SIGNS OF THE TIMES SERMON SERIES
“NO FEAR” – RESPONDING TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD
MARCH 31, 1996
The primary fears of teenage boys are pimples, poor grades and pretty girls. One fear, though, towers above all the rest, the fear of not being cool. Coke, Nike and Nintendo have made millions of dollars convincing young boys that coolness is just one sip, two strides and three zaps away. Let’s fact it. All of us, in one form or another, want to be known as cool people. There is a brand new company that is flourishing in Carlsbad, California called No Fear Gear. They are really into this attitude thing. They say if you wear No Fear shoes, pants, shirts and hats, you will kind of feel invincible. You will feel confident. You will feel like a real man. and they have made millions and millions of dollars selling No Fear Gear.
The owners maintain that they are not trying to get people to do dangerous things but to buy self-confidence and self-esteem. So you have Gulf War pilots plastering No Fear decals on the windscreens of their fighter jets. You have a home that was about to be submerged with flood waters having No Fear spelled out with sand bags on it’s roof for the press to see. And you have all of us wearing No Fear Gear.
Amazingly, the first person who ever modeled No Fear Gear was a man referred to by Jesus Christ in the book of Luke, chapter 15. You might know him as the prodigal son. Let’s call him the young man who wore No Fear Gear. The prodigal son will show us some stages of having this card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing, individualistic mentality that says, I bow to no one. If I do bow, it will be in front of a full length mirror. I will carve my own course, I will determine my own destiny, I will rule my own relationships. When we have this attitude going on in our lives, we go through four stages with which I think we can all identify. The word prodigal means wasteful. The prodigal son was a young man in his early teens, or maybe late teens, we are not sure. He came from a fine Jewish home and had a great father. His brother was as straight as an arrow. He probably attended Palestine High School, was a three sport letterman. Everything was going great.
One day he became aware of a desire deep within. It sounded egotistical, almost evil. He heard this voice echoing in the caverns of his consciousness saying, “Who is in control of your life? What are you going to do about it?” And the prodigal decided that he was not going to pay attention to that voice, to buck authority, to rebel. He decided he would not follow those desires. But day after day, week after week, month after month he heard the voice. Finally, he began to obey those desires. One day, the Bible says, he walks up to his father and he says, “Dad, give me my inheritance now. Give me the Merrill Lynch trust fund because I want to chase the Middle Eastern dream.” And the father did so. And this card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing individualist leaves and goes off to the far country.
He enters the first stage of a no fear, godless, rebellious attitude that we have all exhibited in certain areas of our lives – the delirious stage. We have got to come face to face with the simple fact that sin is fun. If sin were not fun, we wouldn’t do it. This young man was going against the will of his father and he was rebelling against him. He was sinning against him. There is a delirious phase of sin. The excitement, the freshness, the tantalizing appeal of something. You know what I am talking about? Those intoxicating feelings of independence.
I relate it back to when I was about sixteen years of age and drove my mother’s car alone for the first time. She had a station wagon with a 455 beneath the hood. I was driving alone with the AM stereo blaring the BeeGees. I was driving down a dirt road and the sand was kind of loose. I wondered if I could do a power slide thing, cause you know Smokey and the Bandit had just come out. I just felt so free and so independent and so autonomous. Maybe you felt that way when you went off to college for the first time. As a freshman, away from your parents, you could do whatever you wanted to do. Incredible. Or maybe you felt that way the first time you received a bonus check at work. “This is mine. I did it. It is me.” And then, you set your crosshairs on the Galleria. And you went into the Galleria and the first thing you see, you buy. “I’ll take it. I did this. This is mine.” You feel delirious with excitement, don’t you.
The prodigal felt that way. Friends were coming out of the woodwork. He was buying drinks for them at happy hour. He was wearing designer clothes. He was driving a Range Rover chariot. It was perfect for him.
But something happened in this delirious stage. He got into trouble. And from the delirious stage we move to the second stage found in Luke 15:14-17 – the destruction phase. The Bible says after we are delirious with excitement, after we have experienced those intoxicating feelings of independence, it is just a matter of time before we feel the effects of the destruction taking place. Luke 15:14. “After he has spent everything……” You see, this young man was trying to leave home to find himself but he lost himself. He had spent everything. He resources were out. The friends were gone. His clothes were tattered. He was in a heap of trouble. Sin is like that. Sin promises success but ends in failure. Sin promises freedom but delivers slavery. It looks so good, it looks so right but the destruction phase is brutal. “After he had spent everything, there was a sever famine in that whole country, and…” I love this text, “…he began to be in need.” Have you ever felt like you were really in need in a relationship? Have you ever felt like you were in need spiritually? Have you ever felt like you were in need financially? That is a tough situation. We are talking about in dire need here. This man was Jewish and he is going to do something that was detestable, that was the lowest of the low for a Jew to do. Follow with me in verse 15. This is almost unbelievable. “So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.” Jews believed that pigs were unclean. Here is the prodigal son, the man who had the Range Rover chariot that was broken down, the man who had the designer clothes that were all tattered, the man who had to sell his jewelry to the pawn shop, working with pigs. And the Bible says that he wanted to eat the pods there were being fed to the pigs. In other words he was trying to elbow out Arnold Ziffle for some more food. In the mud and the mire of a pig sty. Our man has gone, that quickly, from the pinnacle to the pit.
