walk in the word
I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7, esv).
If you do a detailed study of all the Greek and Hebrew terms, trying to land on an accurate, comprehensive definition for the word repentance, you end up with a three-part result: Repentance is (1) a recognition of sin for what it is, followed by (2) a heartfelt sorrow, culminating in (3) a change of behavior.
Or, you could just read the parable of the Prodigal Son.“You can experience more of God’s grace, but not until you recognize sin for what it is.” Click To Tweet
Because here, in one story, is a guy who checks all three boxes.
You probably remember most of the details. This young man who thought he knew everything about life went to his father and asked for all his inheritance. But even with the sizable sum of money he was given, “he squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13). He turned into a party animal. Before long, however, his decision to live like a pig left him working with pigs, and feeding the pigs, becoming hungry enough that he wished he could eat with the pigs.
And that’s when it happened. One, two, three.
1) He recognized his sin for what it was. The Bible says he “came to himself” (Luke 15:17). He came to his senses. He realized the utter foolishness of what he’d done. “I have sinned against heaven,” he said (Luke 15:18), as well as against his own dad. He’d done wrong. He could see it now.
2) He experienced a heartfelt sorrow. Though he’d been raised in a home with a loving father, where his needs were always provided, he now deemed himself “no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19). The loss of dignity weighed heavily on him.
3) He changed his behavior. Responding to the grief he felt for his actions, “he arose and came to his father” (Luke 15:20). He got up from the mess he’d made, turned his back on his foolish choices, and resolved to live a different kind of life. Decisive action.
That’s a picture of repentance. The picture of a change—in every way and at every level. A change in me, not in someone else. A change in my heart, not merely a change of job or city or circumstance. Repentance involves three aspects of transformation, concentrated in one person who wants to be on a fresh, new page with the Father and leave the sin and stupidity of their past behind them.
You see it in the Prodigal Son. But where you need to see it most is in you.
Because, yes, you can experience more of God’s grace, but not until you recognize sin for what it is. More of God’s peace and presence, but not without a pure heart. More of God’s joy and power, but not without a turning.
If you want to do something today that would bless the heart of God—the way the prodigal’s father was blessed when catching sight of his son walking toward home—you can do it. You can spark joy among the angels in heaven.
In three simple steps.
Father, You have outlined the path that I need to walk, and I pray now for the humility to walk it. Help me recognize my sin. Help me react to it with heartfelt sorrow. Most importantly, help me move beyond my feelings of regret and remorse until I’m actually changing, actually obeying. You are the best thing to run hard after, as I turn my back on where I’ve been. And I do that, running to you with hope and anticipation today, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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