Forgiveness and Repentance
(Romans 2, Matthew 9, 2 Peter 3, 2 Corinthians 7)
Introduction: Last week, the students at the boarding school, where my daughter attends, put on a play. Although the students were very good, I went more out of a sense of obligation than desire. Obligation was rewarded, however, when one of my daughter's teachers, Harlen Miller, started talking to me about forgiveness. "Have you," he asked, "ever thought about the word itself?" Well, I had not. My handy electronic dictionary tells me it means "from" and "to give." Forgiveness is a gift that God gives to us and we, in turn, can give to others! What really catches, my attention, however, is the "for." For can also mean "before" or "ahead." We see this in words such as foretaste and forgone. Jesus gave us the gift of His sacrifice on our behalf before we needed it. Let's explore how this forgiveness leads us to repentance!
- The Link
- Read Romans 2:4. What leads you to repentance? (God's kindness towards you.)
- Which kindness of God is meant here? (When we consider what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross on our behalf, that is the most remarkable kindness we can imagine. When we add the thought that Jesus did this to forgive us of our sins before we were even born, that draws us to repent of our sins.)
- Read Matthew 9:9. What was Matthew's job?
- Was this a respected position? (No. Read Matthew 9:10-11. Tax collectors were in the same boat as sinners in the public's opinion.)
- Do you think that Matthew realized what people thought of him? (Of course. That is why the friends who came to his home were tax collectors and others of less than sterling reputation.)
- Why do you think Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple? (The calling of Matthew gives hope to all those who are looked down upon by those around them.)
- Our lesson (Tuesday) has this glorious reminder that our sins, whatever they are, however serious they are, have already been punished -- if we repent. When Jesus died on the cross, in our place, He was punished for our sins. This is a gift that is beyond our full comprehension. The key to this, however, is repentance. We just discussed one reason why Jesus would choose Matthew to be a disciple. Are there any other reasons? (Yes. Those who are forgiven more are likely to love more. (See Luke 7:47.) Matthew, because of the extent of his forgiveness, was an excellent choice to share what God has done for the most detested sinners.)
- Read Matthew 9:12-13. What does Jesus mean when He says, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice?"
- Let's work through this problem. First, what does Jesus mean by "sacrifice?" (Jesus is quoting Hosea 6:6 where sacrifice clearly means the sin offerings given in the temple. ("I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.")
- Second, what does Jesus mean by mercy? (In Hosea 6:6 this is lined up with "acknowledgment of God." I think Jesus is saying that we need to know God and accept who He is.)
- What role does Jesus play in helping us to know God? (Jesus came, in part, to reveal God to us.)
- What does the context of eating with sinners and tax collectors add to our understanding of the "mercy, not sacrifice" statement? (Jesus is telling us that He wants our primary focus on addressing the sin problem in life (the sin in our life and in others) rather than the removal of sin later. It is just like us saying to our children, "I want you to concentrate on doing what is right, rather than concentrating on saying you're sorry later.)
- How does this illustrate what God did for us in forgiveness? (Jesus showed us that He loved us. Jesus showed us how to live. He did these things before He died on our behalf. Thus, even in His life and death on earth, Jesus illustrated the forgiveness idea - that He gave us an advance gift. The first gift of showing us how to live and love others, and the second gift of the atonement for our sins.)
- Who is being addressed in Matthew 9:13? Who is supposed to show mercy rather than making sacrifices? (This is us. We show mercy in two ways. We acknowledge God in our life and attempt to live a life that is pleasing to Him. In addition, we realize that our task is to bring the message of forgiveness to those who have not repented.)
- How do these verses in Matthew 9 affect our view of sinners? (Instead of condemning them, we view them as an opportunity to reveal Jesus' attitude.)
- The Choice
- Read 2 Peter 3:9. What attitude does God have towards sinners? (He is not only patient, He wants the right result.)
- What choices do we have? (If we do not repent, we will perish.)
- Read 2 Peter 3:10-11. When do we have to make the choice about repenting or perishing? (Immediately! The Lord can come at any time, and will come unexpectedly. We need to make the choice now.)
- Read Revelation 21:8. When the Bible speaks of perishing, what does it mean? What is the consequence of rejecting or delaying repentance?
- Why would a loving God do this? (He paid the penalty for our sins. All we have to do is choose and keep choosing to repent and walk with God. Consider all that God (and we) have suffered at the hands of sin. God will not let the sin problem continue. Sin and sinners will perish by fire.)
- Our Attitude Towards Sin
- Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. What is the difference between "Godly sorrow" and "worldly sorrow?" (One brings life and the other brings death.)
- What is "Godly sorrow?" (It seems to be a real regret for our sins.)
- Why does Godly sorrow bring life? (The lesson (Thursday) tells us the Greek word for repentance literally means "a change of mind." Godly sorrow works a change in our attitude. We change our mind about a certain sin in our life.)
- Does this sorrow have anything to do with the forgiveness that Jesus gives us? (When we consider how our sins caused Jesus' suffering, and we see how our sins hurt us and others, it helps us to have this change of mind we call repentance.)
- Look at the list of things in verse 11 that Godly sorrow produces. What relationship do you see, if any, between these attitudes and repentance?
- Consider 2 Corinthians 7:10 again. Do you regret some things you have done in the past?
- How does this regret feel?
- Notice that verse 10 says that Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which in turn leads to salvation, which leaves no regret. How can this be? Why would you be without regret? (My guess is that you have no regret because you have learned from the mistake and it has formed the basis for your repentance. Worldly sorrow, however, does not produce a change in your attitude or your life. The result is eternal death.)
- Friend, God offers us the gift of forgiveness. Would you like to have a change in your attitude? A change that can leave regret behind? If so, accept God's gift today!
- Next week: How Jesus Forgave