20 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Nine
Growing in Kindness
In this quarter of study here at Gospel Growth Ministries we are looking at how to grow and become mature Christians. We are seeing that growth and maturity come as we study Jesus Christ so that we are transformed and begin to look like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In other words, we want to change from our natural selves to our spiritual selves. We want to change from being people who are selfish, prideful, sinful, unforgiving, and harsh, to people who are loving, forgiving, gracious, compassionate and kind. This kind of a change only comes about one way: through fixing our eyes on Jesus and seeing the gospel clearly.
I recently read of a tourist to the Olympic National Park in Washington state who was driving up the road to Hurricane Ridge. (I have driven that road and the views are amazing; they take your breath away.) Unfortunately, this tourist was so enamored with the amazing view that as he stared at it in awe, he moved toward it, and eventually drove right over the cliff.
Fortunately, the car did not roll down too far and the occupants were rescued (you can read about it here), but his experience proves the power of fixing our eyes on something.
The point is that we move toward what we look at (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). It is just natural. If we put sinful things before our eyes, the results are disastrous as we, ourselves, become sinful: selfish, prideful, angry and bitter. This is immaturity. Whereas if we set the Lord Jesus before our eyes, we start to move toward Him, and become like Him: we become loving, gracious, compassionate, kind and gentle over time. This is spiritual growth, maturity. One of the Bible writers, King David, said, “I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NIV). It is true, we will grow strong, stable and secure as we follow Christ and this is the reason why we study Christ and His gospel.
We are studying our way through the list of attributes we are told to put on in Colossians 3. We began by learning what it means to put on humility, then we studied forgiveness and reconciliation, grace, meekness, and our last lesson was learning how to put on a compassionate heart. We saw the compassionate heart of God displayed in the giving of His one and only Son, Jesus, to die as our atoning sacrifice. We saw the compassionate heart of Christ who gave His very life’s blood to secure our eternal salvation.
Now, let us read Colossians 3:12-17 and continue on in our pursuit of understanding the way that Christ teaches:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Question 1. According to Colossians 3, after a compassionate heart, what are we to put on?
Kindness: the act of being kind is something we often take for granted; and yet, it is probably one of the first things to go when we are angry, upset or wounded. We heard a wife once say that she wouldn’t give her husband a drop of water even if he were dying of thirst. Her anger over her husband’s sin had driven out even the most basic measure of kindness from her heart. But that type of thinking is immature and childish, of the flesh—the old way of living, before Christ.
Let us now review a section of the Bible that shows true kindness. Please read the study below and answer the questions following:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”–Titus 3:3-7
Question 2. According to Titus 3, what were we prior to the appearance of God’s kindness?
We were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to our various passions, malicious, envious, hated and hating. These might be terms you associate with someone else, not yourself, but the reality is that we were all once this way (verse 3). This is simply the natural way to live, in selfish indulgence and fleshly pleasures.
Question 3. According to Titus 3 verse 4, to what is our salvation due?
Yes, it was when the “loving kindness” of God appeared that He saved us. God was kind to us while we were still sinners. His kindness appeared in the person of His Son Jesus Christ who died to save us, even while we were His enemies (Colossians 1:21).
Likewise, the Bible tells us to be kind to our enemies too:
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, Proverbs 25:21 (ESV)
As we read through the New Testament we see that Jesus was always kind and forgiving to the sinners that He encountered: the woman caught in adultery, the demon possessed, the tax collectors who stole from people. So, too, God calls us to a similar type of kindness that is gentle, compassionate, and loving; kindness that is shown not only to friends but to our enemies as well. Kindness that is unmerited and sacrificial.
I recently read a story of when CNN correspondent Peter Arnett was on assignment in Israel. While covering a story a bomb exploded nearby. Amidst the chaos that ensued an older man came running to Peter with a little girl in his arms, asking his help in getting her to a hospital. Peter Arnett, as a member of the press, was one of the few who could get through security to the hospital, and they quickly took the little girl there. Unfortunately, the little girl did not survive, and when the man heard the news he collapsed in tears. Peter Arnett said, “I can’t imagine how you must feel, I’ve never lost a child.” The man said, “She is not my child, I am an Israeli settler, and she is a Palestinian.”
