sinners.
Tax collectors were universally hated by their fellow Jews because they collected taxes for the hated Roman invaders and even worse, extorted extra money to line their pockets.

Sinners included a broad category of thieves, prostitutes, and generally non-religious folks.
The religious folk didn’t have anything to do with the non-religious folk.
So, when Jesus spent time with these individuals… the so-called “religious folk” began to grumble.

Knowing the hardness of their hearts, Jesus launched into 3 of the most well-known parables He ever taught.
From what I understand… a parable comes from two Greek word: para meaning alongside and ballo, meaning to throw or throw down.
So, a parable is a story thrown down alongside a truth to illustrate it.

• The 1st parable was about a shepherd who lost one of his sheep. He risked the 99 to go after The One.

• The 2nd parable was about a woman who had lost a coin. She turned her house upside down searching for The One.

• Now this 3rd parable takes on a more personal dimension: it is about a father whose son had chosen a path that separated himself from his father, and a father whose heart ached because of the separation and celebrated when the son finally did come home.

And, there are 3 separate stories found in this third parable.
Story #1 is about the prodigal who went into the far country, squandered all his money in wild living, & then finally went back home.
Story #2 is about the father who watched & waited anxiously for his son to return. And when he did, welcomed him with love, & even threw a party for him.

And Story #3, is about the older brother who usually goes almost unnoticed when we read this parable.
He is a perfect example of stubbornness & its results.

Listen to Luke 15: 25 – 27 .
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

Now how does this older brother respond to that?
He has just heard some good news.
His brother who had been gone so long is back home safe & sound.
And if we weren’t already very familiar with the story we would expect the older brother to rejoice.
We'd expect him to say, "I'm going to the party! I can hardly wait to see him. I'm glad he's home!"

If you’re hear this morning and you feel like you’re lost and separated from the Father; if you feel like you’ve been squandering your life in foolish living, there’s a message here for you straight from your heavenly Father:
It’s time to come home.
He longs for your return.

You have nothing to offer Him--except yourself.
Jesus is telling this parable because that’s why He came:
to pay the penalty for your rebellion so that if you’ll come to your senses, and seek the mercy of God, you can be redeemed.

 

Note that:
1: you can bring nothing to God that will make you acceptable to Him.

2: It’s only by your repentance, baptism and faithful living that redemption can come to you.

But wait a minute. Jesus isn’t done with the parable. Somebody is not happy about this reunion and celebration.
Who is it?
First and foremost is the fattened calf!
Oh yeah, AND the older brother is not happy, at all.

Let’s look at the ultimate purpose of why Jesus told this parable.

Vs. 28 says, "The older brother became angry & refused to go in."
We see an individual who planted his feet on the ground. He clenched his fists. He stubbornly refused to go in.

Now look at vs’s 29-32, "So his father went out & pleaded with him." Some translations say, "He begged him to come in."
"But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I have been slaving for you & never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"

"'My son,' the father said, 'You are always with me, & everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate & be glad, because this brother of yours was dead & is alive again; he was lost & is found.'"

Now can you see that older brother standing there while everybody else has gone to the party?
There is music & laughter & celebration!
Everybody is having a great time, except this older brother who refuses to go to the party.
And because of his stubbornness, he imprisons himself behind a wall of bitterness.

If it hadn't been for his stubbornness we might never have known what kind of person this older brother really was.
So let's look at him, & then look at ourselves.

Pull back the curtain & ask ourselves honestly, "What kind of person am I?"

The first thing his stubbornness reveals is that this older brother was a selfish & ungrateful son.
He looked at his father, & instead of being grateful for all the things he had received, he complained about what he didn't receive.

What a terrible attitude!
He was the older brother.
In Jewish culture that meant he would receive a double inheritance, & all the family lands would be his.

To him belonged the Birthright & his father's Blessing.
His father even reminded him, "Everything I have is yours."

But right now that wasn't enough for him.
The only thing he was focusing on was that "You never gave me a fattened calf."
Now fattened calves were saved for special occasions.
You kept that calf separate from the others, & gave it the best feed you had.

So here is this calf that was being saved for a special occasion. And the special occasion came when the prodigal son returned home.

But the older brother is not thinking about all the good things he has received in life.
He is not counting his blessings.
Instead, he is angry & ungrateful because of the one thing he hasn't received.

I like the story about the 4th graders who were asked to write down the 7 wonders of the world.
So, they started writing down what they thought were the 7 wonders of the world.

