Refusing to Go In

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And he was angry, and would not go in — Luke 15:28

He Leads In The Clouds

He Leads In The Clouds

An Inexhaustible Parable

I never really spoken about this beautiful parable, but tonight, I hope to speak on it from my own, personal experience. (1 John 1:1-3). This parable is so full of teaching and so full of hope that in a lifetime one could not exhaust it’s grand themes. Some would just settle for speaking upon this verse when discussing our duties to our equals. But I am choosing it for a different purpose, and I want to put it in a different setting. I want to look at this brother in the parable as the type/example of the person who will not enter into a love that is too big for earth, and into a household/church that is home indeed.

“And he was angry, and would not go in.”

I have been in that very condition. Are there not multitudes in that condition? They see the gleaming of the lights of home, or Church, and there is the sound of music and celebration in their ears. And yet even though they know that they would have a similar welcome, and add to the gladness of it all by entering in themselves, somehow or other, like the brother here in the parable, they stand in the cold night outside the door. I am not speaking to those who have accepted Christ, and know His fellowship, I am speaking to those so near to an open door and the open window that they see the light and hear the sound of music. They are witnessing to the unfeigned love of the brethren,” (1 Pet 1:22)  And yet though the night is over them and all around them, and they are hungry and the feast is there, somehow or other they will not go in. Let me ask you in passing to lay this to heart, that no one will ever force you in.

God is too careful of our human freedom to drag us against our will into His home. You must go willingly or not at all. You must make up your mind to go, and do it. And probably there is no hour so fit for that as just this hour which you have reached.

There are two things about which I want to speak in connection with the conduct of this brother. First, I want to look at the reasons which kept him from entering the home that night. Second, I want to find out what he missed because he thus refused to enter.

He Could Not Understand His Father’s Ways

First, looking at the man in this story, why was it that he refused to enter?

I think to begin with, that it was in his heart to enter; but that he could not understand his father’s ways. Doubtless he had always loved his father. Doubtless he had always honoured him. He had never before questioned his sagacity, or dreamed of thinking of him as unjust. But now, in the hour of the prodigal’s return, when the house was ablaze with light and loud with merriment, all he had cherished of his father’s justice seemed to be scattered to the winds of heaven. Was this the way to receive back a prodigal? Was it really possible that his father had put a premium on the prodigal’s folly? Was it fair to this other son, the non-prodigal,so faithful and so patient all those years, that a hapless trouble-making sibling should have this kind of welcome? He could not understand his father’s ways at all.

But is this the only man who has stood without because of irritating thoughts like that? Are there none here who will not enter because they cannot understand the Father’s dealings? They cannot fathom the mysteries of divine providence. They cannot understand the cruelties of nature. They cannot grasp the meaning of the cross, or see the solidity of the death of Jesus, nor the power of His resurrection. Am I speaking right now to anyone who feels like that—who cannot understand the Father’s dealings?

I want to say to you that the one way to learn them is to come at once into the home. For the ways of God are sometimes like “thick clouds,” (Psalms 78:14), which to those outside of Christ are dark, scary, or sometimes, just meaningless. Their beauty and the story of said clouds only can be known to those who already are within.

He Was Indignant with His Brother

I think again this man refused to enter because he was indignant with his brother. He was indignant that one with such a character should have a place at all within the house. It is not likely that he ever loved his brother, and perhaps his brother had never much loved him. There was such a difference between their natures that they could hardly have been the best of comrades. For the one was always generous to a fault, and always getting into trouble somewhere; and the other was a pattern of sobriety, and as cautious as he was laborious.

Such Jacobs, and they are found in every region, are always a little contemptuous of the Esaus. Secretly they despise them and their singing, and they cannot understand why people love them. And when they find that they are home again, and that all the household is in revelry, then are they angry and will not go in. So was it with this person in the parable. He was not only angry with his father; he was deeply indignant that in the house of gladness a man should be tolerated such as his brother was. And I know many who are standing outside—who are angry and will not go in—for a reason precisely similar to that.

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I recall many people coming to me over these last few years, to tell me why they could/would never join the church. It seemed that virtually all of them recalled some miserable experience where another would make great flowery professions of being “Christians,” and all the time that the person they would tell me about was up to some criminal or otherwise despicable act that was anything but Christian. We have all seen it. People, very busy, busy in attending meetings and acting as a “leader,” yet all the while engaged in depravity, cruelty, gossip, or some sort of criminal behaviour.

“And he was angry, and would not go in.”

Who today is this speaking of?

People, very indignant with those who have done or are doing wrong. Too often we hear the cry: “If these are the kind of people who are in, then it is better that I should be without, and not ever go in.”

And I tell you there are many just like that, who would come in to a Church, and get their welcome, if it were not for what they have seen in you, or in me.  My friend, standing in the darkness there outside, there is a great deal to justify your attitude. But why do you leave the happiness to us when we are such prodigals and so unworthy of it? Come in yourself tonight out of the cold. Bring your enthusiasm and your courage, and your faithfulness with you. And not only will you receive a blessing, but you will be a blessing to us all. Be the change that you so desire.

