Participants: Mike Leno
Series Code: FC
Program Code: FC000043
00:29 When you read the Bible,
00:31 do you discover the grace, the love,
00:35 and the forgiveness of God?
00:37 Or do you see more of the responsibility,
00:42 the duty, the accountability that we have to God?
00:47 Actually, both themes are in scripture, they're both there,
00:50 but I dare say that we generally read the Bible
00:55 through our own lenses.
00:57 We see what we want to see.
01:01 Actually, Jesus told a story of two brothers,
01:06 and they were opposites.
01:08 One was very responsible, he was accountable
01:12 to what he needed to do, he was diligent
01:17 in carrying out all of his duties,
01:19 his brother however was a little lax.
01:22 In fact, he quit his job on his fathers farm
01:27 and he went away for a while.
01:29 When he came back, the Bible says his father accepted him.
01:34 Now, if taken to extreme,
01:37 the good qualities of responsibility
01:41 and accountability, and diligence,
01:45 if taken to an extreme
01:49 can be called legalism,
01:51 but on the other side of the fence
01:54 is what we call permissiveness.
01:57 Legalism kills the spirit, but permissiveness kills
02:01 the spirit also.
02:03 Both rob us of the motivation to come to the Savior.
02:08 Legalism kills because we can never measure up
02:10 to our own standards, let alone God's.
02:13 Legalism causes us to either lord it over others
02:17 because we assume we're better than they are,
02:20 or it causes us to give up because it's no use
02:23 trying anyway.
02:24 Legalists are not just hard on others,
02:27 they are hard on themselves.
02:28 They ultimately burn out and lose their motivation
02:32 to love and believe.
02:35 But permissiveness kills because if it doesn't
02:38 matter what you think or do, everything becomes meaningless.
02:42 Nothing, not even God, makes any difference
02:45 in a universe where there are no value judgments.
02:48 There's an old saying: "If you stand for nothing,"
02:51 "you'll fall for anything. "
02:53 The permissive must lie to himself, you see,
02:57 he would like to believe that he can live and let live,
03:00 and everything's going to be OK, but his actions,
03:03 like it or not, do affect people and they hurt people,
03:07 innocent people, so he must lie to himself.
03:12 He must life to himself that he can get drunk,
03:14 sleep around, spend money however he wants to
03:15 and he's not hurting anyone,
03:18 or the final lie, that he himself is not worth saving,
03:22 and so, nothing matters anyway.
03:26 And so Jesus told a story about a legalist and a permissive,
03:29 two brothers,
03:32 one was so good.
03:36 He was the good son, he was the elder brother,
03:40 he did everything right,
03:43 he performed his duties on his father's farm,
03:47 and he was always faithful.
03:49 His brother however, was a permissive,
03:52 and he was so bad, as good as his brother was,
03:55 he was worse... in the other direction.
04:01 He was so bad in fact that he decided that he wanted
04:07 his father's inheritance before his father ever died.
04:11 And as Jesus told the story, He depicted this prodigal son
04:16 as going to his father and saying: "Father, I want"
04:19 "my inheritance now, so that I can leave. "
04:26 What father wants his son to leave?
04:29 What motivation would this father have to give
04:32 the prodigal son his inheritance before he was supposed
04:38 to have it, so that he could leave the family,
04:40 but that, according to the story, is exactly
04:43 what the father did.
04:46 So, the prodigal went to a far country, and lived the kind
04:50 of life he always wanted to live,
04:53 one of debauchery, one of freedom,
04:57 and spending all the money he had.
05:00 The elder brother, meanwhile, was back at the farm,
05:03 doing what he had always done;
05:05 he was faithful, he did his jobs.
05:08 You know, we like legalists, especially when they work for us
05:12 We love legalists, let's face it,
05:13 legalists are good employees,
05:18 and we give a lot of rewards to legalists,
05:20 but in this story, the father is going out
05:22 to the side of the road everyday, yearning for his
05:25 prodigal son to come back.
05:28 He, apparently, at least according to the elder brother,
05:32 later, is taking his good son for granted.
05:36 He's giving him everything he always has, but he's
05:41 yearning for the son that he's lost.
