By Brian Tromburg
To avoid confusion, I want to be clear that repentance is what all Christians are called to—both men and women, young and old. Since this the case, this message can be helpful to everyone, but I want to place the emphasis on husbands and fathers. I want to zoom in on why it is especially important for a husband and father to pursue repentance.
Repentance can simply be defined as turning away, but the process is more involved and more difficult than an absent-minded about-face. The process of repentance is a continual one. It requires a deeper knowledge of Christ and a deeper knowledge of ourselves.
J.I. Packer writes, “Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.”
Repentance doesn’t include hanging on to anything comfortable about our sin, but wholly abandoning it for the righteousness God bestows upon us through Christ, and as we grow in sanctification and knowledge of Christ, more of our sin is revealed and more repentance is necessary.
Repentance is not easy. It is not like cleaning a bathroom—once it’s clean, it’s clean. Repentance is like the continual work of shaping a sculpture to perfection—in God’s eyes—where God is doing the shaping. In the process of continually preaching the gospel to ourselves, we should continually seek repentance lest our pride blind us of our unfinished parts.
In order to repent, we must know the truth and to know the truth we must know Christ.
AN ALL TOO FAMILIAR SCENARIO
Perhaps you can relate to this unfortunately common scenario. A father comes home from a hard day at work. He is frustrated, hungry and would rather relax on the couch with the remote in his hand than debrief with his wife or happily greet his exuberant children. His wife asks an otherwise harmless question, but because of his mood, he responds sharply, hurting his wife and scaring his kids. Shameful, yet stubborn, he retreats to the den to watch TV until dinner is ready. His wife is left wondering if she can approach him again, and his kids fear the unpredictable wrath of their father. With fear and trembling his wife tiptoes in to announce the arrival of dinner, saying with her most humble and timid voice, “Honey, dinner’s ready.” Quietly, everyone gathers at the table, the father still grumpy from the day and kids still too scared to talk. Dinner is finished, kids leave the table, and the husband and wife clean up without a word. Stuck in the false justification of his response, the husband fails to reconcile with his wife and kids. After a day or two things kind of get back to normal, but his wife and kids are still unsure and untrusting of their father’s potential reactions.
There are several things wrong with this scenario and several more ways it could be worse. However, the key mistake the husband made here was his failure to seek repentance. He did not confess and apologize to his wife or his kids but instead remained stubborn and assumed everything was okay. What he didn’t realize is that he missed an opportunity to rebuild trust with his wife and kids and model the actions of a faithful disciple of Christ.
BECOMING THE SPIRITUAL FORERUNNER
This is a relatively mild scenario, but the principle can be applied to more extreme situations like adultery, pornography, poor stewardship of finances, etc.
As the spiritual forerunner and leader of the family, the husband and father has the greatest weight of responsibility to pursue faithful discipleship and model repentance.
Repentance of a husband builds a wife’s trust in his leadership.
It communicates that his comfort in sin is far less important than peace and holiness.
It shows that the husband knows his sinful state, but puts full stock in Christ’s work on the cross. It shows that he is not stubborn (or maybe he is and is in the process of repenting!).
It shows that his heart is sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as he seeks his responsibility in leading his wife.
Only through this sensitivity to the Spirit can a husband lead his wife into holiness and away from sin. It makes her feel safe, and furthermore, even when he does sin, she understands that he will not remain complacent—as modeled by his repentance.
Repentance of a father shows his kids that even leaders and the spiritually mature make mistakes while continuing to seek Christ. It defeats a son’s bitter resentment that his father was not perfect even though he pretended like it. This son can say, “Sure, my dad sinned plenty, but he admitted it, sought Christ and repented. How can I resent that!?” It models contrition, and when children see their father with a contrite heart—whom they adore—they copy him. Simply leading by example leaves a permanent impact. It teaches daughters that the right men to follow know their weaknesses and mistakes, but reject the temptation to gloss over them for the sake of a perfect appearance. Daughters learn that trustworthy men are by no means sinless, but they have contrition over their sin.
Whether you are a husband whose unaddressed sin is rotting away the quality of your marriage, or an unmarried twenty-something whose sin doesn’t seem to affect anyone, its not to late, or too early, to repent. Perhaps you’re saying, “I’ll just wait to see if it comes up again” or “I’m not married or even dating, I’ll wait until I’m in a relationship.” If this is your mindset, then you’re neglecting Christ’s call of discipleship on your life and missing the incredible responsibility to “lead, provide for, and protect women.”
Men, may you be encouraged to bear up with humility and contrition, counter to this world’s wisdom, but characteristic of the Kingdom Christ preached. When we do this we undertake the practice of repentance to a greater degree. May you catch the vision of your responsibility as a future or current husband and/or father to model the necessary component of discipleship that is repentance.
May your repentance be heart-felt and full so that your wife finds you trustworthy and safe. May your repentance be quick so that your children fear their own disobedience before God more than yours. May God give you the courage necessary to lay yourself down like Christ laid himself down by admitting your wrong and seeking repentance.
And lest you remain ashamed of your sin and lament over your lack of leadership, remember that even if you fail in avoiding sin, you can faithfully lead in repentance, and that is still leadership.
 John Piper, RBMW.
Brian attended Biola University in La Mirada, CA where he studied music in worship and received a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. Currently he is attending Talbot School of Theology for a M.A. in Theology. He manages a specialty running shoe store. He leads worship for the high school and junior high student ministry at his church. His favorite area of study is theology of gender. He also has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk.
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