Coming Home

Title: Coming Home

Bible Book: Luke 15 : 11-24

Author: Steve Wagers

Subject: Homecoming; Love of God; Forgiveness; Grace; Renewal; Restoration



William J. Kirkpatrick began his song writing ministry when he was a fife major to the 91st Regiment P.V. with the Union army in the Civil War. But, it was not until after the death of his first wife in 1878 was he able to devote himself full time to his great love. William wrote the tunes to many favorite hymns: "Jesus Saves, “"'Tis Sweet to Trust in Jesus," "Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It," and "He Hideth My Soul."

However, one of his most famous hymns was written to express his desire to see souls saved, and changed by the power of Christ. In his later years, he became a much-requested song leader at camp meetings.

In one of the meetings, a soloist had been hired to provide the special music. He had a magnificent voice, and was able to put tremendous expression into the music he sang. However, William noticed that the young man always left after he finished singing, and never stayed to hear the sermon.

Afraid that the soloist was not a Christian, William knelt in his tent and prayed long and earnestly for his soul. As he prayed, some words began to form in his mind. He wrote them down and set them to a haunting tune.

That evening, William handed the newly-written words and tune to the soloist. Visibly moved after he had sung them, the man stayed for the sermon, went to the altar that night and gave his heart to Christ. The song became a popular invitation hymn in evangelical services, winning many others beside the man it was written for.

It was these words, written by William J. Kirkpatrick, that the Holy Spirit used to bring salvation to a lost soul:

"I've wandered far away from God
Now, I'm coming home
The paths of sin too long I've trod
Lord, I'm coming home.

Coming home, coming home
Never more to roam
Open wide thine arms of love,
Lord, I'm coming home."

The story of the prodigal son is a perfect fit to the great hymn, “Lord, I’m Coming Home.” At the end of the day, there was a homecoming all because of his coming home.

I recently read of two men who were enjoying a luncheon together. One of the men was an established business man, whose wealth launched into the millions. The other was a young, ambitious businessman. The wealthy man, however, had a son in prison for drugs. As they talked, the young man looked to the older tycoon and said, “You’re so successful. I would give the world to have what you have.” Without any hesitation, the older millionaire replied, ‘Son, I’d gladly give it all up today if my son were right with God!”

I’m sure that there are many, in this room that has loved ones that are not right with God. And if the truth be told, you would give anything, or do anything to see that husband, wife, son, or daughter come home to Jesus.

Luke 15 is a wonderful example of a loved coming home. The verses do not tell three different parables, but one parable which gives three different pictures. However, they each comprise the same purpose. One picture is of a lost sheep; another picture is of a lost silver; and, the other picture is of a lost son. The theme is that something which is lost must be found. Thus, these three pictures explain to us how God views the glorious work of salvation.

God sees salvation as a shepherd, who leaves the ninety-and-nine, to go after one lost sheep. God sees salvation as a woman who moves heaven and earth to find a lost silver in her home. And God sees salvation as a lost son coming home to where he belongs.

Landrum P. Leavell said of the story, “It perfectly describes the inexpressible joy that comes to the heart of God through finding, or recovering a lost sinner, and restoring that one to Himself.” [1]

Jesus told this parable in response to the criticism of the Pharisees in verse 2, when they accused Him by saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

Jesus responds, to their religious hierarchy and hypocrisy, by telling the parable of the lost sheep, the lost silver and the lost son. It is the lost son that I draw your attention to today for our Homecoming service, because we see that there was a homecoming due to the son’s coming home.

I want you to notice 3 things about this boy. First, we see as:


The father, in this story, had “two sons.” All that we know of these “two sons” is that the younger brother is a sinner, and the elder brother is self-righteous.

One day, the youngest son decided he had had enough of the rules, regulations, and restrictions of living at home, under his father’s roof. Thus, we watch him as a wayward son who goes out from his father’s care.

