Nicole and Sharon are going to do a "heart check" today, as they look at the parable of the prodigal son. How's your heart these days? It's so easy to allow rebellion and bitterness to run the show in our lives, when what we really need are hearts that love like God loves. Join us as we talk about the blessings found in cultivating a loving heart.
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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to the Sweet Selah moments podcast. We hope this little pause in your day, refreshes and encourages you friend. Let’s take time to know God through his word and love him more and more. This Sweet Selah moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to episode 41 Heart Check. Last week, we started to study a passage in the Bible in Luke 15, where Jesus tells three parables in response to the complaints of the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day. Their complaint was that Jesus, supposedly a Holy man was hanging out with notorious sinners and tax collectors. They felt that he ought to just be with good people like them. We looked at the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep. And today we’re going to look at the most famous of those three, the parable of the lost son or sons actually. But first let’s talk about hanging out with tax collectors and notorious sinners. Sharon, as a mom, I actually do want my children to hang out with friends who will help them follow Christ. And yet, of course, I want them to be a witness to all and to love all people. So how do you hang out with tax collectors and notorious sinners when you are also trying to honor God and not fall into sin yourself?
That is a fair question Nicole. It’s one I’ve often wrestled with actually. I think one of the keys in this is to see how Jesus hung out with a disreputable crowd. We never hear that he went on a gambling binge with anybody or attended a drunken brawl. Instead he taught people, all the people who wanted to come and listen, and everyone who was a genuine seeker was welcomed. And when they invited him to dinner like Zacchaeus did, he went. So he went into their world, but not into the bad things they did. He didn’t join in the cheating and the robbing and such, but, hmm, how does that play out for a young mother with young children?
I think maybe it’s being the house where all the kids want to be where you can set the tone and agenda and model Christ’s love for the neighborhood kids. Maybe doing a family project of serving in a soup kitchen or helping a daughter befriend an unhappy kid at school. What are your thoughts, Nicole? How do you – how do you gradually introduce your children to a world where not everyone is going to be kind or want to do the right thing? And how do you prepare them to say a firm no to sin when a kid entices and yet still pray for, and show love to that same kid?
I know it’s tough, isn’t it?
It is. I’m glad you brought this up.
What have I done? No. I love the idea of being the house where all the kids want to come over to. I think that’s great. I’ll have to brush up on my baking skills, hoping to lure them in with cookies.
No, it’s a tough balance for sure. I mean, I remember the first time that my eldest daughter found out that not everyone in the world loved Jesus. I didn’t realize how she’d just experienced, you know, church and family and all her family is, are believers. So she’s always had the safe place of people that love Jesus. So when she first heard that it was startling to her.
I bet it was.
Like, Oh my goodness, yeah, there’s a pretty nasty world out there. I mean, for us just sending them to a traditional school after a few years of homeschooling and Christian schools has opened up many situations that I wouldn’t have thought to like sit and teach my girls as far as life lessons or lessons on godliness. These lessons have just found us in our daily interactions.
Yeah. Like we’ll sit at dinner table at night and ask the girls like, what was the best part of your day and the worst part. And they’ll tell us their day and you know, they’ll tell us, Oh, a little boy was so mean and kicked over my snowman today. I’m not going to play with him. And you know, they see the kind of the bully. And so we try to talk behind that. Like, okay, well maybe he was sad. No one asked him to build the snowman with you. Like maybe tomorrow, try to be kind and you know, love on him. Even though you want to be like, don’t talk to that boy he’s mean. Look beyond his fault, you know?
And then Olivia, one day she had a kid in her class that was using God’s name in vain and it really bothered her. And she got up the courage to ask her to stop using God’s name. And the girl was so confused. She didn’t understand why. She was like, well, why does this bother you? And so Olivia had to explain her faith and explain who God was to this little girl.
I mean, this little girl didn’t know God and her parents probably said it all the time.
So instead of us judging her, like stay away from her, you know, we were able to talk through it and kind of help the girls and me see beyond the initial affront, to the person who’s lost behind them.
It shows you the importance of dinner table too. Yeah. I’m listening to this going, if you didn’t have dinner together where you could ask those questions, you wouldn’t even know about the snowman being kicked over perhaps.
Yeah. That’s our one thing we’ve tried is dinner every night and Josh says, okay, what was the best part of the day and the worst part? Cause like, ‘how was your day’? ‘Fine’. You have to, like, drag it out of them, you know? Give me details.
Yeah. That’s great. And the worst parts are probably often where you find the life lessons that find you.
Exactly. We haven’t had to prep anything. I’m like, Oh wow. This is exciting.
