Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 3, Lesson 3

Lesson Three

What Is Repentance?

Texts: Luke 13:6-9; 15:11-32

One of Satan's greatest strangleholds on congregations of Christ's church is made possible by Christian ignorance about repentance. The Christian who understands the meaning and the concept of repentance is the exception. The typical Christian does not understand repentance.

Why does ignorance about repentance allow Satan to choke a congregation? To understand this insight, answer the following questions. Is it God's will that a congregation experience division (1 Corinthians 1:10)? Destroy the weak (Romans 14:1; 15:1)? "Run off" the struggling (Galatians 6:1,2)? Create and sustain a cold environment (1 Peter 1:22)? Hold grudges and bad attitudes (Ephesians 4:31,32)? Nurture strife and contention (Galatians 5:14,15)? Refuse to practice genuine forgiveness (Matthew 6:14,15)? No!

Do such things characterize the behavior of many Christians in too many congregations? Yes! If such behavior is not God's will, by whose influence do those things occur? They occur through Satan's influence.

If any of these things occur in a congregation, how must Christians respond to the situation? They must repent. Will repentance change such behaviors? Yes! Will repentance change the Christians by transforming them? Yes! If individual Christians repent, will that result in the whole congregation repenting? Yes! Through the repentance of individuals and the whole body, will the congregation be changed? Yes! Will division be replaced with unity, the weak grow, the struggling be nurtured, the environment become caring, evil attitudes be replaced with Christlike attitudes, kindness and love be nurtured, and forgiveness flow? Yes!

How can that happen? It happens because Christians understand repentance, AND THEY REPENT!

Those ungodly conditions came into existence because Christians did not understand repentance at conversion. When Christians surrender to repentance, ungodly conditions are replaced with godly conditions. Why? Repentance transforms evil minds and hearts into godly minds and hearts.

Read Luke 15:11-32

Briefly focus on the well known story of the prodigal son.

  1. What did the younger son demand (verses 11,12)?

  2. What did the younger son do when he received his inheritance (verse 13)?

  3. After he wasted all his inheritance, what happened (verses 14-16)?

  4. What mental change occurred (verse 17-19)?

  5. What did he do (verses 20, 21)?

  6. How did the father react (verses 20-24)? What does that tell you about the father?

  7. How did the older brother react (verses 25-28)?

  8. How did the older brother respond to his father's visit (verses 29,30)?

  9. What statement did the father make to his oldest son (verses 31,32)?

Focus on the prodigal son's repentance in Luke 15:17-20. Perhaps this is the best "window" into the nature and anatomy of repentance found in the Bible.

  1. The first part was mental. What did he do (verse 17)?

  2. The second part was an honest evaluation of his reality. What was his reality (verse 17)?

  3. The third part was a decision. What did he decide (verse 18)?

  4. The fourth part was confession to the one he had hurt. What did he confess (verse 19)?

  5. The fifth part was a request. What was the request and what did it say about his heart (verse 19)?

  6. The sixth part was accepting his responsibility to act. What did he do (verse 20)?

Basically repentance involves three things: an awareness filled with regret; an honest acceptance of responsibility; and a redirecting of one's behavior. The English word in the New Testament is a translation of Greek words that mean "to have another mind, to change the mind." It signifies a turning, a redirection of life because the person feels remorse. In the New Testament the concept is captured by the English words "to convert" or "to turn around."

In the parable, both sons needed to repent. One son repented, and one did not. Which son repented? Which son did not? What is unexpected in this situation?

Read Luke 13:6-9

When a person repents, God gives him or her another opportunity. That is incredible! That is obvious in the father's reception of the prodigal son. It is obvious in this parable.

  1. The man who owned the fig tree found no fruit on it. What instruction did he give the servant (verses 6,7)?

  2. For how long had the owner expected the tree to bear fruit (verse 7)?

  3. What request did the servant gardener make to the owner (verse 8)?

  4. If the fig tree did not bear fruit in a year, what would happen (verse 9)?

  5. What lessons about repentance do you see in the parable?

Read Romans 2:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 7:8-10. What is the relationship between God's kindness, a person's godly sorrow, and repentance? If a person acknowledges God is kind, has he or she repented? If a person is sorry for what he or she did, has he or she repented? What must happen in addition to acknowledging God's kindness and being sorry in order for repentance to occur? Repentance does not replace one kind of evil behavior with another kind of evil behavior. Why? It comes from a heart and mind that is changing, turning around.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 3

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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