Last night in Christian Fellowship we looked at Luke chapter 15. In that chapter, Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. These parables pretty much mirror each other and although the first two are very short, they have a lot of power.
Jesus started telling the parables in response to the Pharisees thoughts of it being wrong for Jesus to "welcome" and "eat" sinners. In the parables Jesus made the point that even though the sheep wandered off, the coin was lost and the son did so many foolish things, they were all valuable enough for the owner/father to find them. And that is how God is toward us.
In the parable of the lost son, the father welcomed his son back with open arms. He knew what type of life his son was living and that he had blown all the fortune that he gave to him, but he didn't care. From the younger son's point of view, he realized he did wrong and was ready to apologize and as he started to beg for forgiveness the father cut him off and welcomed him with nothing but the finer things. The younger son was filthy because he had been working with pigs but the father still clothed him with the best and hugged and kissed him.
The older son who had stayed with his father wasn't pleased with his reaction to the younger son coming home because he felt as if he should have been celebrated because he stayed home and worked in the fields. The father explained that his youngest was dead because he was out living a lavish life. But is now alive because he recognized his wrong and was home to get things straight. And that was something to celebrate for.
Most of us act like the older son. We think that if we stay in the church then we should receive all of the rewards but in actuality it is the sinner who dedicates/rededicates his life to the Lord who should be praised. In an earlier chapter in Matthew, Jesus explained that He is here on earth to save the sinner. What good would it be for Jesus to save the already saved? That does not add to the kingdom.
(You should read Luke 15. There is so much more detail and awe moments than what I wrote.)