by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.
The greatest picture of repentance is seen in Jesus parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a clear picture how we need to come to God in repentance and how He will forgive us. We would appreciate repentance more if we were imprisoned wrongly and set free. We are not wrongly in bondage to sin. We are born that way and it is our natural state. We have a rich understanding of God’s forgiveness and mercy in this story. It is probably the most famous and identifiable parable that Jesus ever told as well. All can relate to being outside of God’s will and running from Him. God is clear in showing the path we take running toward Him. In the parable we see the clear steps to God through the story of the son coming to the Father. Repentance then involves:
(1) A Change of Mind, vv. 11-17
The son was selfish in own world, demanding his inheritance before his father had died. This was an unheard of request, for inheritance was usually only given when the father died. The father was fair and gave the son the inheritance, letting him go.
The young man decided to go off, living his life wildly not earning or adding to the inheritance, quickly losing everything. This son is representative of the hedonistic world all live in. All are out for number one. We want our selfish met desires before we think of anybody else’s desires, in the process of being consumed by our own desires which get bigger but are never satisfied.
Jesus said, “He went into a far country”. This could be another region, but also a far country any place away from the father’s house, unfamiliar territory or an ungodly place. The story goes on to say, “
He wasted his life and substance in riotous living.” What this most likely entails is he may have had several harlots, along with g
etting drunk many times with friends who bought drinks for friends as long as had money.
The son went into a far country which is not necessarily a distant place to which we must travel, because “the far country” exists first of all in our hearts.”
Jesus said life is wasted if it is lived outside of the Father’s protective care and outside of knowing that you have an eternal home in heaven when you die. To have no personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, is a waste.
Without Jesus, you could have everything but lose your own soul (Mk. 8:38). There is no profit in that. The young man felt he could buy happiness and pleasure through his rebellious lifestyle. He only had fair-weather friends and his pleasure was short-lived.
The young man came to the end of inheritance. He also encountered bad fortune through a great famine. His condition was worse than the stock market crashing trying to get a job after spending all his money, not many jobs were available.
The prodigal son realized that his new-found freedom had been the worst form of slavery. He joined himself to a citizen (stayed in a shack) with someone in the area. He was given one of the lowest jobs he could have: feeding the pigs. This was not a good job for a Jewish boy, swine were kosher.
While feeding the pigs, he noticed they were content while he had an empty belly. He not only had an empty belly, he had an empty life.
The young man fell mightily, starting with his father’s inheritance and ending up with nothing. He was even looking at the pigs and desiring their food.
This type of life built on accumulating things always comes up empty. You try to find pleasure in many things but you are still in want (Lk. 12:15).
Warren Wiersbe said
: The prodigal learned the hard way that you cannot enjoy the things money can buy if you ignore the things money cannot buy. “ This type of life not only leads to an empty belly but emptiness in fulfillment & purpose.
Wiersbe describes the downward path of the prodigal when he says, “There is insanity about sin that causes us to paralyze the image of God inside us and liberate the animal inside us. He wound up like an animal with the pigs.”
In a moment of life-changing revelation, he realized that he had been his own worst enemy. He had placed himself in this position, regardless of the bad choices and the fair-weather friends that fled. He now had to “pay the piper” yet he had nothing to pay him with.
It is impossible for us who were created for eternity, to find anything in the world that satisfies our souls. The grass which had been greener on the other side is dried up.
He couldn’t buy a meal. He looked at the pigs wallowing in the mud and thought about eating with the pigs
Repentance though means to change one’s mind but it is more than just changing an attitude. It is being willing to let God change us.It is to come to yourself, realizing the end of what is awaiting you. It is like going over a waterfall. You need to realize the way you are living is no good.
In a moment of complete revelation, the young man on his lowest ebb came to senses. He realized how he had blown everything and destroyed his life. Repentance is a change of mind, resulting in a change of action so he knew what he must do.
Within his heart, began to think about hired servants that father had how had much more than he had now, having wasted his life and destroying everything. He was literally starving to death, but his father’s servants who didn’t have much at least had some square meals and a roof over their heads when all he had were the pigs.
In salvation, every sinner must come to themselves realizing they are in a desperate condition. We may not go as low to find out the desperate condition as the Prodigal son, yet still we may still be desperate without relationship with, without forgiveness of sin through Christ’s sacrifice for us. There comes a time in a life when they need to say, “I’ve been wrong”.
Tim Lahaye tells about a girl in his church into drugs whose parents tried to keep her from going to a party. She got there late because of her struggle with her parents. Her friends were already high on drugs. She came to herself and saw how stupid it was for these people to lead her into evil. She went home repented and came to Christ. Her life was changed and she got straightened out.
(2) Resulting in a Change of Action, vv. 18-19
Repentance is being so sorry for sin you are willing to give it up. The prodigal had a desire to go to the Father but it wasn’t till he got up out of the pig-pen that he proved he was repentant.
The young man decided what to do about his plight. He said, “I will go to my father” and had a speech memorized saying he deeply regretted he had sinned against him and was no longer worthy to be his son, he was coming back if his father would take him as one of his hired servants.
: said,” The boy might have been a thousand miles from home but as far as this parable is concerned it was only a step. If one turns their heart and face to God, He is there.”
Repentance is genuine & lasting when the evildoer sees God’s mercy is available.
