26 Apr Discussion Guide: Purple Book | Repentance and Baptism
Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.
“People don’t do what they believe in—they just do what’s most convenient and then they repent.” –Bob Dylan
Mr. Dylan’s outlook on humanity may not be the most optimistic view, but you have to admit there is an element of truth to what he’s saying. And, I think something in each of us nods our head at this statement with a bit of resentment because we can all think of that person in our lives who fits Dylan’s description. The sibling, the parent, the coworker, that person who seems to always say or do something hurtful and then follow it up with a routine, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”
But, before we add another bit of evidence to the case we’re building against them, let us take a moment to hold ourselves to the same scrutiny in regards to our relationship with God. Are we truly walking in repentance towards Him or are we justifying our own behaviors? What does it even mean to repent? If Jesus is Lord, as we discussed last time, and we have disobeyed His commands, then how exactly are we to respond? What is it that God wants us to do?
In this discussion we will take a look at what it means to repent, where do we find the power and strength to do so, and why does it even matter to begin with?
Looking back over your life, what is the biggest change you have had to make?
How would you define repentance?
“Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
This word “despise” literally means “to reject.” Job, having just conversed with God, responds in humility and says that he is rejects himself in repentance.
One pastor put it this way. He said, “Repentance is siding with God against self.”
What does this idea of rejecting self, or siding against self, have to do with repentance?
Why do you think it is so difficult to obey sometimes?
Repentance begins with the recognition that you are not God, you’re not the definer of what is right and wrong, good and bad. It is acknowledging that your heart is bent in the wrong direction, longing to find pleasure and satisfaction apart from God, and therefore repentance is accepting God’s Word as true and right, even when it says you are sinful and evil in the pursuits of your heart. If you don’t see yourself as wrong first, then you will never see a need to truly repent. You may realize you need to appear different to others, but there will never be the reality of your needing a new heart. You first have to side with God and agree that what He says is far weightier than what you feel.
By definition, to reject one thing is to accept something else. If repentance is the rejection of self-centeredness, then what do you suppose we are to accept in its place?
When we reject our own self-centeredness and self-reliance we must replace it with Christ-centeredness and a reliance on His grace and mercy. Many times we try to replace self-centeredness with good works, acts of service, moral improvement. The problem with that is that it is just another form of self-centeredness. It’s a form of religion, and religion is really just a more evolved and disciplined form of self-centeredness and idolatry. Outright sin, like lying, stealing, cheating is doing what you think is most beneficial for you now. Religion/moralism is denying yourself the immediate pleasure of outright sin or the delayed pleasure of people’s perceptions and the reputation you can earn. Neither are trusting in Christ or making Him uppermost in the desires of your heart. The only way to truly repent is to turn from the pursuit of self and turn towards the pursuit of Christ.
All through Scripture we see the two sided coin of repent and believe. The word repent is metanoeō. It is the combination of the words meta, meaning “to change,” and noeo, which means “to understand.” So, to repent literally means to change your understanding. The word for believe, pistis, literally means “to trust in,” or to hold something as trustworthy.
With that in mind, does this change your definition/understanding of what repentance is? How?
The Obstacles of Repentance
As we discussed a minute ago, change, and in this case repentance, can be a difficult thing. We tend to make pets out of what’s familiar even if we know it isn’t healthy. Like cuddling with a razor blade laced teddy bear, we sometimes continue to hold tightly to the very thing that is killing us.
Brennan Manning, Author
“The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.”
How might the opinions and perceptions of others keep us from repentance?
To repent requires that we go against the status quo of culture. Jesus told us that the gate of self-centeredness is wide and the path is broad that leads to destruction. This means that there will be more people living in sin than there will be in repentance. To walk the narrow path of repentance and faith is going to cause friction in some of your relationships. It’s going to potentially make others feel guilty about their own lifestyle and choices (hopefully not because we are intentionally making them feel that way, but because of their own internal conviction). This will inevitably lead to people trying to pull you down in an attempt to lift themselves up. They may slander your name, make snide remarks and comments, pass you by when it comes to that promotion or job opportunity. And, if we are more concerned about the opinions of others that about God opinion, then repentance and obedience to God is going to eventually become too costly for us. Repentance and faith requires us to lose our lives (reputations, popularity, etc.), and death is something we tend to want to shy away from.
John Muncee, Author
“You’ll never be able to speak against sin if you’re entertained by it.”
How might comfort, pleasure or entertainment keep you from repentance?
