When we have incorrect views of God, they cause us to run from Him. In this message, we unpack Luke 15 and learn who God really is.
All right, all right! Let's do it, Porch! How are we doing? If we haven't met, my name is JD. I'm the creative director here on Tuesday nights. It's an honor to be here. We're going to jump right in. I want to say, "What's up?" first to our Porch.Live locations tonight. Say, "Hello," to Porch.Live North Houston, Porch.Live Scottsdale, Tulsa, and Midland. Let's give them a hello from Dallas, Texas. I'm so glad you guys are tuning in. Wherever you are watching online, you are welcome here tonight.
I want to go and give a preview of where we're heading tonight. We are in between series. We just finished RIP to the Old Me. Next week, we have something really exciting in store. Stay tuned. Tonight, we're going to look at a story that I think a lot of us are familiar with. When I was praying about where God wanted to take us tonight, there was a quote that I used the last time that I spoke from A.W. Tozer. He said your view of God determines your response to him.
Your view of God determines your response to him. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So I thought tonight, I would take us further on what that looks like. We're going to do that through this story in Luke, chapter 15. If you go ahead and turn there, I'm going to just read the story for us tonight. Then after that, we're going to pray and get right in.
To set the scene in Luke, chapter 15, Jesus is sitting. In verse 1, we see this. He says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" That's the setting that we're sitting in.
Clearly, what Jesus is about to show us here is there are people in his midst who had a wrong view of what he was about, had a wrong view of what his Father was about, the people who he wanted to reach and to save, and the people who he wanted to draw near to. There were people in his midst who were grumbling and complaining and distant from Jesus because they did not know what he was about, what his actual heart was for people.
So Jesus takes this moment where he is going to share this story that resonates with every single person in this room tonight. He reads this story because we know that Scripture tells us that Jesus was fully God and fully man. I don't know right now what has dictated your view of God and the church up to this point.
I don't know what experience has brought you to how you currently view him, but there is no one who has ever walked the earth who knows more of how to have the right view of God than Jesus. So if you want to have the right view of him, this is the story. Because he is going to tell you, "This is the heart of God." Chapter 15, verse 11. Here's how he describes the heart of God. He parallels it to a young man and his father.
"And he said, 'There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me." And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.'"
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
But the father said to his servants, "Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." And they began to celebrate.'"
God, this is your heart for your people. If there's someone here tonight, I don't know what it is, but whatever it is, if they're angry with you, they're mad at you, they're distant from you, they think that you're irrelevant or you're some myth and they're here for any other reason other than you because they don't truly have the right view of you, would you open up their eyes tonight?
Holy Spirit, would you come and speak through me right now? If there's anything that JD wants to say, take it away. Take it away. Would you come and move? We open up our hearts to you in this time. We want to know your heart, God, and respond accordingly. In your name that we pray, amen.
Well, my junior year or sophomore year of college, my friends and I did this thing on Friday night where we brought over all of our friends. We took all the mattresses out of all of our rooms, put them in the living room, and we had a scary movie night. The scariest movie I think (I stopped watching scary movies after this because it petrified me.) was The Strangers.
In this movie, the premise starts off with a statistic. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it said something along the lines of, "Every year in America, this many random murders happen for no reason." I'm like, "That's great." Then the movie goes on. There's this married couple. Their car breaks down. They find themselves in this Airbnb, I guess, and throughout the night they're just getting tortured by this group of people.
It's a great start to the message. So at the end, we're led to believe the husband is dead, and the wife is like crawling backwards. You're watching the girl in the bunny mask drag the knife or axe or whatever. Then she flips her over, and wife is like, "Why are you doing this?" She gets down and she is like, "Because you were home." That was it and it ends.
You're like, "Wait! Hold up! People are out here killing people for simply being home? They don't need a reason? Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Nobody is safe." So I don't go back to my room. I don't want to be alone, so I fall asleep on the couch. Everyone leaves. All three of my roommates were football players, so they had a game the next morning. They're out the door.
I wake up to this eerie feeling that I knew I wasn't alone. I knew. Maybe it was the movie the night before. I don't know. I just understood that there was someone with me. Do you know when the blinds aren't pulled up, but they're open? I raised up and I'm looking. My backyard was fenced in where you can't come in if you're not invited.
You don't just get to be like, "Oops, I'm in your backyard." It was a very private backyard. There's this man, I would say late 40s, early 50s with a beard and a zip up mechanic things walking around. I'm like… I grabbed my bat. I head to the back door. I'm like, "Yo!" I'm just kidding. I ran to the back closet. So I run to the farthest room. I go inside, and I get inside the closet.
