May 24, 2020

Josh Pollard

Don't fall victim to the empty promises of self-reliance. Instead, celebrate the fact that we are unavoidably dependent on a trustworthy God!


May 24, 2020

Josh Pollard

Don't fall victim to the empty promises of self-reliance. Instead, celebrate the fact that we are unavoidably dependent on a trustworthy God!


Hey everyone! My name is Josh and I’m one of the pastors here at Renovation Church. Thanks for joining in today from your home. Today I want to tell you a story of a father and his two sons; one who stays home, and one who left. It’s a story that Jesus told in the book of Luke, chapter 15. So if you have a Bible, pause this video and open your bible to Luke 15 and keep it open there so that you can keep looking at is as we hear today’s message. Jesus told this story during a time when he was surrounded by a great crowd of many different types of people. Some were people who felt important, proud people, people that took their religious life seriously, like the Pharisees and scribes - others were less put together, sinners, tax collectors, people who didn’t clean up after their camels in the park, people who didn’t try as hard to follow the rules. The prideful people didn’t think it was right for Jesus to spend time with these people who were not as good at following rules. So Jesus told them this story

11 … “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.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”


Now, when Jesus tells stories like this we call them parables. Which means that we have to look closely see what Jesus is really saying. And when we look close we can see that it is a story with many layers. And the beauty of this parable is that Jesus has something very important to say directly to you, nomatter who you are.

In this parable we can gather that the loving Father represents God, The younger brother who runs and returns represents that group of people that Jesus is spending time with – sinners, tax collectors, unsavory people, People who use the express checkout lane even though they have more than 10 items, those people - They’ve run God in the past, but now they’ve returned, let’s celebrate. The older brother represents the prideful religious leaders of the day that feel like their special place in society, and their effort to keep the law, should grant them special advantages in God’s eyes.

The thing about the word of God is that it is alive. And so while Jesus said this story in a specific situation, to a particular group of people, His words are able to carry all the way to our time and place and have the deep meaning for us.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re able to see how our lives are connected to what the Bible teaches. We can see how the truth, love, and power of God is the same today as it has always been. So let’s take a closer look at these two brothers.

Self Reliance (the issue)

Younger brother

At first glace they seem to be very different people. One runs away, lives a wild life, the other stays home and works hard. But I think that’s where the differences end. And that’s because the root of all the difficulties we have when it comes to trusting God boil down to one thing. Prideful self-reliance. Or at least a desire for self-reliance, or the delusion of self-reliance.

Try this - try to imagine why the younger son took his share of everything and left his father. The son, and all of the stuff, was originally under the father’s good care. The father seemed to take good care of them, things were going well. Why leave? Noone is making him. There’s no cultural reason for him to leave. So what would motivate someone to leave a home like that? Would you have left?

What seems to be the case is that in taking his share of the property and leaving his father, He’s saying that He can take better care of himself and run his life better then the father could. He’s saying that life with the Father was limiting him and his experiences, it wasn’t fulfilling his desires, and maximizing his potential.

He didn’t trust that the Father’s ways were actually the best ways and that his Father’s authority was trustworthy, even if it seemed difficult at times. No, he had to go find his own “best way”, he had to be his own authority. Because he thought that life with the father was not a safe shelter in which to flourish, but a closed door where he would be missing out on life.

When we think about life with our heavenly Father, with God, there is sometimes a pull toward this way of thinking. For us to think that God doesn’t really want me to have a truly fulfilled life, that I can find my own way through life that works for me, and probably do it better and be more satisfied, then If I just trusted God and was obedient to Him. Maybe we have distrusted God’s management of our lives just like the son in the story distrusted his father’s management. He was very proud of his self-sufficiency. And It is this pride that is his downfall, even more so then the wild living that he squanders his money away on.

He trusted Himself, and so he left father.

In the story, the son gets a job with a man in that distant country. He tries to make it work when times get hard. But the man who hired the Son to feed his pigs is kind of like the world away from God. It offers us a way to take care of ourselves that it knows is not enough but it doesn’t care. It says go “do life this way”, knowing that it will starve you, and so often we accept the offer. When you’re not home with God your luck is not enough to really take care of you, your talents are not enough, your inherited place in society is not enough, your own wisdom or opinions are not enough, your hard work is not enough. The world says it is, but it knows it’s not and it doesn’t care and no one, not even yourself, will give you anything that will really take care of you the way you need.

Older Brother

Now if we look at the older brother we can see some of the same thinking, just played out from a different angle. Just like his younger brother, the older brother felt entitled to his father’s provision. He felt that way because stayed he in his father’s house, with his father’s people, serving in his father’s activities, but his motivation was coming from the wrong place. The older brother wanted to celebrate his successful obedience with his friends… He thought he had earned it through his own actions. He had been doing all of this activity, just as the younger brother did all of his activity, for his own glory, his own satisfaction, his own way, trusting that his own hard work would pay off.

He has no real interest in the father, except as a mean to get his way. He may have been obedient in some since, but he shows us how we can hang out at the Father’s house, with the Father’s servants, be actively hardworking in the Father’s work and yet be far from the Father’s heart - Not even understand who the Father is to us, or why he’s given us this family of believers, this home, this good work to do. The older brother saw his relationship as a transaction with a father; it was a professional relationship like you’d have with your boss.