He Trusted the Reports of Others

I think again this man refused to enter because he trusted the reports of others. He did what is always a foolish thing to do—he went on the information of the servants. Had he gone right in and seen things for himself, the night for him would have had a different issue. One look at his brother might have softened him, there were such traces of hell about his face. But instead of that he went to the stable door, where the other was loafing and listening to the music, and he, the first-born of his father’s family, was content to get his information there. Now of course we know that he was told the truth.

“Thy brother is come, and they are making merry.”

But might not the truth be told in such a way as would irritate and rankle just a little? It is always the prodigals whom the servants love. It is always the prodigals they like to serve. And there would be just a touch of pleasing malice in it, when they told the elder brother what had happened.

“And he was angry, and would not go in.”

It was partly the servants’ tone that made him angry. He took his report of that most glorious night from people who knew nothing of its inner mystery. Could there be today, multitudes outside right now, because they have taken the report of others who are incapable of judging right or fair? Are you quite sure that your reports of Jesus are taken from those who know Him and who love Him?

Are we quite sure that in our thoughts of Christ there is no travesty of what is true? You must especially beware of that, in times like this when everyone is talking, and when a thousand judgments are passed on Jesus Christ and His Church, by people who have never touched the hem of His garment; you have the chance to believe that in the Gospel there is something that lies beyond the reach of intellect. Beyond the kindred doctrinal treats. There is something which is never understood except by those who have experienced it. (1 John 1;1-3). My late wife used to call it “Namaste.” And therefore if you are in earnest and are wise you will take no verdict upon the cross of Christ, except the verdict of the man or woman who has experienced its saving power. (1 John 5:11-12)

He Missed What He Most Needed

So much then for  the older brother’s reasons. Now let us consider just what it is that he missed.

To begin with, we could all agree that the man missed just what he needed the most.

Think of it, his day’s work was over. He was coming home in the evening from the field. Like a faithful servant he had been hard at work, driving the furrow or building up the fences. I honour him for that quiet and steady toil, and for being not above the servant’s duty. There would be more prosperous farms and prosperous businesses, if sons today would follow his example. But now the labours of the day were over.

“The ploughman homewards wends his weary way.”

And he was hungry and he needed food. He was weary and he needed rest. He was soiled and stained with his day’s work, and he wanted a change of raiment in the evening—and all that he needed in that evening hour was stored and treasured in his father’s house.

“BUT he was angry, and would not go in. “

He missed the very things that he was needing. All that would freshen him and make him strong again, he lost because he stayed outside the door. He was a soiled, weary, and hungry man, and everything was ready for the taking, yet no one forced him to the taking of it when he deliberately stood without. Is not that always the pity of it, when a person refuses the love of Jesus Christ? Do they not miss just what they need the very most? Much like the faithful, elder brother of the prodigal, all of us are soiled and we need cleansing; and all of us are weak and we need strength, and all of us are hungering and thirsting, and Christ alone can satisfy that hunger and that thirst.

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My friends, I want you to come in not to please me, but for your own sake first. I want you to come in, because just what you need now is waiting you in Christ. I want you to come in because that heart of yours is restless and unsatisfied and hungry; because when you were tempted last you fell, and you are missing the very thing you need the most. I want you to come in because I have been that man who was without. Standing on the outside swearing up and down Id “never go in” because of who was in there now. I was indignant that so and so, with such a character should have a place at all within the house of God.

It is not likely that this elder brother ever loved his younger, prodigal brother, and perhaps his brother had never much loved him? There was such a difference between their natures that they could hardly have been the best of comrades. For the one was always generous to a fault, the other, always getting into trouble somewhere; while the elder, “more faithful” one was a perfect pattern of sobriety, and as cautious as he was laborious. Such Jacobs, and they are found in every region, are always a little contemptuous of the Esaus. Secretly they despise them and their singing, and they cannot understand why people love them. And when they find that they are home again, and that all the household is in revelry, then are they angry and will “not go in.”

So was it with this person in the parable. He was not only angry with his father; he was deeply indignant that in the house of gladness a man “like that” should be tolerated such as his brother was. And I know many, as was I, who are standing outside—who are angry and will not go in—for a reason precisely similar to that. I can think of ways I am like that guy. I have reasons why “I won’t go in.”

People who repent after leading notoriously sinful lives are often held in suspicion; churches are sometimes unwilling to admit them to membership. I have experienced that. But wouldnt it be nice if we should all rejoice like the angels in heaven when an unbeliever repents and turns to God? Like the father, accept repentant sinners wholeheartedly and give them the support and encouragement that they need to grow in Christ. Instead of the forked tongue of anger that this text reveals?

