Luke 15: 8-10
In the case of the first two parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin, why does the Lord keep saying, “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…”? It is only in the third parable (the lost son) that we see repentance; the prodigal son repented and came back to his father.
So what is repentance? We say, Repent! Repent! And people listening to us make all kinds of efforts to repent! But we are not saved by our efforts; we are saved by faith – by believing in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, by resting in that Finished Work, He did it all for me – He died for me, was buried and rose again. He paid the price, He bore the penalty, He became a curse, He was made to be sin, He was forsaken by God, He died in my place..He died for me. I should have been forsaken by God; but He was forsaken on my behalf. He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world! 1 John 2.2
What is repentance? It is accepting the verdict of God on sinful man. There is nothing good in me; I am a sinner through and through. There is no hope for me. But God sent His beloved Son to die on the Cross for me. I accept the verdict of God that I am lost in the darkness and dirt of this world – just as that coin was lost in the darkness and the dirt-floor of that house. (Remember, in those days the floors of poor Jewish houses were not paved.)
Like the coin, I fell from the head-band. I am a fallen creature. And I was lost in the darkness of sin, and defiled by the dirt of the flesh and the world. “I am lost” – how I wish that word ‘lost’ would strike with its force deep into our hearts! Lost is to be cut-off from God. Lost in the utter darkness of vast and gloomy space, just like those wandering stars in Jude 13. There has to be conviction brought about by the Holy Spirit that I am lost, cut off from God, lost in darkness, defiled by the filth of this world. That conviction is brought about by the Holy Spirit, and when I am convicted I repent. I say, “Yes, Lord, that is true – I am a lost, fallen creature, without any hope of saving myself. Lord, have mercy on me!”
Accepting what God says about fallen man. Accepting what God declares about sin – the soul that sins shall die! Acknowledging God’s verdict (and wrath) on sin and sinful man – seen at the Cross! That is repentance. It is because we still have hopes about self-reform, self-improvement, self-realization, self-glory (oh, the hidden pride and self-righteousness in us!) that we have failed to realize what repentance is.