We see now that both brothers think they can take care of themselves - that their wit and wisdom and hard work and luck will be enough. But both are faced with the reality that it isn’t.

Part of reading the Bible and re-reading it and re-reading it is to be reminded of this for ourselves as well. You will be told, by the world, by advertisers, by other people in your life, and by your own personal ambition, that you’ve got this, that you can get what you need, you can take care of yourself, You know what’s right for you, trust your heart and work hard and you’ll live a happy life. But it just doesn’t work that way. There is a fatal flaw in being self-reliant, and that’s that we are all unavoidably dependant on God’s grace and generosity.

Come Home (application)

The younger brother realizes that.

In Verse 17-20, the younger brother has a moment of clarity that should show us a lot:“Here I am starving to death.” Some of you probably feel that way right now in life. You’re realizing that you’re life is just a mess. Here is a moment of clarity where Jesus is calling to you from in the middle of a story that he told long ago and he’s saying stop trying to improve conditions in your pigpen, don’t blame other people, or look for some magical explanation for your situation as if explaining properly will give you power over it. Come to your senses and realize that your Father is the only hope you have. And then, like the son, get up and go home to God. There is no benefit to waiting, so get up and Go while you have clarity. Just thinking about how to change your life never helped anyone. Some people think about it and think about it and think about it and they end up starving to death in a pigpen. You must actually get up and go.Your thinking must turn into action! Stop whatever you are doing and let now be the perfect moment to give up on using God’s gifts your way. Let now be the perfect time to get on your knees, and say “God I want to come home to you, lead me to YOU” He will come running to meet you! Isn’t that exactly what happened to the younger son in our story.

(Younger Brother)

When the younger son gets home to the father, at first wants to ask to work for his keep. “Let me be like one of your servants” is what he plans to say. He’s almost got it right, but the desire in us to say “See, really I did it, not God,” is so strong, that again he’s trying to rely at least a little on himself. But the father never even heard the son’s offer to try and earn his keep, because the only option God gives us for a relationship with Him is to ignore him, and run, or to come and be a dear child covered with love and care. There is no working for this kind of love, You just get it when you show up. There is no in-between. There is no professional relationship with God. You cannot be acquaintances with God. It’s either love or nothing. It’s either in his arms or a distant country – God has no next door neighbors. You’re either fully in or your not.

When the son looks at his father and says I have sinned and I am no longer worthy to be called your son, The father doesn’t correct him and say oh it wasn’t that bad. Instead, he accepts his son’s confession and responds with his own actions. His actions say, “sure, you don’t deserve to be called my child but nonetheless I will treat you like a very dear child!” Not only are the son’s fears averted but even his wildest hopes were outdone. What a change for those of us who are scrounging for a morsel of fading satisfaction. Pig food would have been good enough, we were hoping for spare food that we could earn through hard work, but The Father gives a level of care and satisfaction that is better than anything else you could get or hope for. He doesn’t just sustain us, he celebrates us.

Make no mistake about your situation when you are away from God. God does not consider you to be ok on your own, He doesn’t think you are going through a phase, or you’re testing things out, or you’re finding yourself. He calls you dead, lost. Coming home is not just getting your life in order, it’s not just saying sorry, it’s not just agreeing with a certain point of view. It is coming back to life, it’s being found when you were starving out in the wilderness. This whole chapter of Luke is about how much God celebrates when one person comes back to Him. Lost and Found is the name of our hwole series on on the Book of Luke for this very reason. Lost and found, like the coin and the sheep from last week! And even more so, back from the dead!

So here we have the antidote to our temptation towards self-reliance. He was safe again because he knew he was fully dependant on his Father and he celebrated that fact.

(Older Brother)

And now, what about the older brother? Did he realize his dependence?

Well, once the father comes out to talk with him, we don’t see the older brother’s response, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Remember that Jesus was telling this story in response to the religious leaders’ criticism of him welcoming the less-put-together people. So maybe he leaves the older brother’s response to come from the listener’s heart. If you’re a person who’s been a Christian for a long time, staying in God’s church, being with God’s people, doing the church’s work, ask yourself why you do that. Let’s remember that the point of being in the Father House is not to enjoy the house, or the life there, or the company, or the work (those all come with it of course) but the point is to enjoy being with the Father. We get to enjoy those other things, not just for themselves, but because they belong to the Father, and they remind us that we are always with Him.

So now, when it’s been difficult to meet as a church, do we find our prayers sounding like the older brother, “God why is this happening? We want to be back with our friends, doing the things we like, this is so inconvenient.” Or more like the younger brother, praying, “God we are in bad shape, we don’t deserve you, but please have mercy on us and help us?”Has it pulled us back to our dependence on the Father. Has it allowed us to celebrate our dependence on our trustworthy God?

Thanks again for being a part of this in your home each week as we worship and enjoy God together. I hope that this story that Jesus told so long ago reminded you of God’s love for you, no matter what, I hope it made you think of Him and all his people celebrating when one person comes back home to him. I hope it made think of Him as your true Home.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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