Monthly Archives: October 2012

5 RESCUE CALLS FOR OUR CHILDREN

In light of what is in the heart of our children …

  1. Our children need a parent or parents who will be faithful to their calling as a parent to give their child biblical guidance, direction for their life, rules for their protection, and commands to grow in wisdom.
  2. Our children need a parent or parents who will stand in their children’s life on behalf of God as an act of their own reverence for God. These parents  are to be humbled by the gospel of grace and then be a conduit of God’s grace to their children.
  3. Our children need a parent or parents who will always move toward their children by engaging them daily, supporting them always, and correcting them regardless of how their child treats them.
  4. Our children need a parent or parents who personally are on a spiritual journey of progressing in their sanctification and are finding their children as an instrument of instruction to their own hearts.
  5. Our children need a Savior who has triumphed over sin for his people and who became sin for them so that our children might become the righteousness of God.

 

THE CHILD’S SINFUL HEART: SEARCH AND RESCUE

One area of our child’s heart that we often do not want to give serious consideration to is that they by birth and nature are sinners. John 1:12-13 indicates that no one is born a “child of God” but they must become one by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Also Romans 3:23 and 5:12 states, “all have sinned.” All means everyone including our children. As sinners we are the objects of the wrath of God as all sin is personal and hostile to God.

The effect of sin is on every part of who we are as humans. However, though our children and we are totally sinful, it does not mean that we are as sinful as we can possibly be. Being created in the image of God does give the potential for all people to do good things that reflect the character of God.  Those things done apart from Christ though do not credit any righteousness to us but simply are good for mankind and society. As sinners also, we are totally helpless within ourselves to resolve the issue of God’s disposition towards us. See such verses as John 6:44; 15:5; Romans 8:6-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 11:6.

We all like to convince ourselves to some degree we are fundamentally good and not as bad as the Bible makes us out to be. We love to compare ourselves to others and our children remind us when we are pointing out their sin, “Yeah, but how about (insert name)?”

So who is this child you are trying to raise? Well they are a sinner like you. They attempt to make meaning out of things often the same way you do. They have self-centered desires, wants, and passions like you and many that are contrary to yours so in accordance with James 4:1-3 you fight and quarrel with them.

Why is it important to consider the doctrine of sin in our parenting? It drives you to the necessity of preaching the gospel every day to your child. You still need the gospel to center your own life upon because you sin every day and your child, by nature and by practice, sin and need the gospel daily.

THE CHILD’S HEART: SEARCH AND RESCUE

Before we can address issues of our child’s heart, we need to understand their heart. This means searching the Scriptures and hearing from God’s Word how he describes whom our children and we are and not what social science often says.

Often overlooked in parenting books, to not understand biblically the make-up of our child’s heart is like a missionary trying to bring the gospel to an area where they do not know the language or the culture. We need to be able to communicate in the context of the receiver of the message. You as a parent are God’s chosen ambassador to bring to your child the gospel so learning about your child’s heart is critical.

First you child, as all children, is created and born in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7). As one in the image of God it means there are inherent qualities that reflect the nature and essence of God. That is why all human life has dignity and value and to take the life of another human is so heinous. It is also why whether a person is a believer in Jesus Christ or an atheist, they can do things that are good for society and mankind.

Being in the image of God means also there is an eternal dimension where a child born begins a life that will never end. It is during the physical realm of our life here that the factors of eternal life are determined as indicated in Hebrews 27; “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

Being in the image of God also means that our child is capable of having a conscious personal relationship with God. They can understand enough about God even at an early age because they can relate to many of his qualities and attributes so the he is not like the “unknown god” of Acts 17:23 but the God of verses 27, 28; “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.”

(Continued tomorrow)

 

RESCUING A PARENT’S HEART: The Grace of Jesus Christ is our Life Preserver

It is often through our weakness, our failures, and our sin that we learn of the grace of God. Our homes can become institutions of higher learning in the art of grace when the gospel is the curriculum of living. Trials and struggles are seen through the lens of the Scriptures where repeatedly God approaches sinners and hurting people in love to make his grace strong. It was even through the fall of man that God has shown his perfect justice and mercy in the forgiveness of sin through the victory over sin by Christ in his death and resurrection. He did this all without diminishing one bit of his righteousness all to his glory.