The prodigal’s father had many servants. There basically two types of servants. The house servants were bound to their Lord for life and treated as those of own family.
The hired servants were those worked very cheaply outside. The young man said, “Take me as one of your hired servants and not as a house servant.”
(3) Turning from Sin, vv. 20-21
The son decided to come back in repentance. He had a prideful attitude leaving his father, taking the inheritance he thought was his alone. He came back in deep humility of heart and understanding. He was willing to accept a change in his status in life also by his attitude. It’s amazing how poverty, hunger, total inability to do anything for yourself leads to change.
A hired servant could not be fired instantly but a common slave could. The father would hear none of his self-defense however. The way the son came back is the way we are to come to God in repentance.
John Miller said, “God has not called us to be attorneys in our own defense but beggars humbled before the throne of grace refusing to leave until we receive the bread of Heaven as food.”
The prodigal’s father was a man of means standing outside to see his son coming back to him. He was probably praying for his son and actually going outside to see if one day he could see the son coming back over the horizon. He loved the son. He was like Leighton Ford losing his daughter momentarily when she should have come home from school. The terror that brought to heart was real. No parent wants to hear those dreaded words. ”Your child is lost.” But, oh the joy when they are found (Lk. 15:7).
The son was brought back to the father simply because he didn’t have anything but the Father had everything. He was perishing and starving and came to his Father to feed him and clothe him. For this he would forfeit status as son. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: “It is manlike to fall into sin. It is fiendlike to dwell therein. It is Christ-like to sin for sin to forsake.”
Why do we stay in a far country when we can have the protection of the King of Kings? The prodigal knew where the bounty was and it was not with the pigs but with his father. Adrian Rogers was right when he said, “The greatest proof man’s wickedness is that you have to beg him to be saved. “When Jesus wants to save them and gives you everything, people try to run from God. Repentance is not a picture of waving a white flag but a life raft in being rescued by the father
(4) Turning to God, vv. 22-24
Salvation is like this picture of the son coming home to the father. It is having nothing to bring to God by good works and realizing God has made provision for us in what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus died for us and has taken what we deserve so we can have the inheritance of heaven.
From a logical standpoint one would say this outcome it too good to be true. It is not good business sense to get something for nothing. God will give us heaven though, if we accept Christ by repentance and faith. This story completely obliterates the schemes of those who try to concoct another plan of salvation.
A wonderful scene ensued. The father saw what he was hoping for those many months, even years: with his son coming back over the horizon. He didn’t wait for the son to come to him. The father ran to the son, hugging and kissing him.
The son made his speech which the father interrupted and refused to accept. He would not be a hired servant but rather his returning son. The father accepted the son like nothing had ever happened. He was going to give him all he had by virtue of the son returning to him.
Three actions the father demonstrated would forgive him of rebellion. A Robe was put on him as asymbol of highest honor, to be placed on the son.It covered his poverty like Christ’s righteousness covers our sin. A Ring was put on his hand, as a symbol of joint-inheritance with the father. Shoes were put on his feet which were barefooted when he had no footwear. The son would not be barefooted as a servant but fitted for shoes as his father’s son.
The father told the servants to kill the fatted calf, the pet/ prize calf. This was the occasion above all occasions. They were to rejoice and be merry.
The father said, “This was my son who was dead and is now alive. He was lost and was found”. The son was still very much alive physically. His statement indicates the spiritual condition non-Christians who feel they are alive in this world. If they don’t have a relationship with God they are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3). Come to Christ, come to life. The greatest events that will ever happen in church are when for people saved and enter into a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.
The story reveals several progressions: Selfishness leads to sin, pain leads to change, destruction leads to humility, honesty leads to forgiveness which leads to joy and rejoicing. This was the path from the Father and to Him as it is run from and to God.
To run toward God means you have all that God has, a home in heaven, a relationship with Him, and much, much, more. Psalm
. 23: 6 tells of the joy of running toward Him of living in the house of the Lord forever.
We use the term lost to describe someone that does not have a personal relationship with Christ. If we are not found by God, we are cut off from Him, and are in a perilous condition.But if you come to Christ, God throws a party in your honor.
In one of Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman’s meetings, a man arose to give the following remarkable testimony: “I got off at the Pennsylvania Depot as a tramp, and for years I begged the streets for a living. One day, I touched a man on the shoulder and said, ‘Mister, please give me a dime.’
“As soon as I saw his face, I recognized my father. “ Father, don’t you know me? “I asked throwing his arms around me, he cried, “I have found you; all I have is yours.” Men, think of it, that I, a tramp, stood begging my father for ten cents, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all he was worth!”
So the heavenly Father is waiting for you. Why not receive the unsearchable riches in Christ now?
It is a great truth that if we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in.  Don’t put repentance off any longer if you haven’t repented.
 All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated
2 WarrenWiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, (Victor Books: Wheaton, IL. 2nd printing, 1982), 237.
 Story told by Tim Lahaye in a Family Life Conference, Redding, CA 1981.
 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary Volume 4, (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1982), 315.
 John Miller, Repentance and the 20th Century Man (Christian Literature Crusade: Fort Washington, PA 1980), 39.
 Leighton Ford, Good News is For Sharing, (Fullerton, CA: David Cook, 1977), 22-23.
 John Bartlett, Book of Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. Little and Brown: Boston, 979, 1919.
 http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/r/repentance.htm source unknown.