I can just picture the boy as he goes into the living room, he walks up to his father, and we see two interesting things. First, is:


The young boy walks in, filled with pride and arrogance, his chest held out, and in verse 12, lets his selfish request known. We read that, “The younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” Apparently, the father did not put up a fight, because we read that, “he divided unto them his living.” At the death of the father, the Jewish law allotted one-half as much to the younger son as to the elder, the equivalent of one-third of the total estate. [2]

However, this young renegade could not wait until his father’s death, because he wanted it now. Perhaps he thought he deserved it, or had it coming to him, but whatever the case, he presented his selfish request. Instead of dedication, there was demand. "Give me." Instead of loyalty there was lust. "Give me." Instead of surrender there was selfishness. "Give me." He wanted what he wanted, and he wanted it when he wanted it.

However, I want you to notice a couple of things about his selfish request. First, notice where it took him. The father agrees to give the son the “portion” of his “living,” or inheritance. Then, the wayward one takes off, suitcase in arm, and in verse 13, “not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.”

A. T. Robertson suggests that the phrase, “...took his journey,” implies that the boy “burned all of his bridges behind him.” [3] In other words, he never looked back for a moment, because at this moment, it was all about him.

It took him to a “far country.” The word “far” is the Greek word makros. It is used to speak of space or time. In other words, the boy apparently went some where that was a fair distance from his home. However, he could have gone just a few hundred feet down the road, and that would have been a “far country.” The space, time or distance wasn’t important, because no matter where, or how far the boy went, he was still away from the father’s home. Thus, in that regard, anywhere would have been a “far country.”

Perhaps today, you’re not an out-and-out sinner, guilty of murder, robbery, adultery, or theft. In fact, you may be a pretty good “old Joe,” but you are not where you need to be with God. Thus, you are living in a “far country.”

The “far country” is the place where you have society without the Savior, pleasure without prayer, self-indulgence without self-control. It is the place where you indulge in the material and ignore the spiritual, where you stuff your stomach but starve your soul, that place which leads to a dead-end road called "Emptiness."

If you are not saved, you are living in a “far country.” If you are saved, but not living in fellowship with God, you are living in a “far country.” The “far country” is where it took this boy, and where it takes us as well.

Because of where it took him, we see what it cost him. The young boy gets what he has asked for. The father grants his request for his “portion of goods,” but it took him farther than he wanted to go, and cost him more than he wanted to pay. We read in verse 13, that when he arrived in the “far country,” it became the place where he “wasted his substance with riotous living.” The word “riotous” speaks of living dissolutely, or profligately. Phillips translates it, “he squandered his money in the wildest extravagance.” In other words, he just started throwing his money around on anything, and everything that afforded him a good time.

Apparently, the boy’s pockets had holes in them, because we read in verse 14, “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” The money stopped, but the misery had only begun. No doubt, this young boy thought that when he finally got out from under the rules of the house that he was going to live in freedom. But, ironically enough, what this boy thought was freedom, was actually slavery of the worst kind. He had become a moral and physical outcast. He had debauched himself, as well as his wealth. Thus, he began to be in want, because he had wasted his time, talents and treasures on what he wanted, because he possessed the Frank Sinatra philosophy, “I Did It My Way.”

August Van Ryn says, “Here is the story, graphically told by our Lord, of millions of human lives: from wealth to waste to want to woe.” [4]

Where did his request take him? To a “country” “far” away from his loving father. What did his request cost him? It cost him much more than money; it cost him misery.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote the autobiography of many sinners in these poetic words:

“This is the price I pay

Just for one riotous day.

Years of regret and of grief,

And of sorrow without relief.

Suffer it I will, my friend,

Suffer it until the bitter end.

Until the grave shall give relief,

Small was the thing I bought,

Small was the thing at best.

Small was the debt, I thought,

But, O God, what interest!” [5]

Yet, ladies and gentlemen, that is always where sin takes us, and what sin costs us. There is “pleasure in sin for a season,” because if sin wasn’t fun, or enjoyable, it would never be attractive, appealing, and alluring.

But, many forget that while sin may carry a wholesale price, it always ends up in a retail cost. When we sin, we always pay more than we bargain for. It always takes us farther than we want to go, costs us more than we want to pay; and, makes us stay longer than we want to stay.

As a result, his selfish request led only to:


The boy’s money runs out due to his profligate spending. As a result, a boy who left home with everything is now far away from home with nothing. He goes to the unemployment office and finds work with a farmer in the “far country” who, in verse 15, “sent him into his fields to feed swine.” Before long, the young boy went from feeding the swine to wanting to be fed like the swine. In verse 16, “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” The husks were only the shell without the kernel. It was the covering without the contents. What a sad ruin! Here is boy who had left home dressed up in his best togs, only to go to the dogs and wind up with the hogs! He was to the point that even the gristles in the hog slop would have been a tasty meal for him.

