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“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22–24).

IT SHOULD GIVE US COURAGE TO READ THE WORDS “AND THEY BEGAN TO CELEBRATE.” Among those old enough to discern right from wrong, there is not a one of us who has not “left home.” We have broken our Father’s heart, insisting on the freedom to go into a “far country” where His will would not restrict us and we could indulge our own desires. Coming to our senses, we’ve seen the tragedy of our decision, but perhaps we are reluctant to accept the invitation of the gospel to come back home to God. Perhaps we wonder what kind of reception we would receive if we did so.

A problem we all have. When we commit sin, we do something that everybody around us has also done. None of us is innocent. Deep in our hearts, we know Paul was right when he said that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The necessity of repentance. The gospel of God’s forgiveness is a message that requires repentance. “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17). So there are two terrible mistakes we need to avoid: (1) presuming that God’s grace will bless us whether we repent or not, and (2) presuming that if we don’t repent today, there will be other days in the future when we can take care of that.

The joy of forgiveness. Moved by love to end our rebellion against God, we must summon our courage and do what the Prodigal Son did: go back home and offer our repentance to our Father. What a day that will be! If there is a joy any deeper than forgiveness, it is the joy of living in a right relationship with the Father who has given us back what we so foolishly threw away.

When we have wandered away from home, our Father fervently desires for us to come back to Him (Luke 15:20). It is not just that He will allow us to return — He wants us to return. And when we do, we can expect that, by His grace, there will be a banquet at which He will show us how much He has always loved us.

“When prodigals return, great things are done” (A. A. Dowty).

Gary Henry — +

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