AWAKENING TO LONGING: THERE S GOT TO BE MORE. Scripture Reading: Luke 15: Finding Your Way Back to God Message Series: Part 1

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1 AWAKENING TO LONGING: THERE S GOT TO BE MORE Scripture Reading: Luke 15:11-24 Finding Your Way Back to God Message Series: Part 1 Listen to the lyrics of this chart-topping song by the country singing duo Sugarland : Monday, hard to wake up Fill my coffee cup, I'm out the door The freeway's standing still today It's gonna make me late, and that s for sure I'm running out of gas and out of time never gonna make it there by 9 [Chorus:] There's gotta be something more Gotta be more than this I need a little less hard time I need a little more bliss I'm gonna take my chances Taking a chance I might find what I'm looking for There's gotta be something more Or the Stacie Orrico song More to Life I've got it all, but I feel so deprived I go up, I come back down but emptier inside Tell me what is this thing that I feel like I'm missing? And why can't I let it go? These modern songs give expression to a plaintive cry -- the cry of the disappointed and disillusioned. But where does this cry, this inner stirring of the soul come from? Is this truly all that there is to life? Just making it through another day? Is life, as Shakespeare posed, Simply a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing? Today we launch into a new series entitled Finding Your Way Back to God loosely based on a recent book written by two pastor brothers, Dave and Jon Ferguson. This series is about both the initial time that we find our way back to God and begin a new relationship with Him. And it s about our on-going journey

2 with Him which involves the numerous times we have wandered away and have needed to return to Him. Think about our own spiritual journey: the first time you met God face to face. Then the times you forgot about Him and went on your own merry way; the times when you turned your back on Him and made a mess of things. And how He graciously welcomed you back home. I believe this series can be a significant one for us since it s the very reason our church exists: To help people find God and then follow Him more closely. My sincere hope is that each of you will find your way back to God -- maybe for the first time. Or like me, maybe one more time. Over the coming weeks, we will be looking at four spiritual awakenings that occur during our spiritual journey. These awakenings are something that we all need to experience -- in order to truly come alive. Today we re going to take a look at the first of these: The Awakening to Longing. Let s begin by noticing The Presence of Human Longing. The feeling that there s got to be more to life than just this indicates that there are longings that lie deep within our soul. These longings are so universal that they show up almost everywhere in the songs we sing, the art we create, and the stories that we write. Like the longing for belonging -- a place to fit in where we are known and loved for who we are. The theme song of the TV sitcom Cheers says it this way, Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, they're always glad you came. We are all looking for, longing for, a place to belong, a loving place to call home. But we are also looking for a purpose to live for. Think back to when you were a kid and the question you were always asked, So what do you want to be when you grow up? We all want to be good at something and make a unique contribution with our lives. We all have this built-in desire to live for a greater, grander purpose than simply existing for another day. And then there is the longing for meaning or significance. We want to know that who we are and what we do really matters. So we search for answers to the big questions of life: Why am I here? What s life all about? Friends, we are hard-wired with these longings, these desires inside of us. They stir within us and motivate us to search for answers, for satisfaction, for fulfillment. They create a hunger for more than what we are presently experiencing. This restless searching of the soul is the result of how we were made. Listen to these words from Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart. This is precisely why the physical, material world can t fully satisfy us. It was never meant to. We were made for more than what we are presently experiencing here on earth. We were created with a God-shaped hole in our heart, a hole that can only be filled with God himself. It was St. Augustine who famously said, You have made us for yourself, O Lord;

3 and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You. C.S. Lewis elaborates on this by saying, Our Heavenly Father has provided many delightful inns for us along our earthly journey, but he takes great care to see that we do not mistake any of them for our home. There is a longing for an eternal home. A call deep in our spirit for more than what this life can provide. The problem then, isn t that we have these longings; the problem is that we seek to fulfill them on our own. We try to satisfy these desires and answer the great questions of life without God. But here s the good news -- being awakened to these longings and to the reality of where they can be satisfied marks the beginning of our journey back to God. Secondly this morning we focus on Jesus Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15. This is one of the best-known and best-loved parables of Jesus. It is considered by many to be one of the greatest short stories in all of literature. It is a powerfully, moving story that connects with scores of people on so many different levels. It s a story about two sons -- two lost sons and an extravagantly gracious father. Now for the purposes of this series, we are going to be focusing on the younger of these two sons. So I invite you to take out your church Bibles and turn to Luke 15: Jesus continued: There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them. 13 Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, How many of my father s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So 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. 21 The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

