Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Friday, April 1, 2011

    Question: What is the eighth commandment?
    Answer: The eighth commandment is “You shall not steal.”
    Scripture: Exodus 20:15

    (Maybe this really happened)

    One evening I volunteered to babysit all 6 of Bill and Brita’s boys so they could have an evening out. They had friends over to the house earlier in the evening and we had a good time playing ball and chasing each other around their acreage. At bedtime, I sent all the boys upstairs to bed to settle down and I turned on the TV to watch a basketball game. One of the boys kept creeping down the stairs but I would quickly exhort him to get back up the stairs and get to bed.

    About 9:00 P.M., the doorbell rang and it was Bill and Brit’s neighbor, asking whether her son was still there. I answered, “No” but then a little head appeared over the banister and a voice shouted, “I’m here Mom. This man will not let me go home!”

    From Gospel-Centered Parenting by Rick Thomas, Counseling Solutions

    As our children become older we hope they will be governed less by our rules and more by the freedom they understand, experience, and enjoy in Christ. Gospel-centered, Gospel-motivated parenting slowly and incrementally releases our kids from our rules, our expectations, and our authority, while placing them under the greatest and most powerful governing dynamic known to man.

    The Savior succinctly summed up that governing dynamic for us when He was essentially asked in His day, “How in the world are we supposed to balance it all?” Note what He said: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And [the Savior] said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

    If our children’s hearts are motivated and governed by these two truths and we have helped them to embrace this kind of practical love for God and others, then we have served them well. And they will experience a freedom, spontaneity, and richness in God that no list, code of conduct, or religious system could ever offer them.

    Living under God’s authority without an overwhelming affection for Him is lifeless, rote moralism. Living under God’s authority with an insatiable love for Him, because of what He did on the cross (the Gospel), is God-glorifying, neighbor-affecting, and soul-satisfying. While we disdain and run from the former because Paul called it “another Gospel,” we are doggedly determined to model and teach the latter to our children. (Galatians 1:6)

    Keeping it simple
    One of the reasons I like the greatest two commandments is because there are only two of them. Thankfully, the Father honed the 600 plus rules in the Old Testament down to two. Of course my legalistic friends have added several hundred more to that list. It makes my head swim. I don’t want to do this to my children. It’s a yoke of slavery that will either whittle their lives down to an awkward, out-of-step conservatism, or it will exasperate them to the point that they throw all of the rules out the window and walk away from God altogether. I’ve seen both of these actualities in too many lives.

    Rather than teaching my kids a thousand rules, we have decided to teach them God’s top two as understood through the lens of the Gospel. My hope is that through our modeling first and teaching second, our children will also be affected in the way in which we have been affected by the Gospel.

    Therefore, an essential component of our training is that our kids are affected at the level of their attitudes (hearts) rather than learning a list of rules and behavioral expectations. I know that if they are affected by the Gospel then nothing will be more important to them than loving God and loving their neighbor. And if they are affected rightly by the Gospel and they choose to live out the Gospel as understood through the two great commandments, then everything else will fall in line. If your child was hitting a “10” on both of the two great commandments, then what concerns could you possibly have for him?

    What is Gospel-Motivated Parenting?
    Remember: Gospel = change. The point and purpose of the Gospel is change. The reason the Son came to die on a cruel cross was because He wanted to change us. We must be born from above. (John 3:7) Change is what we want to happen to our children. Therefore, change is the point and purpose of our parenting. If what we do as parents does not help to facilitate change in our children, then we discard it.

    Every Christian parent wants their children to change and grow in Christ. Some of the key questions when thinking about the change process are:

    • How does a person change? (by the power of the Gospel)
    • What are the core components of the change process? (see below)
    • How can we help someone to change? (see below)
    Some people believe that following the rules is the key to how we change. God, on the other hand, believes that the law is not sufficient enough to bring the kind of change that pleases Him. Therefore, He gave us His Gospel (Son) as the only means to change. (John 14:6) In our parenting we believe and implement a Gospel-motivated parenting approach because we believe the Gospel is the fountainhead from which all sustainable change comes.

    In order to serve you, here are some of the fundamental ideas and practices that flow out of a Gospel-motivated parenting approach. First of all you will need to think about the Gospel and how you have been changed by the Gospel. Secondly, you'll need to think about how to implement these Gospel-centered, Gospel-motivated ideas into your parenting, with the hope that your children will also be changed by the power of the Gospel.

    Important: we are aware that it is the power of the Gospel that ultimately changes any person. The best our parenting can do is point our children to the Gospel. (John 3:30) With that in mind, we are also aware that we are obligated to do something as parents. (Deut. 6:5-8) Therefore, we have chosen a Gospel-motivated parenting model as our preferred method to “point” our kids to the only One who can change them.

    Foundational truths that flow out of the Gospel
    We have whittled our parenting down to a few Gospel-centered truths. I’ll give you the list here and then expound on them in the next chapter. This is not an exhaustive list, but I think as you read through the list and think about the Gospel, you’ll understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. And you will be able to think through how to implement a Gospel-centered, Gospel-motivated parenting approach in your home. Here are a few truths that are essential to the Gospel and the things we feebly try to model for and teach to our kids.

    • Humility: the first response from any person, who is rightly affected by the Gospel, is humility. Imagine interacting with a humble teenager. Imagine interacting with anyone who is humble. God the Father executed His one and only Son on a cruel cross so you and I could have a relationship with Him. This is amazing love. If we truly understand this, then our hearts are appropriately humbled.
    • Gratitude: the more a Gospel-centered man grows in his awareness of what the Savior did on the cross, the more gratitude he will express. Gratitude is the immediate response of the humble. Would your friends characterize you as a grateful person?
    • Kindness: no doubt, it was the kindness of God that led to your repentance. (Romans 2:4) The Gospel-centered, Gospel-motivated man, who has been gratefully humbled by the power of the Gospel will also model a similar kind of kindness to others. Kindness changes people. The kindness of God changed you and it is through your modeling and practice of kindness that God uses to change your children. Kindness begets kindness.
    • Serving: this is why the Savior came. (Mark 10:45) The greatest act of service known to man was Christ dying on the cross for the sins of others. Any person who has been rightly affected by the Gospel is always looking for ways to serve others.
    • Repentance: the Christian life is a life of repentance and on-going repenting. The reason for this is because the Gospel-centered man knows he can be immediately freed from his sin. He is eager to break the bonds that bind him. Therefore, his life is characterized as a life of on-going repentance for the glory of God.


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