This was the ultimate degradation for a Jew, because Jewish regulations made any form of swine defiling and unclean. To this day, a devout Jew looks upon pork as something that is forbidden, and totally unclean. Yet, we find this boy at the very place where a Jew would dare never go, intentionally or unintentionally. The pig pen was a place of defilement, degradation and desperation. This was all because of his foolish and selfish request.

Yet is that not a perfect picture of what sin is, and what sin does? In fact, companies have finally figured this out in relation to how they advertise their products. That’s why the beer commercial shows the most beautiful women, scantily clad, holding a foaming glass of beer. But, they never show you the back side of the picture which reveals a man who has lost it all to his own sensual and sinful appetite for more.

Perhaps you may be one of the ones who thinks, “Preacher, you don’t understand, it’s just a little thing that doesn’t hurt anybody. I can handle it.” But, my question to you is, “Can it handle you?” The answer is, “No,” because it holds the winning hand, and will ultimately win the game.

The story is told of a famous smith, in Medieval times, that was taken prisoner and held in a dungeon. He began to examine the chain that bound thinking that he would find a flaw that would make it easy for him to break it. As he studied it, he discovered that the chain was a piece of his own work. For years he had boasted how that no one could ever break a chain that he had made. However, now, he found himself bound by his own work.

Sin fascinates, but it frustrates; sin thrills, but it tortures; it woos, but it wounds. It hums at first like a humming bird, but it pains at last like a hornet. All sin's cisterns are broken, and they hold no water. All sin's flowers hold the worm, the canker, and the grief.

What a tragic picture of this prodigal, as well as millions of people still today. Secondly, I want you to notice that the wayward one goes out; and, then:


Get the picture. Here is a young boy who began as a prince, but has become a pauper. He started the day with promise, but ends the day in pity. Living at home, he possesses dignity; but leaving from home, he possesses defilement, degradation and disgrace.

He doesn’t make an appointment to see a counselor, because apparently he holds a counseling session with himself. As a result, the wayward one who had gone out becomes the wounded one who has given up.

Notice how:


I love the opening words of verse 17, “And when he came to himself.” In other words, reality sets in on a boy who looks around and finds himself in the very place he never thought he would end up; a pig pen of all places.

Once he recognizes where is, he then remembers, reflects and recalls where he used to be. “He said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” He remembers how much food was available at his father’s house; he reflects on how good the food used to taste; and, he recalls that, after the servants had served the food, they were able to eat themselves. Yet, here he is in a hog pen. Once, the servants served him; now, he is serving another man’s hogs. What a contrast to what he had to what he has now.

In his work, “Christian Element in Plato,” Ackerman stated that the great mind, Plato, believed that “redemption was coming to oneself.” If that is what he truly believed, I am in full agreement with him.

You see a person must become lost before they will ever be saved. A person must become helpless in order to receive help. A person must become hopeless in order to receive hope. A person must become desperate before they can be delivered.

I well remember the Saturday morning when I “came to myself.” A preacher’s kid, who thought he had the world by the tail, but I finally realized that I was as lost as ball in tall grass; and, that I could not get to Heaven because my parents were Baptist. But, if I wanted to go to Heaven, I had to become a BELIEVER! I always knew that I wasn’t saved, so every time that I got in trouble, I would walk the aisle, cry crocodile tears and think that everything was all right. I made so many professions of faith, and was baptized so many times that the tadpoles knew my Social Security number, but I was still lost. However, that morning, reality set in and I “came to myself.” Because of my upbringing, I was well versed in the Bible. That morning, I knew what the Bible said, but I got it down anyway. I opened it to Romans 10: 9 and God said to me, “If you will, I will; so I DID AND HE DID! I got saved, because I “came to myself;” and, if you get saved, it will because you “came to yourself,” and realize that Hell is hot for sinners, Heaven is sweet for saints, and Jesus will save your soul.

