The Mark of Repentance

This is an excerpt from a sermon by Ray Stedman called When Discipline Ends . I thought this an excellent description of what true repentance is… He is writing about a situation in Corinth…  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (Emphasis is mine…)

In this case in Corinth, the majority of the congregation had been involved in trying to reach the individual referred to here. But the point, of course, is that it had already happened; it had already worked; this man had repented. He had admitted that what he did was wrong; and that is what repentance is. It is coming to a conclusion about yourself that what you have done is hurtful and wrong. This man had reached that place and had demonstrated it by what I like to call, “the mark of repentance.” It is mentioned here in Verse 7. Paul urges them to comfort him that he may not be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

The sign that you really see that what you did was wrong is that you begin to see the hurt that you have caused by it; and it creates a sense of sorrow, of remorse that you have been the instrument by which many have been damaged in their faith or in their feelings. Therefore, the mark of true repentance is sorrow. I know that we are being taught oftentimes today that if you do something wrong, all you have to do is go and say to somebody, “Yes, I did that,” then you instantly demand, in a sense, forgiveness. Well, it is true that the other person should forgive right away, but the mark that shows him that you are really repentant is that, accompanying that admission of guilt, is a sense of sorrow because of the hurt that has been caused. This is a quite different spirit than what we see at times today where people get angry if they are not forgiven instantly.

The mark of genuine repentance is that you do not really believe anybody ought to forgive you, that what you have done is hurtful, and you do not think you deserve forgiveness. Therefore, forgiveness is something that is always freely extended to someone who does not feel that he deserves it; and that is what is clear here. You can see this, by the way, if you look ahead to Chapter 7, where Paul refers to this very incident again, and the congregation’s treatment of it. In Verse 8 of that chapter he says:

For even if I made you sorry with my letter I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 RSV)

So the mark of repentance is grief and sorrow over what is done. This man had come to that point, therefore, it was time to end the discipline. Of course, the purpose of the whole process of discipline at any stage is to bring somebody to recovery. The minute he achieves that, it is time to end all the sanctions and degrees of pressure that are being put on, and to begin to extend forgiveness and restoring love. That is what Paul pleads for in Verse 8:

So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:8 RSV)

Any form of correction is never to proceed from anger alone, but from love, and, therefore, the appropriate action is to reaffirm love. Paul suggests how that should be done when he says, “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him lest he be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Now, because this man had reached this place, Paul goes on to give us a statement of what restoration involves. Verse 9:

For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:9-11 RSV)

There are three things of great importance in that paragraph which help us to understand how you bring people to restoration: The first one, as Paul clearly indicates, is to begin with a faithful confrontation. He says, “I wrote to you to see if you would obey” — not obey Paul so much as obey the Lord. It was not the apostle giving orders, it was his calling attention to what the Lord had said. Their obedience, therefore, was not to him, but to the Lord. And it always is. No man has the right to give orders in the church, but only to call attention, as a brother, to the orders the Lord has already given. The Corinthians had obeyed; they had done what Matthew 18 required by telling it to the church. That is always a very painful, difficult thing to do.

One of the reasons so many churches are rife with splits, divisions, and problems today is because their leadership seems to be made up of gutless wonders who have no moral courage and who are not willing to act themselves in obedience to what the Scripture says. In the instances in the past when this church has had to take action of this sort, we have actually received threats, threats of lawsuits, of bodily harm, against the eldership if they acted. We have had to resist reproof by many people in the congregation, and around, who misjudged and did not understand the situation, who thought it was wrong to act the way we did. So it has taken courage to stand, sometimes, and obey the Word of God. But as Scripture says, “the effect of righteousness will be peace,” (Isaiah 32:17). If you will act rightly, in love, and frontally, with courage, the result ultimately is peace; and this is what was happening here in Corinth. The place to start, therefore, is with a faithful confrontation.

This is true also of individual difficulties. If you have a difficulty with somebody, do what the Lord says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15a RSV). That is always the basis for working out peace in a relationship. But equally important is the readiness to forgive when there is an indication that he has acknowledged that what he did was wrong, or see the hurt that it caused, and there is grief and sorrow because of it. Then we are to instantly restore such a one.

