Call To Worship July 29 2018
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 15:11-24
“We see, firstly, in this parable — a man following the natural bent of his own heart. Our Lord shows us a ‘younger son’ making haste to go far away from a kind father’s house, and ‘wasting his substance in riotous living.’
We have in these words, a faithful portrait of the mind with which we are all born. This is our likeness. We are all naturally proud and self-willed. We have no pleasure in fellowship with God. We long to depart, and go afar away from Him. We spend our time, and strength, and faculties, and affections — on things that cannot profit. The covetous man does it in one way; the slave of lusts and passions in another way; and the lover of pleasure in another way. In one point alone are all agreed. Like sheep, we all naturally ‘go astray, and turn every one to his own way.’ (Isaiah 53:6.) In the younger son’s initial conduct, we see the natural heart of every man.
He who knows nothing of these things, has yet much to learn. He is spiritually blind. The eyes of his understanding need to be opened. The worst ignorance in the world, is not to know ourselves. Happy is he who has been delivered from the kingdom of darkness — and been made acquainted with himself! Of too many it may be said, ‘They know not, neither will they understand. They walk on in darkness.’ (Psalm 82:5.)
We see, secondly, in this parable — man finding out by bitter experience, that the ways of sin are hard. Our Lord shows us the younger son spending all his property and reduced to poverty — obliged to hard labor to ‘feed swine’ — so hungry that he is ready to eat swine’s food — and cared for by none.
These words describe a common case. Sin is a hard master — and the servants of sin always find it out, sooner or later, to their cost. Unconverted people are never really happy. Under a profession of accomplishment and cheerfulness — they are often ill at ease within. Thousands of them are sick at heart — dissatisfied with themselves, weary of their own ways, and thoroughly uncomfortable. ‘There are many who say: Who will show us any good.’ ‘There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked.’ (Psalm 4:6, Isaiah 57:21.)
Let this truth sink down into our hearts. It is a truth — however loudly unconverted people may deny it. ‘The way of transgressors is hard.’ (Proverbs 13:15.) The secret wretchedness of natural man, is exceedingly great. There is a deep sorrow within, however much they may try to conceal it. They are ‘in need.’ He who ‘sows to the flesh — shall from the flesh reap corruption.’ It is no wonder that Paul said, ‘What profit did you have, in those things which you are now ashamed of?’ (Galatians 6:8. Romans 6:21.)
We see, thirdly, in this parable — man awaking to a sense of his natural state, and resolving to repent. Our Lord tells us that the younger son ‘Came to himself and said: How many of my father’s servants have bread enough and to spare — and I am perishing with hunger? I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned.’
The thoughts of thousands are vividly painted in these words. Thousands have reasoned in this way, and are saying such things to themselves every day.
We must be thankful whenever we see such thoughts arise. Mere thinking is not change of heart — but it may be the beginning of it. Mere conviction is not conversion — but it is one step, at any rate, in a right direction. The ruin of many people’s souls is simply this — that they never think at all.
One caution, however, must always be given. Men must beware that they do not stop short by simply ‘thinking.’ Good thoughts are all very well — but they are not saving Christianity. If the younger son had never got beyond thinking — then he might have kept away from home to the day of his death.
We see, fourthly, in this parable — man turning to God with true repentance and faith. Our Lord shows us the younger son leaving the far country where he was, and going back to his father’s house — carrying into practice the good intentions he had formed, and unreservedly confessing his sin. ‘So he got up and went to his father.’
These words are a life-like outline of true repentance and conversion. The man in whose heart a true work of the Holy Spirit has begun — will never be content with mere thinking and resolving. He will break off from sin. He will cease to do evil — and he will learn to do good. He will turn to God in humble prayer. He will confess his iniquities. He will not attempt to excuse his sins. He will say with David, ‘I acknowledge my transgressions.’ He will say with the tax-collector, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Psalm 51:3, Luke 18:13.)
Let us beware of any repentance, falsely so called, which is not of this character. Action is the very life of ‘repentance unto salvation.’ Feelings, and tears, and remorse, and wishes, and resolutions, are all useless — until they are accompanied by action and a change of life. In fact, they are worse than useless. Insensibly they sear the conscience and harden the heart.
We see, fifthly, in this parable — the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God! Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history — in the most touching manner. We read that, ‘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. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.’‘
More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless. It is like gilding refined gold — or painting the lily. These words show us in great broad letters — the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners. They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him — and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow. ‘By Him, all who believe are justified from all things.’ ‘He is plenteous in mercy.’ (Acts 13:39. Psalm 86:5.)
Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be engraved deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds! Let us never forget that He is One ‘who receives sinners.’ With Him and His mercy — sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy — saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe. ‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says Paul, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God — who loved me and gave Himself for me!’ (Galatians 2:20.)”