The Prodigal's Father

David Stockton
Series: Origins of Innocence

I want to start out with some review. We’ve been in this Origin of Innocence series for quite a bit now. This is our fifth teaching in Origins of Innocence. I want to make sure we’re all getting it. We have some material to go through. I’m going to try to slow us down a little bit. I’m going to go back over some of these teachings to make sure that some of this is formalizing and crystallizing. 

What we have is this Origins of Innocence timeline. This is something we’ve been operating on. In the beginning, when God created humanity, they were created in innocence — garden, idyllic. There was no sin. There was no death. There was no shame. But obviously that’s not the world that we exist in, that we operate in today. We are now, after the fall of Adam and Eve, the sin of Adam and Eve, we are now people who exist in this shame. 

We don’t teach our kids how to sin, they just figure it out on their own. They’re good at it. It’s like something inherent within them is broken or bent toward things that are not of God. Obviously it doesn’t mean that they are evil, bad children. They do good things and they are beautiful because they are made in the image of God. And you have this dichotomy going on, where you have this image of God—this beauty and innocence of this child. Yet at the same time this child grows up to know shame, cause shame, and experience all of those things.

And so what that is, basically, is innocence, the image of God that he created in us, he gave us his image, and that has never stopped. And sometimes we hear about the fall, about sin and rebellion, and we talk about the sin and struggle of mankind, and that is a reality, but it is not the only reality. God has continued to keep his image on us. And he has continued to give us access to him and his innocence.

So you have stories in the Old Testament, like Abraham, which says that Abraham, because he believed God, it was accounted to him as righteousness. And when he read his story in the Bible, we’re like, “What a loser! The guy’s messing up all the time.” Yet, when we read about the example of faith that he is, somehow there’s a beauty to his life that God brought about even though he was a man of shame.

That’s basically where we are. On this timeline, we have the cross where Jesus stepped into our shame and our humanity and died on the cross. And yet after the cross he didn’t all of a sudden make the shame go away. Those of us who are born after Christ died on that cross, we’re still born with this reality of shame inside of us and in the world around us. And yet we have this longing and this call from God to live in this innocence and this righteousness and it’s a struggle and a challenge. 

There will be one day, the Bible promises, when Jesus will return and he will get rid of shame forever. Oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be! But for whatever reason, we live in between. We live in this challenge of both.

So in Romans 7, the Message translation (MSG), I want you to grasp the concept. Paul is trying to teach us about that reality of innocence and shame, how we’re kind of dualistic in our nature. He’s trying to wrestle it out and make it make sense to us:

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

Can anyone relate? But then the very next chapter, 8:1

 8 1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. [and shame]

When Jesus came, he made a way where there was no way. The only way I can describe what that means is to harken back to last week. Gary and Melissa Ingraham got up here and this is the picture in my mind. They were standing up here, and they were like, “Hey, everybody. So you see this bucket right here that I’m carrying? This is all the shame that for a long time kind of ruled over me and kept me hiding and afraid, and kept me from really being able to interact with anybody, But now I’m in a place, because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, where you can look at it if you want. It doesn’t have any power over me anymore. 

And they’re up here just being clumsy with their shame. They’re not being nervous and afraid and shrinking back and being fearful and saying, “But let me paint it in a better light. Let’s not talk about this, let’s just talk about the good.”  It just had no power over them anymore. To stand in front of a room and share that stuff.

And all of us—I remember I was sitting there, and at one point it was getting so real, I was like, “I don’t know what to do with my arms. Like, I feel like if I move my arm right now, it will attract attention to me and I don’t want it.” It was just so real and refreshing.

And a bunch of you came up to me after church. I had so many people, more so than ever, they came up to me and were like, “We just want to be a part of this church.” And I was like, “Did you just hear that message? That was crazy!” And they’re like, ‘Yeah. We’re tired of the fake. We want something real.”

Paul here is not just saying, “Oh, yeah, pretend that shame is not there anymore and you just ignore it.” He’s saying, "No. It’s still a reality. But it doesn’t have to have power over you. When you make a mistake you don’t have to go into the same cycle and disappear again.”

You make a mistake and you say, “Yeah. I know I’m very capable of making mistakes and I’m going to confess it. And I’m going to let it be out there and I’m going to let God heal it right away.” It’s interesting. I’ll tell you what, we’re not good at it. It’s not natural to us. It’s something that we need to learn. 

So that’s the first thing. Then you have Galatians 4, which was the second message. Paul is describing the same thing, but he’s saying it in a different way:

When we were minors, we were just like slaves ordered around by simple instructions (the tutors and administrators of this world), with no say in the conduct of our own lives.

(NIV) Galatians 4:4-7 But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. 

(Our Origins of Innocence.)