It's one of those rectangular closets with the tri-fold doors. It's an old house. You know what I'm talking about. So I get in there and I get behind the clothes. All of a sudden, the back door creaks open, and I hear, "Is anyone home?" Why did the girl last night die? Because she was home! So I'm like, "Take whatever you want, but your brother isn't home! Come and do what you want because you aren't killing me today. No, sir."
So I am dead quiet. I'm like, "He is going to just steal the TV and leave. It's fine." I'm sitting there. Knees weak. Arms are heavy. I'm down like this. I kind of looked like, I think when I pictured myself as Sméagol, you know? So I'm sitting there, and he comes walking back down the hall. I'm like, "Okay, he has no business back here. What's he doing back here?"
Out of all four doors, the one I'm in opens. At this point I'm breathing fast. "Anyone home?" Because there's no way he is going to look inside the closet. Who is this man, right? I look up, hands grab the clothes, pull them back. "Son of a…!" I won't fill in what he said after that. If I don't see him, he can't see me, so I keep my head down.
The awkward tension is so thick in the room. I'm in my boxers. I'll say it. I'm probably covered in sweat. I mean, I look like the epitome of demon possessed. I'm sitting there. This man is like, "Uh." I hear, "Clank, clank, clank, clank." Footsteps out. Door slams. Car runs off. I fall out and I look at my phone.
My roommate was like, "Hey, heads up. The landlord is sending over the electrician." It's an old house and I'm not kidding. Out of everywhere to hid in this dang house, I hid underneath the breaker box. I like to think that right now he is in front of a thousand people being like, "So here's the day I met a demon-possessed guy…"
I start there because I clearly had a wrong view of this man. He was there to help me, a kind man. I was like, "You're here to kill me. You're here to hurt me." My response showed accordingly. I ran from him. I did not come to him because I viewed him improperly. How you view someone determines your response to them. So it's really important.
It's really important that when we talk about God, the one who we say here as the church is the author and giver of life, the one who you should surrender your all to, it's really important that you take time being around the right people, reading his Word, and being informed to have the right view of who he truly is.
Because if you don't, you will find yourself wasting your life because you're going to spend your days running from a God who is there. He has always been there to help and love you, but because of your improper view, you chose your own path because you thought he was there to hurt you. We see in this story that clearly this son ran from his father in the same way because he had a false view, an incorrect view of who he was.
So we're going to look at this story and see two false views. We will look at two false views of God that we have that determine a wrong response to him. Hopefully, when we've looked at this and we learned about what Jesus is trying to say is actually true of our Father God, it will change our view and, therefore, change everything about how we respond to him with our lives.
"Father, give me my share that is coming to me. I know, Dad, that you have some plan for my life or you're accumulating some inheritance to give me. I know…" If you think about it, this dad had everything. We're seeing here that there was a wealth in this family. They lived in a nice place. He had food. He had hired servants. He had clothes on his back. He had everything that he could ever need.
Yet because he thought that life was greener on the other side, because he thought his father was there to withhold from him, he said, "I want to take hold of my own life. Give it to me now." This looks like a lot of us today. "God kind of seems like a fun sucker. My friends who don't follow Jesus? They're out living it up every weekend. They get to spend their money how they want.
They get to dress how they want, post how they want, hook up when they want and with whom they want. They get to play house with their significant other. They seem to have no guilt about it. God must be no fun. He must be a fun sucker. He must be withholding from me." Like this son, we say, "Okay, then I'm going to take what's mine and make a plan for my own life. I'm going to go make my own fun. I'm going to go spend it all on reckless living: the nice apartment, the nice clothes, the job. Let's get that relationship with that hot guy or that hot girl."
Girls, a lot of the ways that this looks like for you is, "Well God, you're clearly withholding from me because I've been praying for a spouse for three years, and I'm still single. God, you said if you went into relationship with you, you would give me the desires of my heart. Well, hello? My desires want that man over there, and he won't even ask me on a date." So what do you do? You take control.
The problem is when we start to think of God as a God who withholds your best life now, when you start to doubt the heart of God, you will start to trust your own heart. There are a lot of things that that will result in in your life. Because the problem with trusting your own heart is Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
You left to you are a mess. Jesus is showing us that here. Yeah, sure, for a moment this guy experienced fun. Yeah, for a moment this guy had some money. Yeah, for a moment this guy experienced the party life and the pleasure, but left to himself, where did it take him? Where did he end up? This is what thinking that you can take control…
When you think, "Oh, how God withholds, so I should take hold of my plan for my life." When you start to play God, things get really, really bad. A couple of ways that looks like that you can just go, "Is my response to God to take control of my own life?" Well, are you someone who obsesses over your plans?