Here again, the church often offends. I know that one of the frequent causes for hurt and damage to individuals in the church at large today has been unwillingness to forgive things in the past that an individual has cleared up long ago, but they are still being held over his or her head: Take divorce, for instance. I have been in many places where people have gone through a divorce, sometimes on the basis of the biblical reasons for it, but that has been treated as though it was the unforgivable sin. Those involved never could come back to any level of acceptance or leadership because of that. For some reason divorce is made much worse than murder or adultery or anything else. But that is wrong, and great damage is done because of that. If it is true in this situation that Paul himself had personally been insulted by the individual in question, notice how freely he extends forgiveness (Verse 10):

Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, (2 Corinthians 2:10 RSV)

There are no hard feelings expressed, no recriminations, no “well, I-can-forgive, but-I-can’t-forget” attitude. You often hear that, don’t you? That reveals a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness, basically, is a promise that you make; it is a promise you make to three different individuals. This is true always, in every case of forgiveness:

First, it is a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented, in which you are saying to him or her, “I will not let my attitude toward you be governed any longer by this offense. It has been put aside. My treatment of you from here on will be as though this had never happened.” It is a promise you make never to bring it up again. In marriage many problems go on for years and years because we tend to go back and dig up all the past, which is an indication that it has never been forgiven. Some mates don’t get hysterical, they get historical! That is the problem, and that creates a problem.

Second, it is a promise not to pass it on to anybody else. When a matter is forgiven it is to be forgotten. Now it may be that everyone knows it, because, as in this case in Corinth, it had been told to the whole church. But what it means is that nobody throws it at him again, or holds it over his head, or reminds him of it every time any further difficulty occurs. It is a promise to drop the matter, leave it in the past, and never bring it up to anybody again.

Third, and probably most important of all, it is a promise to yourself that, when your memory goes back to it, as it will occasionally, you are not going to allow it to seize hold of your heart and make you angry all over again. The minute it comes back to mind, you put it aside as something that belongs to the past, you are not going to dwell on it. It is a promise, therefore, to repeat your act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up. That is what forgiveness is; and Paul is so ready to do this.

The reason, of course, is because he himself had been forgiven. People tell me sometimes, “Well, I just can’t forgive in this case. The person said it was wrong, and has asked me to forgive him, but I just can’t do it. It hurt me too much.” Well, that is a revelation to me that that person has never realized how much he has been forgiven already. The basis for Christian forgiveness is always, “Forgive, because you have been forgiven.” If you cannot forgive it is because you have forgotten that you were forgiven. Paul says this to the Ephesians:

…be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

That means we are not to be self-righteous and condemning, and assume the attitude, “Well, I could never do a thing like that.” In the eyes of God you have already done worse, and been forgiven for it. That is the basis, therefore, for extending forgiveness to others: “Freely you have received, freely give,” (Matthew 10:8 KJV).

The third element here, brought out in Verse 11, is the need to keep Satan from gaining an advantage over us, for Paul says, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” It is Satan who keeps bringing back to your mind the hurts of the past; he keeps interjecting them back into a situation. He is trying to get hold of you through the situation and wreak havoc with you and your loved ones by taking advantage of it. It is Satan who makes the leadership of a church quail at confronting some situation, makes them say, “Oh, let’s not get involved; let’s forget it.” That is Satan. He is seeking to gain an advantage over that whole congregation so he can dilute their testimony and render them powerless in their effect upon the community.

We were discussing a situation just this last week, and one of our pastors said, quite understandably, “Let’s get hold of that situation and do something about it so it will never come up again.” I knew how he felt, but you cannot always do that, because there is an enemy who will bring it up again, whether you like it or not; he will interject the same situation into circumstances in the future and you will have to fight the same battle over and over again.

That is what Paul means when he says, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” When an arsonist is loose, you can expect fires; they are going to break out all over the place. We have an enemy who is like that, and when you have an enemy you can expect casualties. When you are engaged in warfare, you never can decide on your own terms that you are not going to have any more casualties, because the enemy is there; he is the one who keeps it going.

We often say in American history, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That is true in the spiritual realm as well. It is only as we are aware that we are in a battle, and an enemy is constantly trying to take advantage of the situation, that we must realize that the thing that defeats him is to extend ready and full forgiveness when there are broken relationships within us. That is what keeps Satan from gaining an advantage over you.