I love that. I do. That’s really neat. Just another reason to have a meal together.
Well, as we look at Jesus’ final parable on this issue, I think we’ll get even more clarity. We are going to do a heart check today as we look at the hearts of three characters in the story of the prodigal son. Nicole, let’s read it. And then let’s do a checkup on our own hearts as we see these characters in the parable and discover what Jesus has taught us through it.
All right, we’re going to read Luke 15:11-32 – “To illustrate the point further Jesus told them this story. A man had two sons.”
“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, before you die’.” (So, I can’t believe he said it, back to reading, Sharon.) “So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.”
“A few days later, this younger son packed up all his belongings and moved to a distant land. And there he wasted all his money in wild living.”
“About the time his money ran out a great famine swept across the land and he began to starve.”
“He persuaded a local farmer to hire him. And the man sent him out into his field to feed the pigs.”
“The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him, but no one gave him anything.”
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘at home, even the hired servants have food enough to spare and here I am dying of hunger’.”
“I will go home to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you.”
“And I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming, filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
“His son said to him, father, I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.”
“But his father said to the servants, ‘quick, bring the finest robe in the house, put it on him, get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet’.”
“And kill the calf we’ve been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast.”
“For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found. So the party began.”
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house.”
“And he asked one of the servants what was going on.”
“‘Your brother is back he was told, and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.”
“The older brother was angry and would not go in. His father, came out and begged him.”
“But he replied, ‘all these years I have slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time, you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends’.”
“Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf?”
“His father said to him, ‘look, dear son, you have always stayed by me and everything I have is yours’.”
“We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life. He was lost. But now he is found.” You know, Nicole as I was rereading this parable and praying about a focus for the podcast and it’s a very familiar story, Lord, what do you want me to emphasize? God really reminded me how important it is to check our hearts and help me see the story through the idea of a heart check and the different kinds of problems we can have with our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 and part of the beginning of verse 10 says this about the heart. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked, who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord search all hearts and examine secret motives.” We really can be deceived by our hearts. If we want something bad enough, we can justify behaviors that we really know are wrong. For instance, I had a friend in high school whose dad was a Christian, married to a Christian, and yet he believed God had told him in his case, there was an exception to the rule and he could divorce his wife and marry his secretary.
The heart is deceitfully wicked. And when you want something, if you’re not careful and you don’t watch your heart…
You can find a way to justify it.
And it can just make you deaf to the truths in God’s word. Solomon also talks about it in Proverbs 4:23 he says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” If we are to guard the heart above all else, and we know the heart is deceitful, than doing a heart check from time to time, is a good idea.
I also think it’s going to answer some of our questions. The father in our story does not run away. I mean, not ‘run away’. He doesn’t run after the younger son who does run away. He lets him walk away. He doesn’t go after him. So we’re not telling our kids ‘go, go find the drug addict in the drug den and you know, shoot up with them and become their friend’. No, no.
He doesn’t encourage it.
Yes. But he does wait for the son’s return. Actively wait. I mean, he sees him from a long distance away. I think we’ll see from his responses more of why Jesus met with the bad guys, these bad guys had turned toward him. The father in the story, didn’t take part in all the wild living of the younger son. Our kids don’t need to either. He waited for their turning. And you know, if our children are living out a happy contented, loving life, perhaps they will have an opportunity to share why they’re so contented to the rebellious kid.
You know, and if they’ve shown love, maybe the rebellious kid will come to them, which is what we’re looking for.
That’s a great point.
Let’s get started. We’ve come up with four heart types in this parable. They are, number one, the Rebellious heart. Number two, the Repentant heart. Three, the Bitter heart, and four, the Loving heart. So I’ll start by defining ‘rebellious’ and then we’ll talk about the rebellious heart. So, I found the definition for rebellious and it says ‘showing a desire to resist authority, control or convention. Okay. Sharon, any examples you’d like to share of times when your heart might’ve been rebellious?
Oh, thanks Nicole.
Let’s jump right in!
Ah, yeah. Well, I think one of the ways I become rebellious really quickly is the martyr syndrome. I’m so good at it. It’s sort of the, why am I always the one to turn off every light in the house? Why is this door always open? I am so tired of fixing meals. Why? Why? You know, like I’ve got this self-focused attitude of look at all I am doing for this family, kind of attitude.
And then I get rebellious about duties that are mine. Instead of joyfully doing them and Oh, perhaps noticing the duties that are Ray’s that he does without complaint, unlike me. For example, he kills all the bugs and I’m really grateful for that.
Oh, yeah. That’s a good deal.
