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A Heart for God

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons. [12] The younger son told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die.' So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 

[13] "A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money on wild living. [14] About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. [15] He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. [16] The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. 

[17] "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! [18] I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, [19] and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man." ' 

[20] "So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. [21] His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' 

[22] "But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. [23] And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, [24] for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began. 

[25] "Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, [26] and he asked one of the servants what was going on. [27] 'Your brother is back,' he was told, 'and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast. We are celebrating because of his safe return.' 

[28] "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, [29] but he replied, 'All these years I've worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. [30] Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have.' 

[31] "His father said to him, 'Look, dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. [32] We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'" (NLT)

In their book, The Sacred Romance, Curtis & Eldredge write, "The life of the heart is a place of great mystery. Yet we have many expressions to help us express this flame of the human soul. We describe a person without compassion as "heartless," and we urge him or her to "have a heart." Our deepest hurts we call "heartaches." Jilted lovers are "brokenhearted." Courageous soldiers are "brave hearted." The truly evil are "black-hearted" and saints have "hearts of gold." If we need to speak at the most intimate level, we ask for a "heart-to-heart" talk. "Lighthearted" is how we feel on vacation. And when we love someone as truly as we may, we love "with all our heart." But when we lose our passion for life, when a deadness sets in which we cannot seem to shake, we confess, "My heart's just not in it."

In the end, it doesn't matter how well we have performed or what we have accomplished-a life without heart is not worth living." (P. 3)

That last sentence is a haunting one. "A life without heart is not worth living." How's your heart? No, I don't mean the cardiovascular system, I mean your heart-your passion. Are you passionate about life? Are you passionate about your family? Are you passionate about God?

Remember that God doesn't just expect us to love Him with our spirituality and our lifestyle, He also wants us to love Him with all our heart. Deut. 6:5 says, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (KJV)

The parable of the prodigal Son is one of my favorite sections of the Bible. It teaches about legalism, forgiveness, God's Grace and the hopelessness of sin. But this morning, I don't want to focus on those great lessons, instead I want us to journey together into this classic parable for a cardiovascular checkup-I want us to check our heart. For these moments, forget that I'm here. Forget that your family and friends are here. For the next little while, let's all lay aside our pretense and have communion with our Creator. Let Him do a heart checkup on us. I am not urging you to evaluate how much you do for God or even to reflect on how much He does for you. We'll leave those reflections for another day. Instead, I'm asking you to invite God to evaluate your heart-your core passions for life and for Him. 

Before we evaluate ourselves, let's do something that's a bit easier, let's evaluate the brothers in this parable. What about the younger son? What was his relationship with the Father really like? Was there any intimacy there? What was his heart like? The younger son saw the father as a source for things. When he was leaving, he wanted to take his father's money with him, in essence he said to his father, "I wish you were already dead! Give me the money now that I'll get when you die." After wasting the money and finding himself impoverished, his attitude changed, or did it?

Luke 15:17-19 NLT [17] "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! [18] I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, [19] and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man." 

He does not hurry home because he wants to be with his Father, or because he missed him, he went home because he was hungry. 

Are you the type of person who ignores God when you need nothing, yet run to Him when you are in trouble? Sure, these type of people are ready to promise to do anything, they hold up a spiritual placard when they pray that says, "Will work for food," but their motivation is not to develop a relationship with God, it is to get what they need from Him. They have no passion for God-their heart isn't into the relationship.

The older son, though he does not commit the overt sins of his brother, or leave his father's house, suffers from the same lack of intimacy with his father. Mechanically, he labors every day, seeking the approval of his father. He could not understand how his father could show mercy to a disobedient son and became angry with him because he did. How easy it is to know someone without really knowing him.

Didn't the older son notice the heartbreak of his father? Couldn't he rejoice with him that his son returned home? If he really knew his father, he would have anticipated a gracious response to his errant brother's return.

The older son, like many Christians, knows a lot about God, and works to please Him, but never really knows Him. Our goal is not to be able to explain words like omniscience, omnipresence or immutability, it is to press into God, to know His heart, to feel his heartbeat and to move with it. Our relationship with God must be more than answers to fill-in-the-blank questions, it is the air we breathe-the very source of our existence. It is a great dance. God moves, and we respond with His slightest touch or softest whisper. He guides us from one end of the floor to the other. We trust Him and He entrusts us with His Kingdom work. With time, a deep love develops on our end that has existed on His from eternity. Not a love based on what He does for us or what we do for Him, but just out of a sense of belonging to one another and being together in time and in eternity.

Don't you long for that? Not a religion that defines you by what you don't do or what you do, but one that releases the spirit within you and allows you to synchronize your soul with your Creator and empowers you to move with the rhythm of his love.

Now the hard work. Ask God to show you the contents of your heart. If you aren't passionately pursuing your relationship with Him. Ask Him to reveal to you what you are substituting for a real relationship with Him and then lay it aside to launch on the great adventure of loving God with all your heart.

Please don't settle for being the dutiful son that remains behind or the misguided son who seeks for life and adventure outside of his Father's house. Instead, listen to your heart. Go with your passion. Risk loving God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might. Don't hold anything back. Trust Him. Love Him. Know Him. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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