1. How does the knowledge that God owns your very being affect how you live? What changes do you need to make?
The fact of creation makes God the owner. Scripture also reminds us that we have been bought back from sin by the blood of Christ; therefore we glorify God in body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). This means that we are not to be the servants of others in a sense of allowing them to have ultimate authority over us (1 Corinthians 7:23). We seek God’s will above all else.
Our minds belong to God; therefore we are to let only holy thoughts enter. Our eyes belong to God; therefore we are to keep them from lingering over those things that bring unholy thoughts into our minds. Our time also belongs to God; therefore we are to be sure that we use our hours in ways that honor Him.
2. In what ways have you been guilty of circumventing or disavowing your personal sin? How have you made positive changes in this regard?
The Scottish singing group The Proclaimers has a song entitled “Everybody’s a Victim.” That title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? A common cultural response to an accusation of wrongdoing is for a person to claim that he or she is a victim and thus not responsible. The song bemoans the fact that the singer’s country (presumably Scotland) is becoming like America in that regard.
The comedian Flip Wilson was famous for his tagline, “The devil made me do it.” Scripture speaks against this view, saying that sin is the fault of the sinner (James 1:14, 15). Another way we try to alleviate personal responsibility for sin is by rationalizing. The idea is that if we are “not as bad” as someone else, then we must be relatively ok. We attempt to justify greed and bitterness by telling ourselves that at least we did not steal or kill. But Jesus said that if we ponder certain things in our hearts, then we are as guilty as if we had actually committed the sin (Matthew 5:21, 22).
3. Though sin is not passed from parent to child, the consequences may be. What are some ways that the consequences of one’s sins may be visited upon another, and conversely, what are some ways that the consequences of one’s holy actions may be a benefit to another?
A mother who has been a drug addict may give birth to a baby who suffers birth defects caused by the addiction. A father who spends all his money on drinking binges is not able to provide properly for the needs of his family. If a child overhears a parent complaining about things in the church, the children may develop a cynical attitude toward Christianity. Acts of mercy and compassion, on the other hand, serve as a witness (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
4. God neither keeps a record of a Christian’s sins nor remembers them. How do you use this fact to develop a godly nature?
Reminders of our past sin come from three sources: Satan, other people, and self. Learning to let go of the past and not hold on to guilt can be difficult when these three sources keep bombarding us with reminders! Recognizing the source of the discouragement is important. One thing is certain: the source is not God.
Another challenge we have is to hold no sins of others against them. When someone has repented and is trying to put his or her life back together, we as brothers and sisters in Christ are to do all we can to affirm and assist in the restoration process. God expects us to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
5. Repentance leads to a restored relationship with God. What other benefits of repentance have you noticed in your life?
Salvation is, of course, the ultimate good that comes from repentance. But there are other benefits for us while still living out our faith on earth. Turning from sexual sins can lead to the avoidance of disease. Turning from sins of abusiveness restores relationships; if there was physical abuse, then there is now safety for those who were being abused.
Repentance or turning from a sin today makes it easier to resist another temptation tomorrow. It has been said that in repentance we do not become sinless, but we do sin less and less.