Yes, it is. And many, many more things. So when I start being self focused, I get rebellious and angry and it’s just so foolish. So my rebellion comes when I’m dissatisfied and not looking at my blessings, instead I’m staring at my woes. That’s really, right now, I’d say that’s where I rebel the most.
Yeah. How about you?
Well, I have always wrestled with rebellion, Sharon. I have fought that sin my whole life. I think it’s just, this, it might be a curiosity too, but it’s this need to see for myself, to really know that something is what I’ve been told. And I just was like feeling restricted. So I’ve always kind of pushed against my boundaries of life. I’m sure I was a fabulous child, my poor parents. I struggled with outright rebellion from God in my early twenties when I actually wrote in my prayer journal, there clear as day, ‘God look away. I need to make sure you’re the best choice in life’. Everyone was telling me that door number one with God is the best choice ever. But I just wanted to make sure that he really was. So thank you, Lord, praise Jesus, that he was there protecting me and welcoming me back with open arms. When I found that that door number two and door number three were pretty crummy. So he is so good.
Oh, he is good. And don’t you love these parables where he welcomes back.
Thank goodness, because you do wonder, you think, well, how far is…?
Yeah, where he won’t walk me back.
But he always welcomes you back. No matter how far you go, God will always welcome you back.
With a party.
So run to him.
Yeah. Well, in our parable, we have a younger son talk about how far you can go. He takes rebellion to quite the extreme. Let me reread what he did. “The younger son told his father, I want my share of your estate now, before you die.” So, okay. I’m not waiting until you’re dead. All this money you’ve worked for that you could still enjoy now? No, give it to me now, in fact, before you spend any more of it.
I want it now. Yeah. So his father agreed, which is amazing, to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later, this ungrateful wretch doesn’t even stick around, this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land. And there he wasted all his money in wild living. So not only does he get the money, but he packs everything he has, leaves the father who loves him and spends it all on stupid evil doors, number twos, and threes.
And fives, and sixes.
So looking at this passage, Nicole, what was driving this kid to leave his home and take half his father’s life wealth with him?
I know, I wonder if he just longed for like independence or something, you know, the ability to spend money on what he wanted when he wanted no responsibility. Because as soon as he got that money,
He wasted it.
Booked it out of there and did all the things he wanted to do. So it’s sad to watch.
Yeah. Yeah. It is sad to watch and it did not go well for him, as it never does.
Door number one is always the right door. God’s rules are for our good, not our harm. And when he puts boundaries on us, it’s because he loves us. You know, like when he tells me to be thankful in all circumstances, which is the greatest antidote for my martyr syndrome problem, he, he blesses me with a happy heart and I go through life so much happier. When I walk away from his commands like the prodigal son, that’s when I get in trouble. So, all right. So the son’s trouble was as severe as his rebellion was. The rebellious heart did not get him far. Nicole, remind us what happened.
Okay, here’s what happened. “About the time his money ran out a great famine, swept over the land. And he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him and the man sent him out into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding, the pigs looked good to him, but no one gave him anything. When he finally came to his senses he said to himself, at home, even the hired servants have food enough to spare. And here I am dying of hunger. I will go home to my father and say, father, I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”
Hmm. So we’ve seen the rebellious heart, and now we’re looking at that second type of heart, the repentant heart. How do we see repentance, Nicole?
I think of repentance as meaning like sincerely, sincerely, sorry. But Wikipedia says a little better so I’ll read that. The repentance called for throughout the Bible is a summons to a personal, absolute and ultimate, unconditional surrender to God as sovereign. So Lord over all. Though it includes sorrow and regret it is more than that. In repenting one makes a complete change of direction, a 180 turn towards God.
There it is. Repentance is a complete turning and he did. And he also noted that he hadn’t just sinned against his father, but against heaven.
Yeah. I noticed that.
Isn’t that interesting? Yeah. Against heaven I have sinned. I have broken all the rules. So there’s a full acknowledgement too.
Right, of everyone that he had wronged, which is part of the repentance,
Okay, then. We don’t want the rebellious heart. It gets us into huge trouble, but there is an antidote to this. We can always turn and have a repentant heart. And we are allowed to repent as long as there is breath in our bodies.
What a gracious God he is.
What a gracious God. Even that thief on the cross.
Yeah. Literally his last few breaths.
He repented. Yes. Yeah. And what a relief it is when we finally get over ourselves, humbly turn around and back to God. Nicole, helping a child repent can be hard though.
You know, because they don’t always want to. And they have that “I’m sorry”, you know, kind of thing. You’ve got to make them say they’re sorry, but you can’t change their heart.
