The text for this message was Luke 15:25-32, from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger brother gets most of the press, but what we can learn from the older brother is no less significant. At the end of the parable, it is the sinful, despicable younger brother who ends up in the father's house, while the good, relgious older brother ends up outside of the house and distant from the father. This should bother us a bit and it does. I described how religious goodness has a way of causing older brother types to feel so deserving of Father God's love that they actually miss that love. Younger brothers seem to have any easier time relying upon God's grace than older brothers who tend to rely on their goodness, their religion. "Religion rots the redeemed" was a mantra I intentionally repeated about 4-5 times during the sermon. Religion allows us to rely upon our goodness while relatonship invites us to rely upon God's grace.
All of us come to Christ as younger brothers but, if we're not careful, we end up becoming older brothers over time. There are a few keys to staying a younger brother who is close to the father's heart. First, invite God to point out areas where you have a tendency to be an older brother, where you have replaced a relationship with God based on grace with religion based on your goodness. Also, spend time cultivating intimacy with your Father through Scripture and prayer- not a as a religious checklist but s a conversation with your Father. Finally, spend time with younger brother types who are needy for God's grace and know it, more readily than older brothers do.
Here is the sermon: http://www.stroudsburgwesleyan.org/index.php?page=audio_sermons2&audio_id=42
Take a listen and share your reflections by posting your comments.