Peter J Mutton

Proverbs 6: 12-19

Luke 15: 11-32

         You might not fully realise this, but God is a God of love; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son”, John 3: 16.  He loves the world.  And He loves you, friend.  Is it not a wonderful thing that God should love you?  You might say, ’What is there lovable about me?’  Maybe you are not sure.  Maybe you do not love yourself; maybe you dislike yourself.  Some people do: they cannot bear to pass a mirror in case they see their reflection.  Some people are disgusted with themselves and the things they do but cannot find the power to stop.  But God in Jesus is telling you of His love.

         It is sobering however to reflect on the fact that there are also things that God hates.  I expect there are the things that you hate; maybe the things that some days you have to eat for dinner, things that you have to do at school and you have no option but to do them.  But God, because He is holy and a sin-hating God, also hates certain things.  He hates things that are an affront to His majesty and to His glory, and in Proverbs where we have read we have a list of six things, and then a seventh is added. The first thing on the list is “haughty eyes”.  God does not like haughty people.  Why would that be?  I expect we have all met haughty people.  Usually they are people who have been successful; they are a bit haughty because they think they are somebody special.  God does not like that; He hates that.  Why?  We see the answer in Jesus, He who came from God and was God and was found here in figure as a Man, and who “humbled himself” (Phil 2: 8) to be found like you and me in the condition of men, and who went about doing good, not to haughty people but to people who were nobody.  Jesus is knocking on your door tonight because He came to seek and to save that which was lost; He humbled Himself.  How can God tolerate people with haughty eyes who think they are special, when His own Son, who was special, humbled Himself to be found as a Bondman?

         Sinner, see thy God beside thee,

                  In a servant’s form come near,

         Sitting, walking, talking with thee!

                                (Hymn 112)

Jesus has come down to our level because God wants us to know Him.  Is not that wonderful?  God does not like haughty eyes and He does not like pride.  “God sets Himself against the proud, but gives grace to the lowly.” James 4: 6; so if you are marked by pride, be aware that it is a thing that God hates and He sets Himself against it.

          “A lying tongue” - God hates that too.  He hates lies.  Maybe you tell lies or maybe you call them fibs. There are no good fibs and a “white lie” is not a good lie.  Do not have anything to do with lies because God wants every man to speak truth with his neighbour, Eph 4: 25.  Always speak the truth.  It might cost you.  When the teacher says, ’Who did that?’, you may have to say, ’I did it’.  Speak the truth, because God honours it.  And because you are going to be honest and truthful, you will have to say to God, ’I am a sinner’, and God will bless you because for once you have been truthful.  Now because you are always going to be truthful that does not mean you have to be rude to people.  You put a guard on your mouth and you think before you speak.

         He hates “hands that shed innocent blood”.  If you prayerfully study the ten commandments, you will begin to discover that the love of God lies behind them; He was instructing His people on how to behave.  Now He has sent us something more wonderful than that, He has sent us the Lord Jesus  He showed that the law can be summed up in a couple of sentences, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding”, and, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, Matt 22: 37, 39.  Jesus says, ’That is the whole law’; that is it in a nutshell.  The attitude of God is that He wants you to have right relations with Him and right relations with other people; it is called righteousness.  And because of this He hates bloodshed, He hates murder, He hates innocent men losing their lives.

          “A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations”.  Well!  Do you think sometimes in your heart things you would like to do to people?  Do you have a bully at school, would you like to make him suffer?’; you start to think what could you do, what trouble could you get him into.  “Wicked imaginations”: God hates them.  You say, ’Well, life is starting to get boring for me, all these things I have to let go of’; but what it is to feel God smiling at you, looking down on you with approval.  Think of that!  He wants to look at you as He looked at Jesus as He walked amongst men, the One of whom He could say, “This is my beloved Son”, Matt 17: 5, as though God was saying, ’Look at my Jesus.  He is wonderful!’.  God is “a rewarder of them that seek Him out”, Heb 11: 6.  He wants to bless you, but you need to know what God hates because if you love what He hates, you have no place in His kingdom.

          “Feet that are swift in running to mischief”.  If you have already thought of something nasty you could do to someone, doubtless you would want to do it quickly.  You cannot wait to trip them up, cannot wait to put that little barb into that conversation that might make somebody feel uncomfortable.  Jesus did not do that.  No, He addressed Himself to men because He wanted to bless them.

          “A false witness that uttereth lies”.  Here we are, lies again and unrighteousness; false witness is an abomination to God.  Then, “He that soweth discords among brethren”, this is the seventh thing, sowing discords: how easy it is sometimes to do that, slip something into the conversation, to be critical, to gossip, and God hates it, He especially hates it happening among brethren.

         So these are the seven things that God hates.  He hates sin but He loves sinners.  So what could God do to separate a sinner from his sins?  The fact is that He loved men so much “that he gave his only-begotten Son”, then comes the simple statement, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal”, John 3: 16.

