Charles F. Stanley
Scripture: Luke 15:11-16
I. Introduction: How does God feel about Christians who wander away from Him? The answer to this question can be found in the parable of the prodigal son. Although the young man demanded his share of the inheritance and then wasted it with wild living, his father welcomed his return home. God does allow believers to experience adversity as a result of rebellion, but He longs for them to reconnect with Him—and He graciously offers forgiveness when they repent.
II. How will the Lord respond if you decide to walk away from Him?
If you turn from God, He will do one or more of the following:
A. Put pressure on you.
B. Allow bad things to happen to you.
C. Send adversity into your life.
D. Stop you from walking away.
E. Let you wreck your life.
III. Why do people walk away from God?
A. Deception: Satan deceived Eve into thinking that God was lying to her (Gen. 3:4-5). The Devil may convince us that we have to look a certain way, drive a particular car, make more money, and/or wear the right clothing to be happy in life.
B. Fear of missing out: People sometimes resist God’s will because they doubt He has their best interests in mind. Example: Marrying the wrong person for fear of never marrying; believing that a godly life won’t be any fun.
C. A desire for total freedom: Many seek to be completely free. But if they do what they want, when they want it, to whomever they want, they will eventually find death (James 1:15).
D. An unforgiving spirit: Some people stop trusting the Lord because they were hurt in the past. Unless they deal with that pain, it will affect every area of their lives.
E. Denial of potential consequences: People think that they will escape the effects of sin. But none of us can smoke, abuse drugs, or commit acts of immorality without reaping the consequences of those choices.
IV. How does rebellion begin?
A. You start to desire something sinful.
B. Deception starts—Satan feeds you a lie, and you believe it.
C. You make a decision to rebel against the Lord.
D. You depart from His perfect will for your life.
V. What are the consequences?
A. Wandering and wondering: As we continue searching for fulfillment apart from the Father, we begin to wonder if the biblical teaching we’ve received is true or not. Soon, we begin to doubt our beliefs.
B. Waste: The Prodigal Son “squandered his estate with loose living” (Luke 15:13) and “devoured [his] wealth with prostitutes” (Luke 15:30). Rebellion against God always results in wasted time, talents, gifts, and/or health.
C. Want:When his money was gone, the young man was forced to work feeding pigs—the lowest job a Hebrew man could imagine. Moreover, no one cared enough to feed him (Luke 15:15-16). Walking away from God results in lack. You may not experience financial hardship. But without Christ, you will not have genuine, lasting peace.
D. Weariness: The body was not created to live with constant guilt, unforgiveness, and fear. I believe this is a reason some people develop chronic diseases early in life. Sin takes a toll on health.
VI. How can you return to God?
A. Follow the example of the Prodigal Son.
1. He “came to his senses” (Luke 15:17). He realized he could change and didn’t have to live in poverty.
2. He made a decision and took positive action based on it. He knew his father’s servants were better off, so he decided to return home and beg to be a hired man (Luke 15:17-19).
3. The young man repented for how he had been living and started acting differently.
B. How does God react when we return to Him?
1. With forgiveness and unconditional love. Luke 15:20 says that “while [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
2. The broken, impoverished young man was greeted with a robe, a ring, new shoes, and a celebration.
3. This parable illustrates that our heavenly Father willingly receives everyone who comes to Him in humility and brokenness.
VII. Conclusion: Many people believe the lie that they have sinned too much to be forgiven. But no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Regardless of what you have done, the Lord will show mercy if you confess and repent. His forgiveness will not erase all the scars of sin—the emotional, financial, and physical consequences—but it will give you a clean heart before Him.