Parents need to rest in such grace by realizing that our families are a bunch of sinners, living with sinners in a fallen world. If your family is one where the circumstances are calling for greater measures of God’s grace, his promise is that what he offers will be sufficient. Part of his plan may be that through the grace given to you, he is producing ministers of grace to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Grace is not a guarantee that your children will grow up to follow Christ but it is one that Jesus was given to you to die on the cross for your sin and that you can parent your child on the basis of his consistent perfection and not your own. It tells us that the chief end of parenting is not our own glorification should our children do well but that God is glorified and enjoyed forever by whatever means.

 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2)

Next articles will be on rescuing your child’s heart.

 

RESCUING A PARENT’S HEART: The Biggest Obstacle to Parenting Are Your Own Idols

You are the biggest obstacle to your parenting. We love to blame others and the culture but the Scriptures indicate that it is our own selfish desires that are the causes to conflicts and quarrels. James 4:1-10 states: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Often in disciplining our children, we use wrong motives and are driven by selfish desires that come from idols that we have established in our hearts. Just think of the last time you were angry with your child. What is it that you really wanted? Did your child interrupt your desire for comfort or peace? Did you accuse your child of being disrespectful when what really happened is they did something that you did not like? Did they not show appreciation for something that you did for them? Were you wrapped up somehow in an activity they were doing and they did not achieve something you desired? Were you embarrassed about something your child did and became angry about it rather than grieve or fight for them? Your answer to these questions may indicate your heart is embracing idols.

Paul Tripp talks about the principle of inescapable influence. It is understanding that whatever controls your heart will control your life. Your desires and passions will eventually overtake you so that as James 4 indicates, you will hurt others, fight and quarrel for them. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is not the center of your heart, other things will take their place. Anything that displaces Christ will become an idol and idols make false promises and never deliver what you wanted. That is why you will continually return to them thinking that eventually you will get what the idol promised. Christ is our strength and our joy and delivers what is promised.

Tomorrow I will present the importance of understanding biblical grace in your parenting.

RESCUING A PARENT’S HEART: YOU CAN’T LEAD CHILDREN WHERE YOU REFUSE TO GO

You must be an authentic example to your children. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1690s, John Tillotson wrote, “To give children good instruction and a bad example is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven while taking them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”

The first place to be an authentic example for your children is in your marriage for it is one of the main instruments that God designed to preach the gospel. Ephesians 5 lays out the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the roles of the husband and wife. How unattractive the gospel is when a husband will not love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her and then turns around and demands his children not to be so selfish and self-centered. Or the wife who does not biblically submit to her husband nor respect his position and them demands that her children respect and honor her.

Hypocrisy has a crippling effect upon a family and it is usually pride that is behind the hypocrisy. Such pride leads to a blindness of our faults and sins. We see the sin in our children’s hearts and not the same sin in our own. It leads to being uncorrectable and the impression that you are right because you are the parent. It leads to discouragement and disobedience to the only direct command in the New Testament for parents that is given in two of the Epistles in that fathers are not to provoke or exasperate their children to anger.

Humility to the gospel leads to living out Ephesians 5:1,2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Humility leads to living out the gospel as your failings are exposed to your children. Confession and quick resolution of wrong doings is accomplished. The home turns into a redemptive community where sin is dealt with but with grace. Discipline is happening and can be handled with gentleness.

When a home is guided by gospel-centered humility, it guards and protects the gospel and it will be continued from one generation to another as described by Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14,15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

GOD RESCUES PARENTS IN THEIR WEAKNESS

Dave Harvey, pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pa has said, “I thought parenting was going to portray my strengths, never realizing that God had ordained it to reveal my weaknesses.”

The mistake many Christian parents make is believing that the only way that they can glorify God in their parenting is to have children who are obedient, well-behaved at all times, and can answer all the questions in Sunday school.  If you read many of the Christian books on parenting, it gives you the impression that if you just follow their method, this will happen. The reality of life as affirmed in the Scriptures is that you can parent “rightly” and have children who will still bring to you heartache.

Check out the scenario of Ezekiel 18:5-10, “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right—if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD. If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things …”

To parent to the glory of God means that I must recognize first of all the majesty and sovereignty of God in all things. We do not always know how God has ordained a situation or a person’s life to glorify himself. Consider Peter on the beach with Jesus after the resurrection and note the way God had chosen to glorify himself in Peter’s life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19 ESV)

The point of this for parenting is that God is too great to only be glorified by children that appear to be “good.” He may choose to glorify himself through some suffering and sin and the furnace of affliction.