Paul said that in Ephesians: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath,” Ephesians 4:26-27). Settle this matter before nightfall, before you go to bed. Don’t carry it over to the next day and thus give opportunity to the devil. When you let it go on and on and on, unresolved, you are giving the devil an opportunity to get hold of everybody involved, to create more problems and spread it widely and turn the whole church upside down eventually. Therefore, one of the elements that restoration always involves is that spiritual awareness that we are in a battle, that we live in a crazy world under the control of a madman, basically, so we cannot expect to settle it all once and for all.

As an old movie once described it, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. — I saw that title in Spanish on a marquee down in Latin America: Todo El Mundo es Loco, Loco, Loco, Loco!

We are to deal with these problems then in our own hearts. That is the way you turn off the attack of the enemy. Some years ago I read about a mental hospital that had devised a very effective test to know whether the patients were ready to go back into life again. The patients would be brought into a room where a water tap was flowing out on the floor and handed a mop and told to mop up the water. If they took the mop and just started mopping away, with the water still flowing, they would be put back in the hospital. But if they had the sense to go and turn off the tap first, and then mop up the water, they knew they were ready to go back into life.

There is no sense in trying to clear up a situation until we have turned off the devil’s tap by forgiving that which has been acknowledged as wrong. If we persist in bringing it up, over and over again, we are trying to mop up a situation where the water is still flowing. That is foolish; it cannot be done. That is why in many marriages, in many family relationships, and in a church, these kinds of hurtful things go on and on and on for decades. Nobody has turned off the tap; nobody has forgiven one another and let it rest in the past, realizing that we all are in need of forgiveness continually. When forgiveness happens, then marvelous healing begins to take place.

I could tell you story after story of how I have seen this happen. Whole congregations have been restored, whole family groups have been opened up by two people who were mad at one another deciding that they would forgive; and when there was any degree of acknowledgment at all that there was injury done, extending forgiveness.

Is there any more beautiful picture in all the Scriptures than the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son? The story of the old father waiting at home, watching the horizon and knowing that, when that boy had reached the end and was ready to admit his wrongdoing, he would show up at the house again? At the first glimpse of his son on the horizon, the old man is running down the road to meet him, his arms wide open. Before the boy can utter a syllable of his memorized statement that he has been repeating to himself all the way home — “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:19 RSV) — the old man has his arms around him and he is calling out for a celebration, to kill the fatted calf. (I remember the little story of the Sunday School boy when the class was asked, “Who was sorry when the Prodigal Son came home?” The expected answer was, “The elder brother,” but one little boy said, “The fatted calf!”) Well, there was one who was not sorry, and that was the father. He was overjoyed, because he knew that his son would never have been back if he had not acknowledged that he was wrong. And he did not wait for the boy to say that. He had already forgiven him. The very appearance of the lad on the horizon was enough to tell the father that his son was home again, sorry for what he had done. And, “lest he be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow,” the father forgave him from a full and free heart. Now that is God’s picture of what he does with us.

the-prodigal-son-feeding-swine-1660.jpg!Blog

We find all these marks of repentance in the story of the prodigal son…

He had admitted that what he did was wrong.

The mark of true repentance is sorrow.

The mark of genuine repentance is that you do not really believe anybody ought to forgive you, that what you have done is hurtful, and you do not think you deserve forgiveness.

Painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1660

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How God Persues Prodigals ~ Ray Pritchard

This is a very interesting take on the prodigal…Can we help our prodigals too soon?

Ray Pritchard writes, “Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon. Do you remember what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15? After he had wasted all his inheritance in wild living, he ended up feeding the pigs (Luke 15:15-16). As Eugene Peterson puts it, “He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.” If you saw that, you might think, “That young man is ready for a new life.” Maybe so, maybe not.
Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon.

In the story Jesus told, the father waited for his son to return and then ran to meet him when he was still far from home. What if the father in the story had gone after his son and tried to bring him back even one day early? The son would have said, “If only you had left me alone for one more day, I would have made all my money back because I was investing in pork bellies.”

