What is Repentance? - Returning to God
Hosea 14

Free Sunday School Lessons

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In preparing your lesson, we suggest that you:

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What is Repentance? - Returning to God

Bible Passage:: Hosea 14

The human need this passage meets is: Need to turn from sin and get right with God through repentance and faith in Jesus.

Learning Goals: By the end of this session, each learner should be able to. . .

(Know) Understand that God's deepest longing is for a sinner to understand what is repentance and return to Him

(Feel) Feel the pain associated with genuine repentance

(Do) Identify the fruit of repenting


Apologizing isn't easy. Saying "I'm sorry" "I was wrong" is often humiliating. Tell your neighbor the worst apology you ever heard - and the best.

After a couple of minutes, ask for a few answer to be shared with the group.

What makes an apology bad or insincere? What makes an apology acceptable and believable?

What is repentance? Apologizing is a lot like repentance. We realize we've been going the wrong way and need to turn around. But repentance is much deeper - it's between you and God.


I want us to think about the motivation to repent.

Why should anybody repent? From God’s point of view, He wants us to repent because He made us, knows us and loves us.

Think about the people to whom Hosea was preaching:

  • Was God angry with them? Yes
  • Was God hurt by their waywardness? Yes
  • Was God threatening punishment? Yes

Why didn’t God just get rid of them? Because that’s not the way love works. God is love and love is patient. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to come to Him.

Now turn the coin over. What’s the motivation to repent from man’s point of view? If a person repents and returns to God, will it solve all his problems? Will it relieve all his pain?

No! Getting your heart right with God will not immediately fix

  • your spouse
  • your marriage
  • your children
  • your boss at work
  • the economy or the government

Getting right with God will not relieve the pain of living in a fallen world. The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Repentance fixes what can be fixed: that is our hearts.

When we know what is repentance and come to God, the world will still have problems and pain. We still will suffer the consequences of a sinful world. However, our hearts will be changed so that we have the strength to trust God to do his will. We will be able to truly love others, despite the problems and pain of life.

Bible Input

Please open your Bibles to Hosea.

The book of Hosea is a message about impending doom and destruction because the northern kingdom of Israel had become spiritually wayward.

God’s judgment was coming because

  • The people were worshiping Baal, the Canaanite fertility god.
  • The priests had stopped teaching God’s laws.
  • The society in general had experienced a complete moral breakdown.
  • The nation had turned their back on God by making alliances with foreign nations.

But, despite their low spiritual condition, and their unrepentant heart, God continued to love them.

Hos. 11:1 When Israel was child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Hos. 11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness; with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

Hos. 11:8 How can I give up on you Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.

What these people needed was a repentant heart.

Before we talk about what is repentance in more detail, let’s read Hosea 14:1-9.

Life Application

Using these verses, let’s define what is repentance. Literally, the meaning of repent is to "change your mind." When a person changes their mind toward God they realize that God was right all along and their thoughts and ideas about him were wrong. In humility they place their faith in God and not themselves. With that foundational understanding let's examine the fruit, evidence, and result of repentance.

1. Repentance involves a permanent change of direction

Hosea 14:1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.

Rebellion is turning from God to a life of Sin. What is repentance? - It's the journey back -- turning from sin to God.

The Prodigal Son in Lk. 15 said, “I will go back to my father.” He changed his direction from leaving his father and his morals to returning to his father and his guidance.

Perhaps the clearest way you can tell the genuineness of a person’s repentance is how long it lasts.

Hosea 6:1-4 - Their repentance was very short term; like the early morning dew, it was gone by noon.

Secondly, what is repentance?

2. Repentance involves a clear awareness of sin

Hosea 14:2 Take words with you - Say to Him, “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.”

Repentance is more than a general commitment to change. You have to have a clear idea of what you are repenting of.

Again the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is an excellent example. The son said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you….”

Thirdly, what is repentance?

3. Repentance involves a desire to know God better

Hosea 14:2 that we may offer you the fruit of our lips.

