Over the past few weeks we have looked at the animation movie, The Incredibles, to find relevant spiritual messages that apply to us today.
We have learned that even though Super Heroes have secret ID’s, none of us can hide anything from God. He knows exactly who we are, even our innermost secrets.
We have learned that just as the Super Heroes became frustrated because the world never stays saved, God experiences the same emotion when His creation continues to rebel against Him. Thank God He is patient with us and gives us many chances.
We have learned that we need to be careful not to buy into the lie: “I still got time!” Even though Mr. Incredible said it three times and was late to his wedding, he still was able to get married. But if we aren’t spiritually ready for Christ’s return to fetch His Bride, the Church, we won’t be allowed into the wedding banquet. Once He returns, it’s too late to make things right.
And we have also learned that Jesus went from being a Super to a Villain. In less than a week on His return to Jerusalem, the people of His day changed their tune about who He was because they didn’t trust the Real Jesus. The Real Jesus came to establish His Kingdom in Heaven, not on earth. The Real Jesus lives and works within the hearts of those who do trust Him.
So today we want to look at what God feels is the most important characteristic about Him – He wants us to see the side of Him that makes Him different than any other god out there.
Just as the Super’s came back to protect and defeat the evil robot because that’s what they were created to do, and more importantly, loved to do, God came back to protect and defeat the evil that haunts us.
And if there is one thing God wants us to see about Him, it is a side to Him that should draw us closer to Him – should have us applauding Him.
Luke 15: 11-31 shows us that side.
There are many different avenues that I could take on this parable, but I want to focus on one.
I don’t want to look exclusively at the mistakes of the Prodigal Son. We all have squandered away the physical and spiritual talents that God has purposed for us to use for building His Kingdom.
I don’t want to look at the attitude of the brother. We all have a tendency to become jealous and claim, “That’s not fair!” especially when someone else is getting all the glory and credit for something we have done.
What I want to focus on is the Father’s reaction to his son’s return. “But while he (the son) 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.”
Even though the son had squandered away everything that his father had given him, even though the son had wasted the years of prosperity that the father had worked long and hard to achieve, even though the son had made many immoral decisions, the father longed for his son’s return. He longed for the day he would see his son again.
The father knew that the son had a change of heart, and had forgiven him before he ever spoke a word.
He knew that his son was truly sorry for the mess he had made of his life. He knew his son was repentant and wanted to start a new life.
How did he know this? He knew this because his son came back.
Then his son spoke – “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
He didn’t make excuses for his behavior. He didn’t justify his actions or blame anyone for his mistakes. He humbly said, “Dad, I messed up, and I’m willing to accept what you want me to do.”
The misconception of a prodigal is that he/she is someone who is a black sheep in the family – someone who goes off and does wild and crazy things to rebel against the authority of his/her parents. And because people have this misconceived idea they tend to think they are okay and don’t need to change.
When I was teaching in VA, I carpooled with some other ladies from WV. I remember conversations we had in particular that dealt with Church and Heaven. One of the young ladies said countless times, “If our principal, who is a Christian, can make it into Heaven, certainly God won’t keep me out.” (She didn’t care for the principal). She also said, “I enjoy going to church and God knows I am a good person. Therefore, I don’t think He’ll keep me out of Heaven because I’m living with and having relations with a man who’s not my husband. Those sins aren’t going to keep me out of Heaven.”
You might be thinking I’m making this up to prove my point. But I’m not. I’m not exaggerating anything.
She really believed that she could have the best of both worlds. She believed that God overlooks the small sins, not the big ones like murder and stealing, just as long as the small sins don’t hurt others. She truly believed she was not a prodigal – she didn’t hurt anyone – “she wasn’t a prostitute strung out on drugs and alcohol.”
But the definition of a prodigal is not based upon human standards and comparisons, but rather upon God’s. And when we look at ourselves in God’s mirror, we really should see that we are all prodigals – any sin, big or small, makes us a prodigal. You and I are the “prodigal” until we return home – for good.
But the good news for any prodigal: God is the Father in this story. God is the father who anxiously awaits – who is looking out the window everyday – to see if His prodigal child is returning. God is the father whose heart aches as He knows His child is living loosely and wasting years. God is the father who goes running to his child upon return.
Other god’s are angry and damning – a person can never live up to the expectations set by them. But God, the Real God, the Father of Jesus, the Father of all whom return to Him, is a loving God who welcomes home anyone who comes to his/her senses.
The Real God is not in the “gotcha” business. No, He’s in the “running to meet you with open arms” business, the “wrap His arms around you and greet you with a kiss” business, the “compassion, love, and mercy” business.
But there is one thing about this Real God, He doesn’t force anyone to return to Him. He blesses you (knowing you will squander it) and sends you on your way with everything you need to survive on your own. Yet, despite wasting His money, His property, and His resources, He still welcomes you Home like nothing ever happened. He still welcomes you home when you come to your senses and say, “Dad, I messed up, and I’m willing to accept what you want me to do. I’m willing to accept your risen Son as my salvation. I’m willing to be your servant.”
What a glorious day that is for God when a prodigal realizes, “I’m better off with Dad.”