After a while, the teacher began collecting the papers & looking at their answers,
answers like the Grand Canyon,
the Taj Mahal in India,
the pyramids in Egypt,
wonders from all over the world.

But one little girl was still writing.
The teacher asked, "Aren't you through yet?
I just asked you to write down the 7 wonders of the world.
What are you writing?"

The little girl paused for a moment and then quietly answered, "Well, I don't know if these are the right ones or not, but I have a whole lot more than 7."

The teacher said, "Let me see what you have written."
Then he started reading the little girl's list of the wonders of the world.
"To be able to see, hear, think, breathe, touch, run, love, laugh." And the list went on.

You see, our problem is that we think the great things of life are material things - things like fattened calves.
And, in doing that we overlook the blessings that our Father is giving to us every day.

What a list the older brother could have written.
But no, he's standing outside, selfish & ungrateful, refusing to heed his father's invitation.
And many people are doing exactly that same thing today.

Not only was the older brother selfish & ungrateful, but his stubbornness reveals that he was also a very unhappy & unfeeling man.

In vs. 29 he says to his father, "Look!" He doesn't even address his father with respect.
"Look!" he says. "All these years I have been slaving for you. . ."

A slave? Now that's a deliberate slap in the face of the father, isn't it?
I don't know what the son could have said that would have hurt his father more.

His oldest son. His heir.
For years they have worked side by side.
All his life has been poured into that boy.

I'm sure his father was proud of him.
He didn't go into the far country.
He stayed home. "That's my boy!"

But it took only a few bitter words to destroy that feeling, maybe forever.
He thinks of his father as a slave driver.
And he sees himself as a slave.
What went wrong?

There may be times that instead of considering how good God is, & how much God has given;
instead of rejoicing in His mercy & grace & salvation;

instead of rejoicing at the fact that you can see, & hear, & walk, & think, & work;

instead of doing that, we often complain about the things we don't have.

"You have a new car, & I have an old clunker.

You have all these things, & I don't have anything.

Why is it that everything always works out for you, & it doesn't work out for me?"

That attitude leads to all kinds of unhappiness in life.

And, the 3rd thing his stubbornness revealed was that he was unloving & unforgiving towards his brother.

"This son of yours," he said. He didn't even call him a "brother."

There is something interesting to consider here.
Do you know why the prodigal came home?
Because he woke up & realized that his father was probably the most generous man he knew.
Did you notice that?

Turn back to vs. 17
. Here is the prodigal son sitting in the midst of the hog lot, & he says, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, & I am starving to death?"

It is interesting how our circumstances effect our attitude.
On one hand, the older brother has always been there, eating at his father's table.
He's always had enough food.
He has always had clothing to wear.
Yet he thinks his father is stingy.

But the prodigal, away in the far country in the midst of the hog lot, begins to remember how generous his father has always been.
As he sits there smelling the slop, he suddenly remembers, "Even my father's servants have more than enough food to eat."
So, he goes home, because he realizes that his father is generous.

The older brother who thinks his father is stingy, is unloving & unforgiving towards his brother.
He won't even recognize him as a brother.

Someone once wrote, "If Jesus had been the older brother, think how different this story would have been.

Instead of the older brother staying home while the prodigal was away in the far country, Jesus, as the elder brother, would have gone into the far country to search for him."

"He would have gone to the bars & brothels.
He would have gone to the hog lots until finally he found his brother & brought him home.
Because of his love he would not leave his brother in the far country."

Folks, isn't it amazing that we can see how stubborn other people are, & yet never realize that the Bible is talking about us?

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:5.
"But because of your stubbornness & your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed."

Did you hear that?
He said, "Because you are stubborn you don't repent.
And because you don't repent, you are storing up wrath against yourself."

Then he says, "Because of that, God's wrath will be revealed on the Day of Judgment," all because of stubbornness.

Do you remember King Agrippa?
The Apostle Paul was a prisoner of Gov. Festus & was being questioned by King Agrippa.

Paul spoke with such power & conviction about Jesus & why he had become a Christian.
Acts 26:28 says, "Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian."
"Almost." But no, he was a King & he turned his back & walked away.

I hope that is not your case this Morning.
I hope you see yourself as having an attitude of gratitude.

I hope you will respond to the invitation,
And, Realize what God and His Son Jesus have to offer:

And because of that you are willing to:
Repent of your sins;
Confess that Jesus is the Living Son of the Father;
And be buried with Him through Baptism
To work in Newness of Life.

The Lord patiently waits for you as we stand & sing.

 

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