Too often, the motivation to repent is sustained by the hope that circumstances will change and painful feelings will go away.

The motivation here is worship -- To be a person who is knowing God better and learning to praise God.

Lastly, what is repentance?

4. Repentance involves the admission that worldly resources will let you down

Hosea 14:3 Assyria cannot save us

Hosea 14:3 We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made.

What is repentance? To let go of your commitment to “self manage” your life. We will never trust God until we admit that all of our ideas have not worked. Often, the problem is that we always have one more idea to try.

Shortly after the events of 9/11 we received a letter from an asset management company. It said, "Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." The letter went on to say that faith will carry us forward - faith in humanity, faith in the economy, faith in freedom.

This is not the teaching of Hosea. When we come to God, we realize that only faith in our Lord Jesus will save us.

The reality is: true repentance is personally painful.

It’s painful

  • to change directions
  • to admit that you have sinned
  • to realize that knowing God will not eliminate all other problems
  • to acknowledge that we don’t have the resources to make life work

and because it’s so painful, our pride may try to convince us that it’s not worth the price.

I want us to recognize why repentance is worth the pain.

The pain is worth it because -

1. God will heal our waywardness

Hosea 14:4 I will heal their waywardness and love them freely.

There is no promise that God will fix all of our circumstances and relieve all our pain, but there is a promise that he will heal our heart. He doesn’t make us perfect, but He does change our desires so that the compulsive longing to sin no longer masters us.

2. God will strengthen our faith

Hosea 14:5 I will be like the dew to Israel; Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.

God will help stabilize our lives. He’ll give us a deeper confidence in Him.

3. God will make our life attractive

Hosea 14:6 His splendor will be like a an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.

There is an attractive glow and an sweet aroma that comes from a person who has humbled himself before the Lord.

4. God will make our life a blessing to others.

Hosea 14:7 Men will dwell again in his shade.

The old cliché is -- it can’t happen through you until it happens to you.

In his book Fresh Power, Pastor Jim Cymbala tells the story of David Berkowitz, the infamous "Son of Sam" from the New York City murders in 1977. After his arrest he pled guilty to killing five women and one man as well as wounding many others. He was sentences to over 300 years in prison.

In 1987 an inmate, Ricky Lopez approached him and said, "David, Jesus loves you and has a purpose for your life." Berkowitz laughed and said, "You don't know who you are talking to. No one could love someone who had committed such horrible crimes." Ricky talked to him every day and gave him a small New Testament with Psalms.

David's turning point of repentance was Psalm 118:3. "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help." Soon after, he knelt by his bunk and asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior.

Today, Berkowitz is not only a follower of Jesus - he is the chaplain's Assistant at the Sullivan Correctional Facility.

Cymbala writes, "David has now spent half his life behind bars. He will never be paroled. In fact, he has never asked me or any other minister or organization to plead for his release. He knows his crimes were so serious that he deserved to be locked up for life and he says the prison is his God-ordained sphere of ministry. To leave his setting, he says, would be to run from the call of God on his life, the way Jonah did. There's plenty to do here."

Once we have dealt with the sin in our own life, we become a channel of blessings to others. He will heal our sin, strengthen our faith, and use us for His glory.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the definitions of "what is repentance", which are the easiest/hardest for Christians today?

2. Confession of sin is a very important part. What is the best way to repent? Is there ever a need for a "public" confession of sin?

3. In what ways are we committed to keep control (management) of our own lives? Why is it hard to give up?

4. Today we identified four fruits of repentance. These fruits reveal the power of God to change our lives. As we manifest this fruit, how may it impact people who don't yet know the Lord?

Have you considered that repentance is one of the Christian priorities?

Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com

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Do you have a need for a short study to introduce people to the basics beliefs of Christianity? Because we couldn't find materials for our own small group studies, we wrote Bible Basics. Perhaps it will meet your needs, too.

We also wrote a thirteen lesson book with numerous real-life stories and personal application - What's Missing Inside You? It is designed to bring seekers to repentance and ground believers in Christian beliefs.

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