"Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"
Have you ever thought about what causes you to repent and confess your sin? The verse above tells us it is the Lord’s goodness that leads us to repentance. The context of this verse is a charge to the Jews to be accountable in their lifestyle and evangelism rather than judging the people who were not Jews for their past pagan practices. The Jews had become exclusive rather than evangelistic and had a hard time accepting the idea that God’s plan of salvation included people of all nations, some of which had a lot of different practices. That would be the equivalent of our coming to understand that no sin is too bad that Christ's death is not sufficient enough to cover it. Emotionally, I think that sometimes we have a hard time handling that. How do we feel if a murderer, a wife beater, a child abuser, a drug addict, or a prostitute, or a homosexual gets saved? When Romans was written, the Jewish believers were struggling to accept that some of the people who had come from nations that used temple prostitutes and child sacrifices were now being born again into the body of Christ.
But wait, Paul, himself, had been responsible for the death of many Christians before he met Jesus on the Damascus road. If we are honest, we can understand what the Jewish people may have been feeling. We can choose to look at each person we meet as someone that Christ died for and the truth is that the more seeped in sin each person is the more each needs the Savior. Real Christianity is nice and neat, it is downright sticky. If we are obedient to the command to go into the world we will bring in new believers who may dress, talk, and who have been living very differently than those who have grown up in the church.
We need to realize the Christian life is a series of choices that we are called to make. The more we get to know Christ and His goodness the more our decisions will include repenting of our sinful actions and even the hidden attitudes of our hearts. All of the letters Paul wrote began with doctrine that helped people understand more fully what their salvation meant. Ephesians tells us things like God chose us to be adopted by Christ and that through Christ we are accepted, redeemed, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Colossians tells us that God has already delivered us out of the power of darkness and made us partakers of the inheritance of the saints! In his letters, after Paul expounded on doctrine, he gave specific instructions on how to live and relate to each other. He believed if he taught them more about God's goodness that they would want to continue to grow in holiness. Paul understood that grace is not getting Christ to love us more by our "good actions." It is understanding that He already loves us and forgives us and letting that love motivate us to change.
As children of God, we are told that we will be disciplined because we are loved. Hebrews 12:6,10-11 says, "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives…For (earthly fathers) chasten us after their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His Holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it." Understanding God's goodness will help to come to repentance, but understanding that sometimes our stubborn rebellious hearts come face to face with His relentless stubborn love and He will discipline us. He wants us to be partakers of His holiness…not just act right! He wants us to enjoy peace that only comes from His righteousness in us, conforming our hearts to His, resulting in humble righteous acts and relationships. God designed us to live a certain way and that was distorted when Adam and Eve sinned. It is God's goodness that wants us to be restored to Him through Christ and wants us to partake of His holiness. There is more joy in serving, witnessing, loving, praying for healing, and teaching the word and seeing lives changed than in all the sin we can be involved in. God knows that and He will discipline us to bring that about so we can experience His great joy.
Lastly, there are times God's goodness will lead us to confront a friend or a friend to confront us (James 5:20). Confrontation needs to be done with love, grace, humility, and truth. Confrontation is more successful when we include a reminder of the goodness of God. I try to let the person I am confronting know I care more about them and their relationship with God than their behavior. When we are confronted about sin we need to remember God sent that person to us and not get angry with her or him. It is God's desire for us to have intimacy with Him and He will expose that which hinders our relationship with Him. Confrontation can actually leave us feeling loved and motivate us to change if we understand the purpose it serves.
Some questions we should ponder are: How has God's goodness led us to repent? If someone enters our life bearing the marks of sin, will we remember that it is God's goodness that leads them to repentance, not our harsh judgments? Is there anything that is not holy in our life hindering our relationship to God?
Prayer: Father, thank you for your goodness and the fact that it leads us to repentance. Help us to see your goodness as well as your holiness. Help us to see our sin in light of your goodness, that we might grieve over what grieves your heart. Help us to confront others with your goodness when you call us to speak truth. Help us to accept confrontation as your goodness to us. Melt our pride and purify our hearts, that we might humbly hunger and thirst hard after you. Amen.