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What Do You Think About God?

June 13 2022

Book: Luke

Audio Download

Scripture: Luke 15:1-2; 11-32

Oppressive and cancelled
Unforgiving and ungracious
Coke machine, based on your obedience

Forgiving, gracious, father



  • Luke 15 = tells big crowd (sinners & Pharisees / bad & good people) three stories
    • A man finds his lost sheep & everyone rejoices
    • A woman finds her lost coin & everyone rejoices
    • A father finds his lost son & everyone rejoices…except his other son
  • End of first 2 stories “immeasurable joy over sinner who repents” but not so for a righteous person who thinks they need no repentance
  • If each time great rejoicing over found thing, what’s up with older brother? He must be lost…

READ LUKE 15:1-2,11-32

LUKE 15:1-2

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

LUKE 15:11-32

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 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, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 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.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

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 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”



  • 1983 Trading Places came out – Eddie Murphy & Dan Akroyd
  • Two billionaires bet $1 to see if a millionaire would crack if traded places with a homeless man
  • Murphy played a homeless man & Akroyd played rich investment banker
  • Ruin Akroyd’s life & give his house/job to Murphy
  • Murphy doesn’t believe it, so starts pocketing things – food, money, expensive stuff while they’re showing him around
  • Finally say “you don’t have to take these things, they’re already yours!”
  • If you’re here & not a Xn – so glad! What God is like & what true Xnity is

If you are a Xn – God is saying everything he has is already yours in Jesus!

3 wrong-headed ways to relate to God & then what God is really like

1st MAIN POINT:   Wrong view #1 – God is oppressive & needs to be cancelled

  • See this in the younger son
  • Parable starts by younger son saying “I wish you were dead”
    • That’s what it meant to ask for your inheritance now while dad still living
    • Literally says that father “divided his life” to give inheritance
  • See how younger son thinks by what he does
    • Wishes father dead
    • Moves far away
    • Did whatever he wanted – blew cash like it was his job
      • “reckless living and prostitutes”
    • He thought his father raising him as a son was oppressive
    • Today’s terms: could say he deconstructed relationship
      • Cancelled his father


  • Are there things that need to be deconstructed?
  • YES!
    • Racism & sexism that has sadly found a home in many churches
    • Worshipping a pastor/person instead of Jesus
    • Unchecked power that results in abuse of all kinds – spiritual, mental, sexual
  • Protestant Reformation back in 1500s, Martin Luther was deconstructing institutional church
    • Protestant because it was a Protest
  • Frederick Douglass: “I love the Christianity of Christ, and I therefore hate the Christianity of this land – slaveholders…”
  • God is authoritative, but he’s not authoritarian
  • The scriptures say that God is love
    • That’s the most fundamental thing about him
  • Jackie Hill Perry in her new book talks about God’s holiness pointing to his love:
    • “If God is completely holy, then he can’t sin. And since he can’t sin, then he can’t sin against me. And since he can’t sin against me, shouldn’t he be the most trustworthy Being there is?”
    • That’s pointing to his love
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
  • God is love, cling to him while you deconstruct other things

2nd MAIN POINT:   Wrong view #2 – God is unforgiving & unrelenting

  • Also see this with the younger son
  • 14ff he spends all his money & is broke and homeless
  • Went to work taking care of pigs – which was a big no-no back then, made him unclean and unacceptable
  • 16 “he longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything”
  • So he prepares a speech, that he will go back to his father and beg for a job as a hired hand
  • He didn’t think that God was a God of mercy and forgiveness
    • He was confusing the character of the Egyptian slaveholders in Exodus
    • With God who reveals himself throughout scripture as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness”


  • Some of you may be like younger brother here
    • Really blown it & don’t think God can ever forgive you
      • God’s love is bigger than your sin
      • In a weird way, when we do this – pride in our sin
    • Moses killed a guy & ran away from his people – God loves him
    • David killed a guy & then raped his widow – God loves him
  • Younger son here says “I hate you, I wish you were dead, give me my inheritance now so I can go do whatever I want”
  • What does the father do?
    • He loves him, he runs out to him and he kisses him (his unclean son who cursed him)

