Christians can become discouraged and even downright pessimistic over the possibility of wayward children of God being restored to a life of fruitful service. They forget the bright ray of hope which the Lord Jesus provides in telling of the father’s eagerness to forgive his repentant prodigal son. The words: “his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20) reflect also the eagerness of our heavenly Father to forgive and restore His repentant ones.
“There is forgiveness with You”, cried David (Psalm 130:4).” “… return to the Lord, and He will have mercy … and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”, said Isaiah (Isaiah 55:7). “Her sins which are many are forgiven”, declared the Lord Jesus (Luke 7:47). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, proclaimed John (1 John 1:9). What clearer evidence do we need than these remarkable scriptural assurances to confirm God’s willingness to forgive and restore?
Proof that backsliders can be restored was vividly portrayed at the bedside of a dying Christian. His father was a godly man who had served his generation well; the son was a baptized disciple but he left the church after a gradual drift away from spiritual things through family tragedy and discouragement. “The seat in the assembly circle is empty long before the person leaves” is a cryptic, yet true statement, and it was so in this man’s case.
When he left God’s people the drift away from the Lord was most perceptible. He was in Christ, but he was not enjoying the abiding life of fruitfulness. His occupation was the dangerous one of a firefighter, but it did not seem to occur to him that each day he was but a step away from death; that there was the daily risk of being ushered into the divine presence with so many things unreconciled with His Master. It was that insidious enemy cancer which proved to be the blessing in disguise. Doctors and nurses could not help any more and they sent him home to die.
That was when the message came and we paid our memorable visit. He was happy to be reminded of the love of the Lord Jesus, to be assured that failure and folly could be forgiven. He asked us to read to him from his father’s Bible. It was a well-worn, well-read, well-marked book; a cherished heritage. We prayed together, and we returned the following night at his request. That proved to be the last occasion, for he later lapsed into a coma and passed away.Another wanderer had come home confessing: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). He had known forgiveness and acceptance. It was a joy to give such a testimony at his funeral.