You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

So what did God do in this time where we’re living in between the innocence that God created us in and the innocence of the new heaven and new earth that God has promised us? What has he done? He’s given us his Spirit. This is where Christianity gets bizarre. And again, it’s only bizarre if it’s not true. At one point they thought it was so bizarre that people were saying the world was round. And then, all of a sudden, they realized it was true and it was like, “Eh, seems pretty normal.”

But how did God leave us? How did Jesus leave us to deal with this shame and innocence challenge that we have? He didn’t leave us alone. But he actually wants his Spirit to dwell inside of us to help us navigate this extremely challenging thing. So first he just says, “There is no condemnation for any mistakes you’ve made or will make. And not only that, but now I’m going to put my Spirit as something to empower you to begin to grow and learn how to live as a person of innocence, of righteousness—living out of your original glory, your original design. Your OGD, for the gangstas.

And then he goes on to describe what that’s like in Galatians 5 (NIV). 

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—

How hard does the tree work to produce fruit? Have you ever heard a tree out there groaning? Or stretching? “Come on, baby. Come on, baby. Come on, baby. Uh!” 

Have you ever seen a tree working out or reading books? What God wants to do in your life, if you’ll trust him, he will produce. All a tree has to do is stay planted in the place it’s supposed to be. And you guys are right here. You’ve planted yourself in a place where you’re going to receive from God. And if you’re only doing it one or two hours a week, you’re going to be a really dumb tree. It’s not going to produce anything. We’ve got to keep planting ourselves in God because he’s the one that brings fruit. And listen to this fruit. The fruit is …

things like affection for others, 

(Instead of anger, hatred.)

exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

That’s what the Spirit of God wants to produce in us, in you, if you’ll trust him, if you’ll stay planted in him. It will happen. 

So those are some Scriptures that are helping us try to find this Origin of Innocence, this challenge of innocence and shame. 

Then the next week we had Ryan Romeo. He came and spoke about Genesis 3 and really started to help us to understand the real shame aspect. I think all of us understand the shame in our lives, but it’s hard for us to pinpoint it or to acknowledge it, or to even name it. But I think that’s an important practice, as we’re seeking healing.

And so the question he brought out was, in Genesis chapter 3, when God came to visit Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, in their intimate relationship, the ease of their relationship, and he said to them, “Where are you?” Not that God didn’t know physically where they were. But “where are the Adam and Eve that I was with yesterday?” Because they had been changed. They had been de-formed. And they were aware of their deformation and began to try to cover it, by blaming other people. By making their own fig leaves and those type of clothes. And that’s basically what we do now.

And then last week, what Gary and Melissa really encouraged us to do with our shame comes from James 5:16 (NIV), 

…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 

Basically, one of the most important steps that we can do when we come to terms with the reality that we have shame is to let other people know about it. That’s very scary And then to walk with other people toward that healing. Accountability.

I’ve tried to define innocence and shame for us. Innocence is the sense of being naked and not ashamed. Or honest and unafraid. 

Shame is when we’re hiding from what God calls us to be. We’re striving to be ok with ourselves. We’re putting up facades that we think people will like more than the real us. Shame kills intimacy.

And that’s what we saw in the Garden. God had intimate relationship with Adam and Eve, but now they felt shame and the relationship was strained. It was hard. My fear is that there are people in this room who are incapable of true, intimate relationships because they’ve never been real with themselves, with God, or anyone else about their shame. And I don’t want that to happen anymore.

Check this quote out: 

We learn to wear these masks so young, 
  like a prison that keeps joy from getting through; 
And an angry silence grips our tongues, 
  these weapons and our walls become our tombs. 
We’re the kids who’ve seen the darkness, 
  always looking for the light. 
You fall in love and then the rains come down, 
  and only part of you survives. 
Come surrender your hidden scars. 
  Leave your weapons where they are. 
You’ve been hiding, but I know your wounded heart. 
  And you don’t know how beautiful you are.

(You Don't Know How Beautiful You Are —Jon Foreman)

Yeah. That’s a message from Jesus to you. It’s actually another Jon Foreman song—Switchfoot—I just talk about it too much. But it’s such good stuff, man, I just can’t get away from it. 

Sermon notes. You can pull these babies out. This is Origins of Innocence #5, if you want to fill in your sermon notes. 

Favorite Thanksgiving Day food, you can throw that baby in there if you’re bored already. My favorite is when you get a bite of all of it in one. Sorry about that. 

This is another quote from last week: Shame is the raincoat over the soul repelling the living water of Jesus that would otherwise establish us as the beloved of God.

The beloved of God is what you are. And shame is always trying to keep you from really acknowledging that, experiencing it and living there. 

We have been formed by God. Don’t ever forget that. Formed by God. That means something. Designed by God. That’s you.

