So let’s pick up where we left off. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read Part 1 of How to Return Like the Prodigal Son. We left off where the son had come to the end of himself in his “prodigal living” and realized that he’d be better off going back to his father than continuing doing life on his own. Which brings us to the next step . . .
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:20-21)
Remember, when the son left his father, he left with an offended heart. He had decided that he knew better than his father and decided to do things his own way. But the son realized that if he was going to come back, he would have to reconcile with the opposite attitude.
When we walk away from God thinking our way is better, we must return acknowledging that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). This turning of our hearts is called repentance. I don’t know about you, but I used to hate that word. The church has made it seem like such a dreadful thing, but really, it’s a beautiful thing. You have to remember the One you are coming before, despite what you’ve done, is looking upon you with compassion. Just like the son–before even speaking–was greeted with compassion.
Also, repentance is not something we do out of duty or habitually. Godly sorrow produces a serious turning of the heart (2 Cor. 7:8-10). You cannot repent if you are not truly sorry for what you’ve done. Repentance is not an easy ticket to wipe out the sin so you won’t have to be accountable for it later. When you repent with a sincere heart, then you are given the honorable privilege to . . .
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (15:22-24)
The morning after going through some serious repentance with a church elder at home via phone, I spent some time in corporate worship. I didn’t feel like participating. Even though I knew I had turned away from all the stuff I’d done, I still felt dirty and unworthy of God. Then my favorite worship song came on, and I could feel God tugging on my heart. It was a song about how great his love is. Then I got angry.
Seriously, I was screaming at God inside my head. I didn’t realize at that moment it was because I was having difficulty receiving His mercy. Before the song ended, I was in tears. He had won me over with one phrase: “It’s not about you. It’s about me.”
I realized that wasn’t in an arrogant “Because I’m God” kind of way. It’s not about me and how unworthy about I am. It’s about him because He is jealous for me. How much he desires me completely overwhelms any wrong thing I could have done. And that’s the beauty of it, beloved. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). And that’s all that matters. So even if you feel unworthy, receive His mercy. Even at a time . . .
When Other Believers Oppose You
I won’t spend much time on this last point, but I feel I need to say it. At the end of the prodigal son story (15:28-32), the brother of the son complains about the welcome home celebration of the prodigal. , “These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
It’s human to feel jealous when someone else gets what you feel you deserve. Jesus even made mention of this in another parable where field workers all received the same pay regardless of how long they worked (Luke 20:9-19). So do not be surprised if a few in the church are not so happy to see you return with grace and favor over your life. They are no more righteous than you, we all fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Remember, it is God’s word that matters. And His word says:
“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”