Our goal as parents must include that we will strive for faithful obedience on our part and for faithful obedience on our children’s part. We must however be prepared to know that God will choose the way to glorify himself and that may be through a season of weakness as a parent.

A GOSPEL-CENTERED HOME STARTS WITH YOU

My note:  I left my class notes at church and today is my day off. I am not going to make a trip to town to get them for there is plenty to do at the farm. In place of them, this article by Luma Simms is on-target as to what I shared. I will get to my notes tomorrow  🙂

 RAISING GOSPEL-CENTERED CHILDREN

By Luma Simms

When Jesus instructs us to go out and make disciples of all nations, that includes our children—our closest disciples. Of course, discipleship should not end in the home, but our families are our most naturally-authentic relationships. Everyday, the gospel compels us to ask: How are we discipling our children? More importantly, how should we be discipling them? There is a tendency (sometimes unknowingly) for parents to fall into child-centered discipleship. This could happen for many reasons, even from a well-meaning desire to see our children become Christians. However, what we may fail to grasp is that we should be applying the gospel daily even to the relationships with our children. They don’t need something else; they need the same thing we all need—they need Jesus.

If we stop to consider the motivations of our hearts—what is driving us as parents—we can gain important insight into the discipleship of our children. The driver behind gospel-centered discipleship is the glory of Christ. The driver behind child-centered discipleship is the glory of our children, and by extension, our own glory. In order to understand my own motives, I’ve learned to ask myself: Do I want my children to know God, to rest in the person and work of Christ, to have their many, many sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, and to eternally glorify Him? Or rather do I want my children to be “good,” to scrupulously avoid sin and follow biblical injunctions, to avoid bad consequences in this life? Obviously, these are not mutually exclusive, but where does Christ ask us to put our emphasis? My answers to these questions revealed some very selfish desires. I have lived with fear and anxiety over my children’s sins, and I’ve come to realize what was in my heart. I was not offended by their sins for the sake of God’s reputation, nor was I offended because sin is rebellion and an affront to the person of Christ himself. No, I feared sin in my children’s lives because I cared more about all the earthly consequences of sin. For example, a little over eight years ago, I grabbed hold of Deuteronomy 6 and started rattling it like a sword in a battle cry for homeschooling. I had convinced myself that this was the only type of schooling capable of producing godly children. At the heart of my child-centered thinking, was the belief that I, as a parent—not Christ, as our Lord—must do everything to protect my children from the world and sin.

By pure grace, almost two years ago, I was convicted that I had valued my children’s well-being more than I had valued Jesus. I trembled at the realization that the comfort and safety (even the spiritual safety) of my children, had become more important to me than the person of Christ. Their “godliness” was a higher priority in my own life than was Christ’s glory. For all my talk about holy living, I was unwilling to follow Abraham’s spiritual example. I had denied Christ’s call to forsake all else and follow Him. Instead, I had attempted to supplant the Holy Spirt, to save and sanctify my children by my good works. This is the sad truth of child-centered discipleship—at its core it is self-centered legalism, even rebellion.

Because we are our children’s parents and earthly authority (while they are young) we can slip into the mindset that their salvation and sanctification depends on us. This slip then leads to mentoring and training that is child-centered. This is false. The Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction of sin and bringing people to salvation. That includes the little people in our homes. When we search out the Spirit, when we talk about Him and hold Him up before our children, we are modeling a life of Spirit-dependence for our children. This is training them to walk in step with the Sprit.

However, when we put our children, their needs (physical, spiritual or otherwise), their goals (or ours) before Christ, when we lead them without relying on the Spirit (by relying on ourselves to fulfill our children), we are being false teachers at worst and poor disciple-makers at best. It can’t be all about them; it has to be all about Jesus. This is hard and can be a real blind spot for parents because we are instructed in Scriptures to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But our wayward hearts can pervert even a verse like that by setting our efforts to secure our children’s spiritual well being above all else. Make no mistake, our efforts are very important, but our efforts do not have power to save and transform. Nothing that we do will ever eclipse the power and grace of Jesus.