You're like, "Here's exactly how I want this to go: Get the degree. Get the job. Get the girl or get the guy. Have the kids. Get the house. Get the 401(k). Go on the vacations. Get the car. Do all these different things…what I want, when I want. If God wants to take any of this from me, I'll show him. I'll double down on my work. I'll double down on my fun living. Because this is my life. I want to live my best life now."
So many of us, whether we realize it or not, want control. But to think that you have control over anything in this world is to be in a state of delusion. COVID… Actually, this week two years ago… (Sorry for the PTSD, the trigger.) This week two years ago, we couldn't be here anymore. This was the week. That's crazy when you think about it, but it showed all of us really quickly, "Our plans are nothing."
So why would I want to put all my trust into my plan when it can so quickly change? This guy left and things were going according to his plan, and then look what happens. It says, "…a severe famine arose in that country…" Hey, he might be able to control where he spends his money or how he gets it, but he can't control the weather. He can't control a famine. He can't manifest it, either.
I want to quickly just talk about this trend I'm seeing where a lot of people think that they can manifest what they want in their life. There's this thing about manifestation that I'm telling you, you're being deceived. Because no matter how much you name it and claim it, no matter how much you say, "I will have success, I will have a pay raise, I will get that car, I will have that significant other, I will have only positive vibes and positive energy," the Bible says, "In this world you will have trouble." Not if. You will. Because we're a fallen world.
So for you to think, "It's up to me to manifest my day. It's up to me to manifest my joy. It's up to me to manifest who I let in."? No. Because if you think that you can manifest what you want, why did you not manifest COVID away? I mean, just help a brother out! If it works, if your manifestation board works, you could've put COVID-19 on there for us, but you can't. To think that you have control is a state of delusion. None of us have control.
The Bible says in James, chapter 1, verse 17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." That's so important that you understand the reason why we make terrible gods is because we are changing. Life around us is changing. Circumstances change, which proves that only God is truly trustworthy because he is the only one who never changes, ever! He is consistent. His character is the only thing truly dependable.
What I see here is this son's view of his father was he couldn't trust him. Like a lot of us, when you try to get control of your life, what I think that you are saying with that action is, "I cannot trust you, God, so I'm going to trust myself." How is that going for you? I know for me when I try to take matters into my own hands, it only makes me more anxious because I realize just how much I can't control things. You only get more depressed. You only get more worried and stressed out.
So the response here to God should be, "God, I trust you. That if you dress the lilies, if you provide the home for the sparrows, how much more will you clothe me and love me and provide for me?" God is looking for people… He is looking to trust people with great things for those who put great trust in him.
He is looking for people who have faith in his plans, and say, "God, this doesn't look like I thought it would. God, I didn't think I'd be 28 and single. God, I didn't think that I would lose my job in 2020 and nothing would ever be the same since. I didn't think I'd be working from home and experiencing such loneliness. But I trust you. Despite what I feel, despite what I see, I trust you."
Watch what he will do with that trust. Because if your view of God is that he truly is not withholding, but he does want to give you life and life to the full, it will change your response to him. You'll run into hard circumstances because you're not operating in fear, but faith. You'll climb that next height or you'll step into that new situation.
You'll go on that trip to Ethiopia because you're like, "I trust you. I'll do what you want. I'll leave the job. I'll make the change. I'll have the break up. Whatever you want, I trust you because I don't believe you're withholding from me. I believe that you only want to give me good things. That you know what I need before I even ask, like your Word says."
But this man, his view of God is that he is a withholder, that he is untrustworthy. So his response was to run. What's crazy is it says he spent it all "…in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything."
There's a quote we say a lot around here: "Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go, it will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and it will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay." This man had his best life planned now. I see so many people who don't know God posting about, "Me living my best life." You cannot live your best life apart from Jesus. You can't. You can't. I'm telling you right now.
You think that's your best life? No, you're sacrificing great for good. That's what you are doing. Because the only life to the full, the only life in abundance is with Jesus. This man shows us what Jesus is saying here is so many of us are forsaking the palace to sleep with the pigs. We have found ourselves leaving all that God has had for us for some pigs, for people who don't want to make you better, for people who want to see you fail, for people who want you to be miserable like they are.