So it goes. We may think that someone has hit rock bottom when they are still scheming a way out of their problems. It was not until the son “came to his senses” that he decided to return home. That has to happen to every prodigal son and daughter, and it cannot be predicted or forced.

Repentance is first of all a work of God in the human heart. If you come a day too soon, the prodigal will always think, “With one more day, I would have figured out a way to solve my own problems.” As long as the scheming and lying and deceiving continues, the best thing we can do is to pray for God’s Spirit to bring them to their senses and to wait patiently until that day comes.”

I know you will be greatly encouraged reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this sermon by Ray Pritchard on his website  Keep Believing. 

Toward the end of  his sermon Ray gives these  comforting words…

God knows where they are.
God knows what they are doing.
God knows how to reach them.
God knows how to bring them back.

Between now and then, never give up.

Never give up.
Keep believing.
Keep on praying.

31 Days ~ Joy in the Presence of the Angels

Day 26 ~ Joy in the Presence of the Angels
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” Luke 15:10What a beautiful thought this morning! I visualize the heavenlies full of rejoicing magnificence. And it happens every day…every day somewhere there are those that fall on their knees in repentance. What joy it must bring!
“I ask that he will make the angels sing, Father.
I pray he will turn from his past and run with an open heart and mind to you!

I can imagine the joy.
My joy here on earth would only be part of a much larger celebration, because “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10)
Your word tells of “thousands upon thousands of angels” joyfully praising you (Hebrews 12:22), and so they should!
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelations 4:11)
You created my son and gave him life.
You long for him with an everlasting love.
You loved him so much that you gave your “one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
No wonder the angels sing when one sinner repents!” ~ James Banks

Praying today that our sons and daughters will know the joy of repentance. Praying that our prodigals will give their hearts to the Lord soon. Rejoicing today for every prodigal that repents this very day and the joy that they bring to all around them.

Praying too, Father, that Your joy, Your peace that passes all understanding will keep the minds and hearts of all the parents as they wait to see their prodigals return.

31 Days ~ Called Out of Darkness

Day 23 ~ Called Out of Darkness

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:” 1 Peter 2:9

Called out of darkness…how many of you were called out of darkness?

From the concordance darkness means: of night darkness; of darkened eyesight or blindness; of ignorance respecting divine things and human duties, and the accompanying ungodliness and immorality, together with their consequent misery in hell; persons in whom darkness becomes visible and holds sway.

I once was lost…and now I’m found…

I once was blind, but now I see…

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” Psalms 40:2

If I had Christian parents they would have been devastated, but they also would have rejoiced at what Jesus has done in my life. I don’t know that a single prayer was uttered for me during this time of darkness, but Jesus called me out of it.

Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 3:7

Father, you are very aware of what our prodigals are doing right now. For from the beginning of time men turn away from you and follow darkness. Father, right now, our children are living in darkness, making horrendously horrible choices that will effect their lives forever. We cry out to you, Father, for we of ourselves can do nothing. Please bring them out of the miry pit, the ungodliness, the immorality, this horrible wretched darkness that holds sway over them and causes such blindness. Father, we cry out to you today, please call them out of darkness into your marvelous light.

Quoting James Banks
“I ask for your light to fall on this path and lead him home.

Let him see your light from the distance and be drawn to you.

Even though now he sits in darkness, I ask that you will be his light.(Micah 7:8)

I praise you that there is no darkness so black that you can not show him the way out of it.

Bring him to the place where he can say, “You are my lamp, O Lord the LORD turns my darkness to light” (2 Samuel 22:29)” ~ James Banks

And Father…I pray for none of this middle of the road stuff. I pray when our prodigals come to their senses and see your Light…when they truly give their hearts and lives to Jesus, that there will be no turning back. That they will put the past behind them and walk forward…the past immorality, drugs, rock music…make it absolutely abhorrent to them.

Thank you, Jesus, for what you have done in my life, I know without a doubt that you can do it in any life. And I especially ask today, that you would visit the suffering parents. Please take them in your arms. Fill them with your peace, hold them tight so that they know you are with them in their grief. Give them a knowing that you are at work in the hearts of those they love and hold most dear, right now as we are praying.

Forgive us all, Father, for we are so prone to wander, so prone to be unbelieving and faithless.

