Men, Be the Chief Repenters in Your Homes
In his classic book, The Doctrine of Repentance, Thomas Watson outlined six ingredients for true repentance:
- The first is the sight of sin, whereby a person comes to himself (Luke 15:17) and views his lifestyle as sinful. If we fail to see our sin, we rarely, if ever, are motivated to repent.
- The second ingredient for true repentance is sorrow for sin (Psalm 38:18). We need to feel the nails of the cross in our souls as we sin. Repentance includes both godly grief and holy agony (2 Corinthians 7:10). The fruit of repentance is revealed in genuine, anguishing sorrow over the offense itself, not just the consequences of it. Sorrow for sin is seen in the ongoing righteous actions it produces. True repentance lingers in the soul and not just on the lips.
- The third ingredient is the confession of sin. The humble sinner voluntarily passes judgment on himself as he sincerely admits to the specific sins of his heart. We must not relent of our confession until all of it is freely and fully admitted. We must pluck up any hidden root of sin within us. “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:19).
- The fourth ingredient for true repentance is shame for sin. The color of repentance is blushing red. Repentance causes a holy bashfulness. Ezra 9:6 says, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his sin that he did not feel he deserved to be a son anymore (Luke 15:21). Sin makes us shamefully naked and deformed in God’s eyes and puts Christ to shame, the One who took the scorn of the cross on Himself.
- The fifth ingredient in repentance is a hatred of sin. We must hate our sin to the core. We hate sin more deeply when we love Jesus more fully. Repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin. True repentance loathes sin.
- Finally, the sixth ingredient of repentance is the turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12). This turning from sin implies a notable change, “performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). “Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6).
We are called to turn away from all our abominations, not just the obvious ones or the ones that create friction in others. The goal of repentance is not to manufacture peace among others with perfunctory repentance, but rather to turn to God wholly and completely. This repentance, most importantly, is not just a turning away from sin. It also necessarily involves a turning in “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). This is the joy that is found in repentance, a result of God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). We rejoice that Christ has done so much for us and continues to do for us.
But what does it means to lead your home in repentance?
This is an aspect of Christian manhood that is sadly neglected in our day. Christian husbands and fathers have a responsibility to love and lead their homes by the grace of God (Genesis 2:22–24; Ephesians 5:25-33). This includes leading the home in repentance. You should be the first to repent and confess your sin, and not expect others to make the first move.
If I were to hurt my wife's feelings in a conversation, I need to repent, to confess my sin to the Lord, and to ask for forgiveness from her. Don't wait for your wife to come to you; go to her, repent, and ask forgiveness. And be specific, acknowledging what you did and why you did it, and demonstrating that you are seeking by God's grace to change. In all this, be sure to heed the words of James: "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19, 20).
He who would lead his family must lead them in repentance. Christian men should not make excuses for their failures, but take responsibility. Remember that repentance is not a small work in the Christian life; it is the Christian life. Martin Luther said, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." John Calvin taught, “Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life."
The goal of being the chief repenter is to become less like your old self, and more like your Savior. As a Christian, you are in Christ; you are united to Him and in communion with Him (John 15:1-5; Romans 8:1). And that means that the real you, as a Christian man, is a repenter, a loather of sin, and a grower in the grace of God. We all are given opportunities to reflect that grace into the lives of those around us, and Christian men are given a special opportunity to do in their home.
Lead them well.
Dave Jenkins (MAR, MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter (@davejjenkins), Facebook (Dave Jenkins SOG), and Instagram.
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