Again, repentance means dying to self and death is never comfortable. But, we live in a culture that constantly tells us what we deserve, what we need, what we ought to have. Comfort, convenience and entertainment are the foundations of our modern day economy and advertisers have become brilliant at making us think that the comfort and convenience we are currently experiencing (which really puts us in the top 1% of the world in regards to wealth) is not sufficient for tomorrow. And if we settle for what we have today, then the world will pass us by tomorrow. We are a people who pursue way too much happiness and not nearly enough joy. If we buy into the lie that comfort, convenience and entertainment are where we find happiness then we will find ourselves chasing after the lures of culture rather than the truth of God’s Word.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
According to Romans 1, what other obstacles can keep us from a heart of repentance?
Pride; claiming to be wise. Foolishness; pursuing our worth, identity and joy in created things rather than Creator God. Lust in our hearts; the idea of using creation to gratify ourselves rather than as a means to glorify God.
The Power to Repent
To repent and believe is extremely difficult, and is actually impossible, to do in our own power or strength. Scripture tells us that God must give us a new heart and lead us to repentance through His lovingkindness.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
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?
Why must God change our hearts in order for us to truly repent? Why can’t we do this in our own strength?
Because doing this in our own strength is not trusting in Christ and giving God the glory that He alone is do. To change my behavior in my own strength is moralistic deism. I believe there is a God and that I must clean myself up before He can accept me. This completely robs God of the glory that the Gospel brings to His name. It is saying that my relationship with God has to be on my terms rather than on HIs. It’s saying that my self-righteousness is more powerful than the righteousness of Christ. It’s saying that Christ’s work on the cross was not enough. This is why Isaiah tells us our most righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Moralistic deism is a complete mockery of all God has done, and it is a denying of His unconditional love for us through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
“In short, a man must be set free from the sin he is , which makes him do the sin he does.”
Would it really be good news if repentance and change was purely up to our ability to do better? Why or why not?
Not at all. Moralism, the ability to change yourself, can only lead to one of two places. You will either become arrogant, prideful and self-righteous because you actually think you have done enough to be considered good and, therefore, you look down your nose at “those weaker people who lack the discipline and self-control you have.” Or, you become hopeless and condemned because you realize that no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to make the change. You might tweak your behavior for a bit, but in the end your heart goes right back to the habit. Moralism is a constant teeter-tottering between self-righteous pride and self-loathing condemnation. This is why the Gospel is Good News. It tells us that we are so bad that Christ had to die for us, and that humbles us and destroys our pride. But, the Gospel also tells us that we are so loved that Christ wanted to die for us, and that lifts us up out of the despair and condemnation of our failures. Moralism leads to pride or condemnation, but the Gospel leads to thanksgiving and worship.
The Sign of Repentance
Jacquelyn K. Heasley
“It’s one thing not to sin—it’s another not to want to!”
If our works cannot earn righteousness or change our hearts, then what role does our works play when it comes to repenting from sin and following Jesus?
Our works, or another way of putting it is our behavior, does not earn our righteousness or repentance, but they are an indication that we have been made righteous and have been brought to repentance. In the same way that fruit is an indicator of what type of tree it is you are looking at, so our works are an indicator of what type of heart we are living with. An apple doesn’t make the tree an Apple Tree, it simply shows us that it is an Apple Tree. In the same way, our works don’t make us repentant or transformed, but they do indicate that we have been brought to repentance and transformed. When James, “Faith without works is dead,” he is not saying that if you don’t do enough you can’t be saved. He is saying that the life you live is an indicator as to whether your faith is truly in Christ or in something else.
“I would far rather feel remorse than know how to define it.”
What do you suppose A’Kempis means by this? What is the difference between feeling remorse and just being able to define it?
All through the New Testament we see a close correlation between repentance and faith and water baptism. Why is water baptism so closely connected with the idea of repentance and faith?
Water baptism is a sign of repentance and the covenant we have with God through Christ. It is a sign that our old sinful nature has been buried with Christ and we have been raised with Him to live a new life by the power of His resurrection. It shows that the fleshly desires of our heart have been cut away by the hand of God through a spiritual circumcision. It shows that we have been delivered out of the hands of the slavery of sin and brought into a new land by the blood of Jesus. Baptism is not what saves us, but it is a public display and sign that we have been transformed and made new by the Holy Spirit.
If you have been water baptized, how has that moment impacted your life? If you have not been water baptized, how might the understanding of repentance and faith change your perspective on that?
Charles H. Spurgeon
“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”
Thankfully, the Gospel is not about God waiting for us to clean ourselves up before we can have a relationship with Him. However, what Jesus accomplished on our behalf absolutely transforms our hearts and makes us new from the inside. That transformation is evidenced by a life of repentance of sin and faith in the finished work of Christ as our substitute.