ILLUSTRATION:  Tim Bailey rebelling against his father, Joe

  • Left home & joined commune
  • Joe tried everything – couldn’t get through to Tim
  • Joe gets call at 11pm – “this is police, your son arrested for DUI, he’s in jail”
  • Joe gets out of bed in dead of winter, drives 30 minutes to jail – son’s not there
    • Goes to next town – not there
    • Goes to 2 other neighboring towns jail – not there
    • Finally at 4am went to old house where he’d been sleeping
  • Steps over sleeping bodies & finds Tim asleep in sleeping bag on old mattress
  • Stood over him quietly
  • Bent over, kissed him on the cheek, turned around & went home
  • Not long after Tim started visiting his parents
    • Then hanging out at home
    • One day re-committed his life to Jesus
    • Seemed legitimately happy
  • Years later on a walk, Joe asked “Tim, what brought you back?”
  • Tim stopped and looked at his dad “Dad, don’t you know?”
    • Night you got call I was in jail years ago, that was a prank
    • When you came to the house I only acted asleep – was wide awake
    • I knew you’d driven all night looking for me
    • I wondered what you would do
    • All you did was bend down & kiss me on the cheek
    • “Dad, it was the kiss that brought me back”

3rd MAIN POINT:   Wrong view #3 – God only likes you if you obey

  • See this in the older brother at the end of the story
  • Younger son repents and is fully accepted by father (more on that in a second)
  • Older son is angry, pouting, and won’t go into party, so father goes to him
  • 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
  • He had a coke machine view of God
    • You put quarters in you get drink out
    • You do really good things and then and only then God will accept you
    • In other words, this is karma
    • Karma is not Christianity – this is a false view of God
  • This is what the Pharisees in the Bible did
    • As long as I don’t ________
      • Kill, bully, rape, actively discriminate, etc.
    • As long as I ____________
      • Say churchy things, pray before meals, go to church every now and then
    • We all have a list of good things we should do, and bad things we shouldn’t, rite?
  • Here’s the thing, God doesn’t care about your lists!
    • Christianity is not about following rules, it’s not about obedience!
    • It’s also not about faith, grace, prayer, love, etc. – Christianity is about Christ!
  • The older son in this parable doesn’t believe in God – he believes in himself
    • In his own good deeds and obedience and righteousness
  • There’s a big bible word that gets at this: justification
    • An act of God’s free grace credits our sin to Jesus, and credits Jesus’s righteousness to us – not because of anything we do, but only through faith in Jesus

4th MAIN POINT:   What is God really like?

  • Look at the father in this passage
  • How does he respond to his younger son and to his older son – with love
  • Younger son
    • He actually grants him his request for his inheritance
    • Then he waits expectantly for his younger son to return to him
    • When he sees his son walking back, head held in shame, he probably recognized him first by knowing his walk
    • Then he did something that fathers, patriarchs didn’t do back then – he hiked up his tunic showed his legs and took off running to welcome him home
    • He didn’t even let his son get his speech out, but saw his repentance and hugged him and cried ugly tears of joy and “kissed him up”
    • And after that they sat down and wrote up a contract for how he would behave and his salary and benefits…. NO
    • Father through him a party and killed the fattened calf this was extravagant
    • Think about this party, it says that he “heard dancing” – they were getting after it, they were probably strolling
  • Older son
    • In the midst of everyone throwing down to celebrate return of younger son, father notices something’s missing – oldest son won’t come in
      • Father doesn’t say, what a fundamentalist religious nazi – he deserves not to party
      • He doesn’t do that
      • He goes out to him in love, and asks him to come in
      • Father says to him, “Look, my beloved son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours!” and then invites him into the party
    • Father says to both younger son and older son in this passage:
      • It’s not about what you have or haven’t done, it’s about my love for you as my sons
    • God says to you – whether you view God as oppressive who needs to be cancelled, or unforgiving taskmaster, or coke machine karma being – it’s not about what you have done or haven’t done!
      • It’s about my love for you as my beloved children, achieved for you by your true older brother my Son Jesus on the cross
      • Christianity is not one more thing that depends on your performance, but on Jesus’s performance on your behalf

That’s what God is like. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus as he is presented to us in the gospels b/c Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God.

I’ll finish with a story I recently read, about a young boy (about 2-3) witnessing his dad beating his mother to death, and then the boy was placed in foster homes, an average of 2 per year for 6 years. And he was abused in those foster homes – physically, sexually, emotionally, verbally, & a side-effect of that was that he became a chronic bedwetter=> gets adopted by family warns them about bedwetting, and they say “then we’ll change your sheets in the morning, get some breakfast, and you’ll still be our son and we’ll still love you.”

Listen y’all, this is the message of the gospel! No matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you – God wants you, he loves you and he likes you, and since he’s God he’s actually powerful enough to do something about it. And that’s what he did in Jesus’s perfect life, death, and resurrection. Jesus overcomes your past – the skeletons that we all have in our closets; Jesus frees you from your “chronic bed-wetting” present; and Jesus invests in your future, by inviting you into HIS family to feel the love and unconditional acceptance of a Loving Heavenly Father.