There is no better theological learning environment than the family. It is in the context of family that you see the truest picture of your son’s heart, and therefore have the best opportunity to speak life-transforming, Christ-exalting truths to his heart. And, since it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately superintends our growth and maturity (Gal. 3:1-3), it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a seminary degree, or if you are just learning all of this stuff yourself. You, dad, can and should be a tool of theological growth in the life of your son.
After the nation of Israel is freed from slavery (Exodus) and makes the journey through the wilderness to the land God promised to them (Leviticus-Deuteronomy), Joshua tells us the story of Israel taking over the land. But they failed to obey God and did not drive out all the people living there. The book of Judges depicts a repetitive cycle of what follows as Israel lives in the land along side those people: Israel abandoning God and sinning; God allowing them to be conquered; the people crying out to God for deliverance; God raising up a judge to deliver them from their enemies; the people obeying as long as the judge lived, but when the judge died, the people go right back to their evil ways.
In Judges 6, we again see this cycle of sin. In one of these cycles we see a glimpse of the life of the nation of Israel. This glimpse provides a great backdrop to teach your sons the difference between repentance and regret.
“The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Judg. 6:1).
This time was worse than any other time. Usually their oppressors would come in, collect some tribute, impose their political will on the Israelites, and then life generally continued. The Midianites, however, were a different kind of bad guy. They were a bunch of marauding nomads that liked to ride in on their fast camels, and decimate everything you had, taking it all and leaving absolutely nothing (6:5). It was so bad that the people left their homes and were living like a bunch of animals in the mountains (6:2).
The result? “And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord” (Judg. 6:6).
But this time was different. Every other time, the Israelites would call out and God sent a hero (3:9, 15; 4:3-4), someone who would free them from tyranny and suffering. This time, God doesn’t send a hero, he sends a prophet. This prophet comes and doesn’t lead the people to military conquest over the Midianites, he preaches to them. And you have to stop and ask, “Why would God give them a sermon when they wanted a savior?” The answer is in the content of the sermon. In verses 8-10a, the prophet tells the people all that God had done for them, his deliverance of them from slavery, his giving of the land to them, but in 10b, the prophet tells the people what they have done. “But you have not obeyed my voice” (Judg. 6:10b). The people were filled with regret over their circumstances, but they had not repented.
There is a difference between regret and repentance. Paul illustrates this difference in 2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Regret is centered on the circumstances. Regret is the expression of your desire for the situation to be different, the pain to stop, the punishment to end, the suffering to subside. Repentance is different than regret. Repentance includes a desire not just for situational change but for heart change. Repentance has more to do with others and less to do with us. Repentance understands that there is damage to the relationship that needs to be healed.
So dad, when your son says, “I’m sorry,” what does he really mean? Is he expressing regret or is he expressing repentance? Does he know the difference?
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