05:44 And then Jesus said the prodigal son came to himself.
05:50 He had finally sunk so low in his life, he had spent
05:52 all of his money, all of his friends had left him,
05:55 that now he was feeding pigs for a living.
05:59 Even wanting to eat what the pigs themselves were eating
06:02 because he was so hungry.
06:04 And finally, when he came to himself, he realized that even
06:08 his father's servants faired better than he did.
06:11 So he thought to himself: "If I could just"
06:14 "run to my father"
06:16 "maybe he'll accept me back, at least I could... "
06:20 "... I could get on as one of the hired hands. "
06:23 And so, he goes back and the father is already
06:26 waiting for him, and we have this glorious reunion
06:29 of the prodigal son, who knows that he's not worthy
06:32 of the father's love, but the father who clothes him
06:36 with a new robe, kills the fatted calf, and has a party
06:40 for him, and said: "You are my son. "
06:44 And you would think that this wonderful story,
06:48 with the happy ending would mean that everybody
06:50 would live happily ever after.
06:53 But that's not the way that Jesus ends the story.
06:57 Let's read the end of the story in Luke 15:28-32
07:01 [text on screen]
07:50 The younger son wanted the good life and he got it,
07:52 but he found out the good life wasn't as good as he thought
07:57 it was, permissiveness has it's own natural consequences.
08:02 Legalism also has its natural consequences, but they are
08:06 a little more insidious.
08:08 See, the older son wanted to be rewarded for being
08:11 the good son and following the rules, now he wasn't
08:15 so mad that the father had mistreated him,
08:17 he's not complaining that the father had mistreated him,
08:19 he's complaining because the father is treating
08:22 the younger son too well,
08:26 and as a result, he loses faith with his father.
08:32 In this story, the father is the hero.
08:35 He is neither permissive, nor legalistic,
08:38 he doesn't try to dictate what his sons have to do,
08:41 but he doesn't protect his sons from the natural consequences
08:44 of sin, either.
08:46 He's constant in love, and he doesn't give the slightest hint
08:50 of reticence or resentment when his prodigal son returns,
08:55 he's just glad he came home, no lecture, no probation,
09:00 no payback.
09:03 I had a friend once, who gave up believing in God,
09:11 he had been the good son all of his life,
09:15 at least up until that point, always studying his Bible,
09:19 he was diligent in every way, you might say he was a bit
09:23 of a perfectionist.
09:25 He was always "on fire for God",
09:31 he became a colporteur for a while,
09:35 he was doing the work of the Lord,
09:39 and finally he came to the point where he
09:41 just couldn't do it anymore.
09:46 He told me one day, he said: "Mike, I just can't believe"
09:54 "that God is like that. "
09:59 And what he meant by that is that all of his perfection
10:03 hadn't gotten him the goal.
10:06 The goal was to be perfect, and he just couldn't make it,
10:11 and he was mad at God, so mad, that he refused to even
10:15 believe in God, because he didn't think God
10:17 had treated him fairly.
10:20 He felt that God had required something that was impossible,
10:24 and he had been the good son, he had tried to be good
10:28 all of his life.
10:31 You see, legalists are hard on themselves,
10:37 but they ultimately burn out too, they lose faith
10:40 with the father when they discover that all of their
10:43 good works hadn't gotten them anywhere.
10:46 It's especially irritating to them when they see someone else,
10:52 who has not been the good son, get the party.
10:58 Permissive people, are not the opposite of legalists.
11:02 Their problem is not that they are lazy,
11:04 where as the legalist is industrious.
11:07 Permissive people can be lazy or industrious,
11:10 depending on their goal, what they want.
11:13 The difference is, they don't think it matters to anyone.
11:16 Certainly not to themselves, but not even to God,
11:18 what they do, what they think.
11:22 They can live and let live, because they see life
11:24 as short and meaningless anyway.
11:27 Permissive people can be quite nice to be around actually,
11:30 they like people, they can be quite likeable,
11:33 but they don't love enough to go against the tide
11:37 of popular culture.
11:40 They don't believe enough to act on their God given powers
11:42 of judgment, whereas the legalists may judge a person's
11:45 value on the basis of behavior, the permissive refuses
11:48 to judge even behavior by any objective standard.
