11 Aug Quarter One Lesson Eight
What is repentance?
Repentance is pretty simple to understand; it simply means “to think differently” or “to turn around”. When we sin we are going “the wrong way” so to repent we need to think differently, turn around and return to God’s way.
Sometimes an illustration helps: the other day my wife and I were driving along on an unfamiliar road, and we were talking together. When we talk together we often lose track of time, becoming lost in our thoughts and communications together. After some time passed we realized that we had gone too far so we took the next exit and turned around. We changed our minds about the direction we were going, and we made a U-turn. And this is the definition of repentance.
It’s not that I will never lose my way again, or that I will never need to make another U-turn; indeed, my wife can attest to the fact that I have needed to make many course corrections over the years, and I’m sure there will be more to come.
In our Christian lives we don’t do a one-time turn and assume that is all that is ever needed. No, Christians are “repenting repenters”, meaning we continue to sin and find that we need to repent. For example, if we find ourselves lying then we must repent: tell the truth. If we steal something, we must repent: return the item if possible and then work hard for what we need. You get the idea.
Today, we want to discuss the motivation for repentance as well as the results of repentance, all the while keeping in mind the importance of the gospel.
So let us begin our study today by reading Romans 2: 1-4:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:1-4 (ESV)
Question 1. According to Romans 2:4, what is God’s kindness meant to do for us? In other words, what is the motivation for repentance?
And right here we learn the motivation for repentance: the kindness of God. Romans 2:1-4 talks about “the riches of His kindness” and God’s “forbearance and patience” with us. This means that God has not swiftly executed judgment on His human family, but rather has dealt with us kindly and patiently. He has been patient when we have gone our own way; He has richly given us grace, dealing with us in kindness instead of judgment.
We saw God dealing with Adam and Eve in this manner, as well. Remember how God came to them after their disobedience?
Question 2. Recalling our past lessons, how did God show kindness to Adam and Eve in the garden?
There were several ways in which God showed patience and kindness to Adam and Eve when they sinned. First, He came to them “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). This is the Bible’s way of saying that God not only came to them when the temperature was cool bur also that He did not come “in the heat of anger”. He came calmly, lovingly, and kindly—in the cool of the day.
Secondly, God asked questions before bringing about their consequences. He already knew the answers, yet He wanted Adam and Eve to consider their ways, to think about their condition.
Those of us who are parents, or who are in the role of authority with others, can learn a lot from the way that God dealt with Adam and Eve. When people wrong us we can come to them kindly, not in the heat of anger but “in the cool of the day.” We can come asking questions, showing interest, being concerned about them as people.
But the greatest way that God showed “the riches of His kindness” to Adam and Eve is when He put to death a substitute in their place, and then lovingly clothed them with skins of the sacrifice.
Question 3. Recalling past lessons again, to what did the putting to death of an animal, and the clothing of Adam and Eve with its skins, point forward?
Frederick Lehman grasped the kindness of God to Adam and Eve when he wrote these lyrics:
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Adam and Eve were “the guilty pair” who were “bowed down with care”, meaning they were bent over under the load of their guilt and sin. And what did God do? Did He strike them down in a fit of anger? Did He put them to death swiftly? No, He reconciled them to Himself through the death of a substitute, and He pardoned them from sin. God is rich in kindness!
Yes, the putting to death of a substitute and the clothing of Adam and Eve in the sacrifice, which pointed forward to God giving His Son to die on the cross, was how God showed the greatest kindness toward Adam and Eve.
Dear friend, God has showed His kindness to you too. And the greatest place where we can see that kindness demonstrated is at the cross.
Can you for a moment turn your eyes up to that hill called Mt. Calvary? There you will see a Man, Jesus Christ, Who lived a perfect life, never having sinned once, only doing good to all people. But you will also see an angry mob made up of religious leaders and state officials, and they have banded together to crucify Jesus on a cross.
They put a crown of thorns on Him (Matthew 27:29), thorns that pierced His skin and dug into His flesh. Then they whipped His back, ripping His flesh open, so that when they were done His back looked like a farmer’s field with rows of torn flesh. “The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows” (Psalm 129:3). They mocked Him, spit on Him and struck His head with a rod, fulfilling Micah 5:1 “they will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod”. Then they led Him up the hill of Mt. Calvary, and there they crucified Him, this righteous Man, as if He were the worst criminal of all.
