Rarely does a person wake up one day and decide he wants to become a thief. Rarely does a person say to himself, “Today I want to become a drug addict.” Rarely is murder the first wrong choice a person makes. We make choices in life, and at times, we make wrong choices. But sometimes we get caught in a cycle of wrong choices. We make some wrong choices, and we feel it is too late to turn back and make right choices. So we continue to make wrong ones, and we keep going further and further in the wrong direction. Often that is when someone ends up as a drug addict or thief. They end up there because of a series of wrong choices that took them that direction. But even if we do not end up in that extreme, when we choose to sin, it takes is away from God (Isaiah 59:2). We may not end up as the worst sinner that we know, but the Bible says that our sin does separate us from God, and continuing to make the same wrong choices will not bring reconciliation.
But we do not need to keep going that direction. Sometimes we might feel that God won’t forgive us. Sometimes we feel that another person won’t forgive us (and perhaps someone else has told us that). Sometimes we feel like it is too late or we are so far from where we should be that we cannot change. But we can be changed. Forgiveness is available.
The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 teaches this point very clearly. The son took his inheritance and left home. He didn’t just wander away; he ran away. He turned his back on his father and wasted everything good that his father had given him. He spent a long time away from where he should have been. But his money ran out, and he was miserable. He ended up feeding pigs in a pigpen, wanting to eat their food because he didn’t have enough of his own. A series of bad choices led him there, and that kind of situation is where we might feel like it is too late to turn away. But Luke 15:17-19 says, “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.” In verse 17, “he came to himself.” He came to his senses. He hadn’t been thinking clearly, but once he thought clearly, he realized he could go back to his dad. Change is possible. But he thought he was no longer worthy to be a son, so he hoped to be a servant. At least that would be better than the life he had been living.
But his dad received him back and forgave him fully and freely. Luke 15:22-24 says, “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.” The father accepted him back, not as a servant, but as a son. No, the son wasn’t worthy of this forgiveness and kind help. He had done nothing to deserve it. But that is exactly how God forgives us. That is the good news; that is the Gospel. He isn’t waiting for us to clean up ourselves and make ourselves better. He isn’t waiting for us to prove that we deserve His love or forgiveness. He isn’t waiting for us to start fixing the problem before He steps in and finishes the parts where we need help. Instead, He has provided the spiritual salvation that we need, and He is ready to give us full and free forgiveness. He is simply waiting for us to repent and turn to Him, just as the son only needed to turn back to his father to receive forgiveness.
As Trent Butler said, “Humans have the capacity to change. We do not have to remain in the pigpen. We do not have to continue to live as sinners. We can become responsible for our lives. We can quit our riotous living. We can come home.” Sometimes our pride stops us, not wanting to admit that we’re wrong or not wanting to admit that we need God’s help to save us instead of saving ourselves. Sometimes our doubt stops us, wondering if God could truly forgive us that easily. Sometimes our desire to continue enjoying the pleasure we find in sin stops us. But forgiveness is not far away. We don’t need to stay in the pigpen. Even when we have made many wrong choices, God will still forgive the one who repents and turns to Him. That forgiveness is available, and we simply need to accept it according to the way God has given. When we turn to Christ in faith, God is waiting to give us His full and free forgiveness. Whether we have never accepted Christ as Savior or whether we are a Christian who has wandered far from God, God will forgive us if we turn back to Him.