The Bible is often referred to as a very large book. Though it is large in size it's really more like a library of books containing 66 letters written featuring everything from action to poetry. What's most amazing about this collection of books is not it's diverse literary elements, but the unity of it's message. All the books, whether poetry, prophecy, or history, convey the following message:
1) We lost the close relationship we had with God
2) God wants a close relationship with us so He made it possible through Jesus
3) All we have to do is come to Him to have that relationship
If we boiled all of these words down into one word we'd have what is called "repentance". Repentance literally means "to turn around". Say you were walking down the street to a restaurant. If you turned around to go back home you'd literally be "repenting". In the biblical sense repentance has to do with turning away from your life of sin and going back to God. This is a critical component of God's saving grace. We cannot continue in sin and think that God's grace will cover it (Rom. 6:1). God, through Peter, preached that repentance was necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). Jesus himself said that unless we repent we'll all perish (Luke 13:3).
The plan of salvation is just that, a plan. God had a plan for how people would receive salvation. This plan includes repentance (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 2:38). Repentance has been described as doing a “180,” which means that you quit following sin and turn to follow God (Acts 3:19-20). The act of repentance is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). In this parable we see two actions that encompass the all important act of repentance.
The first action of the prodigal is that he was living a life of sin. The prodigal son had a wonderful life at home. He had everything he could have ever wanted, but he grew bored and asked his father for the inheritance that was due him. After receiving his inheritance he went and “squandered his wealth wild living” (Luke 15:13 NIV). This lifestyle brought him to a position of poverty and pain (15:14-16). The prodigal son was headed in a sinful direction, but fortunately for him the story doesn’t end there.
The second action of the prodigal is that he turned from his wicked living. The son had fallen on very hard times. He had hit rock bottom. His life of sin had placed him in a position that he never wanted to be in. He quickly realized that if he went back home he could work for his father and have food to eat and a place to sleep (15:17-20a). The prodigal son knew that if he went back home he could leave his terrible life of sin behind and live a wonderful, new life with his father.
What was the result of the prodigal’s repentance? He was able to live a much better life with his father. The prodigal was headed nowhere fast. In fact, the son was stated as being “dead” (15:24). This repentance caused the son to go from a state of being dead to a state of being alive (15:24).
This short section of Scripture serves as a wonderful illustration of what repentance is. The events here that were true of the prodigal are true for us today as well. Every one of us has a sin problem (Romans 3:23). God’s plan of salvation requires that we repent from that sin and turn to follow God, just like the prodigal! When we do finally make that turn from sin what can we expect? We can expect our Father to rejoice and celebrate because we have made a return back to Him. -Jack Dodgen