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When our daughter was a toddler, she took something that did not belong to her. She was stealing. It was a sin. Rather than me dealing with the problem at that moment, I asked her to return what she took. I planned to wait until another time to talk to her. I had no brilliant reason for waiting but just chose to do so.
Later in the day, she was sitting in the foyer pouting because her sister and brother did not want to play the games that she wanted to play. Now a pattern of sinfulness was forming inside of her.
As Lucia was observing her behavior throughout the day, she noticed how our daughter was becoming increasingly sinful in other ways, too. Wrong attitudes, desires, and cravings were collecting in her soul; it was a gathering storm.
Though the outward manifestations of her sin varied, it was evident how she had un-resolvable internal turmoil. As these things continued, Lucia appealed to me to discipline our daughter. Lucia said it this way:
“She is out-of-sorts and needs to the means of discipline to help her realign her soul. She has sinned, and there is no way for her to get rid of it since she is not asking the Lord to help her.” Lucia was appealing to me to help our daughter for two reasons.
I’m not sure if my daughter was a Christian at that time. If she was, she was not appropriating the grace of God that is given to all His children so we can decisively deal with our sinfulness. If she was not a Christian, she had no means to deal with her sin, which means she could not experience release from her soul-entanglements.
Regardless of her relationship with God, the turmoil of ongoing and accumulative sinfulness had captured her, with no means to escape (repent).
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. – Galatians 6:7-8
Sin is real and active, and if left unattended it will cause internal damage to the one sinning, as well as those who are affected by the sinfulness. You could think of it this way: sin is like an unalterable law: if you sin, there must be a payment (discipline) for the sin—a means for removing it. If not, sin’s cancer will thoroughly corrupt the sinner.
My daughter sinned early in the morning. From that point forward, she was out-of-sorts, with no plan to repair the damage done to her soul. The sin was in her, and it was actively eating away at her.
It was festering and growing, and because I did not come alongside her to serve her by “making a payment for her sin,” she felt stuck and captured. Disciplinary action from me would have released her from the turmoil that she experienced the rest of the day. King David said it this way:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Illustration – What I am describing here is analogous to cutting your hand with a knife. It is real, objective, and needs immediate attention or it will scab over, possibly become infected, and maybe leave a scar.
How many people do you know have sinned, and decided to not deal with it? In such cases, their sin festers and grows. In time, it defiles them, as well as many of their friends and close acquaintances. The Hebrew writer thought about it this way:
That no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:15
My daughter was infected (and affected) by her deliberate choice to do wrong, and she was choosing to do nothing in response to the active force of sin that was inside her. Sin’s power and its enslaving effect were not going to release her.
As her father, it was my job to come alongside her to help her take care of her transgressions. Her sin needed a biblical response. It needed to be atoned (paid) for, which is always through the means of punishment. There were two options before us:
Out of obedience to God, I had no choice but to discipline our daughter as an act of love to resolve “sin’s build up and complications” that were in her soul. Afterward, I held her in my arms as we talked about what had been going on with her, my responsibilities as her dad, and the purpose of Jesus coming to earth—to make an atonement for sin.
From Chaos to Order
What happened to my daughter from the point of the removal of her sin was terrific! After the “payment,” she became remarkably huggy, happy, and actively engaging with our family. It was as though her “crime” never happened. The infographic above is an illustration of what happened to her.
The power of the gospel brings us from chaos to order. If we do not serve our children by being consistent in the discipline of them, we will be partially responsible for the ongoing and long-term effects of their sinfulness.
If they are refusing or unable to release themselves from their sins through gospel-centered measures (repentance), one of the most loving things we can do for them is help them experience “transgression release.” This perspective is what the Lord did for us because of our inability to do it for ourselves.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace, you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:1-5
Until our children are born a second time (John 3:7), when they will be able to appropriate the punishment of Christ to their behaviors, there has to be a way for them to experience “temporary freedom” from the bad things they are doing.
Discipline, whether it’s the punishment of Christ for our sins or our punishment for our transgressions, has a soul-altering, soul-adjusting, and soul-freeing effect on the sinner. Here are nine positive outcomes (benefits) when there is a punishment of a child’s sin.
Parenting Kids with Structure and Support
A person who experiences no release from their sin becomes spiritually constipated: sin remains while they suffer the consequences of sin’s accumulative effects. As Lucia put it, our daughter was “spiritually out-of-sorts.”
The same is true for any believer who refuses to own and respond to their transgressions. Whenever we choose to be dishonest by covering up our sinfulness, we become spiritually disoriented, dull, and dysfunctional.
That is what sin does. You could think about this way: Christ was the standard because He was sinless. He was the only healthy, sane, pure, and balanced person ever to live. The rest of us are abnormal because of sin (Romans 3:10-12). We are twisted, corrupt, deceptive, fearful, depraved, and guilty.
Unresolved guilt from unconfessed and un-repented sin grieves the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30) while causing all kinds of adverse effects in our souls (Romans 1:18). And, sadly, those who associate with us also become caught up and entangled by the chaos that is in our lives.
The most releasing and freeing thing a person can do is be honest about their true selves. To tell the truth sets the soul on a course of freedom. Though it may be embarrassing to own the wrongs committed, it is through honest confession and repentance that spiritual cleansing comes.
Our hope is that our children come to this type of understanding of the gospel so they will always be able to run to the cross for the inexpressible freedom that the Savior’s full payment for sin provides. The cross is the entrance to confession, forgiveness, repentance, and a full reconciliation to God and others.
If they choose to embrace these “cross-gifts,” they will be able to immediately and infinitely find pardon for all their sins. There will be no further payment required from them, and their souls will become like Jesus.
Until then, one of the most effective ways we can serve them is by presenting the gospel to them through discipline. It is not a long-term cure, but it does bring immediate relief while pointing them to the ultimate solution for their wrongdoing.