When was the last time your children repented?
As the God of grace and love is presented to our children, there are trends in some parts of the Western church to reduce the emphasis on repentance and submission to God, instead focussing solely on our love and acceptance.
Following Jesus can be introduced in a way that devalues the power of the cross - so children are invited to become Christians as if they are being invited to join a book club. Or they are invited to make Jesus their friend in response to their emotional need for love. I know I am generalizing with these statements, but I think you can see my concern.
While we want children to know they are loved by God, Jesus died for them not so that they could feel loved, but so that they could be made whole. And the reason we need to be made whole is because we have been broken by our sin. Jesus did not come to hug us but to resurrect us from our spiritual dead state.
If there is no sin, then there is no need for saviour. If we do not teach on sin, we deny children the right to know Jesus as their saviour. Instead, Jesus is reduced to being a BFF, there to serve us and available in times of crises. Jesus is not simply our slightly wiser older brother, he is our saviour without whom we would have to face the consequences of our sin. It is only through repentance that we can come to him as saviour.
To take it a step further, repentance is not an emotionally uncomfortable process to be avoided because a God of love would not want us to squirm. Rather it is the gateway to accepting Jesus’ salvation.
Acknowledging (or indeed discovering) our sin and our hopeless state without Christ, allows us to understand the depth of God’s love and the power of His grace.
To take it a step further, turning to Christ is not like an optional extra you would click on when ordering a meal online. Jesus did not die to become a moral guide and support. He died for us to remove sin from us.
As part of the process of repentance, we are inviting children to make Jesus the Lord of their life. Repentance involves admitting that our way of doing things has fundamentally failed to bring us to the standard our creator intended for us. We have failed ourselves, but we have also failed Him. We have failed to reflect His glory, failed in holiness and of ourselves have nothing good to bring to the table. Repentance requests God to take over the reins of our life as we submit our lives and our ways to Him.
In times past, repentance was a key part of the Gospel. Many meetings would have a sinner’s bench at the front of the meeting room where people would come to sit when the grace of the Holy Spirit’s conviction hit them. There would sit there facing their sin and wrestling before God until they were ready to turn away from it and turn to the Lord.
Conviction is not a bad thing for our children to experience – it is the grace of God that highlights our sin to lead us into liberty from sin. It is also key to seeing God move through his church. In the words of Frank Bartleman, from the Azusa Street revival said, ‘The depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the spirit of repentance.’
Repentance is not something morose to mourn over – it is a gift. When leading children through the Gospel we sometimes encourage them to write down their sins on a piece of paper. When you write your sins you are confronted by them and cannot escape that they are indeed bad. We then speak on the grace of God to forgive and invite them to confess their sins to God before burning the pieces of paper to mirror the removal of their sin that takes place when we confess to God.
Allow your children to meditate on their sin. The more they understand how vile sin is, the more they will appreciate how great the grace of God is and how vast His love for us. After all God showed his love for us in this, whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us.
And to refute any who have bought into the unbiblical framework of never facing sins and are concerned for the impact it may have on children, I say that children who recognise their sin can give it over to Jesus which is the greatest freedom available to mankind. Children who recognise their own imperfections will be more forgiving of others (after all we love because He first loved us).
As others have stated before, God’s grace didn’t come cheap, but we get it for free. Let’s not cheapen the sacrifice Christ made for us to free us from the bondage of sin. Let’s call out the dangers of sin and the power of God’s grace to free us from sin. Let’s pray for true heart change (repentance) in our children as they come before God.