The story of the “Prodigal Son” is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible and I definitely relate to this story. The prodigal son is an example of all of us who have lost our way and alienated ourselves from God. And the good news is that God waits longingly for us to return.
The Parable of the Lost Son is a fictional story meant to show us how deep the Father’s love is for each of us. It is comforting, yet beyond our comprehension that God the Father is willing to accept us back, despite the numerous mistakes we have made.
I couldn’t have planned or hoped that God would call me back to Him and embrace me with open arms after rebelling and going far astray (and I mean far, far, far away to another galaxy of my OWN universe). See the thing is that I grew up in the church going every Sunday but I never felt that close relationship with Jesus. I had a youth leader who helped me get through my high school years and would help make me feel like part of a church family. And a dad who would always ask “what would Jesus do” and exemplified a growing relationship with Christ, which I didn’t appreciate then but so do now!
While I did turn away from God in college, the Holy Spirit always had this little voice in me to come back to God. I was at this turning point in my life where God literally saved me from the deep despair of sin. He called me out of my comfort and current worldly influences into a desolate place in the middle of Africa to learn of His faithfulness as well as how He would welcome me back with open arms into His family.
The awareness of my sin was there but God let me experience His grace. My shame ran to my core but I also couldn’t escape His love. The real heart change was in his embrace because it was there that I repented.
How To Truly Repent
True repentance happens in His arms. While we are suffering and struggling in our sin, the Father is looking for the day we would return. And if He loves us at our worst we really are secure.
We have all been there where we ask for forgiveness but, like children, have our fingers crossed behind our back because we do not really mean it. True repentance comes from humbly presenting ourselves before God asking for our hearts to change.
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ Luke 15:21.
It took poverty and loneliness to prompt the younger son to come to his senses and realize that in spite of all that he had done, the correct course of action was to return to his father. He had realized the magnitude of his sin. With God we can come home – home from sin, from alienation, from unbelief, home from hard-heartedness – and he will wrap us in his arms.
Seek And Save The Lost
This father’s response was one of compassion, love and joyful restoration. The father’s celebratory attitude in this parable depicts the way in which God the Father receives repentant sinners.
But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. Luke 15:20.
Throughout the gospels, we see that Jesus made a place at His table for sinners. He is not only looking for them but eagerly awaiting their return. Jesus’ eye is out for sinners. God loves to seek and save the lost. When sinners turn from their sin and return into a relationship with Him, God has immense joy.
God’s Mercy and Grace
After years of rebellion, God was still loving and merciful. He showed compassion and forgiveness towards me even though I didn’t deserve it.
“ ‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15:31-32.
God waits for us to return even when we are suffering and struggling with the pain and guilt of sin. No condemnation, no guilt-trip, and no waving of a finger that says “I told you so!” Just pure, unconditional love. And the love of the father in this parable points to God’s endless mercy and grace towards repentant sinners.
Sin never delivers on its promises and the pleasures never last. Only what is done in Christ is everlasting. God desires to bring us into a close relationship with Him and to experience the generosity of His grace. He rejoices when we repent.
I challenge you this week to step back and reflect on what is taking you away from fully committing to being in God’s family. Tell Him you cannot go on like this and that you are in desperate need of returning home into His loving arms. Look to the cross and the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf. When you do, you will realize that everything you were ever looking for outside of God is already available in the Father’s house.