The Heart of God
by James T. Bartsch
based on Luke 15:1-32

"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."  Luke 15:7

The Heart of God

Luke 15:1-32

A Sermon by James T. Bartsch,

   In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.

   The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver's wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard.

   The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued--and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.

   The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away.

   Many people around us are what the Bible calls dead in their “trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1). What should catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses. They don't need a citation; they need a Savior. ( -- Greg Asimakoupoulos in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.)

Today we want to look at a chapter in the Bible that gives us Three pictures of the Heart of God. How does God feel about sinners? How does Jesus feel about sinners? Three stories will tell the tale in Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

This discussion got started because “all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.” (Luke 15:1). This brought a negative reaction from the religious celebrities of Jesus’ day (Luke 15:2): “Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ ” So Jesus began with the story of

A.    The Lost Sheep. Luke 15:1-7.

         1.      Here is his story (15:3-6). If Jesus were telling this story in Chase County, a rancher would be looking for a stray cow...

         2.      Here is the Heart of God. God goes off looking after a stray human being. When He has found him, He brings him home and calls all heaven to rejoice with Him, because He has found His lost human!

         3.      Here is the punch line in 15:7.

B.    The Lost Coin. Luke 15:8-10.

         1.      When a young Jewish woman married, she would begin wearing a head band with ten silver coins. This would tell everyone she was married, much as would a wedding ring today. If she lost a coin, she would have to light a lamp, because the homes of that had no electricity and were dark. She would sweep underneath everything in her home to find that lost coin (15:8-9).

         2.      Here is the heart of God. God searches high and low with great diligence for the lost person. When He has found him, He calls heaven to rejoice with Him, because He has found His lost person!

         3.      Here is the punch line in 15:10.

C.   The Lost Son. Luke 15:11-32. [The statement of the Father: 15:32. “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.”]

          1.       Introduction -- the family scene. 15:11

          2.       The self-centeredness of the younger son 15:12

                    a.       His request for inheritance.

                    b.       The consent of his father.

          3.       The excess of the younger son 15:13.

                    a.       His departure.

                    b.       His squandering of his inheritance.

                  c.      Some of us are like the Wasteful Son

                            1)      We think God owes us a whole lot.

                                     a)      God owes us a good income

                                     b)      God owes us friends

                                     c)      God owes us a nice house

                                     d)      God owes us a good time

                                     e)      God owes us a life of ease

                                     f)       God owes us good health

                                     g)      God owes us perfect weather – always the right amount of sun whenever we need it and always the right amount of rain whenever we need it and never any early or late freezes or droughts or floods or hail or tornadoes

                            2)      We are self-centered.

                                     a)      We think we owe God nothing.

                                     b)      We don’t need to spend time with God.

                                     c)      We don’t need to love God.

                                     d)      We don’t need to serve God.

                                     e)      We have rights

                                               i        We have the right to do whatever feels good

                                               ii       We have the right to consume as much alcohol or do as many drugs as we want to, and we are invincible – nothing bad will happen.

                                               iii      We have the right to indulge in promiscuity outside of marriage and it will never come back to haunt us.

                                               iv      We have the right to spend our money however we want and we don’t need to budget for the future.

                                               v       We have the right to choose whatever friends we want regardless of their character

                            3)      Yes, some of us are like the younger, wasteful son.

          4.       The trouble in the life of the younger son 15:14

                    a.       The timing.

                    b.       The catastrophe.

                    c.       His penury.

          5.       The desperation of the younger son 15:15-16.

                    a.       His search for employment. 15:15

                    b.       The ignominy of his occupation

                    c.       The depth of his need. 15:16

                               1)       His desire.

                               2)       His destitution.

          6.       The reflection of the younger son 15:17-19

                    a.       His consideration. 15:17

                    b.       His assessment.

                               1)       Of his father's servants' plenty.

                               2)       Of his own destitution.

                    c.       His resolve 15:18-19

                               1)       His return to his father. 15:18

                               2)       His confession to his father.

                               3)       His unworthiness as a son. 5:19

                               4)       His request for employment.

          7.       The return of the younger son. 15:20a

          8.       The father's warm reception 15:20b-24

                    a.       The time of the reception. 15:20b

                    b.       The father's compassion.

                    c.       The father's alacrity.

                    d.       The father's affection,

                    e.       The son's confession. 15:21

                               1)       His dual sin.