         I wonder if we could just turn to Luke 15 from verse 11-32.  Did you notice in that passage someone with proud eyes and a proud heart, someone who was swift to do mischief, to sow discord?  Who was it?  The elder brother, was it not?  He was furious because his brother who was a sinner had come home and was given royal treatment.  Some people hate the fact that God is gracious, that God is forgiving, that God loves.  They want the wrong doer to be punished.  There are people like that in the world.  The prisons would never be big enough to satisfy them; the punishments would never be severe enough to make them happy.  They want punishment.  But God does not; He does not desire to punish anybody for their sins.  In fact, God today is withholding punishment, He is staying the execution of judgment, and He is insistent that the glad tidings of His grace are preached just as you are hearing them this afternoon.  He is insistent that the name of Jesus is spoken about as man’s one and only hope for salvation.  “God so loved”: the intensity of His love and the greatness of it, He “so loved” that He has given us the answer to His love.  He gave it in the Person of Jesus,

     God waits in grace with hands outstretched to bless -

                  Glad news from heav’n.

     Mercy dispensed in perfect righteousness,

                  Sinners forgiv’n!

     Repentance only God requires from man

         And faith in Christ, His well-beloved Son.

     This priceless favour you may now embrace;

                  ’Tis offered free,

     Since Jesus suffered in the sinner’s place

                  On Calv’ry’s tree;

     Blest sinless One! for us He sin was made,

         Jesus tells three stories in Luke 15; and it has been said that these three stories tell us about what makes God rejoice.  What makes God rejoice is when He finds somebody who is lost and can bring them home into their intended place.  Luke 15 first tells us what makes the Lord Jesus rejoice, that He, as the Good Shepherd, went and found the sheep that was lost and brought it back.  It tells us what makes the Holy Spirit rejoice, when that lost coin is found and brought back into circulation; and lastly it tells us what makes God the Father rejoice. 

         This Father sadly had two dysfunctional sons.  The wayward younger son wanted to have a good time, to ‘sow his wild oats’ as men say, and the elder son was proud and unforgiving.  The younger son has the temerity to say to his father, in effect, ‘I cannot wait for you to die; I want my inheritance now’.  And graciously his father gives him the part of the property that he was eventually going to inherit.  Are you like that?  ‘I want my own way and I want it now!’  And off he goes and he wastes his inheritance.  He went to the far country to do his own will and found himself some new companions.  You see, sometimes we do not know when we are well off, do we?  We think there is something better.  Men always seem to think that the grass is greener in the next field, do they not?  Perhaps that is why the sheep wandered off in the first parable in Luke 15.  We think there is something better, but God in Christ is already offering us the best. 

         All the money is soon gone, because of these friends and his riotous living and eventually he becomes lonely. There is nothing lonelier than being away from God and then finding that your friends have all gone away because you cannot indulge them any more.  And then on top of everything else there came a famine, a famine that ate into his soul, and he began to be in want.

         You know the things that God hates - we have read about them - but God has given you a conscience.  He has given you a testimony to what is good and evil in your soul, and every time you do one of those wrong things, there is a little goad inside you that pricks your conscience and you know that you have done something wrong.  Have you ever experienced that?   God hates a lie and He has given you a consciousness of sin inside of you.  This young man went against all of God’s law about honouring his father.  He did not honour him.  He wanted what was his; but it was not his; it did not belong to him.  And so he begins to be in want and he ends up looking after pigs.  For a Jew, it was a bad thing looking after pigs because in the law pigs were unclean creatures.  So this young man is now so hungry that he wants to eat what the pigs are eating; then it says he comes to himself, he starts to think.  And God would help you to start thinking straight.             If you want proof as to the existence of God, there is plenty of it.  And if God exists then you will need to get wise as to what His interests are, and you need to think out in your mind, if God created you, what is He expecting of you?  If He put you on the earth there must be some purpose in His doing it: what does He expect from you, and what are you to expect from Him?  This young man starts to think.  Mr Darby wrote a pamphlet with quite an imposing title, The “Irrationalism of Infidelity”, vol 6.  He was addressing certain people who did not think clearly about God, and in that paper he points out how irrational they were; they were not thinking clearly.  If you look about you and see creation, if you get your telescope out and you start to look at the stars, and if you get your microscope out and start to look at microbes and bacteria, and if you had a big enough microscope you could perhaps start unravelling the wonderful building blocks of creation; in all these things you can discover that the finger marks of God are everywhere.  He exists.  We have our being in Him.  Without Him we are nothing.  Evolution is taught in our schools and colleges; how supposedly, one day, materials in the universe somehow fused together and life forms began in some primordial swamp, and gradually something crawled out of the water and started to live on land and eventually it turned into man; indeed, more than that, it eventually turned into man and woman and reproduced.  Oh, if only persons would simply believe that “He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast”, Ps 33: 9.  Read that Psalm!  For you see, God speaks and things happen.  The heavens and the earth, however, are not His most majestic and wonderful things.  No!  We have yet to see what God has prepared for those who love Him, “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness”, 2 Peter 3: 13.  The things He hates will be banished forever, and in this new world, what wonders await those who are going to live in it!  God here is working in this young man and He is becoming unhappy.  If you are unhappy it may well be because God is working in your soul and He is turning it inside out; He is causing you to start using your mind to think, ’There is something wrong here’. 

