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The Success Of A Failure

Luke 15:15-18 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

Introduction: The story of the Prodigal Son has been told and retold so many times that it would seem there is nothing left to say. It is the sad story of a young man gone wrong.

My question is this: When did his failed life turn around?

  • At his assertiveness? “Give me my portion.”
  • At his awakening? “When he came to himself.”
  • At his his decision? “I will arise and go.”
  • At his action? “And he arose.”

No, none of these. The success of the prodigal happened when he uttered the three words most difficult for anyone to speak: “I have sinned.”

  • Three sweetest words, “I love you.”
  • Three hard words, “I was wrong.”
  • Three hardest words, “I have sinned.”

1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I. We have sins to confess.

  • Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
  • Eccl 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
  • Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
  • Jer 17:8-9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
  • (The testimony of our conscience. The story is told of a teen girl who had a baby, but suffered so much mental anguish that she killed it. Afterwards, she rejected any help because she said she could still hear the baby screaming.)

II. Bible sinners.

  • Pharoah: Hardened in his sins. (His confessions were not sincere.)
  • Balaam: Wavering in his sins. (He was convicted in emotional moment, but went back.)
  • Achan: Late in his sinning. Years of service wiped out. Hurt his entire family.
  • Prodigal: Early in his sinning. Some claim the right to sow their wild oats. (Too many are hopeless addicts or alcoholics today because of this.)

III. Why is it so hard to say, “I have sinned?”

  • Ignorance of sin. When you hear truth, you must respond.
  • Pride of life. Refusal to place yourself in a bad light, embarrassment.
  • Stubbornness. No reason other than you don’t want to.
  • Fear of discovery.
  • There must be another way.

IV. These three words “I have sinned,” call heaven to attention.


  • “Look how good I’ve been.”
  • “Look how much money I’ve given.”
  • “Look at the great sacrifice I have made for you.”
  • “Look at my great successes in life.”
  • “Look at the wonderful works I’ve done.”

But, “I have sinned.”

Luke 15:20-24 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 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: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Ps 51:1-4 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

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