We have been deformed by sin. And this could be the sin that you have committed that have brought you sin; or it could be sin that others have committed that have brought you shame. There’s a reality to that. And that’s how it is. We have become deformed by sin. It actually changes us. Things people say or things people do.

But then we are re-formed by Jesus’ love and blood. I didn’t know Jay was going to sing that little chorus about the blood of Jesus washing us white as snow, but all week long I’ve had this picture in my mind of the blood of Jesus. This might sound creepy or whatever, but stick with me. It comes like an oil or like a lotion and it just renews, restores and reforms. 

My daughter, Bella, just got casts off her feet. And her feet looked dead. They were flakey, dry, white. There were a couple of sores on there. I was like, “Man! Yikes!” And we started to wash them and put some creams and oils on there. We just rubbed and rubbed them. It was just a matter of time, when all of a sudden they were just fresh as can be. And she has the most beautiful skin. As we continued to rub that in, it was like all of that life came back out to the surface.

That’s basically why these messages, why we spend time with Jesus, why we spend time in his Spirit. It’s just this oil, this lotion, it’s his blood, it’s his love that continues to rub on our souls and re-form us. To take us from cold, dry, flakey and dead to something bursting with life. And it takes time. That’s how we’re re-formed.

So now I want to get into the story of the Prodigal Son, the Prodigal’s Father. Luke 15 is where it is. Many of you know the story. I’m going to read it and then we’re going to unpack a few things in here. 

Luke 15:11 (NIV) Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

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

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

This is a familiar story. Most of us have heard it many times. I read it just in case someone here hadn’t heard it before. Jesus is talking to some people who are not feeling the same way the father in the story feels. They’re religious leaders. They feel like people need to get their stuff together and God will love them. They feel like they need to earn something, they need to earn God’s respect, God’s love.  God helps those who help themselves might be a little bit of their slogan.

Jesus who is here, speaking about the things of God, as God incarnate, as the One who was with God in the beginning, who knows everything, is trying to help them understand God’s perspective. This is the story of the Prodigal Son, but to me, I’ve always looked at it as the Prodigal’s Father. Because his perspective is the thing that’s bizarre to me. The Prodigal Son, I think, “Oh yeah, I get that. No surprise there.” Go and squander all the goodness God has given us. Find ourselves in a place of shame. Yeah we’ve got that down. I could just go on the timeline and “Watch this. There I am. I get that.”

What’s so hard to believe, what’s so foreign to us is that Jesus is trying help these people see how God feels about that. That in our moments of absolute betrayal to our Creator, who describes himself as our Father—we spit in his face. We deny him his place. We run and go away from him all the time. We think we have better ideas for us and the ones we love.

Yet, in that moment, what we see is the father is coming to the end of his property every day to see if, by chance, he can get a glimpse of his son. And day after day, he goes out, probably in the evening, to look and see if by any chance he’s coming back. And then he goes back and does his business. On and on. The reason we know that is because this one day, it was not planned, the father was at his post, at the edge of his property, looking out to see—when he saw his son coming in rags, coming in shame, coming hungry, scrawny, weak, unable to look his father in the eyes, with his head down. He’s got his whole pitch, In the son’s perspective, he’s saying, “Maybe just maybe. I know how kind my father was to me. Maybe just maybe he’ll let me be this second class, hired slave in his house. Maybe. Because that would be way better than what I’m experiencing now.”

And as he comes, the interaction is the father runs out to meet him. And he starts going, “Oh, my father, I have sinned against you.” And his dad’s like, “Shut it. Hey, bring the robe. Bring the ring. Start the party that we’ve had everything prepared for just in case this day might come.”

And I think about the challenge there. The son was so ashamed and the father was not at all going to entertain for one moment that the son had to go through this relational healing before he could be established once again as the son. And yet that’s what we do with God.

On your notes you have these four different notations: The Spirit of______, The Spirit of _____, The Spirit of ______, The Spirit of ______.

The father only had one option for the son and that was full sonship on full display for everyone to see. “This is my son wearing my robes sitting right here next to me at the table.” There was no other option for the son. Think about how the son felt about that. Now everyone was looking at him. Everyone had known what he had done. No doubt about it. He had probably said to everybody in some sort of pompous way, “I’m going to do this, suckers.”

They all knew. And yet for some reason the father didn’t want to say, “Hey, let’s kind of have you come and do some good things and then we’ll have you kind of work your way back up and then we’ll give you the full presentation.” That was never in the Lord’s mind.

This is a study that I heard from somebody else, actually Alan Meyer, the guy who was here and helped us kick this off. There are four different relationships that we can have with God, and actually only one is legitimate. 

The first is a spirit of a slave. Remember? That’s what the boy was hoping for. “If I come back, maybe I can just be a slave. And  that way, at least I will get to eat something.” And maybe he actually thought that would be better than to be a son because it would be too embarrassing or too shameful to be called a son again. 

