Often in the One with Christ studies we come back to repentance and note that real repentance involves a true change of heart that only God can bring. So if we are to repent then we need to come to Him with the faith that we can be different. We don’t stop with accepting His forgiveness, but rather we seek God and keep seeking until He changes our hearts.
A nice illustration of this happened recently when my son Jacob was intentionally provoking his sisters. I could see that he was enjoying the sport of upsetting the girls and this would happen fairly frequently. On one obvious occasion, true to the parenting principles of Francois Fenelon (one of my favorite authors), I didn’t correct the behavior at the time. I simply told Jacob to stop and then left it.
Later on that evening we were talking together before bed and we addressed the problem. I said “Jacob, something in your dark side delights in provoking the girls.” (For a few weeks when Jacob was younger, he had enjoyed the Stars Wars movies and so we spoke of the flesh or fallen nature and the Spirit in terms of the light side and dark side of the heart.) When I said that, the edges of his mouth curled up into a suppressed smile. He knew he liked it. Jacob looked at me and said “I know. But what can I do about it?” So I explained that he simply needed God to take that part of the darkness out of his heart. Jacob believed that God was able to set him free from that part of the sin nature, so right there he prayed “God, I’m sorry for provoking the girls. Can you please take it out of my heart?”
That was it: the simple prayer of a child. And God answered. Through a simple prayer of faith and repentance, Jacob was changed. The provoking stopped. We had peace in the family. There was still the occasional time when Jacob accidentally upset the girls, but he found no delight in it. God had dealt with that part of his heart and he was free. I remember saying to Mel at the time that I’m sure parenting wasn’t supposed to be so easy. But maybe that is actually the way that God wants it. Maybe He just wants us to believe that He can change us, desire the change and then ask Him for it. Believe, repent, and let Him act.