I am finding myself more and more these last couple of months or so, everywhere I go, even here where there is no Church, how the following is so true:

The tender compassion of Jesus fell with a touch of healing upon weary and troubled hearts. Even amid the turbulence of angry enemies Jesus was surrounded with an atmosphere of peace. The beauty of His countenance, the loveliness of His character, and above all, the love expressed in look and tone, drew to Him all who were not hardened in unbelief. Had it not been for the sweet, sympathetic spirit that shone out in every look and word, Jesus would not have attracted the large congregations that He did. The afflicted ones who came to Him felt that He linked His interest with theirs as a faithful and tender friend, and they desired to know more of the truths He taught. Heaven was brought near. They longed to abide in His presence, that the comfort of His love might be with them continually. {DA 254.4}

I penned this message because I have two special friends, a husband and wife, and their tender compassion over these last few years while I struggled to look after my wife who recently died from cancer, whose steadfast support and prayers, sometimes even in the middle of the night, has fallen with a touch of healing upon this weary, sometimes troubled heart; and I rejoice that My First Love has arisen anew as THE true “Light In The Clouds.” Now all I can think about is how to pay it forward, and thats how and why I started my website, Light In The Clouds.  Its a veritable description/template for what I have been going through, and trying to do now with my witness for Christ.

He Missed the Joy

But what or who stole his joy? Not only did the elder brother miss what he needed the most; he also missed the joy and the gladness. He missed what some people would not miss for all the money in the world. He missed an excellent dance, a great party, and a good supper with people who “loved one another.”  Think of him, standing out under the stars, a man alone and out of touch with everybody. Have not you felt it when there was some nice gathering, and you were not one of the invited? And then, to make it worse to bear, the sound of the music floated through the air, and you could sense how happy they all were?

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Do you remember refusing that beckoning? The elder brother who was the pious one, was bitten by the fiercest jealousy. He was hurt; he was offended; he was miserable.  He rejected every ounze of joy and gladness that he saw in others.  Everyone was joyous except him. Everyone was in the light but he. And the strange thing is that in all the countryside there was not a single soul who would have been more welcome, nor one who had better “rights” and far-superior title to the gladness and the feasting of the night.

How we cherish what we perceive to be our rights. Our preeminence over others who “dont have the fullness of truth.” Ever hear a church talk like that? But stop and think for a minute: what a right some of you have to know the joy and feasting of the Lord! How you have been prayed for since you were little children in some cases! How hearts at your home have yearned for you in tears! And yet today you are the very one—you who have had an upbringing like that—who stands smugly without, and “will not enter in,” and then you too miss the gladness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to ask everyone reading this today: to come right in today. You are far more lonely than some people think. You are not as strong and independent as you say. No one is. I want you to have the gladness of “true religion,” (James 1:26-27), instead of that petty little, evanescent gladness. I pray for you to feel that in the love of Christ, with all its strengthening and all its saving, there is just that very deep strong joy that you are missing, and always will miss till you pass through that open door.  Until you come in.

“I am the door,” said Jesus. “By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9).

He Missed a Chance to Serve

If today, you will go in that Door, then you will realize by personal experience that you missed one thing more. What can we call it when we miss our chance of making others happy? Although I daresay the elder brother likely never thought of it so, his conspicuous absence was the one shadow on that feast. He was not, I take it, a very lovable person, and for that matter perhaps you or myself are not that either. He was not at all the kind of person we know, who is the life and soul of any gathering. And yet that night—that night and that alone—his presence would have been the crowning gladness; his absence was the one dark shadow upon a happiness and a rejoicing which was like that of the angels in heaven. That whole family had that; except for the elder brother who chose to drown himself in self-pity and jealousy, and judgments which were never his to make!

Do you think the prodigal could be at peace until his brother had come in and welcomed him? Could the father be happy when there was still one wanting, one whom he loved and honoured for his toil and his faithfulness? And all the time, bitter and angry heart, the man outside was missing his great chance, a chance that it is worth living years to win—the chance of making other people happy. Have you ever thought of the happiness you would/could give by coming in? If you have never thought of it before, I pray that you would be willing to think of it today. What of your mother, who has toiled and prayed for you? What of your father, though he never says much?

What of that friend whose eyes would be so different if you were but a faithful soul in Christ? What of the angels in their ranks and choirs who are waiting to rejoice when you are saved? What of Jesus Christ, the true Benefactor of mankind, who would see of the travail of His soul and would be satisfied? Please, do not miss your opportunity. It is a great vocation to make others glad. I would call you to it even if it were hard, and meant the sacrifice of what was very valuable. Isnt it time to plug the drain, and put a stop to the shrinking Church?

The wonderful thing about our Lord is this, that when you trust Him, and make others glad, in that very hour you become glad yourself, and win what you have craved for all along. Of a truth; we do reap whatever we sow.

The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring them back to the Father’s house. The prodigal son in his wretchedness “came to himself.” The deceptive power that Satan had exercised over him was broken. He saw that his suffering was the result of his own folly, and he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.” Miserable as he was, the prodigal found hope in the conviction of his father’s love. It was that love which was drawing him toward home. . .

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