Archive for the “Repentance” Category

The Parable of the Lost Son, or the Prodigal Son as many call it, has three main characters: The father and his two sons. There are significant lessons that can be found when viewing the story from the perspective of each character. In this first blog we’ll look at the story through the eyes of the prodigal son. First, the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

The story begins with the words “Jesus continued.” This parable follows two other parables that make the same point – there is great rejoicing when a sinner repents.  I blogged about that in Helping Others Find Faith – Bringing Joy to Heaven.

The Parable of the Lost Son provides a visual, earthly picture of that same theme. The lost son is a perfect example of a rebellious, ungrateful, perhaps spoiled young man. He doesn’t want anything to do with hard work. He wants what is “rightfully” his, and he wants to do with it whatever he wants, with no consideration for others or his own future. I’m guessing many of us were in that same mindset to one degree or another at some point in our lives. It is the essence of our sin nature – it’s all about me. I want what I want and I want it now and I don’t want anyone (especially God) telling me what I can and can’t do with it.

So the father gave his son his inheritance and the son set off for a “distant land.” I’m reminded of Jonah who, in his desire to escape God’s will, ran as far away as he could (Jonah 1:3).

After squandering his inheritance, he found himself with no money, no place to live and nothing to eat. Jobs were scarce because the economy had crashed while the son was spending his money.

The Bible Exposition Commentary on the New Testament brings out this important point?

Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery (John 8:34); it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The boy thought he would “find himself,” but he only lost himself! When God is left out of our lives, enjoyment becomes enslavement.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1

And that’s exactly what the lost son was experiencing. In his desperation, “He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.” (Luke 15:15, NLT) He’d gone from being the son of a man of means to living high on the hog (as they say in the south) to feeding the hogs. What a transition!

In the muck and mire of the hog pen (what a place to find a Jewish boy!), Scripture says the son “came to his senses.” The King James Version translates it as “he came to himself.” The lost son found himself – his true self. You see, we were not made for sin. We were made, created, to bring glory to our creator. We were made to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” according to the Westminster catechism. The lost son returned to the person he was created to be, recognized how far removed he had become from that person, and made a decision to return. He had been to the distant land and wanted to return home.

The definition of repent is “to change one’s mind.” That’s what the prodigal son did. He changed his mind. His selfish attitude became one of humility, as evidenced by his words and actions:

18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 (NIV)

The son had no expectation that his father would rejoice upon seeing him again. He had no expectation of a great welcome home party. He had only the humble request that he be allowed to work as a hired hand. He came to his senses and repented. He changed what he was doing and returned to his father. And there was great rejoicing.

Just as there is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to his or her heavenly Father.

Notice, though, that there would have been no party if the son hadn’t changed his behavior as well as his thinking. If he had simply acknowledged in the hog pen that his dad was right but he was still going to live his own life. True repentance requires a change in behavior as well as thinking. Do we sometimes fall after committing to that change. Yes. But it is in continually returning to the Father that we find our salvation.

What strikes me the most about the change in the son is the great humility required to return to the father and say “I was wrong. I’m not worthy to be your son. Will you hire me as a lowly servant?”

Lord, develop that attitude in my heart in a greater way. “I was wrong. (I am wrong.) I’m not worthy to be your daughter. Will you accept me as your lowly servant?”

Of course, our loving Father says “Yes. Child, come. And let’s celebrate together. Here, let me give you freedom (in the way of complete forgiveness) and then let me give you the Kingdom.”

Wow! What an exchange!

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