11:53 Ultimately, however, the permissive
11:56 appears for what he really is, bankrupt and without
11:59 any substance of character.
12:04 Like the prodigal, he is reduced to poverty,
12:08 to poverty of the soul, and their highest service
12:12 is on the same level as feeding pigs.
12:16 It's a job, it benefits someone, but it's still a pig farm.
12:23 Whereas the legalist may judge a person's value
12:27 on behavior,
12:30 the permissive doesn't even believe that behavior
12:32 makes any difference to anyone.
12:37 Brennan Manning tells the story of going to an alcoholic
12:42 rehab center up in the hills,
12:45 secluded away from everyone.
12:48 During the course of his own rehabilitation
12:53 from his alcoholism
12:55 he said there was a member of the group named Max.
12:59 Now Max was a successful businessman
13:02 and on this particular day, it was Max's turn to be
13:04 in the hot seat.
13:06 Everyone was seated in kind of a "U" shaped pattern,
13:10 and the hot seat was in the center.
13:14 And the group started firing questions at Max.
13:17 Max was a successful man, and he was quite talented
13:22 at putting on a good front, and he could deflect almost
13:25 any question with a little bit of humor,
13:29 a little bit of bragging, he never let his guard down,
13:33 but they questioned him anyway:
13:35 "Max, how much do you drink?" Oh he'd minimize it:
13:37 "Just a little bit in the morning,"
13:39 "just maybe a little bit during the afternoon. "
13:43 Then they'd dig into it a little bit deeper, and finally
13:49 the facilitator to the group, Sean Murphy-O'Connor,
13:54 dialed a phone number,
13:57 and the phone, as it turns out,
13:59 was hooked up to a little PA system right there
14:02 in the treatment room, in the therapy room,
14:07 so they could hear the conversation of both sides.
14:11 The therapist, Murphy-O'Connor, talked to a bartender
14:18 in Max's hometown.
14:20 And he said to the bartender: "Do you know Max?"
14:24 "Oh, sure I know Max, great guy!"
14:27 "Well, tell us a little bit, we're trying to explore"
14:30 "Max's drinking habits. " Well, it turned out he went by
14:33 the tavern everyday, he had 6 Martinis,
14:37 plus a few more drinks and left a good tip.
14:42 Well, Max was angry because he had been found out,
14:46 all of his minimizing had not gotten him anywhere,
14:50 but he gathered himself together, after a little fit
14:53 of temper, he said simply: "Gentlemen,"
14:56 "we all guild the lily once in a while"
14:59 and pulled himself together, and was his own
15:01 composed self again.
15:06 "Max," said one of the members of the group,
15:09 "have you ever done something mean to your kids?"
15:12 "I know," he said "I've been a father for a long time"
15:15 "and I know how it goes sometimes. "
15:18 "Funny you should ask that" said Max.
15:20 "Why, I've got 2 boys, great boys, one of them is"
15:23 and he named the universities they were in,
15:25 and he told about how they had gone on a camping trip together,
15:28 and how he had such a great relationship with his kids.
15:32 The group wasn't buying it.
15:34 "Well Max, haven't you ever done anything,"
15:38 "the slightest bit mean to any of your kids?"
15:42 "Well," Max said, "now that you mention it,"
15:46 "I have a daughter, and something happened"
15:49 "last year around Christmas time,"
15:52 "and I have kind of a heavy feeling about it. "
15:57 "Well Max, give us the details, come on, what happened?"
16:01 "No!", Max stiffened, he got defensive again,
16:03 "I told you, I don't remember exactly what happened,"
16:06 "I just have this heavy feeling. "
16:08 Meanwhile, Sean Murphy-O'Connor was dialing Max's wife,
16:13 and pretty soon her voice could be heard filling the room.
16:19 "Ma'am, we're trying to find out a little bit"
16:21 "about your husbands drinking pattern, can you tell me"
16:24 "what happened with your daughter last Christmas?"
16:27 The phone line was silent for a while,
16:31 and there was crying on the other end of the line.
