The prodigal son needed what the apostle Paul calls the “renewing of the mind.” I love reading these words from the parable: “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet…bring out the fatted calf, and kill it; let us eat and be merry” (Luke 15:22-23).
The prodigal had a mindset of condemnation, and it was put on him by Satan. Today, the same thing happens with many of God’s children. Our Father rejoices over us, embracing us with loving arms. Yet we think humility means telling God how bad we’ve been, digging up our past sins rather than trusting his expressions of love. And all the while we think guiltily, “He has to be angry with me. I’ve sinned worse than others.”
When the father’s servants brought forth the best robe in the house and put it on the son, it represented his being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Then the father put a ring on the boy’s finger, signifying his union with Christ. Finally, he put shoes on the boy’s feet, representing being shod with the gospel of the peace of Christ. This loving father was showing his child: “Away with those rags of flesh, those shreds of self effort to please me. Let me show you how I see you. You are coming into my house and into my presence as a new, kingly, royal child. You’re not coming as a beggar or a slave, but as my son, who delights me! Now, enter in with boldness and assurance.”
The same is true for us today. We have to be renewed in our thinking about how God receives us into his presence. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-20, 22 italics mine).
The word for “boldness” here is derived from a root meaning “an emancipated slave.” It means no longer being under the law of sin and death, but under the rule of grace. In short, it is by the love of the Father—by his mercy alone—that we are qualified to go into his presence. And here is the qualification: “Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet (qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).