4 22 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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. Let s hear this same story in a slightly different format (Prodigal Son Spoken Word). Jesus wants both His ancient and modern audience to see themselves in this story. To see that the lost, wayward son is every one of our stories. That s why He told this parable to help each one of us find our way home. To find our way back to the Father. The parable begins with The Son s Deep Longing -- his desire for more than what he was presently experiencing in his father s house. The younger son was looking for love, for a place to belong, for purpose, meaning, and significance. He was restless and bored. Unfulfilled and dissatisfied. He felt restricted and restrained. All of which leads him on a desperate search for fulfillment and self-discovery. He convinces himself that, I can find my own pathway to happiness. And it certainly isn t here in my father s house. This longing leads to The Son s Stunning Request. So he says in verse 12, Father, give me my share of the estate. Now we have to understand that this request was stunning, because inheritances were not generally doled out until one s parents were deceased. One commentator writes, In Middle Eastern culture, to ask for the inheritance while the father is still alive, is to wish him dead. In making this request, the son was showing extreme disrespect for his father and disgracing his family. His attitude was essentially this, Father, I m tired of waiting for what I really want -- which is not you, but a better life. I just know there s something more than what I m presently experiencing, and I want it now. Give me my money so that I can kiss you and my former life goodbye. This was hugely offensive and hurtful to the father. It must have cut him like a knife. Yet amazingly, the father grants his son s request --- even though it cost him dearly. His love and affection for his son never wavered, even though that son ripped his heart out and brought disgrace upon the family. Next we see The Son s Desperate Search. In verse 13 we read that he set off for a distant country. He leaves his homeland and travels to a far off land. Not only has this younger son turned his back on his father and his family, but also on his faith. By leaving the land of Israel, the son was leaving the faith of his fathers behind. After entering into this godless country, it says that he squandered his

5 wealth on wild living. We are left to imagine what wild living might have looked like in Jesus day. If the story were told today, the son might have ventured off to Las Vegas or the red-light district in Amsterdam. No doubt, it was no-holdsbarred, riotous, self-indulgent life-style he engaged in. Wine, women, and song -- all night long. But it doesn t take long before his money runs out and his friends run away -- leaving him high and dry. Then a famine struck the land. So in desperation he took the only job he could find -- feeding pigs. But even that didn t pay enough to fill his stomach. So he bottoms out, sitting amongst the pigs eating their slop. His longing for love wasn t satisfied by other women. His longing for purpose wasn t found in partying. His longing for meaning and significance wasn t satiated by self-indulgence. His God-created desires ended up driving him further away from the father, rather than closer to him. Yet, all the while, the father waits. Looking, longing for his lost son to return. Finally, we see that This Story is Our Story. The parable of the lost son is each of our stories. Some more or less dramatic. Some more or less painful. This parable brings to light one of life s most important questions: Where will you go to satisfy your God-given longings? Will these longings draw you closer to God? Or will they drive you further away from Him? Now for some of us, our experience may be like that of the prodigal -- where we bottom out before we open ourselves to the possibility that God is the answer we ve been looking for all along. Others of us may top out -- that is, we end up living the dream, getting everything we expected. But end up discovering that it still isn t enough. That there s still this aching void inside. This yearning, this churning for more. Either way, we find ourselves restless until we find our rest, our full satisfaction in God. The 17th Century mathematician Pascal has one of the greatest intellects in the history of Western civilization. He grew up knowing about God, but not knowing Him personally or earnestly following Him. But then one day he had a profound spiritual awakening. This life-changing experience ignited Pascal s passion to help others find their way back to God. He began to challenge his fellow intellectuals to put a wager on God. He would dare them to step into a belief about God, even if they were uncertain, and see if it didn t change their lives. He explained the wager this way, Make a bet for 30 days that there is a God who loves you. If you are right, you have everything to gain. If you are wrong, you have nothing to lose. Make a bet that God is real and discover the difference it makes. Pascal realized it was a gamble where you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you find God, you will find the source of unconditional love, purpose and meaning for your life. That s a big-time payoff! So if you are here this morning trying to figure out your life and make sense of your world, why not take Pascal s wager? Join us in 30

6 days of prayer asking, God, if you are real, make yourself known to me. What have you got to lose? 30 days out of your entire life. Yet, if God reveals Himself to you, you ve got everything to gain. What if we all decided to pray this prayer every day for the next 30 days, God, if you are real show Yourself to me. Make yourself known. Give me eyes to see. I m going to personally take this 30-day wager because I know that I need God to be real in my life. And I want to experience Him more and more each day. Thank You, Lord that You have placed eternity in our hearts. That nothing can satisfy our deepest longings but You. Teach us to be content by simply resting in You -- by finding your unconditional love and grace to be enough. Thank you for inviting us and welcoming us back home when we have wandered away. Make yourself known to us this week. Show yourself mighty to save.

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