Let Us Not Forget

Title: Let Us Not Forget

Bible Book: Luke 15 : 11-24

Author: Jerry N. Watts

Subject: America; Freedom; Memorial Day


[Editor's Note: This sermon was prepared for Independence Day, however, with minor changes it is fitting for Memorial Day as well.]

The story of the “Prodigal Son” has reached legendary status. Almost every person (believer or unbeliever) can give a general storyline. Let’s see if we can simplify it. A man had two sons. The older one was a hard working boy who understood and accepted responsibility and duty. Without any converse word, he gave all he had to the home place. The younger son, on the other hand, was the dreamer. He always felt like the grass was greener somewhere else. Although both boys enjoyed a comfortable life, the older one was settled and the younger was restless. Finally, restlessness got the best of him & he made a disrespectful request of his father for HIS share of the inheritance. Basically, he said, “I am unwilling to wait for you to die, so give me what’s mine NOW.” This younger son wanted his freedom. He wanted to be free from dad’s rules, dad’s chores, and dad’s expectations. He wanted to live a life that was free from the things of his past so that he could make his own life that would be loose, lax, and laid-back. His was to be a life of “no-worries”! It’s kind of like those animals from Lion King singing “Hakuna Matata” (no worries for the rest of your days). Sounds good, doesn’t it. But reality, like it always does, caught up with the young boy like it does for any person, state, or government who tries to live this way.

It was 232 years ago that this nation formally declared her independence from Great Britain. Although modern day revisionist will have us believe otherwise, our nation’s fathers and the ensuing leaders possessed a deep faith in Almighty God and the necessity of His guiding hand to establish and guide this nation. The end of the Declaration of Independence reads, “With a firm reliance on divine protection, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” John Q. Adams wrote that our country was “Born in a Day with our society founded in the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

Today our leaders are often under fire if they use Christian language in their public speaking. Now understand, it seems to use other religious or even irreligious language is okay, but to blatantly use language of the Bible, Jesus, and of Christian conviction brings about swift and sharp criticism. Separation of Church and state is the “stated reason” for this criticism. Yet in light of unrevised history, it would seem that our founding fathers were determined to keep the government out of the church while at the same time they had little desire to keep the church out of the government.

In short, any honest review of past presidents (i.e. Washington, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Harrison, McKinnley, Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush) would reveal all to have sprinkled their speeches with God’s word as their baseline of belief. It is upon this belief that thousands have staked and given their lives for this nation. Let us not, no ever forget!

What we are going to do is to take a look at the prodigal son and see if we can draw any parallels from him to us and this nation.

I. The Life of the Prodigal

Anyone who has been raised in a “family-styled” environment can get a sense of this life. Dad was the patriarch who gave out the assignments on the farm and he expected those chores to be completed. The family’s members oversaw and worked with the servants to make sure all the daily tasks were accomplished. In this society, this was a very good life. Because of the history and management of the family’s assets, the boys simply had to maintain the place and make sure nothing detrimental intruded and damaged the family’s interest.

Think about this in parallel to our nation. You and I, as citizens, have little to do except maintain and protect what our forefathers have given us to handle. Our generation has not been “called on” to secure our freedom but manage and protect it. This trust has been given to us by prior generations. Yes, we have men and women (America’s finest) on the field of battle defending freedom, while back on our homeland we are to stand, work, and preserve for which they are risking their lives. First Corinthians 4:2 says, “It is expected of managers that each one is found faithful.” This is exactly what the father expected of his son, it is exactly what the fathers of this nation expect of citizens, and it is exactly what God the Father expects of us! And all of us are given the freedom to do complete this task. Freedom. Think about that word. What does it mean? Let’s examine this thought in light of our story and our society.

A. The Scope of His Freedom

Recently I read a sermon which spoke of freedom in three phases: the freedom of; the freedom from; and the freedom for.

Phase 1 takes us back to our nation’s birth where it was laid forth in the Bill of Rights that we have freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press, and the like. The prodigal enjoyed all of these freedoms within the confines of His dad’s protection and provision. He had the run of the place as long as he fulfilled his tasks. He was the recipient of the blessings of a prior generation and was free from tyranny and oppression. He didn’t realize what it had taken to get the family business to where it was, to amass the possession which they called their own, and he didn’t realize the sacrifices of days past. But his freedom was FOR the present day work which he seemed to not understand. The result was “he took it for granted.” This is what is going on in America today. Could we need to amend our “Bill of Rights” with a “Bill of Responsibilities?” Instead of demanding our right, should there be more?

