We are living in a day when religion is projecting an erroneous view of Christianity that projects little or no obvious distinction between saints and sinners! Religion says, “The only thing that matters is a word on the lips; it is totally unnecessary to substantiate your conversion with a work in the life.” Intoxicated by this satanic brew, the masses have placed their names upon the church roll and base their assurance of heaven upon a religious word exhaled from their lips rather than a righteous work exhibited in their life. Writing to the carnal believers in Corinth, Paul said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). This might be an over simplification of the truth, but; “The individual void of change is likely void of conversion!”
When one studies the story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15, restoration rests upon two things: the reception of the father and the repentance of the son. Within the story, both aspects are readily seen, even to the casual observer! I’m afraid that the questionable moral character of today’s professing church is due to the fact that we are magnifying the grace of the Sovereign while we minimize the guilt of the sinner! The truth of the matter is; the Sovereign’s grace is never fully appreciated until it is seen in light of the sinner’s guilt!
Within the story of the prodigal, we are given details concerning the repentance of the fallen. There is a multitude of things that could be discussed, but I want to magnify three that are clearly defined. The first thing to be noticed is the work of repentance, “when he came to himself” (vs.17). Something transpired within the heart of the prodigal. The stubborn will of “give me” has given way to the submissive will of “make me.” The prodigal has been made aware of his sin! Vincent in his Word Studies says that “This is a striking expression, ‘came to himself.” It puts the state of rebellion against God as a kind of madness and it represents the beginning of repentance as the return to sound consciousness.” Herbert Locker said, “A sinner is half way on the road to salvation when he comes to himself.” Please read the Word of God carefully, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee” (vs.18). The prodigal saw his sin first and foremost against God! When confessing his sin; David said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4). While sin is a destructive force that harms all those about us; sin is against God and acknowledging it is the first step to restoration.
Secondly, we notice the word of repentance, “I . . . will say unto him” (vs.18). While the specifics of one’s sin need not be vocalized, the state of one’s sinfulness should be! Paul writing in Romans 10:10 said, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” In another place, Paul said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15). It is one thing to be condemned in the heart, it is entirely some else to confess it with one’s mouth. Confession reveals that the sinner has taken sides with God against himself.
Finally, we notice the way of repentance, “I will arise and go to my father . . . And he arose” (vs.18&20). If repentance is real, there will be a change in direction! Rebellion and sin is a move in the direction of the far country. Repentance is a move in the direction of the father’s house. When the son turned toward the father’s house, the father met him before he got there. The son was walking and the father was running. Salvation may be calculated in the far country, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him” (vs18), but it is consummated in the father’s house, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (vs.24).
Repentance is not a work for salvation, but it is enclosed in the work of salvation; “And when he came to himself, he said . . . I have sinned . . . And he arose, and came to his father.” Could it be that the question we need to be asking ourselves as well as others is “Tell me about when you got lost”, rather than “Tell me about when you got saved.”