Sometimes even as a Christian, you’ve messed up so bad and done so much damage in your life and that of others, that you wrestle with the thought that God wants nothing to do with you now. Somehow, you are tempted to think that you have gone too far and that your sins are too great and you too filthy, for God to want you back.
Yet, in Jeremiah 3:14, we get some insight into how God feels about the backslider, that one who turned away from him and went the way of sin. In the Old Testament, he said to the wayward Israelites with whom he had covenant, “Turn, O backsliding children… for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”
God does not view marriage as temporary but as permanent. In Mark 10:9, Jesus said of the permanency of the marriage covenant: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
When God likens his relationship with his children to marriage therefore, he is indicating that he is committed to looking after their welfare, for life. This is why he chastens the Christian and allows him or her to go through grief and sorrow at times. It is done in a heart of love, to get him or her to humble himself or herself in his sight, see and acknowledge his or her wrong before him, repent and ask him for forgiveness.
Hebrews 12:5-11 states:
- “…My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
No matter how far you have gone, whether it be that you have lied, stolen, gossiped about others due to maliciousness, jealousy, envy and hatred, damaged people’s lives, acted dishonestly, acted in a prideful manner, had sex outside of marriage (fornication), slept with someone’s husband (adultery), committed some other form of sexual immorality, had a child out of wedlock, took part in abortion, committed a heinous crime like murder or any other sin, God hates what you have done but he still loves you. It is his desire for you to come out of that sin, to repent and return to him, by grieving over what you have done, how far you have fallen, confessing your wrong to him and asking for his forgiveness, cleansing and restoration.
Heaven rejoices when a backslidden child who has sinned, returns to God. God does not scoff at such a person but opens his arms wide, as a loving Father, to his wayward or prodigal child.
In Luke 15:1-24, Jesus confirmed how joyful it is in heaven when a sinning person returns to God through repentance. He even went so far as to indicate the extent to which God pursues after his sinning child when he or she turns away from him, so as to bring him or her back into the fold. He indicated how, even from afar off, once that child is trying to find his or her way back, God stands ready to help him or her along the right path of return and does not hold what he or she has done against him or her, after repentance.
The portion reads:
- “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
- Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
- And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
- And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
It is important to note, that the scripture does not say that the Prodigal son tried to clean up himself before returning to his Father or to look for good, clean attire that he could wear before returning to the presence of his Father. I am inclined to believe that he came as he was, whether dirty, in need of a bath, filthy from the pigs with whom he had been associating, tired, exhausted, hungry and weighed down by all that life had thrown at him because of his own wayward way. It seems he came just as he was and even in that dirty, unkempt state, the Father with whom he had had relationship prior, still recognized him from afar and went out to meet him as he was on his way back home.
The Father also made provision for his hunger, not with a mere sandwich but with a feast and took care of his unkempt filthy state by having the best of his royal robe put on him and shoes on his feet.
This speaks of restoration which is available to all of God’s royal children, when they return to him, not just with words but with sincerity and truth.
We know that the Prodigal son was not trying to manipulate the Father when he returned but was genuinely sorry for the path he had taken. For the scripture says that, when he was going through what he was going through in his wilderness experience, he came to himself. This means, he came to his senses. He saw his wrong and acknowledged that he had been foolish and stupid. He realized that he was suffering because he had made the wrong choice, a poor choice. This then led him to remember how good it had been in his Father’s presence and what a stark contrast that was, to what he was currently experiencing.
He had left his Father’s house to explore the world and having tasted what it had to offer, he realized that there was no better place than in his Father’s house. After his mindset had changed, he returned and had his Father’s grace lavished upon him.
(Written on 25th April, 2019)