RESCUE: GRABBING THE LIFE-BUOY OF THE GOSPEL
In Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson’s outstanding book on parenting, “Give Them Grace,” they start out the book with the important distinction that there is a difference between being a Christian parent and Christian parenting.
Being a Christian parent is simply a father or mother who has been saved by God’s grace through their personal faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior who paid the penalty for their sin. Most Christian parents have a burden for the soul of their child and work hard personally or through Christian agencies (their church or a para-church organization) to put their child in a position to hear the gospel message. For too many, once they hear that their child has spoken a prayer, raised their hand, and can claim that they have Jesus in their heart, we all rejoice with the angels in heaven that they are saved.
I am not trying to diminish the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of a child for I agree with Charles Spurgeon who once said, “As soon as a child is capable of being damned, he is capable of being saved. As soon as a child can sin, that child can, if God’s grace helps him, believe and receive the Word of God.” However, it is a dangerous and even negligent for a parent at that point to assume that the gospel work ends there. Just as in my own personal life, I have discovered that leaving the gospel as only an entry point to the Christian life and moving on to “serious Bible study” led me to the realm of being a Pharisee. Not that Bible study in any way was bad, but I lost sight of how the gospel is the central message of the Bible. I grew in knowledge of the Bible but not as Peter exhorts in 2 Peter 3:18, “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Such a path for me led the way I parented my children. I taught them that God wants morality and that the real expression of our faith is in how good they were. The Christian faith is all about behavior and God is displeased with them when they misbehave and pleased when they behave. So as their father and God’s agent of authority in their lives, I was very displeased at their bad behavior (however I defined it) and so must discipline them, and I was very happy when they behaved (especially in public as it fed my pride in being a good father).
My children deserve the Christian faith Purple Heart medal for the wounds of moralism inflicted upon them. They survived my parenting because the particular grace of God touched each one of them as they grew in their own understanding of the gospel and the tenets of the Christian faith. Most of all they and their mother and father eventually grasped the truth that we all are radically sinful people who have a radical Savior who radically loved and continue to love us. So…they have recovered, and their mom and dad are certified recovering Pharisees living and loving in the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
More recovery news to come…