Lesson 11: Confession and Repentance
Note: This is a Sunday School lesson by Scott Carr, Jr. based on ch. 13 in Dr. Tim Keller's book, "Prayer".
* What is our culture’s attitude towards the forgiveness of God?
* How should we view God’s forgiveness (Exodus 34:6-7)?
* God is forgiving, but He is also holy and cannot let wickedness go unpunished. How do these points fit together?
* His forgiveness is not simple or expected. Psalm 130:3-4; Micah 7:18-19. We should be amazed that He would forgive us.
* The story of the Old Testament is one of covenants. God and His people enter a mutual and intimate agreement, yet Israel continually breaks that covenant. The expectation is that God’s covenant is then null and void. God says that somehow, He will be faithful to the covenant we have broken. The rest of the Old Testament exists in a tension. How will He be faithful when we are unfaithful? Will He act out of His holiness or out of His love?
* The New Testament tells us that through the work of Jesus Christ, God responds in both holiness and justice. Jesus faithfully obeyed God. On the cross, He took the curse of our unfaithfulness and we were given the blessings of His faithfulness (Galatians 3:10-14).
* The forgiveness of God has a high cost; it required the death of the Second Member of the Trinity. Because of this truth, we can know forgiveness is not easy to give and we have no reason to doubt our forgiveness. If we think the cost is low, our confession will have little meaning and lead to no real change of heart. When we recognize how free it is to us, we are freed from continual shame.
* Remembering the freeness of forgiveness: If God’s forgiveness is not free, we will become involved in self-punishing penitence rather than repentance. True repentance is how we make progress in the Christian life and in giving up sin. Repentance is not an appeasement of God. Such an attitude is to try to atone for one’s own sin, but Christ has atoned for our sin. To try and tell God we deserve to be forgiven because we are unhappy enough is to confess in our own name rather than in Jesus’. 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2. Christ took our punishment. It would be unjust of God to not forgive us. Unless we remember that, we will never experience the relief of Jesus’ forgiveness. We find the security to admit what we have done wrong.
* Remembering the cost of forgiveness-While we do not have to atone for our sin, it must be atoned for. Our sins are debts owed to God. To forgive them is for God to bear their cost. If we forget the cost of forgiveness, our confession will be shallow. God will not honor halfhearted repentance nor will it produce change in us. Think of how many times people (including us) repent, but go back and do the same thing again. To repent of our sins is to forsake them. If we are in Christ, we are dead to sin. In repentance, we are to abhor what we have done and disown it. To stop sinning, we need to see how wrong it is. There is a form of apparent repentance that is really self-pity. We are sorry about the consequences rather than the sin. Such self-pity is selfish. It is not godly repentance. True repentance involves admitting sin for what it is (idolatry and rebellion against God) and forsaking it. Psalm 51, 32. The goal of repentance is to honor and please God.
* Killing Sin (John Owen):
* We are God’s children, secure in His love, but to love Him is to also want to please Him and be like Him. How do we forsake the sin that dishonors our Father?
* Mortification-to kill, to weaken.
* The holiness of God and love of Christ put sin in a different light. Sin looks unattractive by comparison.
* We can’t weaken sin by merely seeing its danger and consequences. We have to see how it dishonors the God to whom we owe everything.
* Make intentional steps to habitually think about who God is (meditation). The more convinced we are in heart and mind about the truth of who God is, the weaker sin’s hold on us.
* Doctrines to Consider:
1) The intimacy we have with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
2) The justice of the Law.
3) Christ’s costly sacrifice.
4) The glory and transcendent majesty of God.
5) The Patience of God towards us.
* How do these things weaken sin?
* We should spend time “preaching to ourselves” and meditating on specific truths about God that attack the sin and wrong attitudes that exist in us. Only the beauty of the Gospel can make sin hateful to us. The focus on pleasing God does not merely change our behavior, but our motivations and desires.
* Prayer is the best time to look at ourselves and see where sin we have been blind to exists.
* One of the best tools to use is meditating on the Ten Commandments. Martin Luther suggested going through each one and pondering how your thoughts, deeds, and attitudes have violated that commandment. To do that, we need to know what each commandment means. The Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms give detailed explanations of each commandment. Another tool is the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-24. Again, you would need to fully know the meaning of each of the fruit listed and what it looks like when produced. Another good tool is to look at prayers of repentance as prayed by the saints who have gone before us. They set for us many great examples of repentance that we would do well to take advantage of and emulate.
* The Old Testament ceremonial law had numerous requirements for purity. There were prescribed washings so that people and items were pure enough to come before a holy God. No one is as they should be; we all need to be made clean.
* Jesus came to fulfill the purification requirements. He cleanses us of our sin. His blood removed our sin and makes us white as snow. No matter what we do, we cannot cleanse ourselves. We need the work of Jesus Christ to make us clean before God. We come to the cross in repentance so that He might make us pure.
1) Read ch. 14 in Prayer.
2) Spend time each day in repentance.