How do we set a good example of a disciple before the eyes of our children so they can emulate us? It’s not just about making Jesus our priority. It’s about showing our children that our identity is in Christ. From our identity in Christ, our identity as parents will naturally flow. Along with this we must model a life of reliance on the Holy Spirit. Our children need to hear us say: “I prayed for the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit today.” Or, “I prayed for the Spirit to give you wisdom when you met with your teacher.”

How can we get there? The Holy Spirit often prompts us to take a hard look at the things that excite us. Our children pick up on our excitement and our passions. If getting through today’s installment from the church family worship book takes precedence over having compassion on a red-eyed child who is up past his or her bedtime, our children will begin to sense that checking off a box on our godly to-do list is more important than loving our neighbor.

D.A. Carson says this extraordinarily well in the context of the student/teacher relationship:

Recognize that students do not learn everything you teach them. They certainly do not learn everything I teach them! What do they learn? They learn what I am excited about; they learn what I emphasize, what I return to again and again; they learn what organizes the rest of my thoughts. So if I happily presuppose the gospel but rarely articulate it and am never excited about it, while effervescing frequently about, say, ecclesiology or textual criticism, my students may conclude that the most important thing to me is ecclesiology or textual criticism. They may pick up my assumption of the gospel; alternatively, they may even distance themselves from the gospel; but what they will almost certainly do is place at the center of their thought ecclesiology or textual criticism, thereby wittingly or unwittingly marginalizing the gospel.

My husband and I saw this same mistranslation happen with our children when we were not deliberate about the gospel. Even worse than merely de-emphasizing the gospel, we started realizing that our children had become judgmental little scoffers. Why? Because we were so busy comparing and contrasting our education, parenting, and worship style choices with those of other parents that we had marginalized the gospel before our kids. We were way more excited about high church liturgy, classical education, “courtship,” family worship times, you name it. We actually believed they were signs of spiritual maturity. The only problem was, we had neglected the one and only thing that could ever give our children and us the power and strength for real spiritual maturity—the gospel.

Luma Simms is a wife and mother of five delightful children between the ages of 18 and 1. She studied physics and law before Christ drew her to become a writer, blogger, and Bible study teacher. She blogs regularly at Gospel Grace.

CLASS TOMORROW: Rescuing a Parent’s Weak Heart by a Strong Savior

I finished my notes for tomorrow’s class and what I thought starting out is that it would be tough to fill a one hour class with this topic, has turned into far too much for one hour. So I will give an overview tomorrow and fill in the gaps on this website.

Here is the basic outline:

  1. The operative word of the lesson is grace. I will define it as it applies to parenting. It can be easily misunderstood and misapplied.
  2. God often works through your weakness as a parent to display his glory.
  3. You must be an authentic example of the gospel to your children  (2 Timothy 3:14,15)and not let pride dominate you so as to be seen a hypocrite by them.  The first and foremost place to be an example is in how you carry out your role as a husband or wife.
  4. The biggest obstacle to our parenting is our own selfish hearts.  James 4:1-10 indicates we have struggles with out children because of wrong and selfish desires by both. The principle of inescapable influence will be explained where what controls our hearts, controls our lives and if it is not God-centered, then it is idolatry.
  5. Not having a proper understanding of grace will eventually crush you.

Key verse:  2 Peter 1:2; “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

RESCUE: The Goal of Eternity

John Angell James, a British Pastor (1785-1859) wrote:

But how it would embitter our last moments, and plant our dying pillow with thorns, to leave you on earth in an unconverted state; following us to the grave, but not to heaven. Or should you be called to die before us, how could we sustain the dreadful thought … that the very next moment after you had passed beyond our kind attentions, you would be receive to the torments which know neither end nor mitigation? And when you had departed under such circumstances, what could heal our wounds or dry out tears.” …

 What then, my children, are all worldly acquirements and possessions without piety? …Original genius, a vigorous understanding, a well-stored mind, and all this adorned by the most amiable temper and most insinuating address, will neither comfort under trials of life nor save their lovely possessor from the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched. O! no: they may qualify for earth but not qualify for heaven.

(John Angell James, “The Christian Father’s Present to His Children”)

My comment: Never, ever, not one day should you assume the gospel for yourselves nor for your children. What day do you not need the gospel?