We are called to show forth your praises, even the sacrifice of praise…

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

31 Days ~ Prayer Makes a Difference

Day 8 ~ Prayer Makes a Difference

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16It is because of what Christ has done in us that we can be called righteous. He is our righteousness. And because He is TRUTH and the Word is TRUTH, we can trust that what James says here is true.

And if that is the case we have a very powerful advantage in fervent prayer, because it avails much.

James Banks uses a different translation…”The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”He says, “Your word tells me that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective – and this means that even my prayers are, because of what you have done for me. Jesus has become for me my “righteousness, holiness and redemption“. (1 Corinthians 1:30)”

 So,  let’s keep on praying and believing. We may not see with our physical eyes a difference, but I know that our prayers are effectual. Looking back on my situation…I didn’t see any hope. In fact the only hope that I had was that as believers we are to hope, and I felt that not to hope would be unbelieving. Yet, God was working it all out behind the scenes. When he opened the curtains to reveal His glory, I was astounded. It really was as if this nightmarish black curtain fell over us, and 6 years later the curtain lifted…the nightmare lifted and now it is a dreamy mist almost unreal…the secret place of the Most High. Yet, He is there all the time…

Remember…Prayer makes a difference!
Praying for you today…

"I Will Arise And Go" ~ Tozer

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned.” ~Luke 15:18
.

When Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, He was giving our lost society a graphic picture of more than a willful son or a backslidden man.
Years ago I spent time alone with God in prayer and supplication, asking the Spirit of God to aid me in the comprehension of the parable of the Prodigal Son. I have relied upon the understanding which I believe God gave me.
I believe the Prodigal Son is God’s clear-cut picture to us of the entire human race that went out to the pigsty in Adam – and came back to the Father in Christ!
The most telling part of the parable is the fact that the errant son “came to himself” – and that speaks to us of the reality and necessity of repentance. He could repent and turn and seek forgiveness because he knew that his Father had not changed. He knew the character of his Father. Except for that knowledge, he could never have said:

“I will arise and go to my Father!”
Brethren, all of us who have come back to God by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ have found, as did the prodigal that the Father in heaven has not changed at all! ~ A. W. Tozer
The Return of the Prodigal Son ~ Rembrandt

Peace That Passeth All Understanding

We have given our lives to Christ and we are walking along life’s path, sometimes not knowing where that path will take us…

Has your path come to a rocky precipice? How, Father, can I keep going? This looks too painful…I don’t think I can make it…

But we know nothing is impossible with God and He will never leave us or forsake us, and the beautiful thing is that He works all things out for good. So press on…He will lead you by the still waters and restore your soul…He will give you that peace that passeth all understanding

Here is an example of a hurting parent of a prodigal and what she learned through her journey…and how she found peace…

Excerpts from the book, Boundaries with Adult Children by Allison Bottke.

What I learned from being a parent in pain:

1. I must remind myself every day that God is in control.

2. God has allowed by circumstances, heartbreaking as they are, to change me.

3. We are not alone. God is well aware what it’s like having prodigals. Look at Adam and Eve. They had it all, and God was a perfect Father. So much for all the theories.

4. The prodigal son had no reason to leave home and rebel. His dad loved him, he had a wonderful home life, plenty of money, and purpose for living. He rebelled because there is pleasure in sin for a season. The father never chased after his son or filled his pockets with money or financed his sin. He stayed put and gave his son to God.

5. God is the only One who can change our kids. Out of the kindness of His will, He alone brings us to repentance. We must pray for God to bring our adult children to the end of themselves and to deal with their problems.

6. The Enemy is at work, but he is not more powerful than God. Satan must ask God’s permission to test us (see the book of Job).

7. I can’t put a timetable on my prayers. Some may be answered on the other side of eternity. God is faithful, and we must pray with great faith. He is working.

8. God has changed me greatly. The heartache of living with a prodigal threw me into God’s Word-big time. In the last 15 years I have devoured God’s Word on a daily basis and developed a prayer life. All this to say, this experience has been a good thing for me spiritually. Whereas I once spent that time in anxiety and depression, I have now taken that time to become anchored in God.

