2015 Legacy Parenting Workshop Notes
I can think of no more urgent need in our urban context than to raise up a generation of children who love God and hate evil (Ps 97:10). The world and the dark side of the hip hop culture stands against our children. (As I write this, gangs in LA have vowed to kill 100 people in 100 days just 2 miles from my house). Our children’s very own flesh wars against them. And Satan himself seeks to devour them. And what, do you ask, is God’s appointed means of grace to help your children? That answer is simple. It is you, God fearing parents. Yet the final outcome of childrearing is more complicated than what you do or fail to do for your children. The final outcome of our childrearing is the combined result of four influences.
- God—The Ultimate Influence
- Parents—The Ordained Means of Influence
- The World—The Unavoidable Influence
- The Child’s Heart—The Overlooked Influence
Below is a summary explanation of each of these influences from my 2015 Legacy workshop on parenting.
1st The Ultimate Influence in a Child’s Life is God: God’s Grace is Sovereign
At the end of the day, what happens to your child is the outworking of God’s sovereign will. God doesn’t decide what He will do when a person is born. God’s will was decreed before everything was created. God’s will was set before Isaac’s sons, Esau or Jacob, did anything good or bad (Romans 9:10-13). Although Saul was one of the greatest failures in the OT, his son Jonathan was one of the godliest men born of Israel. Conversely, godly men like Samuel and Eli had grossly wicked sons. There are no guaranteed formulas to follow to ensure that your child will be saved at a young age and live a godly life for Jesus. Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle, not a promise. And conversely, your failures as a parent are not ultimately determinative of your child’s success (2 Kings 17:14).
- Parents can’t convict; the Holy Spirit does (John 16:7-8)
- Parents can’t save their children; God does (Titus 3:5).
- Parents can’t sanctify their children either; God does (Gal. 3:3).
- But parents aren’t abandoned by God in parenting. They are themselves a means of grace and they are given means of grace to minister to their children.
Parents can pray and be assured that God hears (James 5:16b-17).
Parents can teach their children the Gospel believing that it is God’s power unto salvation (Rom 1:16).
God ordained to use His Word and prayer. So faithfully teach your children the Word (Deut 6:4-9) and believe that praying expectantly is not presuming upon God’s grace. Conversely know that parenting according to God’s means of grace is what it means to hope in God’s grace.
2nd The Ordained Means of Influence in a Child’s Life is Parenting
“There should be one will in a Christian home and that is to be the will of God. God’s will is to be mediated through the father who is submissive to God as he applies the principles of God’s Word in its totality to the totality of his family’s life. Where a father is absent then the mother or grandparents or guardians must assume this role, because there is to be one will in the Christian home and not two. This is the ultimate responsibility of the father to ensure this is the case in his family,” Pastor Al Martin.
Conceptually, parenting is easy. It’s executing effectual parenting that’s so hard. Parenting is simply calling your children to follow you as you follow Christ. You know where the landmines are (because you have either learned where they are from God’s Word, or by God’s grace you have miraculously survived stepping on them)! So lead your children to follow carefully behind you step by step as you follow Christ on His narrow path. As you do, teach your children what you do for Christ and why you do it. The Bible is your curriculum. You are the illustration. Life is the classroom. And your child is your student. And what’s at stake isn’t a college degree or a job with a certain income. What’s at stake is eternity in heaven or hell.
Parenting is first and foremost evangelism and discipleship. Our Lord is the best example to follow.
- Jesus kept the disciples near him to teach them what they should be and do (Mark 3:13-14).
- Likewise Paul discipled Timothy like an apprentice (Phil 3:17-19; 2 Tim 3:10-13).
- This pattern of parenting is as old as the OT. Parents pleaded with their children to listen to them and follow their examples (Prov 23:26).
Parents must prayerfully and lovingly use their God-given authority to raise their children up to follow the Lord. The parent’s biblical voice, when heeded by their children, is the voice God promised to bless (Eph 6:1-4).
If a child does not obey, then the parents must discipline because the child is disobeying God. To not discipline is to fail to teach your children the vital lesson that leads humbled sinners to seek God’s grace in repentance. That lesson is that there is a wage earned when we sin, and that wage is death. “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Prov. 13:24.
