Posted by: pastortomvabeach | March 27, 2012

Thought for the Week April 1, 2012

In my last segment, I began a discussion about repentance. One of the best illustrations of what repentance is and how it works is the parable Jesus gave us which we call “The Prodigal Son.” The scenario in Luke 15, depicts what sin does to us and how repentance works to turn us back to our loving Father.

The story goes that a son asked his father for his inheritance, which seems to have been pretty sizeable. The generous father granted the son’s wish and the son left for some far away place and wasted the entire amount on “riotous (or wild) living”. Once the money was gone he found himself alone, broke, homeless, and hungry. The worst thing was that he was separated by a great distance from his father.

This shows us the results of sin. Rebellion against God moves us into being separated from God and the distance is huge. We are actually born in this condition due to the first sin of Adam and Eve and live our lives apart from our Father. Spiritually we are as broke and alone as the young man in the story. Probably the only upside to this story is that the young man’s hunger helped him remember his father. I can tell you from personal experience that the distance I was from God as a young man got my attention, too.

This is where repentance comes in. If you read the story there were three elements in the process of repenting. The first related to his mind or intellect. Luke 15:17 says when he came to himself (or came to his senses), he began to honestly and logically assess what was happening and changed his mind about the situation. It’s like he thought, “What am I doing here? My dad feeds his servants better than this and I’m here starving.” Repentance always involves a change of mind which means we recognize that God is right and we change our thinking to be like His.

The next thing we see is a change in his emotions. Not only did he realize the truth of the situation, but it began to grip his heart. He says, “I’m gonna go tell dad that I’ve sinned and don’t deserve to be called his son. Maybe he’ll hire me as a servant.” Can you sense the sorrow in his thinking? He recognizes it’s not just a bad situation for which he’s not responsible but is convicted in his heart that he made it happen by rebelling against his father and against God.

This is a necessary part of repentance. Paul says I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. (II Corinthians 10:9) There is an element of knowing we have offended God and being heart sorry for that offense. Note that sorrow, in itself, is not repentance. We can have remorse due to consequences of a situation which is mainly due to our own feelings of loss, hurt, etc. Godly sorrow is the sorrow that turns us towards our Father and says, “I’ve sinned against you. I’ve messed up. I want to come back.” Godly sorrow turns our hearts towards God and moves us towards Him. Repentance involves a change of heart.

Finally, we see the key ingredient to true repentance. Verse 20, says he arose and came to his father. This young man could have experienced a change of mind and a change of heart and stayed right where he was, in the pig pen far away from his father. There had to be one more change to make the repentance work – a change of will. He had to get up and go to his father. This is so important when we think about repentance. Recognizing “Houston, we’ve got a problem,” and shedding tears about how badly it makes us feel are a beginning but unless we make the turn and go to the Father we remain as separated as always.

I think this relates to the thoughts James gives us about faith, “Faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:20. I think this is why “Repentance from dead works and faith towards God” go hand in hand. Repentance is that act of our will where we act like we believe what we profess to believe about God (we’ve sinned), about Jesus (He died for us), and about life (whoever believes on Him will have eternal life). Repentance lines up my thinking, heart, and will with God’s thinking, heart, and will and moves me to walk in step with the Father instead of in step with the world.

And look what happens when we turn towards the Father. In the parable the Father was always looking and waiting for the son to return. He never stopped waiting for him and when he saw the young man afar off, he called the welcoming committee to throw a homecoming party! This is God! He constantly looks for every one of us to turn towards home. He has so much waiting for us, not as servants, but as children in the family.

Repentance is a foundational truth on which Christianity rests. It should be so basic that every Christian can teach it after just a short time following Christ. It opens the door for salvation for us and, after that, becomes our guiding principle in living for Christ. What I mean is, if I sin after trusting in Christ, I can repent of that sin and keep the relationship close. Repentance can and should be almost an everyday part of our lives. How are you doing? Just a thought.

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