How do you help them get to, not just the verbalized ‘I’m sorry’, but how do you help them find a repentant heart?
Yeah. We’ve recently started something different because it is hard to get them to really try to understand and feel it, you know, you can’t make them feel it. We’re trying to teach the girls to say, I’m sorry for, and then to list the wrong. I’m sorry for punching you or whatever. And then say how they will do it differently next time. Next time I won’t punch you when you take my toy, I’ll ask you calmly. So they’re thinking through how to change the behavior. And then they have to ask how to make it right. How can I make it right? Should I get you a tissue for your bloody nose? Let you borrow my toy?
Oh my goodness.
But this has been a game-changer in our house. It’s much more effective than a grumbled, ‘sor–ry’.
I know that tone so well having used it myself in my own childhood. You know it’s timeless isn’t it? When I was a child sixty years ago.
Yeah. I still remember. Oh yeah. I mean there’s still days I still say, ‘sor–ry’. So its good for Josh and I because as we’re teaching, we’re also recognizing the times we really need to repent fully.
Yes, this is wonderful. I love that they have to name it.
You know? And I think we need to do that with God too, when we repent.
Just not ‘forgive me for my sins in Jesus’ name. Amen.
But forgive me for that critical spirit I had towards so and so.
I am ashamed of myself, Lord, you know.
When we call it out we see it and then we can be aware of when it happens again.
If we do the blanket, ‘just forgive me of my sins’ we’re not always looking for the areas that we bring to God.
No we’re not. And we’re not clearly naming them.
Or I love that they then, your girls then have to think of a way to make it right. And also, you know, explain it, understand it and they could have done. It. Oh, I think this is awesome. It’s really good.
I found this on Pinterest. So I did not come up with this on my own, people.
Well, go Pinterest.
It is wonderful.
It’s wonderful. Yeah. Well, we can move on, but I’m just sort of stuck on that. That’s really good. Okay. But moving on to the older brother, we’re going to go to that third kind of heart. He’s got problems too, this older brother.
His brother comes home and his father’s thrilled about it. And he has got his nose seriously out of joint. Let us read his story because his problem is the bitter heart. You can start with verse one.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house.”
“And he asked one of the servants what was going on?”
“Your brother is back, he was told, and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.”
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father, came out and begged him.”
“But he replied, ‘All these years I have slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time, you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.”
” Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf.”
There’s some bitterness there.
Oh, there’s some bitterness. And I have to say, I do sympathize a little bit with him because I’m the martyr too. And it’s like, what? I did everything you said, I was out working on the fields while you’re having a party? Come on.
Where’s my party?
So when you think about it, he actually had inherited along with his brother at the beginning, the father divided the wealth between the two sons. It’s not like the younger son got the money and the father kept the other half.
The older son got it early too.
Oh, that’s right. I never noticed that.
Isn’t that something? I mean, what’s he talking about, you never gave me a goat? The goat’s now his.
All the goats are his.
For crying out loud. He and his dad are working the farm together because he now owns it with his dad. He got the happy inheritance too. It’s just so fascinating. So he’s looking at it so wrong. He should have been so grateful for all those good years with his dad, that his brother will never have. The good work ethic, the pride in a job well done. None of the, can you imagine the horrible memories the younger son is coming back with? The PTSD he’s going to suffer? If you look at it with a grateful heart as the older brother, you’re not bitter, you’re grateful you never had to go through what your poor brother went through. But I do get the bitter heart thing. So, what do you see in the older brother?
Maybe he hadn’t been serving or working with the right motives. Maybe he had been trying to, I don’t know, be his dad’s favorite or kind of work to gain merit or something. I don’t know cause the way he only saw his brother’s sin, but not his own downfalls, he was definitely not focused on, I don’t know, being part of the family and bettering the farm. He just ‘well, I’ve been doing everything you told me to do’.
And you know even that says that he didn’t see what he had?
I’m just still the kid, you know.
Right, I’m doing everything you’re telling me to do. It’s like this is yours now.
No you aren’t the kid. Yeah. You are equal with your dad in terms of the inheritance. So. Yeah.
He missed that he was so focused on his brother he missed his own good.
And his bitterness just ruined his perspective and bitterness can ruin a perspective. It absolutely can. I can remember a girl being mean to Kathryn in high school and my just being so bitter towards that girl. And it would seep out in my conversations. It was kind of an obsessive, terrible thing. Kathryn had moved on. The girl had probably moved on. The mama bear…
It’s hard to let those things go.
Yeah, but it may be very unpleasant to live with. And it really affected the mood in the home because Mama does set the mood in the home.