They want that for you. Do you know who wants that more than them? The Enemy. He wants to see your life destroyed. So he is going to convince you that, "Yeah, take your own life. Take your own plan of action. You've got this. You do you, boo. You form your own truth. You love who you want to love. You live how you want to live. There's no absolute truth. God's Word isn't good. It contradicts your life. You do you."
Now you've found yourself further than you ever wanted to go and you've left the palace, the abundant life, for some pigs, for your sin. I'm here to tell you that if you would change your view of God, if you would trust him with your life and go, "God, even when it feels like you're withholding something from me, I'm choosing to hold onto what is true; I'm choosing to hold onto you, Jesus," it will change everything about how you respond to him with your life. That is when you'll experience your best life now.
He came to his senses. He let go of his pride. He saw his father. He remembered. Some of you tonight need to simply wake up. You need to realize. You have to look at your circumstances. Remember how your parents raised you. Some of you, your parents miss you. Your parents miss you. You're not who they raised you to be, and you know it. You need to come to your senses.
Some of you, your God misses you. He sees you. He remembers when you were 12, when you made that decision to give him your life, and then that thing happened to you that led you to making a decision and running and running and running. He is asking you. He is begging you tonight. "Come to your senses. Come back home." It says,
"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."'"
His false view here is he is still saw something wrong with his father, because something in him believed because of his actions, he had a conditional love with his father. Therefore, "My dad, there's no way because of what I did that he'll take me back as his son. So maybe he'll take me back as a slave."
A lot of us are there. A lot of Christians are there. Where you stepped into relationship with God, you've acknowledged him as your Father. You're saying, "I am your son and your daughter." But because of your actions, you're living like a slave. Here's what this looks like. God invites every single one of us to feast and experience, like I said, life, and life to the full.
He wants you to sit down. He wants you to taste and see how good he is and experience all of this stuff, to drink and have fun and be merry and experience a life with him. He wants to simply be with you. We create this place because we believe that God wants to be with every single one of you.
However, because of your 12-year porn addiction, because you're living with your significant other and y'all are hooking up all the time and you know that's not God's best…we tell you that all the time, and you still choose your pleasure and your passions over your God…because of your pride and your gossip and because of your bitterness and your anger because the thing that happened to you that made you distant from God…
Yeah, you come here, but you only do it because you believe that God still wants you to do something. What you're communicating is, "God, I can't come here and be free and lift my hands and eat and dine and sit at the feast with you. I'll come here and I'll serve you. I'll do things. I'll prepare a table. I'll do all this stuff."
God is saying, "Sit. I want you to be with me. I love you." But so many of us, we come in here. I'll see how this goes. [puts handcuffs on] We come in here, and this is how we operate with God. "I'll try. I'll try." And we come in here and our hearts are worshipping like this. Yeah, we're lifting hands because we think God wants us to serve him, but this is how they are.
We fold our hands in prayer, but this is how we look. Because something in you still believes, "God, I'll come back home. I'll come to church, but you just want me as a slave. You don't want me as a son because you're an angry judge." That's your view of God. I don't know what dictated that view for you. I don't know what formed that view of God for you.
Maybe it's because you've only had angry judges in your life. Maybe it's because you've only experienced conditional love that when you did something bad, you got bad. Maybe it's because your parents divorced: conditional. Maybe it's because your dad left. "Well, if he can leave, how do I know God won't bounce?"
Maybe it's because that person cheated on you when they said they loved you and you were endgame. Something formed a view that you have projected onto God for far too long and you still believe that he is an angry judge. But the Bible says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus _ [our Lord]_."
I had to believe that this was Jesus' favorite part of the story because in John, read this. Jesus says in John, chapter 8. "Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.'"
Who was the Son of God? Jesus. So I had to think, when he is telling this story, it has to be so personal to him because he is like, "The reason you've been coming to the Porch and not be like this, the reason why you don't have to be a slave, the reason God isn't an angry judge is because…" [takes off handcuffs] Come on. Come on, JD. One down. Wait for it. Man, cops aren't playing, y'all.
"…because God sent me. Knowing you would run from me, I ran down to you. I took your sin. I took your punishment. I took what you deserved and I died for it on the cross. Then I defeated it. I shut it up once and for all. I buried it in the grave, but I defeated it by rising from the grave three days later so that way when the world tells you, 'God doesn't love you,' when your family demonstrates a conditional love with you, when your shame and guilt tries to tell you, 'You don't get to come in here and lift your hands freely,' you can say, 'Yeah, I can because of Jesus. I can come and sit at the table because of Jesus. I can feast and dine and simply be with God as a son and daughter, not a slave. Because my God is not an angry judge. He is a God who unconditionally loves me.'"
