Children are God-given sanctification tools in our lives.
God gives us little children that we might nurture, train, and instruct them (Ephesians 6:4). But in that process of shepherding their souls, God also intends that we should grow. In fact, our children are one of God’s primary sanctification tools in our lives.
They will stress us and demand upon us beyond what we think we can handle. They will shine a floodlight on idols of our heart. But the reason God shines that floodlight is not to condemn us but so that we might mature and grow.
The first step in that spiritual growth involves repentance. Five hundred years ago, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door at Wittenberg, he began with this, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Christian maturity happens by repentance.
But it has been my observation that Christians often forget this command and habit to repent. Especially in the home, it is easy to blame-shift, overlook, or excuse our sin. Perhaps we have had a hard day or we have been given a particularly difficult situation in our family. And so we excuse ourselves.
Growth in Christlikeness will never happen as we excuse our sin.
Instead, Christians who grow the most put these five truths in practice:
1. Godly repentance understands God’s standard. Jesus has rescued us from the law by giving us his forgiveness and righteousness by faith. But then he send us right back to those commands to know how to please him. And by the power of the Spirit I can follow his commands. They are not burdensome.
2. Godly repentance involves self-awareness of falling short of that standard. I want to be aware of those times that I do not walk by the Spirit in obedience. Sometimes that awareness will come by my own self-reflection. At other times, it will come because someone points it out to me. Just asking myself, “Did I handle that situation like Jesus would? Did I handle it perfectly (Matt. 5:48)?” helps me see any way that I fell short. Asking these questions also helps me take responsibility for unintentional actions that affect others. I’m responsible for my actions and reactions.
3. Godly repentance does not excuse that falling short for any reason. Once I realize a standard I am supposed to walk by and how I am off that standard, then my tendency will be to excuse my sin or blame others. After all, we might say to ourselves, “I am only human.” “I think I am doing pretty well with having to live with a husband like mine.” “You don’t know the background I have grown up in.” But no temptation comes in my life beyond what I can bear and the Lord does provide a door of escape (1 Cor 10:13).
4. Godly repentance involves motivation to please God no matter what others do. Since I am not excusing my sin, I am focusing on pleasing Christ. I can’t control others, but I can walk in the Spirit now. No matter how tough things may get in my home, I want to please Christ. I live with the final judgment in mind. I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You walked well through that trial I gave you.”
5. Godly repentance involves a focus on myself first and foremost. Finally, as a corollary of #4, godly repentance means I focus on myself. This does not mean I will excuse the sin of others. Perhaps there needs to be a conversation about some issues. I will not smooth over sin that needs to be talked about. But I realize that the only person I can control is myself.
Repentance is absolutely crucial to growing to become a mature Christian. God is working in my family life to show me areas I can grow.
There is much more to Christian growth than repentance. We haven’t had time to talk about the grace of God and the Spirit to empower us and putting off and putting on. Nevertheless, Christian growth doesn’t start without repentance.
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