Consequences are not enough

Posted on · Posted in Parenting, Ruling Desires, Teenagers

There is a problem with consequences in dealing with behavior. They are not enough. They will not bring change to the heart. What your children need is the gospel – they must learn Christ! That is the point. Severe consequences may yield a change in behavior, but darkness will still rule in the heart.

Let’s be clear. Paul says there are only two ways of living or thinking. One way is to follow the natural path of darkness that all people are born with (Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19). The other way is to learn Christ. This is the point that must not be missed. The phrase learning Christ appears only once in the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:20,  Paul says that the Ephesians did not learn Christ following the world’s way of thinking.

Merely raising children to avoid things that are distasteful to parents is futile; it will only encourage sensuality to take deep root in their hearts. You may earnestly desire that your children will avoid the pitfalls of this world. You can structure your lifestyle in order to keep your children from evil things. But if that is all you have done, and you have not taught them Christ, you have taught them futility and darkness. Avoiding evil is not the same as learning Christ. 

For example, when it comes to the sins of lust and desire, planning how to avoid them is not enough. When you find your teenagers engaging in pornography or others sins of desire, a response in terms of lost privileges and consequences, without learning Christ, is not enough. It will only lead to more enslavement for your children and more futility in parenting for you.  Depending upon consequences and restrictions alone to keep your teenagers from the power of lust and sensuality will only encourage these sins (See Colossians 2:20-23).

Christ must be the answer that you give them. This is scary for us as parents. We are uncomfortable leaving things in God’s hands this way. But as long as rules and consequences as the primary means to control children, Christ will not be learned. I am not saying that you allow your children to view pornography, nor that you do nothing in response to their sin. Rather, I am saying that if you yourself are not gripped by the power of the gospel, and if you do not bring the person of Christ into this situation, you are not teaching Christ – unwittingly, you are teaching darkness. 

More on this and some practical application coming soon.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.