Oh, we sure do.
And rebellious, hardest trouble, and bitter, hardest trouble. They’re both trouble. We do want a repentant heart in both those cases. We really do. But now we’re also going to look at the antidote to the bitter heart, which is a loving, thankful heart. And we’re going to end the chat today by looking at the father’s big, huge, loving heart for both his wayward sons. Nicole, why don’t you start by talking about how he loved that younger, rebellious and then repentant son?
Well, you had said it earlier, but he loved him enough to let him go.
Yeah, he did.
Yep. And to feel the consequences of his sins. He didn’t go and try to bail him out and get him out of the pig pen. He let him feel the consequences of his choices.
The younger son may never have come home if he didn’t hit rock bottom. But he also readily lavished forgiveness and love on him when he repented. I love this next verse, Sharon, it always, always brings tears to my eyes. The father ran out to him. He didn’t wait for him to crawl back and do anything to earn his favor back. It’s such a beautiful picture of what Christ does for us.
I’ll read it now. “So he returned home to his father and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming, filled with love and compassion he ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, father, I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. But his father said to the servants, quick, bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet and kill the calf we’ve been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast. For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” So the party began.
I love it. I love it.
It is, you know what I noticed here? There’s no lecture, no lecture. I mean the son goes through his speech and you think the father would say, well, I’m glad you’ve come to your senses.
Nope. Just, you’re home!
Oh, that’s so true.
You’ve said, you’re sorry. Let’s throw a party, honey. You’ve suffered enough.
Forgive and forget. Oh, how beautiful.
It’s a good example for us to follow.
It is because I have many words and I want to lecture and that’s like rubbing salt in a wound. The guy came home broken.
Right. So you don’t need to reiterate.
I think we’re so afraid that they won’t learn the lesson. That they’ll go back to it that we tend to over overdose with salt
Yes. That’s terrible. Oh my goodness.
But the father responded well, you know, he did what it was, what was good. And that last verse shows how complete the restoration and forgiveness was. Not only did he go out and meet him, but he put him in a place of favor by giving him these wonderful gifts and threw a huge party for him to celebrate his return home. And I think by giving him the gifts, he showed him he was a son again and not like, his hired…
You know what? That’s right. He’s wearing the robe. He’s got the ring on his finger. He is no servant.
He’s not like, alright fine, come home, go work in the fields.
He more than blessed him for what he, the son wasn’t expecting that. He thought he was gonna come back as a servant. So how beautiful.
No kidding. Is this not an encouragement to us that whenever we have done something horrible and stinky that we can return because the father in heaven will not lecture us and rub salt in our wounds.
He will have a party.
And restore us even better than maybe we were before. Or than what we expected anyway.
Unbelievable. And what a reassurance. Don’t linger over rebellion. Don’t beat yourself up, go back and get the party.
Okay, now, as we end, let’s look at the father’s love for the older son. Let me read that part again. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working when he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house and he asked one of the servants, what was going on? Your brother’s back, he was told, and your father has killed the fattened calf. We’re celebrating because of his safe return. The older brother was so angry he didn’t go in. His father had to come out and beg him. But he replied, all these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do and in all of that time, you never gave me even one goat for a feast with my friends. Yet, when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf. And his father said to him, look, dear son.” Just looking at that. The fact that even this crabby, bitter, sulky,
Curmudgeon of a son.
Curmudgeon of a son, he still calls him dear.
“You have always stayed by me and everything I have is yours because I gave it to you.” Hello? “We had to celebrate this happy day, for your brother was dead and has come back to life. He was lost, but now is found.” It’s just so beautiful how that father welcomed the bitter son to come back in.
Yes! He went out to him too.
You’re still dear to me and you’ve always had everything. Could you look at it from that perspective and let go of your bitterness?
That’s so sweet.
It’s a good lesson for all of us, huh?
Well, we are out of time. So let us pray. Oh Father God, your love is amazing. So big. So rich. So undeserved. Check our hearts for us, Lord. Rip out that bitterness, stomp out that rebellion. Help us to come quickly with repentant hearts and help us to love like you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thanks for joining us today as we did our heart checks. We love to hear from you and we are grateful when you can write a review or donate. You can find us @sweetselah.org/podcast. Read all about how to become a podcast partner there. Join our team and do please come back next week for episode 42. Hmm, intriguing title, it’s called Rewards. Until then have a great week.
Speaker 1 (30:41):
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. Sweet Selah Moments is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast, including show notes can be found at sweetselah.org and at wordradio.net. Thank you for joining us.hank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.