                               2)       His unworthiness.

                    f.        The father's celebration

                               1)       His command concerning clothing. 15:22

                               2)       His command of a celebration. 15:23

                               3)       His reason for celebration. Here is the punch line of this story. Here is the heart of God ... 15:24

                                         a)       Death to life.

                                         b)       Lost has been found.

                               4)       The start of celebration.

                    g.       Now if I were telling this story, I would have ended it there. But Jesus knew human nature too well, and so He told about the angry reaction of the older son.

          9.       The older son's anger. 15:25-30.

                    a.       His preoccupation with work. 15:25

                    b.       His unwitting return to the home

                               1)       His discovery of celebration.

                               2)       His inquiry about celebration. 15:26

                               3)       The explanation about celebration. 15:27

                    c.       His angry refusal to celebrate. 15:28

                               1)       His anger.

                               2)       His unwillingness.

                               3)       The pleading of his father to join in celebration.

                    d.       His explanation.

                               1)       His long tenure. 15:29

                               2)       His unceasing obedience.

                               3)       His absence a celebration.

                               4)       The unfairness of the present celebration. 15:30

                                         a)       His disassociation (refusing to call him his own brother).

                                         b)       His squandering of wealth.

                                         c)       His immorality.

                                         d)       The unfair celebration!

                    e.       Some of us are like the older brother.

                            1)      Our past history.

                                     a)      We have worked hard at trying to keep God’s laws.

                                     b)      We have been pretty compliant with God.

                                     c)      We have been to the church just about every time the doors are open and even gone to Sunday School.

                                     d)      We have tried to learn how to pray

                                     e)      We have tried to set a good example

                            2)      Our present indignation.

                                     a)      But somehow it rankles us that God gets excited about sinners who repent and return home to him.

                                     b)      If we have served God all our lives and someone who has been a mean, immoral drunk turns to God on his deathbed and goes to heaven, we feel somehow cheated. What is fair about that? We secretly ask ourselves. Where’s the justice?

                                     c)      Why does God throw a party when some derelict finally gets his act together, trusts in Jesus, and tries to get right with God? I’ve never had a party. Why shouldn’t I have a party for doing the right things all these years and living by the book?

                               3)       If we secretly feel that way, then in our heart, we too have wandered off to a distant country. We certainly do not have the heart of God. We need to confess to our Father in heaven the sin of not loving sinners the way He does!

          10.     The heart of the father, the heart of God. 15:31-32

                    a.       His acknowledgment of the elder son's faithfulness. 15:31

                    b.       His acknowledgment of the elder son's full inheritance.

                    c.       His mandating of celebration. 15:32

                               1)       His recognition of association.

                               2)       His return from death to life.

                               3)       His restoration from lost to found.

         11.     A father in good circumstances in the Eastern States had a reckless son who disgraced himself, and brought shame upon his family by his misconduct. From home the prodigal went to California to become even more reckless. For years, the father heard nothing from him. The father took a chance, and sent this message to him: "Your father still loves you." The bearer of the letter sought the son long, in vain. At last, he visited a brothel, on his search; and there recognized the erring son. He called him out, and at the hour of midnight, delivered his message. The gambler's heart was touched. The thought of a father that loved him still, and wanted to forgive him, broke the spell of Satan. He abandoned the game, and his companions, to return to his father. The heavenly Father sends a like message to every lost son and daughter.

         12.    If you have wandered off from God, you need to repent and come back. God is looking for you, but He won’t force Himself on you. You have to do your part. You have to admit you have been wrong. You have sinned against heaven and are not worthy to be God’s Son.

         13.    Jesus said..., “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6). Would you be willing to come back to the Father, admit you have sinned, and trust in Jesus, who died and rose for your sins, to usher you back into friendship and harmony with God?

         14.    If you are, here is a sample prayer you can pray with me in your heart. Let us all bow our heads:

                  a.      Oh God, I confess I have wandered away from you. I have done many things that I am not proud of. I have broken your laws and your standards.

                  b.      I believe that You love me. I believe that You sent Your Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe You raised Him from the dead on the 3rd day so I can have eternal life. Thank you!

                  c.      Please forgive me and take me back. I want you to be my Father, and I want to be your son or daughter. Amen.

The Heart of God
A Sermon based on Luke 15:1-32
By James T. Bartsch,

Delivered at the Community Church Service, Flint Hills Rodeo Grounds, Strong City, Kansas
June 3, 2007

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This sermon is based on, and the Scripture references link to the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation,  as formatted in

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  Used by Permission.)

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Updated March 22, 2014