The spirit of a slave, that’s how we relate to God or the people who love us in our lives. It’s a fear based relationship. We have no standing. If we do something wrong we’ll be killed, basically. We’ll be out. We have no credit built up at all. It’s bitter toil going between pleasure and displeasure all the time. 

Some of us, in our relationship with God, that’s where we’ve landed because of things we’ve done or said. Because of the way we see ourselves, that’s all we’ll ever do. And it’s a completely illegitimate relationship with God. You’re just pretending and you’re the only one who thinks that because God doesn’t see you that way at all.

The second thing is the spirit of a hireling. The spirit of a hireling has limited loyalty. Basically thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Our relationship with God is like, “Well, I’ll keep being faithful to God and love God as long as he gives me what I need.” And that’s also an illegitimate relationship with God. You’re making up because that’s not where God is at at all with you.

The third thing is the spirit of an orphan. This is where you’re powerless. You feel like you are second class. You’re thankful for the fellowship and all that, but you never really see yourself as being beloved of God. You actually look at other people—a lot of comparison here—and you think, “God really loves them and it’s nice that they let me be around them, but I know God would never see me that way.” And it’s an illegitimate relationship with God. It’s not even an option in God’s mind.

And then you have the spirit of a son—sonship. It’s not a masculine thing. Obviously it’s sons and daughters. It’s the idea that you belong. There’s a security. There’s a confidence that comes in your relationship with God when you see yourself as his son. The verse that says, “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.” John 17, where Jesus says, “Father, I pray that they may be one even as you and I are one.” That’s heavy stuff right there.

The truth is, there are people in this room who have been walking with God a long time and maybe you’re saying, “Uh-oh. Wait a second. When you describe this one or this one, that’s where I’m at. That’s where I’ve always been.” You need to know that there’s more. That God’s plan for you is not to be a slave, a hireling, or an orphan — but a son or a daughter with full access to him and all that he is. 

That’s the message of the Prodigal Son story. The extravagant, foreign, non-human love of God that has been proven over and over again, but never proven more clearly and more seriously than when God sent his son to die on a cross for you and me. He who did not spare his own son, how will he not give you everything you need? He has invited you to the table.

We don’t have time to go into this next thing. We can touch on it next week. 2 Samuel 9 tells the story of Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth’s name means “out of the mouth of shame.” Mephibosheth is someone that King David invited to sit with him at his table, even though he was a son of Saul, and we could go into a bunch of stuff. But there at the table with the king, Mephibosheth, who was, it says, “lame in his feet,” he was deformed, literally. He couldn’t walk. There’s a whole story behind that. But King David invited him to sit. And there at the table his shame was covered. At the table he was equal with everyone else. It’s something I’m familiar with. When my daughter wheels up to the table, it’s so fun because everybody is just the same at the table. No one notices anything that’s going on under the table. And that’s what Mephibosheth got to experience. 

But the greater than David, the real King of Kings, he doesn’t just invite us to his table so we can be covered. He invites us to the table so we can be covered and be healed by our love for him, by his love for us, by our relationship with him, by trusting him, by taking the steps he asks us to take. Eventually, we find ourselves healed. 

Just like the man who stretched out the withered hand. Jesus didn’t just set him free from shame, he actually healed his hand, as well. And that’s God’s plan for us—to heal us from our shame, to forgive us from our sins, but also to bring about ultimate healing. To make everything sad become untrue. And yet, somehow having been better for once been broken. That’s the gospel. That’s what we need to continue to put in our lives because it has power to reform us. Amen?

Let’s pray. And again, prayer doesn’t just mean that I’m going to talk now. When we say, “Let’s pray,” it’s, “Let’s spend some time listening to see what God might say in this moment.” And you can feel free to talk to God as your heart is moved. But he’s definitely saying something to each one of us right now. And his words can create. His words can reform. His words upon your soul can be like the oil, the cream that brings healing and restoration. Thank you, Lord.

Lord Jesus, we’re so thankful for all that you have done, and all the promises you’ve made to us. And Lord we pray that you’ll show us the next step that we’ll get us further down the road with you. That we won’t settle for any pretend relationship with you, or any relationship with you that’s more on our terms. But Lord, that we would completely accept your terms and you would teach us how to live that way. I pray for anyone in this room who doesn’t know you at all, who doesn’t have your Spirit living inside of them, guiding and directing them. Lord, I pray that today they would make a decision to cry out to you, to reach out to you and you would come, Lord and bring about great salvation. I thank you for everyone in this room, Lord, that you have good plans for. I pray that your love would not be blocked by any shields or facades that we put up, but that your love would have its perfect work in us. Thank you, Jesus. 


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