This man had a heart of kindness and love for those who would be considered his enemy. Jesus says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Question 4. In considering the truth of this passage, that we are to put on kindness, have you been kind towards others? Even those who have been unkind to you? Please share your thoughts here:
Question 5. Do you need to confess to God your lack of kindness to others? Write out your prayer or share your thoughts here:
Confessing your lack of kindness to God is the first thing to do, but if you have been unkind to people, you may also want to confess your sin to them as well. Confessing to others might seem difficult but is necessary for ongoing Christian growth. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)
For many years now there has been a concept circulating called “Random Acts of Kindness.” The idea is to do acts of kindness randomly with the hopes that it will encourage others to do the same and thus make the world a better place. And while the idea is nice, the kindness to which we are called is much greater; it is a very intentional, purposeful and supernatural type of kindness. Being kind to strangers is easy—even an unbeliever can do it—but God calls us to a focused and sacrificial kindness that is empowered by the Holy Spirit—a kindness that is shown to both friends and enemies. As Luke 6:35 says, God “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil”.
To illustrate the type of kindness we are talking about, let’s consider God’s actions toward the nation of Israel in the following passage of the Bible:
Ezra 9:9, “Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.” (NIV)
Question 6. In what condition were the people of Israel when God showed kindness to them?
The people of Israel were slaves when God showed kindness to them, they were captives. God was kind to them in their captivity.
But we shouldn’t think of them as innocent slaves. Ezra is a book about the completion of the second temple and the return of God’s people to Jerusalem after their exile. The Israelites had been exiled because they had abandoned the one true God and had begun worshiping the idols of the surrounding heathen nations. They were already slaves to rebellion and idol worship, having turned their backs on God, and so they were taken captive to Babylon where they became physical slaves of the Babylonian kingdom.
Friend, we are no better than the Israelites: anytime we turn to sin, we first turn from God. We abandon God and become slaves to that sin, meaning we cannot escape doing the sin over and over again. The world calls this “addiction” but God’s Word calls it “slavery”. “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ ” John 8:34-36 (ESV)
Question 7. What does Jesus do for those who are enslaved to sin?
Yes, Jesus is kind. Just as God set the Israelites free from Babylonian captivity, so Jesus, through His death on the cross, and the work of His Spirit in our hearts, sets us free from slavery to sin. Indeed, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance which then begins to free us from bondage to sin: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)
Question 8. According to Ezra 9:9 above, what did God grant the people of Israel new life to do?
God, in His kindness, granted the people new life to rebuild and repair.
Dear friend, God is kind and generous; He allows and even prepares us for restoration. Maybe He plans to help you restore your marriage, or maybe He wants you to repair a relationship with another family member, or maybe He will help you rebuild a relationship with someone with whom you work. This is the type of kindness to which we are called.
This type of kindness is not easy, but it is productive in our lives. We grow and mature when we learn from God to be kind to people, while they are in their captivity, even if they are evil and ungrateful. We grow when we learn to make room for restoration and healing. If we are always holding people’s sin over them or continually trying to punish them for their sins against us then there will be no healing, no new life, no restoration for us or for them, and no growth into maturity on our part.
Question 9. We have all had relationship difficulties and problems, it is part of being human and living in a fallen world. Will you now, because of God’s kindness to you, begin to be kind to others? To prepare for restoration and rebuilding in your life, even with those who have been captives of sin as we once were?
We are called “chosen, holy and beloved children” (Colossians 3:12). God loves you and all those in your relationship circle. He has saved you by the precious blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19). If you, and anyone you’ve had relationship problems with, are believers in Christ then you both are part of the body of Christ; you have been chosen by the same mercy of God, saved by the same grace, bought with the blood of the same Lamb. It is only fitting that we extend the same kindness that we ourselves have received from our great and kind Heavenly Father, through His Son and His Spirit.
We can begin to show kindness in a variety of ways such as speaking kindly to people, helping them to understand their forgiveness in Christ as well as to feel our own forgiveness toward them, showing them that we love them and want to help them, writing kind notes to them, etc. Some of our acts of kindness might be ignored, some might be well received and some might even be rejected; but by God’s grace we will continue to grow and mature in this area regardless of the outcome.
Question 10. Has God brought to mind someone with whom you can show kindness today? If so, how can you show kindness toward them? Please be specific, and then let your ministry volunteer know how you followed through with what you wrote here:
Tomorrow, we will move on to consider our next new life attribute: thankfulness. Until then, I pray that you will remember the kindness of Christ toward you—the One Who called you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), Who loved you and gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20), Who rose to justify you (Romans 4:25), Who promises to keep you to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8)—and then extend that kindness to someone today.