Lou: Thinking further about the prodigal son story, is it necessary to repent and to confess one’s sins before one is forgiven?
Graham: In the story, the boy had hardly begun to speak when the father interrupted and said, “I forgave you long ago.” An even more stunning illustration is Jesus forgiving on the cross. There was no indication that the soldiers who were nailing Him to the cross were saying, “Please forgive us; please forgive us.” They didn’t even ask, and He said, “I forgive you anyway” (Luke 23:34). God is forgiveness personified.
On the other hand, our response to God’s forgiveness does matter. The offer of forgiveness does us no good unless we are moved by His forgiveness to repent. We often have it the other way around, “If I repent, maybe He will forgive me.” Instead, it is learning of His forgiveness that moves us to repentance–some of us, anyway. As Paul said in Romans, it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But God’s kindness doesn’t make repentance unimportant. If I don’t respond to His gracious forgiveness, it doesn’t do me any good. Repentance means changing my mind and confessing, “I am sick, help me, what must I do to be well?”
Lou: So the difference here is based on the reason we come to God. Are we drawn by His gracious character? Or do we hope that our repentance and confession will win God over to where He might be willing to forgive us? In that case, the story would have the father saying to the prodigal son, “Well, since you have made all these promises, maybe I’ll welcome you home.”
Graham: I want to say this very reverently, but if it requires that I bring the blood of His Son to God before God can say, “Well, now I can forgive you,” that denies the prodigal son story. You don’t have to bring Him anything. God sent His Son to die to answer all those questions and to draw us to Him, to handle all the emergencies in the Great Controversy. Why? Because He had already forgiven us, but we didn’t know it. He sent the Son to make it clear. And the Son hanging on the cross said, “I forgive you. You don’t understand what you’re doing.” That’s incredible! That kind of forgiveness wins some to repentance. It won one of the thieves hanging on the cross next to Him.
Lou: What is our topic for Chapter Fourteen? Please introduce where we are going next.
Graham: The title of the next chapter is: “God Can Completely Heal the Damage Done.” It’s really talking about perfection, a topic which has probably given many people hypertension or ulcers. It is a topic that can be very discouraging. But in the Bible, perfection is not a requirement. Perfection is an offer. Do you want to be well or not? How well do you want to be? The message of perfection, instead of being forbidding, can be very comforting news.
Lou: So this chapter is about God’s wonderful treatment of us. The next chapter is about how He goes on to heal us.