September 24, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”—Romans 2:4 (NIV)
Have you ever heard someone say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this to be true in my life. I’ve seen it with my kids, at work, and with friends. It’s much easier to get the kids to do their chores with a good attitude when my approach is loving, kind, and framed around all of us working together because we’re a team instead of me saying, “Do your chores now, or else!”
Today’s verse speaks to this truth. In context, Romans 1 and 2 deal with God’s wrath and man’s right standing with Him. The apostle Paul essentially explains that everyone—atheistic, pagan, or religious; immoral or moral—stands guilty under the wrath of God. Both are on equal footing. And he warns the ones who think themselves moral and condemn and stand in judgment of others, that just like the outright immoral or pagan, they don’t have a leg to stand on if they’re standing on their own merit because they’re also sinners—and hypocrites at that. And to think otherwise is to “show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience.”
You see, it’s not wrath or condemnation that leads to repentance. It’s not the understanding that we’re under God’s wrath that causes people to turn away from their sin and be saved. Instead, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.”
It’s knowing that IN SPITE of our sinfulness (whether it’s an outright, public sinful lifestyle or an inward, behind-closed-doors, hypocritical sinfulness or even simply a person who is neither, who truly is “good” by worldly standards, who does good things and is nice, but is still a sinner because they’re not perfect), that “at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3–7 NIV). It’s this reality that leads us to repentance—the revelation of the gift of God’s grace in Christ causes us to turn from sin and enter into right relationship with Christ.
Why am I telling you this? Chances are if you’re a regular reader, you know this truth about the kindness of God that leads to repentance and have experienced it! I say this because in the same way that it’s His kindness that causes people to repent, it’s our display of the fruit of His kindness that He uses to draw people! As the Holy Spirit works in us, transforming us, pouring the image of Christ in us, pouring His kindness into us, it’s that fruit that will lead to the salvation of people around us. It’s not us winning an argument with an atheist or showing them how much we know. It’s the evidence of God’s work in us, of His kindness, that leads to repentance and gives true credibility to our message.
Pause: Why do you believe it’s His kindness and His kindness at work in you and not the awareness of His wrath that leads to repentance?
Practice: Write down your testimony, thinking specifically about “the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience” and how His loving kindness as displayed by the work of the gospel is what truly brought you to repentance. Then, share it with someone!
Pray: Father, I pray You would help me to always remember that it was because of Your loving kindness that I am here where I stand today. May this always be at the forefront of my mind and heart as I go forth in my interactions with others so my words will carry greater weight as Your kindness is produced in me and displayed through me. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.