This is a part of an ongoing series of lessons following the story line of the parable of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke. The purpose of these lesson is to supply information to those who find themselves outside acceptable economic and social circles in our various church communitites. Just last year in America there was a great movement and effort to encourage people to come back to church. Earlier in this year at my local church, my pastor deliver a series of inspirational messages centered aroung perfecting the family, in which I was informed about the possibility of a generation that will grow up in Christian name only, but will know nothing about Christ or his church. This inspired me to write this series about retaining your christian faith through the fammine of fellowship and recovering from the pig pen of life. In the last lesson we talked about Resolution. Resolution is the plan to solve a problem that is destroying your life. The story of the prodigal son supplied us with the following perscription. One: If you don't have to tell anyone that your leaving the pig pen. Two: Don't tell those who have ruled over while your were in the pig pen that you are leaving the pig pen. Three: Plan on humbly returning to the Father's house. Four: Apologize to those whom you offended on your way back to the father's house. Five: Don't get hung up on being blessed upon your return, get hung up in service to God in the Father's house. We now proceed to the next lesson, Repentance.
1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.
2. regret for any past action.
In Christian Church circles repentance is not only the regret of past acts it is also the act of the change of a persons mind, heart and direction in life. Therefore, it has been said that repentance is not real repentance if no change transpires in a person's life. Please note that the prodigal son formed his resolution first before he acted upon the plan of repentance. This teaches us that unless those in the pig pen of life don't make a choice to leave the pig pen, they will be just going through the motions as though they are going to leave the pig pen of life. Now we are using the prodigal son as an example only, this means that people are in the pig pen of life for different reasons. Utimately, the prodigal son has one thing in common with all of those who are leaving the pig pen of life. He accepted the responsibility of his choices. Once a person accepts the part he played in his own demise, the opportunity of self-correction becomes available. Until then he will wander around in the pig pen of his life. This is where some believers are, just wandering around, just like the Isrealites did in the wilderness prior to enterring the promised land. The only benefit in wanderring in the pig pen of life is that everything that a person was disillusioned with dies off. The only thing that a believer should be left is his faith in Christ. Sad to say many have allowed to let that die too in the pig pen of life.
When I endured homelessness, I saw men that gave up on life. Persons with no hope of recovery. I also met men that still believed that God loved them. Those men were stuck in their pig pen, stuck in homelessness. They needed help, but because they had an anger about what had happened to them, they could not see the way out. Some of them were there for years. I befriended one person, who was a christian. He was depressed also about what had happened to him. He did not know which way his life was going. Well every morning I would get up and pray and study my Bible. Many men when they saw me studying the Bible said things to me to discourage me from studying like, "It is God that made you poor, why would you still want to serve him?" or "Or that Church stuff doesn't work, you need to get a real job". Despite this onslaught of comments by the many men in the homeless shelter, this Christian friend would join me in my Bible Studies. At that point of my life, everything was on the table. When I would get up in the morning I would pray to God and say everyday, "God, Jesus, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is where either faith in Jesus works or it doesn't. Lord, all these men are watching me, to see if faith in God causes a man to fail or succeed.". For I came to the understanding that it does not matter if you live in a luxurious mansion or have no home at all, you still have to live for God before men so that they might also believe and have hope, that is every christians responsibility. One morning, I received a revelation: God has given all he is going to give, he gave his only begotten Son Jesus for believers to have it all. God gave all that he has and all that He is, it is now up to those who have faith to work that power that He has invested in us. I shared that revelation with my Christian friend that morning in our Bible discussions which had grew to about ten men, with many more listening. All God wanted was all of me was to be in service to him, all God wants was all men to be in service to him. I had some things though I had to repent of. One was greed, the other was unforgiveness and a few other things like accepting the responsiibility of my choices. I formulated a plan, my Christian friends did also on leaving the state of homelessness. Within a few weeks each member of the Bible study left the homeless center and left homelessness including my Christian friend. I was getting fustrated, I wondered why I was left in a homeless condition. I went out looking for work each day. I attended classes that the Homeless center provided, I put my resume's everywhere. The only thing I did not do was go to church on a regular basis. Because of this, I was a homeless Christian in more ways than one. Like many beleivers in Christ, I did not have a church home. The church I was a member at lost contact with me and I did not hear from them once I became homeless. Even though of all the believers that left before I did, I recognized that they all had joined a church somewhere. So I prayed for guidance and went out looking for another church to attend, not to become a member, just to attend. I went across the street from the homeless center and met a Deacon of a Church. He invited me into a building that did not look like a Church, but inside was a church. Right next door to the homeless center! It was a few weeks before I was accepted as a member. Things started to change as I got involved in the ministry and soon thereafter, I left the condition of homelessness. I continued until through the power of faith in Christ I again had a job, a home, a family and a vehicle. Til this day, people in the homeless center and in that Church community knows about the trial of homelessness I had to endure and my testimony that God's word works if you work it and many have been blessed by it. So just like the prodigal son who returned to his father's house, I had repented and returned to the Father's house, I had returned to Church, in service to God in Christ.
One thing about true repentance is that it is an act, an act that you can not fake. Either you do it or you don't. What do you need to repent of that is keeping in the pig pen of your life? More than that what are you in need of repentance so that you may continue to walk in the blessing of God in your life? You see the common mistake is that once you have repented of something you don't need to repent of anything else anymore. Repentance is a tool and whe used properly and in faith it will keep your Christian walk maintained and keep you from alot of trouble. Couple repentance with forgiveness and you have a powerful duo that will allow you do many things by the Grace of God in your life for the glory of God.
The parable does not tell of the people the prodigal had to meet upon his return, the towns he had to go back through. Enduring the humiliation of the journey all he coucl focus upon is getting back to his fathers house. Why was he so focused? The illusions of granduer of a life he imagined that he was going to live had faded and died in the pig pen. What about his father? His faither every day since his departure looked to the horizon anticipating his lost son's return. That is exactly is what God, the Father is doing just that for each one of us. He is awaiting for each of us to return to him.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. "-Romans 8:38+39
It is time you left your pig pen, return in service to God, return to Jesus. leave whatever is in the pig pen of your life in the pig pen and make your humble journey back to the Father's house, back to the Church. The loving Father God awaits you eagerly to repent and come home.