“Three Key Statements of Repentance”
One of the most beloved of all New Testament passages is the great parable of the son who went to his father, asked for his inheritance, and wasted the entire sum by living foolishly in service to himself. Jesus taught via this parable in response to the pointed question of the Pharisees who criticized the Savior's frequent interaction with sinners. Once the son realized his mistake, he came to the conclusion that he would make a drastic change and return to his father. In doing so, the young man exhibits three key aspects of what it really means to repent.
First, the young man made the simple, yet incredibly humbling statement required of all men desiring forgiveness when he said to his father, "I have sinned" (Luke 15:18). Perhaps there are no other words that are more difficult to say than those three, yet there are no three words that are more important than those three words. John taught that God is willing to forgive us of our sins only if we confess that we have indeed sinned (1 John 1:9). And for someone to say that he has not sinned is an impossibility for, scripture tells us, each and every one of us have transgressed God's divine law (Romans 3:23). To know whether I'm really ready to repent and change my ways so as to be better in service to God, I must first be willing to admit my wrongs before the God of all creation.
Secondly, the young man confessed that he was, "no longer worthy to be called" the son of his Father (Luke 15:19). As humans, we have egos and it's very challenging for us to admit how unworthy we really are. But that's exactly what's necessary! Jesus began His public ministry by teaching this fundamental truth when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). To properly and fully repent, we need to see ourselves as poor men and women, who, without God in our lives, would end up being "nobodies."
Finally, the young man asked His father to, "Make me like one of your hired servants" (Luke 15:19). Of course, the ability to say this is fully dependent on being poor in spirit and recognizing one's worthlessness absent Christ. But the statement is still vital. God doesn't merely ask us to change from being that which was wrong. Instead, He wants us to become something different, something new, something improved. Furthermore, the change that comes with repentance demands a dedication to putting God first and self last. "Make me a servant" is more than just a statement of lip service but rather the necessary cry of each child of God. In short, no sinner can fully repent absent an attitude of willing service to the Father.
Let us appreciate the great parable of our Savior and what it teaches us. And let us model true, full repentance so as to more fully and completely please our glorious Father.