It’s kind of a strange phrase, “The whole Gospel,” as if there are partial Gospels of Jesus contained in the Scriptures. The idea comes from Acts 2 when the hearers of Peter’s sermon asks what they should do in response to Jesus where Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repent, be Baptized, Receive.
Today I want to tackle repentance. The word in New Testament Greek means to have a change of heart, to turn from one’s sins, or to change one’s ways. Louw-Nida defines the term as: to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness. Our task as teachers is to help our group members understand the need to repent, how to repent, and the fruit of repentance.
The how of repentance is not so difficult. Essentially, we just need to teach sound theology about the holiness, righteousness, and perfection of the Triune Godhead, as well as the promise of Jesus that He will return to judge the sheep and the goats. (Matthew 25:31-34) If we elevate the Son, the kingdom, and eternity, then we will readily demonstrate why repentance is needed.
But the sort of repentance we are seeking through our teaching is not merely intense feelings of guilt from our group members. Far from it, in fact. We want people to turn from their ways of rebellion and believe and follow Jesus daily. Paul says that there is a good grief that leads to repentance, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
The question becomes “How do we help facilitate ‘godly grief’ in our group members?” I propose two principles:
- Rely on the Holy Spirit to do the convicting (John 16:8). Our job as teachers is to create the environment and foundation in which the spiritual sensitivities of our group members are so attuned to these convictions of the Spirit that they hear them immediately and, hopefully, obey them.
- Continually cast before them the vision of the kingdom they have been called into and are co-heirs of. God will give us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 24:7), eliminate all pain and suffering (Revelation 21:4), and finish in us the good work of conforming us to the image of Christ (Philippians 1:6). Challenge your group about whether they are living as if they are kingdom people or not.
Finally, we destroy the concept of regret in our people. Satan lies to us in many ways, one of which is that he constantly reminds us of our failures to live up to God’s character and commands, encouraging us to feel guilt, shame, and regret. But we must teach our people that we are not trusting, nor are we honoring, God if we act that way because we are calling God the liar, rather than Satan. We teach that God loves us, evidenced by the fact that Christ died for us while we still hated Him (Romans 5:8) and that God has promised to wipe away our sins (Isaiah 1:18, 43:25). Either we trust God or we don’t. If we live mired in regret, then we are not trusting God. Help your group to believe in God’s promises, to take Him at His Word.
Perhaps most importantly, as we call our group members to repentance, we must be models of repentance. We must be open to our groups about our own failures, share with them about how we confess, share with them how we are fighting to turn from our failure, and share with them that we are empowered to succeed by God’s promise to forgive. If we are not modeling a reproducible method for our people, then they will never internalize these truths for themselves and they definitely will not disciple others by helping them repent.