Sometimes we make bad decisions in life. We relapse, whether that’s pornography, drugs, or some other toxic vice. Or we carry on wasting time, talent, money, and energy; or mistreating people, including ourselves. The truth is that how we respond to the realization of our own shortcomings is absolutely critical. It is the difference between going down a downward, destructive spiral (vicious cycle) and reorienting ourselves on the right path (repentance).
Today, I’ve transcribed an impassioned clip from the late preacher Derek Prince on the parable of the prodigal son, told by Jesus Christ. As people of faith, we often wonder how God views us after we make a mess of things. The belief that God is angry, repulses, or disinterested is often a reason why many people never take steps to get back on the right path. They think, “I’m not good enough for God”– and they’re not wrong. However, if we wait to be good enough for God, we will be waiting an entire lifetime. We all fall short of God’s glory. Without divine help, we could never attain it.
The prodigal son is an errant fool. He takes out his inheritance before his father’s passing [dumb], he leaves home for a far away land [dumb], and he squanders his inheritance on prostitutes, gambling, and other reckless behavior [really dumb]. Not long after, the prodigal son is broke. To make matters worse, there’s a famine, and the only job he can find is at a pig pen, which was an abomination for Jews. The prodigal son is the story of a man who hit rock bottom. The shock value is that when the disgraced son chose to come home, presumably to work as a servant, his father was actually waiting for him with open arms. His father did not condemn him, as many would have expected–including the prodigal son’s own brother–but instead threw a lavish party.
Check out the complete transcript below! I began transcribing around the 5:20 mark, but the whole video on true repentance verse false repentance is good.
I think the most significant moment in any human life is the moment when God begins to deal with you about repenting. And if you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, I’m not interested, maybe later”—there is no guarantee that God will ever deal with you again.Derek Prince
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.
Now we have to go on with the nature of repentance. There is one parable that Jesus told, which is the most vivid and perfect illustration of true repentance. It is the parable of what we call “the prodigal son.” Somebody else has said it should be called “the caring father.”
You remember the story. Luke 15–most of you know it. The second son of a wealthy family decided to get all his inheritance from his father right now. He went off to a distant country and lived it up. He did all sorts of sinful things. And then, when he had spent his whole inheritance, a famine came. And the only job he could get was feeding pigs. You have to remember he was Jewish, so for him to feed pigs was just as low as he could come, without any slight on pig farmers. We’re not saying anything against them, but it just so happens for the Jewish people, the pig is right outside.
And so, here he is in rags, feeding the pigs, hungry, wishing he could fill his stomach with the tusks that the pigs are eating. And then this is what happens. Verse 17 of Luke 15. “When he came to himself, he said”—that’s the point you have to come to. You have to come to yourself. What I call “the moment of truth.” You have to see yourself as you really are. You have to see yourself as God sees you.
“When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger? I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and before you. And I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.’’”
You see the two elements? Because it goes on to say, “And he arose and came to his father.” He made a decision, and he turned around. That’s repentance. Making a decision and carrying your decision out. Going back to the father whom you have offended, to the God who loves you, saying, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I can’t run my own life. I need you. Will you take me back?”
The wonderful thing is he planned to say to the father, “Make me as one of your hired servants,” but when he started out, his father was watching for him. I think this is so beautiful. That’s how God is. When we begin to turn, he’s watching for us, and waiting for us. And the father saw him a long way off and ran to meet him. That’s how God is. That’s how he meets us. And he kissed him, and he never let him say those last words, “Make me as one of your hired servants.” He said, “Bring out the best robe. Put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, and kill the fatted calf.” That’s the result of true repentance. It’s worth repentance to be welcomed like that by God. That’s the picture.
Just think about it for a moment yourself. He came to himself. He said, “I made a mess of my life. I’ve wasted everything my father gave me, but I’m going to make a decision. I’m going to turn around. I’m going to go back to my father and say, “I’m sorry.” And he turned and went. Think about that. That is true repentance, repentance in action.
Now there can be a false repentance, which we get in English today called “remorse.” Judas experienced that, described in Matthew 27, verse 3 and following. “Then Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, seeing that he had been condemned, was remorseful, and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it’ He threw down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and hanged himself.”
Judas had remorse, but he never changed. In fact, I believe he passed the point where he could change. And to me this is a solemn thought. People can, in this life, pass the point where it’s possible for them to change.
I think the most significant moment in any human life is the moment when God begins to deal with you about repenting. And if you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, I’m not interested, maybe later”—there is no guarantee that God will ever deal with you again. The most critical moment in any life is the moment when God says “repent. I’m willing to take you back. I love you. I want you.”
I’ve considered what I’ve seen in people’s lives and in the Bible, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s one thing that makes God really angry, and it is despising his grace. He freely offers us his grace, but if we despise it, he turns in anger.