Look at verse 17 though. This is one of the classic verses of the Bible, one of my favorite lines. In the King James version it says he came to himself. But in this text out of the New International Version it says, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!'” You know, an empty stomach has a way of preaching to us, doesn’t it? He was beginning to smell from the stench of the pigs. He looked at himself and he couldn’t believe what he had done. He knew that his father’s servants had it better than he did. He began to feel bad about himself.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to destruction.”
A little over a year ago about forty of us here in this church boarded a Lufthanza 747 flight to the Middle East. A 747 is a huge plane, a complicated plane to fly, I am sure. What if, I took a five year old boy, maybe, for example, my son, EJ, from the pre-school area, escorted him in my car to DFW airport. What if I then put him in the captain’s seat of a Lufthanza 747 jumbo jet and told him, “EJ, fly the plane. You can do it, boy, come on, fly the plane.” Now all of you are saying to yourself that that word picture is ridiculous. There is no way a five year old boy can fly a 747, he is ill-equipped for the job. We do this when we thumb our noses at God, when we put on our No Fear Gear and jump into the cockpit of our vessel, sit in the captain’s seat and white knuckle the throttle and say, “God, I am going to fly this plane. I’ll determine my altitude. Thank you very much.” When we do that, when we exhibit that card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing, individualistic mentality, it is just a matter of time before we crash. It is not if, it is when. EJ is going to crash. I am going to crash and you are going to crash if we do it away from God. God is standing aside saying, “Let me fly, I am custom made to fly your craft. I am here to sit in the captain’s seat of your life. Won’t you let Me.?” But we say, “No, no, no, no. I know how to handle this marriage problem alone. I know what to do in this dating relationship alone. I know what to do financially alone. I know how to invest this money alone. I know how to move or buy that house alone. I know what to do alone. The only bowing I am going to do, God, is before a full length mirror. Thank you.” And the tragedy is, many of us when we crash, will crash in eternity. We will meet God face to face one day and we will have to say to Him, “God, the theme song for my life was ‘I Did It My Way'” Or we will at God and say, “God, the only bowing I did was in front of the full length mirror. That was it for me.” We are going to crash. And the prodigal crashed into the destruction stage.
Now the third stage is another stage we all go through. I don’t care if you are outside the family of God or inside the family of God, we all go through the third stage. The third stage is the decision stage. The prodigal had a choice to make. He had two options. The first option is what the card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing, individualist makes who is really hard core. Here is what he does. After he crashes, and after the black box is recovered and it has indicated that he crashed because of his self-centeredness, he says, “Well, I will lick my wounds. I can fix everything. I can do it myself. I will crawl back into the cockpit of my life. I will sit in the captain’s seat again. I will fly this plane again.” And he crashes, recovers the black box, listens to the reason for his crash and begins to fly his own life again. The same thing happens repeatedly. There are piles of wreckage everywhere. That is the price the card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing, individualist is willing to pay. “I am not going to submit to the Scriptures, God. I am not going to submit to you, God. I am not going to submit to my spouse, God. I am not going to submit to my accountability group, God. I will do it myself, thank you.”
That is the first option. The second option we have is to do what the prodigal son did. We can make an assessment of the situation. We can look at the wreckage and say, “This is nuts. What am I doing? I have got to come to my senses. I have got to become myself.” And look what our man does. Luke 15:18. “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” He is already rehearsing what he is going to say to his father. He is in the mud, he is in the mire and not only is he feeling bad, he is saying, “OK, I will set out, I will go back, I will say to my father that I have sinned.” He didn’t offer excuses for why he did what he did. He didn’t say, “The reason I did this was because I didn’t receive counseling as a teenager.” He didn’t say, “The reason I did this was because I came from a dysfunctional family.” He called sin what it was. And then look at verse 20. “So he got up and went to his father.” Some of us here need to get up, out of that relationship. We need to get up out of that business deal. We need to get up and follow God and turn toward Him.
The delirious stage. The destruction stage. The decision stage. As I look across this handsome congregation, I see some people who appear to be agreeing with that, who want God to be the Director of their lives, but if the truth were known, beneath the veneer, beneath the exterior, beneath the facade, most of us have on a No Fear shirt, and our arms are crossed defiantly. We say, “I run this life. You don’t understand, I run it.” How can I challenge you to do something? I am going to challenge you to uncross your arms, to open up your palms toward heaven and say, “God, have Your way in my life.” Have you done that? The prodigal did that.
