In this third post we begin moving a little deeper. This will be a little longer than the last post. Let's look at what the prodigal says after coming to a place of responsibility:
"I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.' And he arose and came to his father..." (Luke 15:18-20a)
This is such a powerful and loaded portion of Scripture, as it brings us to a very important phase on the road of restoration: REPENTANCE.
Yikes! This is most definitely NOT a popular word today, not even in many churches. Too often our goal in church has been to make people happy, regardless of how they are living. The Spirit could be grieved within them and yet they consistently hear in sermon after sermon that they are 'OK'. We as pastors have become so enamored with church growth and becoming the face of joy and encouragement to our people, that we fail to deliver the message of repentance that carries within it the power of redemption, restoration, healing, and so much more, in turn leading to a much deeper level of true joy and encouragement.
Repentance contains words, it says things like this; "I have sinned against heaven and before you..." It takes responsibility (subject of my last post) and also action: "he arose and came to his father..." Regardless of the road the prodigal took as he walked away from his father, he got on a road and began walking back. This could be called the 'Road of Repentance.' Repentance is getting off of that road of sin, compromise and failure, and turning back around and walking home to your heavenly Father, even if you have to blaze a new path to get there.
It is a dangerous thing to short-circuit a person in their repentance, especially when they are broken before the Lord and crying out for mercy and forgiveness...interrupting them while offering artificial consolation. God is working in them something beautiful that will empower them to take deep steps as they turn back to their family, friends and whoever else necessary. Stepping in too early aborts this much needed process. The road of restoration is a long road, and each aspect cannot be overlooked or moved forward prematurely.
Once repentance is released, true comfort from the Holy Spirit is imparted, many times immediately.
Quick word to a common statement concerning those in a place of repentance:
Were they caught in sin or did they come clean themselves? This is an interesting question made too often by those on the outside looking in to a situation. I am reminded of King David. Here was a man after God's own heart, but who had committed adultery with Bathsheba and even had her husband murdered in a desperate attempt to cover his sin (David got her pregnant). He was confronted by the prophet Nathan, and his response was to fall down in repentance. He suffered horrendous consequences, nevertheless he was broken and even penned the most beautiful passage of Scripture concerning the subject of repentance in Psalm 51. Here is a man who was 'caught' in his sin. The question is not whether or not a person is sorry they were caught or came clean themselves, the question is are they truly repentant? Time will tell if a person is truly repentant. Actions follow words. I like what our Pastor, Marcus Brown, said in one of his sermons last year;
"Everyone is caught. Being caught is grace. Think of Jonah being caught by the whale, the whale was not justice...the whale was grace not allowing Jonah to drown in his sins."
In a couple of days we are going to see things from the father's perspective, and I am quite sure you are going to like it!