...or at least Pharasaical in your Christianity
(taken from this sermon on The Two Sons: Luke 15):
1) You’re in church
Luke 15:25 - the field is the older brother's natural habitat. Not the far country. Close to the banquet. But not in it.
2) You’re angry
v28 - older brothers have volcanic anger. Which is difficult for you if you're an older brother type because you are a good boy or girl. You're not supposed to be angry, but you are. Furious actually and it bubbles beneath the surface.
3) You’re self-promoting
v29 - “Look!” says the older brother. Look at my record. Look how good I am.
4) Life with God feels like slavery
v29 - “All these years I have been slaving.” You feel like God is a slave-driver and you are one of his billions of minions trudging along.
5) You can’t admit to sin
v29 - "I have never disobeyed your orders." You think of sin as simply disobeying direct commands from a heavenly slave-master. Or you think of it as not being as externally bad as the next guy. You would never think of sin as a matter of the heart. You don't think of sin as a relationship problem with Jesus and others. And so you never admit to sin. You cannot admit to it because your whole identity is founded on being better than others.
6) You don’t allow yourself to celebrate
v29 - a young goat with one or two friends, maybe. But I don’t think this elder brother even asked for a goat. He’s not into extravagant celebration, he'd rather slave. He's not into cutting loose, he'd rather scrimp and save. He's not into asking for things, he'd rather earn. Is that you?
7) Everything’s unfair
v29 – he got more than me! You’re always looking over your shoulder at what the other person has and crying foul. Life has the audacity NOT to follow your work ethic. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people and you hate that. Because you're all about 'fairness' and you despise the grace of God. The thought of really bad people being forgiven and ending up in heaven seriously disturbs you.
8) You cannot associate with sinners
v30 – he can’t even bring himself to say “my brother.” It’s “this son of yours”. If there’s a party with sinners you just wouldn’t go. What on earth do you have in common with these people? You can't relate to sinners outside or inside the church. You'd never think of joining an outreach to the homeless, or drug addicts or prostitutes - they are a different species after all. And if Christians confess sin to you, you have advice but no real understanding or empathy.
9) You’re wracked with superiority
v30 - Jesus defines it as 'wild living' (v13) but the older brother spins his own interpretation, 'squandered your property on prostitutes.' The older son needs to be better than his brother. Therefore his brother needs to be worse. Is that you? Are you better? And do you need to be better, and others need to be worse.
10) You don’t know the grace of Jesus and the love of the Father
This is the heart of it all. This underlies all the other signs. The older brother is outside the banquet as the parable ends. He is a stranger to his father's love. And it's his own goodness that keep him out of the feast. His goodness doesn't get him into the baquet. His goodness keeps him out. And remember this feast represents heaven!
Are you an older brother? When people talk about relationship with Jesus and the love of God do those phrases just pass you by? Do you know what it is to be a sinner celebrated by Jesus? Do you know what it is to be welcomed by Jesus and eat with Him? (Luke 15:1-2; Rev 3:20). Do you know what it is to be adopted by Jesus into the divine Family and call on the Most High God as Father?
That is the only kind of Christian there is. Heaven is only for sinners reconciled by the blood-bought redeeming love of Jesus.
Jesus says in Matthew 18:3: "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Lay down you pride. Be reconciled to Jesus who died to welcome you. Come on in and join the joy.
More from this sermon.