9. God has supernaturally changed me through His Word and changed my perspective on the whole trial.

10. Yielding everything to God is the only way to peace. The day we came to our wit’s end and gave our son 100 percent to the Lord and was the day a miracle occurred. We were flooded with His peace, the kind that cannot be explained. We knew then why Jesus came; not only to save our souls but to give us His power to live through anything. Since that time, we have had to do that again and surrender our grandchildren. His grace is sufficient for all things. He is all we need.

To purchase this book click here.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:26-27

Photos by Sarah

A Study on the Word – Prodigal

The word ‘prodigal’ may not be the proper word to use in all circumstances, so I did a word study and found some worthwhile things to share. My comments are in ‘bold‘.

Webster’s 1828
Prodigal – from Latin prodigus, prodigo to draw out, to lavish
1. Given to extravagant expenditures; expending money or other things without necessity; profuse; lavish; wasteful; not frugal or economical; as a prodigal man; the prodigal son. A man may be prodigal of his strength, of his health, of his life or blood, as well as of his money.

Webster’s New World
Prodigal
1. Exceedingly or recklessly wasteful
2. Extremely generous, lavish
3. Extremely abundant, profuse
Prodigal son (Bible) – son who was welcomed back warmly on his homecoming in repentance.

From here I went to Barnes’ Commentary and gleaned some interesting information. In this first comment on riotous living we find the definition of prodigal played out:

Luke 15:13
[In riotous living] Literally, “Living without saving anything.” He lived extravagantly, and in the most dissolute company. See Luke 15:30. By his wandering away we may understand that sinners wander far away from God; that they fall into dissolute and wicked company; and that their wandering so far off is the reason why they fall into such company, and are so soon and so easily destroyed.

So, this is why this young man is called a prodigal. Some of our wayward sons and daughters are not necessarily spending their money lavishly, but they do give away their valuable knowledge of God that their parents have given them. We also see where this leads the young man and how he wandered away from God. The story goes on to say that after he lost everything he had, he ended up feeding the swine…

Luke 15:15
[To feed swine] This was a very low employment, and particularly so to a “Jew.” It was forbidden to the Jews to eat swine, and of course it was unlawful to keep them. To be compelled, therefore, to engage in such an employment was the deepest conceivable degradation. The “object” of this image, as used by the Saviour in the parable, is to show the loathsome employments and the deep degradation to which sin leads people, and no circumstance could possibly illustrate it in a more striking manner than he has done here.

I have taken a few more commentaries out of Barnes’ Notes that I found interesting. The prodigal son went to work in a degrading employment and his master fed him husks.

Luke 15:16
[The husks] The word “husks” with us denotes the outward covering of grain. In this there is little nourishment,
[No man gave unto him] His master was bound to provide for his wants; but the provision which he made for him was so poor that he would have preferred the food of the swine. He desired a portion of “their food,” but that was not given him. Nothing could more strikingly show the evil of his condition, or the deep degradation, and pollution, and wretchedness of sin.

It is interesting to note here the “husks without nourishment” and compare it to the spiritual nourishment of our daily bread the Word of God. There is no good spiritual nourishment in the ‘world’.

Luke 15:17
[He came to himself] This is a very expressive phrase. It is commonly applied to one who has been “deranged,” and when he recovers we say he has “come to himself.” In this place it denotes that the folly of the young man was a kind of derangement-that he was insane. So it is of every sinner. Madness is in their hearts (Eccl 9:3); they are estranged from God, and led, by the influence of evil passions, contrary to their better judgment and the decisions of a sound mind.

I love this definition of the phrase ‘He came to himself’. Not only does it describe the state of one that is wayward, but gives the miracle of hope that they will come to themselves and see their wrong doing.

Luke 15:18
[I will arise] This is a common expression among the Hebrews to denote “entering on a piece of business.” It does not imply that he was “sitting,” but that he meant immediately to return. This should be the feeling of every sinner who is conscious of his guilt and danger.
[To My father] To his father, although he had offended him, and treated him unkindly, and had provoked him, and dishonored him by his course of conduct. So the sinner. He has nowhere else to go but to “God.” He has offended him, but he may trust in his kindness. If “God” does not save him he cannot be saved. There is no other being that has an arm strong enough to deliver from sin; and though it is painful for a man to go to one whom he has offended-though he cannot go but with shame and confusion of face-yet, unless the sinner is willing to go to “God” and confess his faults, he can never be saved.
[I have sinned] I have been wicked, dissipated, ungrateful, and rebellious.