Discipline is not punishment. It is painful though. The word discipline means training (in this case to fear God). It should take whatever lovingly mediated form is necessary to teach the child that the temporal pleasures of sin never outweigh its eternal cost. Biblical discipline includes using the rod but not exclusively (Prov 23:13-14; 29:15). Follow a careful pattern whenever you discipline:
- Teach before you discipline.
- Always discipline in love and in privacy.
- Discipline in the context of sharing the Gospel.
- Instruct your child to confess, to seek repentance and forgiveness, then pray with your son or daughter.
- Finally, be consistent. If you are, prayerfully most of your disciplining with the rod will be done while your child is still young. Discipline teaches your child to think wisely. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3).
3rd Satan and His World System are enemies to your child (Eph 2:2; 6:10ff)
Teaching your child God’s ways and how to live them out in the world is a twofold process. Think of your task like that of a basketball coach. You have to teach your players how to 1st shoot and 2nd how to score against a wide array of defenses their opponents will throw at them.
Our English word “Method” comes from the Greek word translated in the NASB Eph 6:11 strategy. The word is plural which suggest Satan has methods and the context argues that his methods are purely to accomplish his evil intents. As a parent you must teach your child to follow God’s ways while overcoming Satan’s methods with which he attacks our children. Here are but a few:
- His method is to attack our purity, yours and your child’s (1 Cor. 7:5).
- His method is to capitalize on our anger in order to ruin our relationships (Eph. 4:26-27). We leave our children vulnerable to Satan’s attacks when we parent in anger. Be wise, therefore, and deal with your anger before you deal with your child, and parent in love (1 Cor 13:4-8). And embrace the truth that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” James 1:20.
- His method is to lead our hearts away from sound doctrine, which produces “purity and devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Teach your children the Bible and sound theology. Teaching means more than you talking. Your child has to understand and apply the Bible.
- His method is to tempt us to not trust God’s will for our lives but to do things our way (Gen 3:1-5; 1 Chr. 21:1; Matt. 16:21-23; Acts 5:1-3). “Every casting doubt upon the truthfulness of the Word of God has in it the hiss of the serpent,” Steven Lawson (Gen 3:1).
Parents therefore need to spiritually protect their children, yet do so without smothering them. You goal is to teach your child to make wise Christ-honoring decisions and then to let them make them.
4th The Child is morally responsible to God (Ezekiel 18)
As you teach your children God’s Word, hold them accountable to obey, and trust that God will do what He does - convict, convert, and sanctify. God will hold your child responsible for his/her response to His means of grace. Therefore, hold your child responsible to:
- Obey quickly or the first time you charge them, Psalm 11:60. Do not train your children to wait until you yell to get them to obey. Teach them to obey even when you whisper.
- Obey even when you aren’t there, Eph 6:6; Prov 15:3.
- Obey without whining, complaining, arguing, resisting, getting an attitude, Phil 2:14.
The fruit of the Spirit-filled child is obedience (Eph 5:18; 6:1-3).
Deal with their hearts:
Where does our child’s behavior come from? Their heart, Mark 7:14-23; Jer 17:9. What is the heart? It is the mind, the will, the desires, and emotions of your child.
Think of their heart as the root of a tree and their behavior as the fruit it produces. Removing the fruit from a bad tree won’t change a bad tree into a good tree. This would be like merely controlling your child’s external behavior which at best will produce a Pharisee. Instead, when you teach or discipline your child always connect the fruit of their lives, their actions and attitudes to their hearts, their thoughts, motives, and desires. From the Word of God consistently, lovingly, firmly, and compassionately show them that their actions, attitudes and choices are sinful because their heart is deceitfully wicked above all else (Jer 17:9). And then share with them the Gospel, explaining to them how Christ and Christ alone paid the price for sin and rose with power to grant a new heart to repentant sinners.
To expose the root of your child’s heart problem, ask probing questions. When they sin, ask them questions that will expose their idols, fears, true passions, insecurities, moral weaknesses, their trigger points, evil desires they are hiding, etc.
When you sin against your children, make it your habit to humbly confess, repent, and ask them for forgiveness. In doing so, you will teach and model to them how they should deal with their sin.
Be encouraged. God is very patient. Keep applying God’s means of grace first to your own heart and then to your children, and hope in God. What He calls us to do, He grants the grace for us to do it.
Helpful parenting resources:
- The entire Bible, the Gospel, and especially the book of Proverbs :-)
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp (for parenting younger children)
- Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp (for parenting teens)
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