After reality sets in:


The boy began the day full of pride, but he ends the day full of pity. He started out high, but he ended up humble. Once the reality of his condition set in, humility over his condition took over.

We read his humble confession in verses 18-19, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

Once and for all, he recognizes where his sin took him and what his sin cost him. He began up-and-out, but ended up out-and-out. He sees his own pitiful condition, and admits that the high servants once beneath him, are now far above him.

My dad used to say that, “God does business with honest and humble people.” If that be true, then business is about to pick up, because we not only watch as the wayward one goes out, and the wounded one gives up; but:


Reality has set in. Humility has taken over. The boy remembers that things weren’t so bad back home, so in verse 20, “he arose, and came to his father.”

I don’t know if the pig pen confession was a rehearsal or not, but, in verse 21, we hear him say the same thing to his father he had said to himself, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

The wayward one who had gone out and the wounded one who had given up becomes the welcomed one who had gotten back. Notice how:

A. His Arrival was ANTICIPATED

The scene changes from the son to the father. We read, in verse 20, “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him.” The indication is that the father anticipated his son’s return. The word “saw” is the Greek word oida, which means, “To know by perception.” In other words, the father perceived, or anticipated the son’s arrival.

I can just see the boy as he staggers up the road. His hair is uncut, his face is unshaven, and his clothes reek beyond compare. The father would go and stand on the porch every morning when he got up, and every night before he went to bed in hopes that the son might be walking up the path. However, this particular day, the flower of hope begins to bloom in the father’s heart. As a result, the father looked for him. “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him.” Finally, the one for which he had looked so far, had come home. Then, the father leaped toward him. He “had compassion, and ran.” The father, in this story, is a wonderful of God. Thus, what we have is the only time in the Bible where God ever got in a hurry. He, in the character of the father, “ran” to welcome a wayward boy back home. After he looked for him and leaped toward him, the father lunged at him. He “fell on his neck.” The uncut hair, the unshaven face and the unbearable smell didn’t matter to a loving father. Finally, after he looked for him, leaped toward him, and lunged at him, the father loved on him. We read that he “kissed him.” The word “kissed” is the Greek word kataphileo, which means, “To kiss fervently.” In other words, the father kissed him, kissed him again, and kept kissing him over and over.

Yet, that is exactly how God Himself reacts to a lost soul that comes home. He is looking for you, waiting on you to come. He will leap toward you, lunge at you, and then love on you, kissing you with the sweet kisses of forgiveness and grace, over and over again.

Because his arrival was anticipated:

B. His Arrival was CELEBRATED

Once the son arrived at home, and once the father composes himself, IT’S PARTY TIME! The son asked to be treated not like a son, but like a servant. But, the father had something different in mind.

We read in verses 22-24, “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: [23] And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: [24] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

There was no remembrance, rehearsal, or recital of the sins the son had committed. Not a word of denunciation, condemnation, or exasperation over the life he had lived. All that mattered was that the one that was “lost” had been “found and that called for a celebration.

As a result, he was robed with forgiveness. In the Bible, robes are used to speak of righteousness. It pictures acceptance and standing. Yet, the father doesn’t simply ask for a robe, but the “best robe.” Not the first robe you find, but the first in rank and value, the finest in the house.

Once he was robed with forgiveness, he was ringed with favor. In Bible days, a ring was given as a pledge of love and loyalty, fidelity and favor. A ring identified that the recipient was a part of the favor of the giver.

Since the ring was circular, it revealed unending love and favor. The ring said, “I don’t care what you have done, or what you will ever do, you will never get beyond my love.”

He was robed with forgiveness, he was ringed with favor; and, then, he was re-shod with fellowship. By putting “shoes on his feet,” the father rebutted the son’s request to be a servant, because servants were barefoot and possessed no shoes. Shoes were only given to those who belonged to the house.

Finally, after he was robed with forgiveness, ringed with favor and reshod with fellowship; he was rewarded with festivity. The “calf” was kept “fatted” for festive occasions.

Other than Genesis 18, when Abraham had lunch with God and killed the fatted calf; this is the only time it is mentioned. The “fatted calf” indicated that the Redemptive father and the repentant sinner were going to sit down and eat the same food.