16:34 When Max's wife gathered herself together, she said:
16:38 "Last Christmas, Max took our daughter shopping. "
16:43 "She wanted a pair of special shoes,"
16:46 "and he found them for her,"
16:48 "gave her the money, and she hopped out of his truck,"
16:51 "dashed into the store, bought them and came back,"
16:54 "gave him a kiss, told him he was the greatest daddy"
16:57 "in all the world, he was feeling high, preening himself"
17:00 "like a peacock, he drove by the Cork and Bottle tavern,"
17:03 "it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon,"
17:04 "it was below 0 outside, it was bitterly cold,"
17:07 "and so he left the truck running while he ran in"
17:09 "for a drink with his buddies. "
17:12 As coincidence would have it, he ran into
17:15 some old army buddies, and he didn't come out
17:18 until midnight, and he was drunk.
17:23 By then, the truck had stopped running,
17:27 the windows had frozen over.
17:32 Max and his wife had to take their poor daughter
17:35 to the emergency room.
17:39 Max's wife at this point, could hardly get the words out,
17:43 she was so broken up,
17:45 but finally it came out, that they had had to amputate
17:52 the right index finger and thumb from his daughters hand,
17:57 and she would be deaf for the rest of her life.
18:04 Max fell out of his chair
18:07 into an all fours position on the floor, and wept.
18:12 No, he didn't just weep, he cried, he screamed.
18:21 At the therapist's signal, all the other recovering
18:24 alcoholics vacated the room, and arranged themselves
18:28 on a little balcony overlooking the therapy room.
18:33 Sean Murphy-O'Connor walked over to the figure of Max,
18:37 still on all fours on the floor of the room,
18:40 still sobbing uncontrollably,
18:43 put his foot against his ribcage and knocked him over
18:46 onto his back.
18:48 "You complete slime" said the therapist.
18:53 "There's a window on your right and a door on your left,"
18:55 "I don't care which one you use, but get out of here"
18:58 "as fast as you can, I am not running a treatment center"
19:00 "for liars. "
19:06 Later that evening,
19:10 Max asked for, and received permission to come back
19:15 into the group.
19:19 You see,
19:22 when we lie to ourselves about our condition,
19:27 it makes it impossible for God to reach us.
19:33 The worst thing about being in sin
19:39 is not that God has a hard time forgiving us,
19:43 He does that,
19:46 the worst thing about being in sin is what we
19:48 tell ourselves.
19:51 The legalist will say: "We've got to be perfect"
19:55 and when that's impossible, they can give up.
20:00 The permissive says: "It doesn't matter"
20:02 and they lie to themselves about their true condition,
20:05 that's why when Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son,
20:09 the prodigal had to sink so low that he came to himself.
20:13 He had to be honest with himself about what was really
20:16 going on in his life.
20:19 My friend, I don't know where you are in your life,
20:21 I don't know what your conditions are,
20:24 I don't know what circumstances you're living in.
20:27 Maybe you're like the elder brother, still on the farm
20:30 and trying to work for your salvation, or maybe you're
20:32 the prodigal a long ways from home.
20:37 Whichever one you are, it's time to come to yourself,
20:40 it's time for honesty, it's time to look in the mirror
20:44 and see what's really there, and not just you tell yourself
20:48 is there.
20:50 And that doesn't just go for someone who's down and out,
20:55 on the street, a drunk.
20:58 That goes for the rest of us who dress in suits,
21:01 and look nice on the outside, we need to look ourselves
21:05 in the mirror and see what's really there.
21:07 Quit lying to ourselves, it's so easy
21:09 to put on a good front, it's so easy to go to church,
21:14 dress up, clean up, look like a nice Christian.
21:18 On the inside you know you're a long ways from home.
21:21 Why is it so hard to come home?
21:27 You see, it doesn't matter whether you are the prodigal,
21:32 or whether you're the elder brother;
21:35 you're still away from God.
21:40 The prodigals and the permissives
21:45 have to lie to themselves in order to survive.
21:48 They lie that their behavior doesn't affect anyone,
21:51 or they lie that they are hopeless
21:55 and that God will not love them anymore,
21:57 that's just as much a lie as the lie that your behavior
22:02 doesn't matter.
