LUKE 15 | John Cossey
The Joy of Repentance Chapter
Luke 15 is a very remember-able chapter. If you grew up going to Sunday school or VBS you were probably taught the parables (short stories that didn’t happen in real life but illustrate a theological point). The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son are all illustrations to teach us that when people lose their way from God there is much happiness on God’s part when they finally decide to return. A secondary point in all three parables is that all is not happy, safe, well, or complete when we disconnect ourselves from the giver of life Himself. In all three parables when the lost object which represents us, returns to its owner, representing God, the characters go and tell the great news to their family, neighbours, and friends. They can’t hold it in; God can’t hold it in and neither can those near his heavenly throne. Just like anything exciting we experience, we can’t help but describe it to others through stories over coffee or Instagram posts!
While travelling in Italy this winter, every believer I found was so excited to tell me their testimony of how they were once far from God and decided to repent and run to God. They told how horrible life was without God and how beautiful the rescue was and new life now is. Often this was an early question they would ask me, “What’s your testimony? How did God change you?” To the Italian Christian the power of God to change one’s life is real and familiar and it is the way it should be!
All Christians have a story of the process of more and more over coming the prodigal desires in us. We at minimum have moments or seasons of casting caution to the wind to feed our desires animalishly, running to the far lands from God to hire the effervescent excitements of what we find to please our ourselves with harmful yet tantalizing things or thoughts. But sooner or later after having found the final extent to which our addiction offers, we are left wanting and empty; left wanting another fix or wanting to fix a time to return to the health of a safe place. I’ve heard philosopher and speaker Ravi Zacharias say before that the loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down. This can happen with “big” sins like drugs, sexual immorality, and the party life but also in more subtle ways. I have had many times travelling, arriving in a place that I thought would swipe me off my feet through its views and feels, and maybe I would find the woman of my dreams there or make the connection of a lifetime for my career. But when these these things fail to materialize I’m left a miserable wreck for a time. How many times have you dropped a large sum shopping only to be left with a sinking and empty feeling? These things we place our trust in can leave us ashamed that we had the desires in the first place and perhaps much poorer or harmed in the end. Certainly God has put healthy desires in us for many things, but when these desires are not submitted to God to be used in the way he designed them things will go away. But thank God there is a light at the end of every tunnel. We can choose to walk to it in repentance or stay crouched in the darkness where the light of reality isn’t so harsh on the eyes, the eyes that have grown accustomed to the darkness of fantasy. The transition may be painful, but once you get your legs in the light of reality how fresh and light the feeling of a clean conscience. As you run for the light, God runs to you. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Thank God we serve a God of second, twenty, and one hundred chances. If you think that you have exhausted God’s patience, think of this. Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18:21-22 to forgive someone seventy times seven times, which is 490 times. Jesus here is not setting an actual 490 sin limit on forgiveness. Rather his meaning is something like what we say today when we say a thing happened “a million times” or that there are “a billizion stars”. We just mean an uncountable number, a lot. If God requires this of Peter, and by extension us, wouldn’t he require this of himself, to forgive you after a lot of sin and rebellion against God? Does not God only issue commands that are consistent with his nature? If God loves you enough to die for you while you weren’t close to him and ignored him (Romans 5:8) how much more can we trust we loves us and wants us back at his side. Let us throw off every weight that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1), social media, relationships, addictions, and run the race God has called us to! There will be much celebrating.