See, at the cross God made Jesus’ life a guilt offering for you(Isaiah 53:10). Jesus not only took your sin on Himself, as if it were really His, but He also literally became sin for you:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
Yes, Jesus was made sin that you might be made righteous. He endured punishment that you might have peace (Isaiah 53:5). This amazing act of love was played out in advance in the story of Adam and Eve that we have been studying. In a manner of speaking, God put the sins of Adam and Eve on the animal, making it to be sin for them, and then He put the clothing of the animal on Adam and Eve which covered their nakedness.
Question 4. As you contemplate all that Jesus did for you, what thoughts do you have currently?
One more thing to consider, that we have not brought up yet, is that Jesus Christ did not stay in the grave, He rose from the dead on the third day. Over the course of these gospel growth lessons we will see much evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, but for now we just want you to see why He rose from the dead:
“who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:25 (ESV)
Question 5. According to Romans 4:25, why was Jesus Christ raised from the dead?
Yes, Jesus was raised for our justification, which simply means that He saved our lives. We will talk more about this over time, but for now we just want to understand that Jesus died for our sins and that He rose for our justification.
And what kindness of God this is, that He gave His Son for us. The gospel is where we see the “riches of His kindness” magnified many times over. The results of the gospel show us we are forgiven of all sin, absolved of all guilt, cleared of all offenses against God. The results of the gospel tell us we are right with God, that we are at peace with God, that we are friends with God. The gospel is where He lavished us with kindness upon kindness.
Let us read Romans 2:4 again and notice how God’s kindness affects us:
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (ESV)
Question 6. According to Romans 2:4 what should God’s kindness to us do for us?
Yes, God’s kindness is given to us for a reason: to lead us to repentance. It is designed to cause us to turn away from the sin of unbelief, to turn away from wrong living, and to turn to God and learn how to live differently.
There is a great illustration of this. One of the Bible writers, a man by the name of Paul experienced the kindness of God, and it led him to repentance. He wrote the following to a group of people who lived in Galatia. Just notice the change he went through:
I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:22-24 (NIV)
And notice if you will how different God’s method is from religion. Religion threatens. There are religious groups today that threaten people with death for refusing to join or support them.
In opposition to this method, God instead lavishes us with the kindness of the gospel, beckons us with love to come to Him. By the power of this love He begins to change our will, so that we start to desire Him above all else. As He changes our will we purposely turn away from unbelief and a lifestyle of sin and turn directly to God. This is repentance.
Question 7. As you personally consider the love and kindness of God in the gospel, is it having its intended effect on you today? That is, is the kindness of God leading you to repentance? Please share your thoughts here:
One thought by way of application on this subject is that if someone has no faith, is living a life of sin, refuses to change, the one thing that is needed above all else is to see the kindness of God in the gospel. This is the intent of Gospel Growth Ministries. We want to show Jesus in the glory of the gospel, over and over, and in so doing we will watch God change many lives. Possibly He is already beginning to change yours through His kindness as you consider the gospel.
So far we have seen what repentance is, and the motivation of repentance, which is the kindness of God. And now we want to see the results of repentance, which is a life that is being changed. Please examine the Scriptures below and provide your answers and thoughts:
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (ESV)
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 (ESV)
Question 8. Paul wrote to some people in a city called Thessalonica (modern day Greece) and he affirmed them in their faith. He said He knew that they were loved and chosen by God because of what?
Yes, Paul said they were loved and chosen by God because the gospel came to them powerfully, through the Holy Spirit and with great conviction.
Question 9. According to 1 Thessalonians 1:9, what did this great conviction in the gospel lead the Thessalonians to do?
Here we see one key thought: the gospel led to their repentance. “The kindness of God leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). They made sweeping changes in their lives: they made an about face, a one hundred and eighty degree turn around. They turned to God from idols (statues which were commonly used in religious worship) and began to serve the Living God rather than the lifeless idols.
In this passage we see that to truly believe in the gospel is to make real changes in our lives. We don’t want to receive the gospel “in word only”, which means to have a mere head knowledge of it but not let it make any changes in our lives. We want the gospel to come to us with power, being fully convinced that is true, and changing our lives because of it. After all, Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins, not leave us drowning in them.
This is a life-long process of letting go of sin and unbelief and learning to live differently, but it starts with a mere turn. A U-turn. A change of thought and direction.
Question 10. Can you please describe where you are at in this turning process? What things do you need to turn from, and are you turning to God?