B. The Snare of His Freedom

His snare is our snare. It would seem that we have little firsthand knowledge of tremendous price which has been paid for our national freedom. Soldiers have risked and given their blood for us.

A couple of months ago I went to Florida to bury a man who risked his life on the shores of Normandy. Before his death, Frank Swanner told me that many men didn’t even make it out of the boats. Wounded men fell in the water and couldn’t swim because of the weight of their equipment. Quite likely, we have some among us today who were there and know first hand the cost of freedom. However, for those of us who have never experienced it and never seen combat, it is easier than we might like to admit to forget the cost and take it for granted. The younger son took it for granted and looked for the easier way. He wanted the far country.

Today it would appear that our country and our courts are filled with people who have begun to take freedom for granted. The results are that America seems to be losing her way. It would seem that we are caught in the snare of our own freedom and don’t care to get loose. For the prodigal, he never looked back until he spent time with the pigs.

C. The Source of His Freedom

It was in the pig pen where the prodigal remembered the source of his freedom and how to be free. All he had to do was to return from whence he had departed. There was still freedom in the Father’s house and he believed that dad could and would extend to him the same freedom as the lowly servants were granted. Somehow and someway he had to get home. He had to hit bottom to look up and remember his source.

It saddens me to say this, but I wonder if it is going to take this nation hitting bottom (spending some time in the pig pen, eating the husk of the pigs) to wake up the citizens (that’s you and me) to the truth of the source of this great nation’s strength and freedom. This truth is sprinkled throughout our founding documents, chiseled in stone on most of our national monuments, and even written into the code of our laws. The truth was spoken by John Adams when he said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Additionally, George Washington reportedly said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Our founding fathers, like the prodigal son, recognized the source of real freedom. The life of the prodigal is summed up in this way, “Began with promise, ran into the pig pen, and returned to the palace.” This is a “happily ever after story,” so let’s see what we can discern from it.

II. The Lessons from the Prodigal

it takes little imagination to know that the prodigal learned much from his journey to the far country. Actually, he learned that money can buy a person popularity, but it can’t buy you love. He learned when you get hungry enough, you’ll be surprised at what you will eat. He learned that real freedom is found in the father’s house. This is Jesus’ teaching about knowing the truth and the truth setting you free.

Understanding this principle, let’s take a look at the prodigal son’s trek to personal freedom and see if we need to get on track with our lives.

A. He Forgot His Freedom

There is an old axiom which states, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This is true on so many levels and for so many applications. First, we look at the son. He forgot the perks of being the “SON.” He became so consumed with his wants that his impatience took over causing him to make horrible decisions.

You and I need take an honest look at this nation, our culture, and see that the impatience of wanting everything “NOW” has begun to crumble the very foundation which our forefathers took great time and energy to construct? In this life of leisure, have we forgotten what it means to be free? Spiritually, have we forgotten the freedom granted to Adam and Eve in the garden before they became impatient and in that impatience disobeyed God? The prodigal, along with the first couple, are poster kids for this impatience.

B. He Forsook His Freedom

The prodigal didn’t simply forget his freedom in the Father’s house he took it a step further and forsook that freedom. Not only did he disrespect his father, he distanced himself from the very one who desired to make him all that he could be. Think about this; the day he walked away from the home place and headed toward the “far country” he thought he was free. To tell the truth, in his impatience and his ignorance, he walked away from a free life to a life that was destined to be bound by money, immorality, and certain failure. It seems to me that the USA has raised her sails to a contrary wind. It is a wind which leads to a far country - a country where God is dismissed, where immorality is hailed as an alternative lifestyle, and where the murder of the unborn and aged is the order of the day. While this is frightening, the only way this happens is for God’s people to forget and forsake the freedom found in Jesus. This is the freedom to stand peacefully for the Kingdom, to offer a better way, and to accept the consequences of our convictions (if required). It means being proactive. When the Prodigal came to his senses, he took action and…

C. He Found His Freedom

He said, “I know where I’ll go! It’s where I’ve already been and it’s with someone I can trust.” When he was in sight of the Father’s house, he was in sight of the Father who had been looking for him every day!

My memory goes back now and pictures me as a preteen. Maw-maw and Papaw lived in a wooden house about a quarter of a mile off of the main road. Many times they would see me coming because they were LOOKING for me. This is burned in my mind. It is something I will never forget.

Today, America may be headed toward the far country. The question is how do we change her direction? The answer? One heart at a time. It begins with your heart being set free in Jesus.

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