22:09 The parable of the prodigal son
22:16 suggests that those who are the furthest from home
22:23 may be the one's that have been there the whole time.
22:29 Notice the reaction of the elder brother at the end of the story.
22:35 Which one, the prodigal, or the elder brother
22:40 is closest to his father at the end of the story?
22:46 The elder brother won't even go into the party.
22:53 All throughout Jesus' ministry
22:57 He was hardest on those who were supposed to know better.
23:04 Is salvation easy or is it hard?
23:08 And if we were to follow Jesus around during His ministry
23:11 and ask Him that question,
23:14 He would probably not answer us directly, instead He would
23:17 show us things and we would watch Him
23:20 as He healed the sick,
23:23 as he cleansed lepers,
23:26 as he forgave prostitutes,
23:31 and we would say: "This is magnificent. "
23:33 "Jesus is so easy on those who don't have anything. "
23:38 "He's easy on those who are sick and ready to die. "
23:41 "He's easy on those who are blind and need to be healed. "
23:46 "He's easy on those who are caught in sin"
23:50 "and have prostituted themselves in order to find fulfillment. "
23:56 But if we would follow Him a little further, we would see
23:59 how He treats the Pharisees,
24:02 the rich young rulers, those who
24:08 thought they had it all together, those who,
24:11 like the elder brother, had been home all along
24:16 are actually the furthest away from the Father.
24:23 My friends,
24:25 how do you know if you're close to God or not?
24:30 The answer to that question doesn't really matter,
24:33 the important thing is you can come now.
24:36 Wherever you are, the decision can be made right now,
24:40 you need not remain a moment longer away from home.
24:43 Whether you're the elder brother type, who has been
24:46 home all along, but find yourself estranged
24:49 from the Father and His system of love and mercy
24:52 that you don't understand, or if you've been the permissive
24:54 prodigal and you've sunk to depths
24:57 that you never thought imaginable.
25:02 It doesn't matter where you are, you can come now.
25:06 One time, Dwight L. Moody was preaching to a large audience
25:10 in his Chicago tabernacle
25:14 on the subject "What shall I do then, with Jesus"
25:16 "which is called the Christ?" The message made a profound
25:19 impression on his audience.
25:24 At the close of the meeting Moody says:
25:27 "I wish you would all think about this question. "
25:30 "Think it over during the week, and come back next Sunday"
25:33 "with your decision. "
25:35 Ira Sankey was Dwight L Moody's musician,
25:40 and he knew at that moment that Moody had made a mistake.
25:44 He had made a mistake because instead of asking
25:47 for a decision right then, he had put it off
25:50 and told people to go home,
25:52 and put it off.
25:56 So he arose, and began to sing
26:00 "Today the Savior calls for refuge fly"
26:03 "The storm of justice falls, And death is nigh. "
26:07 "Today the Savior calls", but the hymn was never finished
26:13 but was cut short by the loud clanging of bells,
26:15 the blast of whistles and the noise and roar
26:18 of fire engines, the Great Chicago Fire had begun,
26:22 and the tabernacle was one of the thousands of buildings
26:26 in Chicago that was reduced to ashes.
26:31 The appointed decision time that Moody had given his audience
26:35 never came.
26:39 My friends,
26:43 you will never have a better time
26:48 to decide to come to Christ then you have right now.
26:54 I know that sounds hard to believe,
26:58 there is never going to be a better time
27:01 then right now.
27:03 You say "but I don't know everything, I don't know"
27:05 "the Bible like I should, I don't have"
27:08 "the depth of theology I should have learned,"
27:11 "I don't know all the stories of Christ. "
27:13 That's Ok, you make a decision on what you already know.
27:19 And what you know, is that Christ wants you in His family,
27:24 in His kingdom right now, as you are.
27:28 If the father can accept the prodigal
27:32 who still smelled like pigs,
27:37 then our Heavenly Father will accept everyone,
27:41 no matter what condition they are in.
27:45 The condition for eternal life is not that you have to get
27:48 cleaned up before you come to the Father,
27:51 the only condition of salvation is that you come,
27:56 however you come, just come.
28:00 [Music for Credits]