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Knowing God

We all know the story of the Prodigal son; who secured his inheritance and then went out and threw it away on loose living.  After he had blown his money, while he was away from the house, he had time to think and began to realize some things.  He saw that on his own he was hungry and cold, but while he was in his fathers house, he never went hungry and was always clothed and had his own room and the house to shelter him.  He realized that his father was a generous man devoted to his children and that he would do anything for his son because of his love.

So the wayward son returned home.  His father met him on the road after running to greet him when he saw him coming from far away.  He ordered his servants to cloth his son and to kill the fatted calf – he ordered a celebration because his son had returned after he thought he was dead.

The older brother was in his room when all the commotion started, and this is where we join the story . . . . Luke 15:26-32

"And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.  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.'  But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.  But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'  And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.  'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

The older brother was not excited about his brother’s return.  He became jealous, bitter and cynical.  He was upset because he felt he had made bad choices.  Others were being blessed and he was not.  He was angry because his brother was being blessed even though he was unfaithful and he felt that though he had been faithful and had stayed with his father all of these years, his father had not thrown a party for him.

I feel like I have waited over 30 years to preach this sermon.  It was in 1970 that I heard this parable and realized that God wanted to have a party with his son.  I thought God was always serious and severe and the last thing he wanted was for me to have some fun.  I realized something about the character of God that I had not understood before.

But today I want to explain about the other brother.  While I identified myself in the prodigal son’s camp, today I see that I probably fit better into the older brother’s category.  He thought he had been cheated.  He felt that his father had poured out his blessing on others but that somehow he had missed out and the effect was low self-esteem, second class citizenship which can turn into bitter discouragement.

You think it is the Father’s responsibility to throw you a party.  But he tells the older son that all that he has are his and always have been.  He could have had a party any time he wanted.  What a terrible thing to realize that you could spend years in the Father’s house, faithfully attending church, in prayer, reading the Bible and still miss the blessing.

Bad theology will lock up your blessing and make you bitter.

We have been taught the principle of sowing and reaping.  Sowing must be done, but so must reaping – which we all agree with.  However, the impression then is given that the reaping (the harvest) will be poured out upon us.  All we need do is sow the seed and reap the blessing.

We are told that sowing into the kingdom (by sending in your check) – will get you the harvest.  All you have to do is wait on God’s blessing.

THIS IS A LIE!

You must sow in order to reap, but reaping is not sitting around waiting.   There are two sets of labors.

1st (Sowing) - the farmer sweats his way through plowing, planting, fertilizing, watering, spraying and waiting.

2nd (Reaping) - then cutting, gathering, stacking, storing and preparation.

The two groups of labors are connected by “growing”.  This is something God causes!  As we begin to reap, we have knowledge that the hardest part is over and the best is close at hand.  It is the realization that God has honored our labor in sowing and has brought his miraculous power to bear on our crop.  Finally, the blessings of God can be realized and received with thanksgiving.

Many know about the church - they’ve learned a lot of doctrines, but they don’t know about God.  They know about the TV evangelists and self-proclaimed prophets - they know about the ministers and priests of God, but they don’t know God.

As Timothy tells us, they have a form of “godliness” but not the reality of a true relationship with the living God, the Father of lights!

The Bible says that if you keep on following after the flesh, you will die.  (Rom 8:13)  Many think that means sometime later.  I think it means right then.  Death comes a little at a time – it is insidious and subtly takes over the mind like Alzheimer’s disease – it slowly take away your ability to think, to reason, to make sense out of life and of course, it eventually kills you altogether.  But each moment the disease is allowed to progress, more and more brain cells die.  Memory is slowly erased and the ability to make new memories is destroyed.

This is much like our relationship with God.  It is built with each day’s communion with the Father called righteousness.  The spiritual aspects of life are the things that last.

As you grow older you will probably lose your ability to run a race and some may not be able to walk.  Your vision will be dimmed and arthritis will cause you to lose dexterity and nimbleness.

If the pattern of harvesting has been established, as aging comes, spiritual life grows deeper – the things of the world become less attractive, and the things of heaven become clearer.  Not all who grow older grow wiser.

Do you know God?  Or do you just know about God?  Are you on the outside looking in?  Or do you believe you are on the inside, but the joy just does not seem to be there for you?  Maybe it was there but now has somehow faded.  Whichever son you identify with, you can have the full measure of the blessings of the Father!

God is searching for you and earnestly desires for you to know not just about His love, but to find the warmth of His love.  Won’t you let Him find you – won’t you receive all that He has for you?