How important it is to admit to your sin and not blame your actions on others. Here he is taking total responsibility for his choices.

[Against heaven] The word “heaven” here, as it is often elsewhere, is put for God. I have sinned against “God.” See Matt 21:25. It is also to be observed that one evidence of the genuineness of repentance is the feeling that our sins have been committed chiefly against “God.” Commonly we think most of our offences as committed against “man;” but when the sinner sees the true character of his sins, he sees that they have been aimed chiefly against “God,” and that the sins against “man” are of little consequence compared with those against God. So David, even after committing the crimes of adultery and murder after having inflicted the deepest injury on “man” – yet felt that the sin as committed against “God” shut every other consideration out of view:

“Against Thee, Thee ONLY, have I sinned,” Ps 2:4.

[Before thee] This means the same as “against” thee. The offences had been committed mainly against God, but they were to be regarded, also, as sins against his “father,” in wasting property which he had given him, in neglecting his counsels, and in plunging himself into ruin. He felt that he had “disgraced” such a father. A sinner will be sensible of his sins against his relatives and friends as well as against God. A true penitent will be as ready to “acknowledge” his offences against his fellow-men as those against his Maker.

Luke 15:19
[No more worthy …] “Such has been my conduct that I have been a disgrace to my father. I am not fit to be honored by being called the son of a man so kind and virtuous.”
[Make me as one …] “Treat me as a servant. Let me come again into your family, but I do not ask to be treated as a son. I am willing to come in if you will give me only the support that you give to a servant.”

This evinced,
1. Deep humility-such as a sinner should have.
2. Love for his father’s house-such as all penitents should have toward God’s dwelling-place in heaven.
3. Confidence in his father that he would treat him kindly, even if he treated him as a servant. Such confidence all returning penitents feel in God. They are assured that God will treat them kindly that whatever he gives them will be more than they deserve, and they are, therefore, willing to be in his hands. Yet,
4. He had no adequate sense of his father’s kindness. He did not fully appreciate his character. He was far more kind than he had dared to hope he would be; just as all sinners undervalue the character of God, and find him always more kind than they had supposed. No sinner comes to God with a just and adequate view of his character, but “always” finds him more merciful than he had dared to hope.

Hopefully every prodigal, wayward son and or daughter will come to the knowledge of the Truth and see their sin against God and repent. This is our continual prayer.

Luke 15:20; Luke 15:21
[He arose, and came] Was coming. But here is no indication of “haste.” He did not “run,” but came driven by his wants, and, as we may suppose, filled with shame, and even with some doubts whether his father would receive him.
[A great way off] This is a beautiful description-the image of his father’s happening to see him clad in rags, poor, and emaciated, and yet he recognized “his son,” and all the feelings of a father prompted him to go and embrace him.
[Had compassion] Pitied him. Saw his condition-his poverty and his wretched appearance-and was moved with compassion and love.
[And ran] This is opposed to the manner in which the son came. The beauty of the picture is greatly heightened by these circumstances. The son came slowly-the father “ran.” The love and joy of the old man were so great that he hastened to meet him and welcome him to his home.
[Fell on his neck] Threw his arms around his neck and embraced him.
[And kissed him] This was a sign at once of affection and reconciliation. This must at once have dissipated every doubt of the son about the willingness of his father to forgive and receive him. A kiss is a sign of affection, 1 Sam 10:1; Gen 29:13. This is evidently designed to denote the “readiness of God” to pity and pardon returning sinners. In this verse of inimitable beauty is contained the point of the parable, which was uttered by the Saviour to vindicate “his own conduct” in receiving sinners kindly. Who could “blame” this father for thus receiving his repenting son? Not even a Pharisee could blame him; and our Saviour thus showed them, so that “they” could not resist it, that “God” received returning sinners, and that it was right for “him” also to receive them and treat them with attention.

This is the wonderful happy ending of the story, but what stands out to me is that the Father never interferes; never goes looking for his son prematurely. But waits until the perfect time when the son has truly come to himself and repented.