         The younger son may have thought, ‘I had everything and now I have lost it, and oh, wait a minute, back home my father has servants and a house.  He could give me a job, I could have a roof over my head, somewhere to sleep and food to eat’.  God would say to you, ’Let us talk things over’:  “Come now, let us reason together … though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”, Isaiah 1: 18.  God would talk to you.  This young man started to think and he said, ’I am being foolish, I am perishing through famine.  I know what I will do’; “I will rise up and go to my father, and I will say to Him, Father I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son”.  And  what he said was very right.  It is against God that we sin.  “I have sinned against heaven.”  Other people may be affected.  When we lied, somebody else was affected by it, maybe a colleague or a fellow-student, or our brethren.  They were affected by it, but it was against God that we sinned.  “I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son”.  He asks to be given a job.   It has been said, ’If he thought he was fit for a job, he was fit for nothing’.  That is what sin does and we were born in it, fit for nothing.

         And so he goes home.  I dare say, as he went, he would think, ’How do I put this?  How do I say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son?”.  Can I have a job?  Maybe I could clean the sandals.  Maybe I could look after the animals.  I have a bit of experience now. It is on my CV’.  The fact is we do not deserve anything.  We are sinners; we are finished, except that God in His mercy is looking out for us.  He wants us home.  You may be lost in sin, but God is looking for you.  In fact if you have any interest in what I am talking about tonight, God is already working in your soul.  Thank Him!  And maybe, yes, you feel in want, but God has more than enough to satisfy your need.

         I like a painting I have seen of this parable - the artist created a picture of the prodigal son coming home.  Except he did not.  What he drew was the father standing on the top of his house shading his eyes and scanning the horizon.  The father was pictured looking out because he missed his son.  You see, that young man did not really know his father, did he?  He did not know what his father liked or loved or wanted.  He was too busy knowing what he wanted and then feeling wretched when he lost it all.  His father was looking for him.  “But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him.”  God is looking for you, friend, waiting for you.  The opportunist comes home, and his father runs, and we know that at that time, a mature man would not run.  Men were dignified in their long robes, and walked.  But no!  Think of that: this father demeaned himself.  The neighbours might say, ’What is he doing?  This wretched son is coming home and he is running, he is falling over him.  Look at him!  He is embracing him; he is kissing him.  What is going on?’.  How can we reckon with the love of God?  How powerful it is, how perfect, how complete!  I am not sure how deeply repentant the son was yet; he knew the right thing to say; he knew that he was a sinner, and he knew that his father had jobs; it was all rational - I believe that it was not until the father kissed him that he experienced true repentance; he was overwhelmed by grace.  He began to understand the love of his father when he came home.  Now while his father is kissing him and embracing him he starts his little speech, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son”.  But he did not ask for a job.  Look what the father had to say, “Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it”.  He had come home.  This is what God loves.  We read about what He hates, but God loves unconditionally.  Is that not wonderful?  He always wanted to bless you but, thanks to the death of Jesus and the shedding of His precious blood at Calvary, God is empowered to receive you, not as a servant, but He receives you as a son.  God loves to have people in His presence.  In fact, in the eternal day He is going to dwell with men.  Look at what happened in the Garden of Eden!  God wanted to spend time with Adam and Eve, wanted to have a relationship with them.  Alas, sin came in and spoiled everything.  In the day to come God is going to bring back the tree of life.  He is going to bring back all the good things that were lost in Eden and even better.

         Sadly the elder brother is disgusted.  He is too proud to go into the house.  ’I am not going in there’: “this thy son, who has devoured thy substance.”  You can imagine his anger spitting the words out in his fury, can you not?  ’Look at him!  How could you do this, father?  It is an affront’.  But the father said, “it was right … because this thy brother was dead and has come to life again”.  Oh, friend, may you know what it is to come alive!  Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it abundantly”, John 10: 10.  Some of you may feel half-dead, may feel as though you have been exhausted by sin, but there is a way back to the Father’s house.  What wealth He has!  The younger son might have thought: ’I have consumed all you gave me’ - but back in the house there is nothing wanting, nothing is missing.  What wealth God has!  What wealth He has in Jesus! 

         Now, we often talk about an old sister who was local with us.  When she was seven years old, she did not know if she was saved or not, and she used to say, ’Do you know what, nobody told me what I must do.’  Then it came to her; ’One night I was sitting at home by the fire and I thought to myself you must know something’, and then she remembered the words of Paul to the jailor in Acts, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved ...”, chap 16: 31.  Then turning to God she said, ‘but I do believe, You have to have me, like it or not!’ - she was a believer and knew that God is as good as His word.

         Friend, if there is any doubt in your mind as to whether you are saved, this is what you have to do: Cry to God where you sit and tell Him, ‘I am a sinner, but I believe on your Son Jesus Christ and I believe that He died to save me’. 

         May the Lord bless you, for His Name’s sake.


16th June 2013