When your view of God is that he simply wants to be with you like a father wants to be with his child… When that is your view, that no matter what you've done, because of his Son, when that's your view, it changes everything about your response. You now have the courage to come to him in your sin, in your darkest moment when you truly have the view.
What Jesus is saying here, if you would understand the heart of your God, it would change everything about how you view your past mistakes, your sin, everything. You're not coming over here just sheepishly crawling back going like, "Here God, let me give you some cake. Here God, let me just serve you." You understand. You have a seat at the table as a son and daughter.
He is asking you to feast, but you can't feast in chains. You can't worship in chains. You can't pray and serve and read and live life to the full in chains. So I'm telling you tonight, if your response to God is to come in chains? Take them off. Because Jesus rewrites stories. Jesus takes away the things that once held you down, and he sets you free. Because of Jesus, you are a son and daughter. That should be your view. Your view of God is that he sees you as a son and daughter. No matter what you've done, you can come. This is what he will do.
Verse 20: "And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion…" Some of you tonight need to simply hear that God sees it. He sees the abortion. He sees the night you gave yourself away. He sees the blackouts. He sees the drugs. He sees you lying there, contemplating and having a conversation with yourself going, "Would God want me back? Can I really serve in the church? I know what I've done."
He sees it all. He is looking at every single one of you by name. He is looking at me by name. Guys, my past is riddled with mistakes. I am the least of these. I am undeserving, the most undeserving. This story gets me every time no matter how many times I hear it because I'm reminded that God looks at me crawling back to church, crawling back to him, going, "I'm so sorry. Take me as a slave," and he feels compassion. He feels compassion.
For a lot of you, that's hard to believe because you came back to a person, wanted to be met with love, and they gave you shame and anger and unforgiveness. That's not your God. You do not need to project another experience onto your God because his love is unlike anything else in this world. You can't compare it to anything. It's incomparable. It's unimaginable. It keeps going deeper and deeper and deeper the more you trust yourself with him. It's the best love to ever exist.
"…and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy…'" The father just interrupts and says, "Hey! Servants! Bring the robe, bring the shoes. Bring the ring. Kill the calf. Have the party. It's time to celebrate! My son was gone. My son was dead and he is found. He is back. It's time to celebrate!"
Tonight I'm telling you, God's response is the same to you. If our view of somebody determines our response to him, what does this man's response to his son say about his view of his son? What is God's response to you by sending his Son to run and meet you in your sin and in your depravity? What is his response to you say by his view of you that you're worth it?
He felt so unworthy to be called a son. He says, "You're worth it. I'd die for you. You're worth it. Just come to me. Let me throw a party." The Bible says when one repentant person comes, the angels celebrate in heaven. There's a party being thrown for those who will just simply come because they believe.
Their view of God says, "God, I'm choosing to believe that you won't withhold from me. God, I'm choosing to believe that you aren't some angry judge who is out to get me because of my mistakes. That you unconditionally love me and you want to give me my best life with you." But you have to make the step to come back.
While I was worshipping, I looked down at my wedding ring. This ring is a sign of my proposed unconditional love for my wife. Because I'm human, I'm going to get it wrong. I know that we're in the honeymoon phase right now and I'm sure that years down the road I'm going to do things… I know me. I'm going to do things that she is like, "It's really hard. It's really hard."
Just like this ring, it just continues to keep going and keep going and keep going. It's not even a reminder of my bad, but God's good that his love just keeps going and keeps going and keeps going. It's available for you tonight, but you have to have the right view of him. If you would focus and have the right view of God's unconditional love for you, if you would respond to that love, it'll change everything. Let's pray.
God, I ask that you would truly come and speak to the person right now who has a wrong view of you. Would you redirect their view? Would you change their vocabulary? Would you shift their experience? Right now, would they experience you? Would they understand that they are trading the palace for the pigs? That they are choosing sin over a Savior?
When they make this step, would they come to their senses? As they are coming back to you maybe timid, maybe ashamed, would you run right now? Would you show them the compassion you see when you look at them and say, "I've got it. I've sent my Son. I've got it." Would the response be to celebrate? For those who have come back to you maybe celebrate in this response.
For those who need to come to you, may we respond in this response, not because of anything to do with ourselves, but everything God, everything because of what you've done for us. We give you this moment. I give you, God, these next minutes together, asking that you would call people back home. May we respond now. In your name I pray, amen.