17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV).
The change of heart that led to merciful forgiveness in the parable of the wasteful son is well known. God is ready to receive back every sinner who comes to himself. God’s divine mercy impelled Solomon to pray about Israel coming to itself after sinning against the Lord. While dedicating the temple, Solomon petitioned God to hear the prayers of His people after their sins brought His anger and punishment upon them (1 Kings 8:46). He prayed, “Yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You…saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul…grant them compassion…” (1 Kings 8:47-53). God is ready to forgive us and receive us with loving compassion when we decide to come to ourselves and repent. Coming to ourselves about our sins takes admitting them (to ourselves and God, Ps. 51:3-4). It takes turning our hearts and lives back to God. Repentance leading to salvation is more than being sorry for sin. It is a radical change of heart that leads us to obey God instead of sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works (Psalm 104:30–31, NKJV).
God “created the heavens and the earth” and all life on it (Gen. 1:9-28). The evidence for creation compels us to honor the Creator who is blessed forever (Rom. 1:20, 25). The earth serves God’s purposes: “You laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever” (Ps. 104:5). Among these purposes is the earth sustains our life (Gen. 1:29-30). Some make doomsday predictions of the earth’s demise unless we stop changing the world’s climate. We have an impact on our environment, no doubt. As stewards of God’s creation, we ought not carelessly abuse the earth but carefully tend to it (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 8:3-8). Its resources are God-given and blessings to be used with careful responsibility. We should also admit that climate changes. It has done so since the beginning of time (Eccl. 1:3-11). Weather events, seismic shifts, volcanoes, animal extinctions, and human development impact the earth. They result in droughts, famines, diseases, and many catastrophes. Despite all this, God said He rules the earth. Man will not turn the planet into a utopian existence. Earth remains because of God’s kindness toward us, not due to humanity’s rule over it (Acts 14:15-17). Instead of being driven by fear that the world will end through human-made climate changes, let us be responsible stewards of God’s blessings and put our faith in Him. He renews the face of the earth. His glory endures forever. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’” (Malachi 3:6–7, NKJV)
The nature of God is marked by immutability. By contrast, Israel had changed time and again, turning away from and disobeying God’s law. Yet still, God called them to return, and if they would do so, He would forgive them. God’s unchanging nature includes His constant willingness to forgive. Our passage shows that God’s unchanging nature also includes the fact that He always keeps His word. He kept His word to not completely consume Israel for her sins (Jer. 30:11). Yet, Israel continued to act as if she had done nothing wrong, turning away from the Lord. God would judge their pride (Mal. 4:1). We must not think that because “God is love” He is not also a God of truth and justice. He calls sinners to repent. He is ready to forgive. And, He will judge those who refuse Him. He does not change.