Before you read any further, answer this question: What does sanctification look like in your son’s life? I have to admit that as a dad, the behavior of my son matters more to me at times than the heart of my son. When this is true, my view of sanctification wrongly becomes all about my son sinning less. Which, if I am really honest, is a view of sanctification rooted in my desire for an easier, problem-free, suffering-free life. The kind of life I feel entitled to and the kind of life that their sin is preventing. That is a view of sanctification rooted more in the exaltation of me than Christ. Sanctification as God describes it through His Word is more about how we are growing in our dependence on Him and love for Him than whether or not we are sinning less. God wants more from your son than outward conformity. He wants his heart, nothing less.
Think about it for a second: if God wanted to, could He have set things up where we became perfect at the time of our conversion? Sure. He can do anything He wants. Yet, He didn’t. (Trust me, my day today has been a testimony of that!) So, if He could have made us instantaneously sinless, yet didn’t, that must mean He has a plan to use our sin for good, Christ-exalting, righteousness-producing purposes. So when Paul said in Romans 8:28, “that for those who love God all things work together for good…” all things really means all things. In the wisdom of God, He knew that your son would love Him more and exalt Him more, living life as a daily sinner in need of grace than as a Christian who was free of sin. This means that sanctification is more about increasing your son’s dependence on the grace of God than getting rid of the sin that is constantly tripping him up.
Paul was no stranger to this idea. He himself had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) and pleaded with God that it would be taken away but God had other ideas. He wanted Paul to stay weak, thereby increasing his dependence on Him and exalting the strength of Christ. So God’s plan for your son is not that he would become some great conquer of sin in this lifetime. God’s plan for your son is to live a life of weakness that leads to complete and total dependence on Him. Make no mistake, all those who are Christians are already “more than conquerors” according to Romans 8:27. We will eventually be rid of sin one day. But for now, this title of super-conqueror that Paul has made us aware of means that our sin is being used for good purposes.
What difference does this make? It changes everything. Now as a dad, my goal is not to get my son to sin less, but to increase his dependence on Christ. My prayer for my son is not that he would make it through the day without smacking another kid on the playground or giving his little brother a wedgie, but that he would realize that in Christ alone will he find hope. My goal is not to get my son to live a perfect life of outward conformity, but to have a heart that has been humbled by his sin and knows his need for the grace of Christ in his life, being completely convinced of the words of Jesus in John 15:5 when He said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John Newton knew this kind of sanctification. In one of his letters that he wrote to a lady in his congregation he said, “afflictions are honorable as they advance our conformity to Jesus our Lord, who was a man of sorrows for our sake.” Read some of Newton’s letters and see this view of sanctification come screaming through the pages.
Now before we get off kilter here, we need to keep in mind Paul’s warning in Romans 6:1-2. Just because God can use my sin to exalt Christ doesn’t give us license to sin as much as want. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Romans 6:1-2a (ESV). But we as Christian dads need to have a different hope when it comes to our son’s sanctification.
So what is your hope and prayer for your son’s sanctification, dad? How do you talk with him about his sin and about your sin for that matter? Does he see the connection between his weakness and the exaltation of Christ? Pursue godly sanctification for your sons!