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The Forgiveness of God

by Jason Ridgeway

How often do you hear someone say, “I just don’t know if God will ever forgive me?”  I hear that quite often.  The difficulty lies more in the “how” rather than the “if” God forgives.  If you understand the workings of God, then you can truly experience one of the greatest gifts given to us by the Almighty, forgiveness.

In Luke 15, Pharisees and scribes were complaining about Jesus spending time with sinners.  As these complainers complain, Jesus begins to teach three parables about forgiveness.  The first one is about a shepherd losing one sheep and then rejoicing when he finds it.  Next Jesus shares the woman who loses a valuable coin and searches all over the house to find it.  When she does she rejoices with everyone.

But let us focus on the third and most well-known parable of Jesus, “The Parable of the Lost Son.”  This is a parable that shares with us the true meaning of forgiveness from God.  Now that Jesus has their attention as well ours, He delivers the greatest message of the day.  This message is not only going to help them spiritually but it will change their lives forever.  It will rock the foundation of Jewish thought as well.  Because in this parable Jesus goes against some sacred traditions.  This parable of the Lost Son has been a heart changer for over 2,000 years.  And if you let it, it will change your understanding about the Forgiveness of God.

The parable starts with Jesus setting the scene.  There was a father and two sons.  The younger son is done living at home with the father.  He begs the father for his inheritance.  That is what Jesus meant by, “the portion of goods that falls to me” (Luke 15:12).  The problem with this, is that the “portion of goods” is not due to him until the father passes.  But the father relents and divides up the property and gives the younger son his portion.

The younger son then takes his new wealth and heads off to a country that is far away from the family farm.  The son has left the father just like we sometimes leave our Heavenly Father.  This son runs off and spends his fortune on “prodigal living” (15:13).  The word “prodigal” means, wasteful or reckless.  He had no concern about his wealth or where it was going.  He now will pay for his leaving the father as the son hits rock bottom.  You see that son spent all he had and now there is a famine in the land.  He needs something to eat.  But where can he find it?  In the world?  In Luke 15:15, Luke writes that the son “joined himself” to a certain “citizen.”  This is not a job where he will get payment but a possibility of some food for service.   A country music song said, “when you hit rock bottom, there are two ways to go.  Straight up or sideways.”  This son had a choice to make.  And he came to his senses.  He said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.  I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you'” (15:17-18).

Here is the process of receiving the forgiveness of God.

     I Must Come to My Senses

I have to understand that I need to repent for my sins against God.  Just like the Lost Son came to an understanding in himself we must come to that same reality.  Here it is; I have no control of my past but I must have the courage to go home.

     The Father Waits for Us

The father in the parable had so much love and care for the son that on a daily basis he would look down the road for that son’s return.  Our Father in Heaven looks for our return.  He loves us that much.  Look at the words Jesus uses, “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him…” (15:20).  God looks to the horizon and eagerly awaits our return.

     The Father Has Compassion for Us

Remember what Jesus said in John 3:16?  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Don’t be afraid to come to Him.  He loves you so much that He has provided a way out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

     The Father Runs to Us

Under the Jewish system a father would never run to a son that has disgraced the family like this.  Most of the Jewish fathers would stand with their arms crossed waiting for the son to come crawling to him.  In fact Jewish fathers just do not run to anyone.  The pride factor gets in the way.  For Jesus to teach that the Heavenly Father runs to us would have been news to them.  Many would have been shocked by this and it would have struck them right in the heart.  But that is exactly what Jesus said, “and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (15:20).

     The Father Listens to Us

The son still had to repent of what he did.  The father in the parable never stops him from his repentance speech.  But listens with an open heart and love for his son.  In the end the father will reject the sons remedy for his sin.  God loves us enough to listen to our confession and then forgive us.  But we must ask.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  I might not feel worthy of the forgiveness of the Father but He still listens to our plea and forgives.

The Father Forgives and Restores Us 

The text reads, “But the father…” (Luke 15:22).  This tells us that the father rejected the remedy the son was asking for.  In other words, the son did not get what he deserved.  He received forgiveness instead.

Something very intriguing about this process of forgiveness and restoration.  Up to this point the son is filthy.  Could you just imagine the smell?  The father is one that can clean him up.  Just like God is the only one that cleans us up after our “wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22).

Every item that the father placed on his son represented the father’s forgiveness.  All the way down to the sandals on his feet (verse 22).  Remember that the son only requested a servant’s position.  Most servants of the day went bare-footed.  The father rejected the son’s request to become a servant and placed sandals on his feet to prove it.

Once God has forgiven us he restores us completely.  There is no probation period, no time to prove ourselves.  Just a pure and complete restoration.

The Father Rejoices for Us

Oh, the rejoicing in heaven for the one that returns.  The father commands for the fatted calf (the best) to be killed that they might eat and be merry (verse 23).  Also look back to Luke 15:7, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  God wants you back.  And when you return, there is rejoicing and celebration in heaven.

Now that you know God will forgive any and every sin that you repent of, why not come running back to Him?

May God bless you…


     Jason preaches for the  10th and Vine Church of Christ in Ironton, OH.

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33