And now we move to the fourth stage. Before I talk about the fourth stage, I want to tell you something. All of us, no matter where you are from, go through the first three stages, but the fourth stage is only reserved for those of us who have guts, those who really want to have Christ enter into the picture and deliver them fully and totally and completely. The fourth stage is a great stage – the deliverance stage. If you make the decision to come to your senses, to go the opposite direction, to repent and turn toward the father, you are in the process of being delivered. And here is where the plot clots and it gets really exciting. The deliverance stage. Luke 15:20ff. “…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…” Now check this out. Here is his father who had been waiting for his son, probably on the roof top, every day for a couple of years. The Bible says that he saw him and that he knew it was his son. Now how did this old man recognize his son from that far off. They didn’t have contact lenses or glasses back then. How did he do it? I’ll tell you how.
When I was a teenager, my father was a long way off from me while I was with a group of kids fooling around. I didn’t think that he knew I was with the group. Suddenly, I heard this voice. “Ed, come here.” I looked up. My father can’t see very well. I ran over and said, “Dad, how did you know that was me?” He said, “Ed, by your walk.” And I have a unique walk, sort of a different walk. So my father was able to identify me as his son. Our Heavenly Father when He sees us coming home, when He sees us repenting, when He sees us take that most difficult first step, He recognizes us at once. “That is My boy. That is My girl. I recognize their stride. They are mine.” And the father of the prodigal recognized him.
Now don’t skip over this next part, it is powerful. I have read this many, many times before and taught this before but I never noticed this until this past week. “…his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him…” You see we matter to God even with the mire and the mud and the crud all over our lives. You are still a much loved person by God. Here is the kicker here. “…he ran to his son…” Now I have read that before. But this word ran in the Greek is a powerful, life changing word. Let me tell you about it very quickly. Middle Eastern men never ran during that day. They never ran. It was unheard of to run. Yet, this father ran and greeted his son. The Bible says that he embraced his son. The Book of Deuteronomy said that this son who took the Merrill Lynch trust fund, this prodigal, this card-carrying, attitude-wearing, no fear bearing, individualist should have been stoned by the neighbors. But if the neighbors would have stoned the son, they would have stoned the father. Why? Because the father was embracing the son. What a picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross. He embraced us, He took the licks, He took the hit for your sins and mine. He is a compassionate, loving and gracious God who wants to know us, who wants to relate to us, who wants to lift us up in His arms and draw us near to Him. “…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The Bible then says that they had a giant party. The prodigal son wanted to get his rehearsed speech out. “Dad, I have sinned against you. I am sorry.” He wouldn’t even let him do that. He was so excited that he took this son to the Gap, bought him two outfits, called in Domino’s Pizza. They had a party. It was a celebration. That was my translation. Let me read you what the Bible says. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him….” Only family members wore robes. “…Put a ring on his finger…” That is the family signet ring, the power of attorney. They would use that to verify documents. “…and sandals on his feet.” Only family members wore shoes. If you were a slave, you didn’t wear shoes. “Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”
Wow. And you are saying, “You mean this father put on this kind of party for the son who had totally rebelled against him, had totally done his own thing?” Yes, and that is the kind of party that God wants to throw for you and for me, today. But, again, we are back to this issue. We are back to the issue of consequence. We are back to the issue of this no fear mentality. A lot of you, if you are honest with yourself, are paying high tabs for this card-carrying, no-fear wearing, attitude-bearing, individualistic mentality that says, “I’ll do my own thing.” A lot of you are paying high tabs in relationships because you have gone through a marriage or two. You have busted up a child or two. Maybe spiritually you still want to cling to your own notions about what saves a sinner instead of asking God what saves a sinner. Maybe financially you have bought into the lie that more is better and better is more and you are up to your eyeballs in debt. You don’t look like it but you are. You can’t even give God His minimum requirement of 10% to the local church. “Yeah, God, I do my own thing financially, relationally, spiritually.”
You see, if I were God and I had people running around in these No Fear
T-shirts, blowing smoke toward heaven saying, “I’ll do my own thing.”, I would blow smoke right back. “Thank you very much. Too bad.” God doesn’t do that though. Even though we blow smoke at Him, we still matter to Him. He still loves us more than any human being can even comprehend. And He wants us to make just a little move to reverse our field spiritually and He will come in and greet us and save us and change us and restore us and make us a part of His family. We can wear His robe, put on His ring, wear His shoes. But the choice is up to you and me.
So, folks, how about it? Who is flying your craft? Are you flying it? It will crash. You will find the black box, look into it and then you will have a decision to make. Or are you now going to say, “God, I am tired of crashing. I want you to fly my craft?” What kind of posture is a person exhibiting who is on the throne of your life? Is it a person in No Fear gear? Isn’t it about time that you uncross your arms, open up your palms toward heaven and say, “God, I have tried to do it my way. Have Your way. Have Your way in my life.” Can you say that in every area? Can you? If you can’t, make a decision to do it today.