Yet, ladies and gentlemen that is exactly what God does for us when we come home to Him. First, he robes us with fellowship. Our righteousness is nothing more than “filthy rags;” but, when we give our heart to Christ we are suddenly robed, not with just any robe, but the BEST robe, and “made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Then, he rings us with favor. Once we are saved, he seals us with the “Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” In other words, the ring of the Holy Spirit’s favor guarantees a home in Heaven, as well as reminds us that, no matter where we go, or what we do, we can never outrun God’s love.

Then, he re-shods us fellowship. We who were once sinners that “walked according to the course of this world,” and deserve to be in hell with our back broke, are equipped with our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Our new shoes identify that we are no longer servants, but sons; and, “if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”

Finally, after he robes us with forgiveness, rings us with favor, and reshods us with fellowship; He rewards us with festivity. We who deserve to live on the devil’s scrap pile are able to put our feet under His table today; and, we will put our feet under His table one day when the Bride and the Bridegroom sit down at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Hallelujah to God, I’ve been robed with forgiveness, ringed with favor, re-shod with fellowship and rewarded with festivity. I couldn’t go to hell if I wanted to, because I’m Heaven bound with the hammer down, all because of the day that I came home.


I love the old story of a wealthy man who had only one son, who he loved dearly. The wealthy man was interested in collecting expensive and rare pieces of art. He taught his son to love art as well, and together they began to collect some of the most exquisite pieces of art in the world.

A war broke out and the son was called away to fight. After a few months, the father received the word that his son was missing in action, and not long after that his son had been killed. The father's heart was shattered. He had accumulated all of these treasures, but none of them could compare to his only son.

One day, a knock came to the father's door. As he opened the door he saw a soldier, in full uniform. The soldier said, "Sir, I was a good friend of your son. I want you to know that he died trying to save the lives of other people. I am not an artist, but I painted a picture of your son just before he died, and I wanted to give it to you." The father was overjoyed. He had seen better, more quality work, but none of that mattered, because this was a portrait of his son.

The father took the painting and put it over the mantle in his home, in the midst of millions of dollars worth of art. In time, the old man died. Invitations were sent to come to an auction of the old man's art collection.

Many came from around the world to bid on these rare items. As the auction opened the auctioneer started off with the painting of the old man's son. Many of the famous art collectors shouted, "That isn't worth anything. It's the worst painting I've ever seen. We came to see 'real' art. Let's get to the good stuff."

The auctioneer stated that the stipulation of the father's will was that the painting of the son was to be sold first. They started the bidding at $100, but no bids. Then $50, but no bids. Finally, the bidding went to $10, and one of the old man's servants, in the back, said, "I'll give $10 for the painting."

Suddenly, the auctioneer lowered his gavel and shouted, "This auction is officially over!" Cries came back from the crowd, "What do you mean this auction is over?" The auctioneer then informed them that, according to the will of the Father, "WHOEVER GET THE SON, GET’S IT ALL!"

I came to Him a sinner, but He made me a saint. I came to Him a pauper, but He made me a prince. I came to Him a child of the devil, but He made me a child of God. I came to Him in a famine, but He gave me a feast.

I came to Him with grief, but He filled me with glory. I came to Him in humiliation, but He threw me a celebration. I came to Him a beggar, but He made me a believer. I came to Him a victim, but He made me a Victor. I came to Him fallen, but I left Him fixed.

I came to Him corrupted, but He made me converted. I came to Him with Him nothing, but He gave me everything. I came to Him on my way to Hell, but He put me on the road to Heaven.

He robed me with forgiveness, He ringed with favor, He reshod me with fellowship; and, He rewarded me with festivity that I will enjoy while the ages roll.

He did it for me, and He will do it for you, if you will only “come to yourself” and say:

"I've wandered far away from God
Now, I'm coming home
The paths of sin too long I've trod
Lord, I'm coming home.
Coming home, coming home
Never more to roam
Open wide thine arms of love,
Lord, I'm coming home."


1) “For Prodigals and Other Sinners,” Landrum P. Leavell, pg. 11.

2) Word Pictures in the New Testament, A. T. Robertson, pg. 207.

3) IBID, pg. 208.

4) Meditations in Luke, August Van Ryn, pg. 133.

5) “Payday Someday,” Sermon by R. G. Lee, pg. 41.

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